Polyvagal Informed Coaching
Internal Family Systems
A recent university graduate from Toronto, Ontario sought one-on-one grief coaching to plan for life after the sudden death of her father. Grief counselling allowed Lara to express her emotions, but offered no plan for the future. Combined with a sense of the world closing in during the pandemic, Lara committed to establishing a new path into the future.
We developed a coaching program to hold the grief, find new tools to manage life without her father, and to plan her re-entry into a post-isolation COVID world.
The Issue: Grief
Just weeks into the first COVID-19 lockdown, Lara’s father unexpectedly died. She was so focused on finishing her final year at York University that she only experienced grief after her exams. It hit her in the thick of the pandemic, while her peers took to the streets to protest George Floyd’s unjust death. Lara just couldn’t engage with the world, and it made her feel guilty and hopeless.
The university’s counselling services helped process the initial grief, but when it came time to move forward, Lara found herself stuck. Stuck with her emotions, stuck with her father’s possessions, and stuck alone in a suburban Toronto home with limited prospects for social interactions.
Lara knew she needed support, but she didn’t know what that might entail. A referral from a friend sent her my way. After an initial Zoom call, Lara committed to 12 weeks of one-on-one grief coaching.
The Plan: One-on-One Coaching
Lara’s grief felt destabilizing and overwhelming. She needed a life ring to keep afloat, something to focus on other than the deep pain of loss and disconnection. Over a 12-week period, we met weekly to process emotions and plan next steps. The program was built in 3 month-long increments, with plenty of room for flexibility.
First, we built a sense of safety – both between me and Lara, and between Lara and her emotional experience. By examining how grief was showing up in her body, Lara started to track her progress in a new way. Pain wasn’t present to deter her. Pain was an invitation for noticing something new. Lara invited her body to tell her stories. What did it need to release? What was it afraid of?
Second, we inquired into the energetics of the experience. When a family member passes away suddenly, it can feel as if a connection has been ripped from the body. Using shamanic counselling methods, we journeyed to understand what Lara lost when her father died.
Third, we mapped Lara’s ancestry and the patterns that effected her family for generations. This inquiry into multigenerational trauma helped frame Lara’s experience and allowed her to create a new map for going forward on her own terms.
The Outcome: Shifts in Perception
By the 6-week mark of Lara’s coaching package, she observed notable shifts in her perception. While the pain was still present, she was able to open to the experience. Up until that point, she felt she’d been bracing against it. Now, when she ventured out to do pandemic-era shopping, she didn’t feel she was under attack. She had resources that allowed her to find regulation.
This comfort and familiarly with emotional exploration continued as we explored the energetic realms. The shamanic and ancestral healing practises allowed Lara to shine new light on the stories she told about her role in her family, and allowed her to release her father into his destiny. Lara finished her coaching package with a new sense of herself, a set of tools for exploration, and with a sense of calm in an unpredictable world. By week 12 we’d created a plan for managing emotions and sensations that involved awareness and exercise, and a roadmap for the coming year. With this in hand, Lara was equipped to take action when she felt empowered to do so and rest when she needed it.