Three weeks ago, I was confronted with a tragic life event, the suicide of my life partner. I have dealt with distress situations before, but this time, I had to deal with shock. As I am manoeuvring and floating through my grieving, healing and recovery process, some fundamental things of my work as a coach have a major impact on where I am today.
Community – First of all, I am grateful to be an active member of the CTI Co-Active Coaching Community. A big theme over the past couple of months in our community have been the discussions around the concept “Everyone is a leader”. It is about the fact that leadership really goes beyond a job function. It is a mindset, a lifestyle of living all aspects of life consciously and taking responsibility for our impact. A concept that resonated strongly and fully in line with my own belief systems. The fact that we’ve been so “busy” with this concept of “Everyone is a leader” in many different ways (global summit, local summits, discussions on social media plus our own work in team building workshops and coaching sessions) has had the impact on me that I am “full” of it. It is so present, so in my cells and in every single bit of my being. Integrated. For that, I am grateful. I know it gave me strength and direction on a deep level.
So, even in the midst of this tragic event, I am a leader. I have a choice and a responsibility as a woman, as a mother and as a business owner. Because the way I deal with this trauma in my private life, influences all other aspects of my life.
1. Choice – As coaches, we talk a lot about the power of choice. As of now, it was no longer about “our choice”. I thought a lot about “his choice” and “my choice”. In terms of “his choice”, I notice how hard it is for me to accept suicide as a choice. But, it is a choice – his choice – and I have to accept that. In terms of “my choice”, I questioned myself, what are life-affirming choices I want to chose that will serve my recovery process? For now, I have chosen the following ones:
- I choose not to be a victim of his choice
- I choose not to take any form of guilt for his choice
- I choose to reach out and get all the help I need for my recovery from this shock and for my healing process (and of course that of my children).
Whenever I become aware that one of my choices is being challenged, I reached out to a friend, a coach, a psychologist to support me in getting back on track again. For example, I would think “Why did he do that to us?” A friend pointed me to reframing into “Why did he do that to himself?”. With the first sentence, I was unconsciously putting myself/ourselves in a victim position. With the reframed sentence, I no longer do that which serves the choice I have made not to be a victim.
2. Neuroscience – As a Neuro-Transformation Coach, I know that when we think about a specific experience over and over again, we strengthen this neural pathway in the brain, we deepen the experience and re-live all the feelings and sensations associated with it. It means that by thinking about this tragic event over and over again, I can truly torture myself with my own thoughts and drive myself mad. This does not serve my choices above.
Understanding how the brain works, gives me choice. Either I allow my brain to think whatever it wants or I take ownership of my thoughts and decide which neural pathways will be nurtured and which ones I do not wish to strengthen. When I become aware that I am thinking thoughts that do not serve my choices, either I choose to think about something else, or I take a good book and start reading. I always loved reading and can easily be absorbed by a good book. It is a strategy that works well for me.
Bringing awareness to what I am thinking and scanning if it serves my choices or not has been very powerful and helps me moving forward in my process.
3. PCM – the Process Communication Model – How could it not play a role in my life! For the PCMers amongst you, I’m a thinker base in a rebel phase with persister, promoter and harmonizer stages in between. I felt myself literally racing through all my distress mechanisms. I cannot put words to the intensity of it and the process itself was emotionally exhausting. In honor of my third choice, I reached out to a PCM-friend whom I appreciate and respect a lot. He helped me in many ways but one of things he pointed out to me was: “Nicole, I suggest you start satisfying all of your psychological needs straight away.” Dang. This landed. My immediate thought was: “Why didn’t I think of this myself?” (After all, I’m a thinker, I should know and be perfect, right?) And then there was logic. (thank goodness). After the shock, it was as if my brain had been shut down for a couple of days. I couldn’t think at all. Everything inside of me was paralyzed. About 10 days later, I wasn’t as paralyzed anymore but still in distress. When we are in distress, we cannot think clearly anymore. His pointing gave me direction which helped me to come back in clear thinking modus and make a plan to start charging my batteries. It showed me how important community is and how important it is to reach out and ask for help.
I decided to focus on one psychological need per day and give that special treatment and attention. This way of self-care has a positive impact on my personal energy. I’m gentle with myself. Some days are easier than others. Important is the awareness, taking responsibility for self-care and putting the intention in it.
With these three aspects of coaching, neuroscience and PCM, I have created “a container” which holds the space for my grieving process to take place. It does not take away the pain nor the process I have to go through. However, it helps me to go through this process in a way that serves me, my children and my clients. It helps me to move forward with awareness and consciousness without suppressing anything that is present. Within my container, I can face whatever is there and transform it into something better – with the help of others. In this sense, I am “work in process”. And in a way, we all are.
“Life is a never-ending journey of personal leadership with a couple of stops in between where we get to enjoy the gifts of our inner growth before we move on.”
I believe that every case and every grieving / healing process is different and so is every way how to go through a process. I hope that sharing part of my personal journey and what works for me inspires in some way those of you who go through difficult life phases or know somebody who is.
Whatever happens on the journey, everyone is a leader and we always have a choice.
Nicole Heimann is an experienced and passionate Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), Certified Neuro-Transformation Coach (CNTC) specialized in Conscious Leadership and Impactful Communication. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org