30 April 2018
Unfortunately, loss and grief are inevitable in life and can come from many different sources including separation and divorce, the loss of a partner, child, family member or friend, illness, disability, or trauma.
As a coach, I come across many people who are experiencing grief and have many clients like life coaches, business coaches, accountants and financial advisers who also have to help their clients through the grieving process to make big life and financial decisions. One question I’m regularly asked is, “How can I help clients who are grieving or experiencing loss make rational decisions?”
Perhaps you’ve found, as I have, that people can change quite dramatically in their attitude towards money. Some become flippant and spend their money on a lifestyle that is well beyond their means; others decide to give their wealth away or make bad financial decisions. Think about it, how many people do you know who went through grief and bought a new car or went on an overseas holiday?
On the other hand, some people become frozen, lost in depression and can’t make any financial decisions at all. With no motivation to move forward they avoid any and all financial responsibility. This can make looking out for your client or loved one’s best interest rather difficult.
How then do you help your clients and loved ones through grief to make sound and sustainable decisions for their current lifestyle and future success? It starts by understanding the stages of grief.
The five stages of grief
Any person experiencing loss will go through the ‘Five Stages of Grief’ (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969) in their own time. It’s not something you can avoid or rush; it’s a human psychological cycle that is different for everyone.
The first stage is denial. At this stage, you are in a state of shock. You feel numb and foggy and struggle to process clearly. All normality has gone. You feel lost and bewildered, and the last thing you want or can focus on is your financial and legal responsibilities.
How do you know if a client or loved one is at this stage? You will likely hear them say, “This can’t be happening”, “It will turn around”, “He/she will come back”.
The next stage is anger, which is a necessary part of the healing process. Sometimes in this stage, your anger may extend to everyone, and other times it may be directed to just one person. For some this stage can seem endless, for others, it’s a quick transition with bursts of frustration or anger that can be triggered by future events.
The more you embrace and acknowledge your anger, the more it will begin to dissipate and the faster you’ll heal. Anger is often a reaction to fear, the fear of not being good enough, never being loved again, never having that closeness again, never finding that replacement or fear of the unknown.
How do you know if a client or loved one is at this stage? Blame is dominant, and you may find a person irritable and on edge. Their anger may be directed at themselves, the one they’ve lost, family members, friends or advisers.
Bargaining is the next stage. This is where you will do anything to have that someone back in your life. Unconsciously you work on ways to redeem yourself and be loved. In separation or divorce, this usually manifests through the belief that if you give her/him what they want, you can remain friends and they’ll eventually see the light and come back to you. You can lose yourself in this stage as you deny yourself and compromise your values and worth.
How do you know if a client or loved one is at this stage? You are likely to see a lot of ‘people pleasing’ and self-sacrifice in the hope for another outcome. You may hear them say, “I promise I will change”, or watch them find solutions to appease the other.
The next stage is depression. This is where the reality of the loss sets in, and you can feel complete and utter sadness. You realise the person is never coming back, and you become very focused on loss. You will often feel helplessness and believe you’ll never love or be loved again. You can think the other person “completed you”, but the reality is that you are and have always been whole. The good old days are highlighted, and you can feel like you’ll never be that happy again. Inactivity and disillusionment can override you.
How do you know if a client or loved one is at this stage? You can find they will be very focused on the past. They can be very sad and feel consumed by their loss. They may also start to isolate themselves.
Acceptance is the final stage. This doesn’t mean that you jump out of bed one day and everything is happy again. It’s the stage where you accept the change and look forward into the future.
How do you know if a client or loved one is at this stage? They will become more future-focused with goal setting and be more responsive to opportunities. You will find they are more open to move on and make plans.
By knowing these five stages of grief and the potential feelings your loved one or client will experience in each stage, you will be able to be more sensitive and patient with them. While the grief and loss won’t disappear, you can provide support, solace and strategies to help them move through each stage gracefully.
As a coach, I help individuals and advisers understand these stages in more detail. If you find, or suspect, that someone is spending too long in a stage (particularly anger or depression), a coach, like myself, can help them move through it faster with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Grief can be long and exhausting, or a cycle that awakens you and enriches you through adversity to unleash your power, sometimes we just need a little help in shifting our perspective.
Five habits that can help people move through grief and loss
Knowledge and understanding of the five stages of grief aren’t the only way you can help clients and loved ones. Here are five habits you can share that can also assist.
1. PERFORM SELF-CARE DAILY RITUALS
It can be easy to forget to take care of you when experiencing grief, but self–care is crucial. Find time to nourish yourself. Get a massage, practise meditation, do some gardening, go for a walk, listen to music, get into nature or read a good book. All of these practices can be uplifting and enlightening for your core.
Ask yourself, what excites you? How would you like to spend your ideal day? These are the things that can unleash your power, inner core and strength. Start to implement daily self-care rituals.
2. PRACTISE MINDSET STRATEGIES
Your internal mindset impacts the emotions that create your experiences, actions and behaviour. By choosing your mindset, you can change your outcomes. If you aren’t happy with the results, you are currently experiencing, improving your internal mindset can define a new path forward.
Using uplifting words, having an “I can” approach, and practising gratitude are a few key steps that will start to create a more positive internal dialogue. Place positive affirmations like “I am loved”, “I am loving”, and “I am love” (or others that speak to you) on a wall and say them every day until it resonates with you.
3. WATCH YOUR POSTURE
Your physiology is your psychology so be mindful of how you carry yourself. Hold your head up, look forward and have shoulders back. When you sit, sit up straight. These positions naturally foster feelings of strength, confidence and happiness. When you slump and look down, you will feel down as it triggers this Neuro-emotive response.
4. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE
During times of loss and grief, you need to surround yourself with people who inspire and uplift you and share the same values. The people you socialise and spend time with, influence you and your psychology, so chose wisely. Find people who are positive, forward thinking, kind and loving. People who give you a feeling of warmth and security, and who encourage and make you feel that everything will be ok.
5. WHAT IS YOUR VISION?
To help you move forward, you need to think forward, and this starts by creating a vision or future picture for yourself. Where are you heading? Who have you always wanted to become? What has been missing from your life that you now have time to achieve? What is possible?
The vision may change over time, but having a vision, setting goals and taking daily action can help you move forward.
If you can encourage your clients or loved ones to practice these five habits you will start to notice changes in their words, actions and outlook on life. Also encourage them to surround themselves with expert advisers and coaches who can provide them with the support, guidance and information they need to make the right decisions for them now and in the future.
Bec Fox | Unleash Your Power | Business and Leadership Coach.
Bec is a Business and Leadership Coach who is passionate about helping business leaders fulfil their financial targets without enslaving themselves. Bec focuses on unleashing your power to grow leadership, business and teams so you can live the life you deserve.