According to the dictionary, grief is “the anguish experienced after a difficult loss, usually the death of a beloved person.” So, all of us share this at some point in our lives. How does grief impact our ability to function? What is complicated grief? Can you overcome your grief? EMDR-certified therapist, consultant, and trainer Tamra L. Hughes, MA, LPC discusses how EMDR therapy can help heal grieving.
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Musical soundtrack, Acoustic Motivation 11290, supplied royalty-free by Pixabay.
Produced by Kim Howard, CAE.
Kim Howard 00:04
Welcome to the Let’s Talk EMDR podcast brought to you by the EMDR International Association or EMDRIA. I’m your host Kim Howard. In this episode we are talking about EMDR certified therapist, trainer and consultant, Tamra Hughes about EMDR therapy for grief. Tamra is located in Littleton, Colorado. Let’s get started. Today we are speaking with EMDR, certified therapist, trainer and consultant Tamra Hughes, about EMDR therapy for grief. Thank you Tamra for being here today. We are so happy that you said yes.
Tamra Hughes 00:35
Hi, Kim, thank you so much for inviting me. I’m happy to be here.
Kim Howard 00:40
Tamra, can you tell us how did you become an EMDR therapist?
Tamra Hughes 00:43
Well, it’s funny, it was actually very early on in my career. So back in 2003, actually, I had heard about this thing called EMDR. And there was going to be a training in Denver coming through town. And back in the day, it was few and far between that they had these trainings. And so they packed them in to a hotel, you know, packed us all and tons of us. And we were trained. And so I went into it with a little bit of skepticism. But honestly, after I started using this with clients, I was so impacted and impressed, by the way that it shifted things for them. And the process of therapy was really expedited. And I just loved it. I was sold at that point. And I actually remember I still remember the moment I was telling a colleague of mine, early on, I said, I think this is going to be my thing. Little did I know, you know, fast forward 20 years I would was going to be a trainer. And it was really going to be really a gig that I that I have loved. And it has really been the cornerstone of my career.
Kim Howard 01:58
That’s a great story. And your story is very similar to all of our podcast guests. They heard about it through a colleague or they read about it in school are they found out about it somehow. And they think, ‘Oh, this is pixie dust. What is this madness they talk about?’ And then they go to the training. And then they’re like, ‘Oh, this is not magic. This is based in science and research. And it really does work on a client in an efficient way.’ And so we’re so happy that you found it and are serving so many clients and helping them get better. So thank you.
Tamra Hughes 02:26
I’ve loved it. And it’s been fun to see how much it has changed and evolved over the last 20 years. I mean, the trainings back then are were so different from the way they are now. And that’s one of the really, really fun things about this field is just how deep the pool is, and how much there is to learn. I could read and study EMDR 24/7, and take tons and tons of trainings. And there’s still going to be more to learn, which makes it so fun.
Kim Howard 03:03
Yeah, absolutely. What’s your favorite part of working with EMDR?
Tamra Hughes 03:07
Honestly, the impact it has on my clients it’s touching, it’s inspiring to really witness the growth that it fosters in them, and hands down. That is my very favorite part about it.
Kim Howard 03:19
That’s great. What successes have you seen using EMDR therapy for grief?
Tamra Hughes 03:25
The healing and peace that it brings for people suffering from really, oftentimes quite unimaginable loss. So I have seen people come to terms with loss of children or multiple individuals in their family things that are really unfathomable. And they using the EMDR have been able to come to peace with it. And it’s not so much and I’ll talk about this later, it’s not so much about closure and just being able to set it aside, it’s about being able to really integrate that into their narrative of their life so that they are not as triggered and they are able to move forward with it in a productive way.
Kim Howard 04:15
It’s great and I lost both my parents…lost my dad and 2019 and my mother and 2002 and I can understand how people get caught in a cycle of grief. You know, I can understand how they they have trouble moving past it. And we even know somebody, my son went to school with him. We know somebody who lost their child when he was in junior high school and you know what, what people go through in terms of loss and grief and what they are able to come out of on the other side. It really to me is truly a miracle. Because depending on what the situation is, you have no idea what’s going to happen after you’ve gotten this news and how you’re going to deal with it. And yeah, whether you can deal with it. So I’m so glad that that you and many others are out there helping people through that.
Tamra Hughes 05:07
Well, the human spirit is tremendously resilient, inspiring and amazing what people are able to get through. And I think that’s truly one of the things I love the very most about this is witnessing that.
Kim Howard 05:22
Absolutely. Tamra, are there any myths that you would like to bust about EMDR therapy and grief?
Tamra Hughes 05:27
100%. So let me just lay it out there. Here’s the myth EMDR does not work with grief, period. And that is what I rumor has had it that that is the case. And no, I would tell you right now EMDR works amazingly well with grief. It doesn’t mean that clients are not going to grieve. But the EMDR Foster’s catharsis, it helps them to move through the grieving process in a very productive, fluid way. It takes out some of the roadblocks to healthy grief, it takes out some of the for separation, that often comes with grief for feelings, that they hold some sort of irrational responsibility for the loss or what they did or didn’t do, or said or didn’t say, and the EMDR clears that up, I would say too, and this kind of ties back in with what I was saying a moment ago, I’m very careful about using the word closure, when it comes to grief, I think that is one of the things that actually scares people away and gets them to kind of dig their heels in on the grief and want to stay there because they don’t want to close that door. And what I think about with grief, is really that it doesn’t require closure, but it rather requires a way, you know, finding a way to integrate that experience into their life, to integrate new meaning that they can attribute to that relationship so that when they are confronted with something that may have in the past been triggering to them around the loss, that instead, it fosters a positive feeling a wonderful memory of this loved one, and the shift that also can occur really even in that relationship. So I’ll tell clients, you know, it is not that you have to close the door, turn away from that relationship, and just move forward, that relationship is a part of you, you know, we’re really tapping into that inner representation that they have of the loved one. And what EMDR does is that allows them opportunity to shift that relationship into something that is ongoing in terms of the way that they evolve in the relationship through their life, they may have different experiences and think, Oh, now I understand what my loved one was talking about when they talk you know about this thing, or Gosh, I wonder what my loved one would have thought about this, that they had seen it and they can do that with with positivity rather than the what ifs and you know, sadness around it instead, it can feel inspiring to them. So, you know, EMDR has a beautiful way of doing that. And it taps into that neurological process that strengthens and opens new neural pathways so that then in the future, they encounter those triggers, and find that it no longer fosters that negative sadness, that or separation, but instead, it just fosters this ongoing positive relationship. That’s great. So this question was not on our interview list. But can you explain to the audience the difference between I guess the terms are grief and something like chronic grief? So complicated grief.
Kim Howard 09:23
Compliated grief. Can you give us a little bit of an idea of what the difference is because I suspect that all of us once we lose someone that we love, we feel like it’s it’s complicated. We feel like it’s just sure first ever and we feel like you know, this is this deep well of sorrow that I have, and it’s not regular grief. It’s the extra regular grief. And so can you kind of explain to us a little bit about what the differences are?
Tamra Hughes 09:44
Well, all grief is painful. I’ll start by saying that all grief whether it’s regular grief, as you call it, or complicated grief, grief is painful. complicated grief is really when there is an additional component So the loss that gets the grief kind of tied up, and you know, prevents it from moving fluidly. So for example, an ambiguous loss, maybe you’re not exactly sure how the loved one died. Or maybe it was something that really blindsided you, for example, maybe the client was in an argument. And that was how their that was their last interaction with the loved one. And then, you know, the loved one dies in a car accident later, you know, that day or the next day, and there’s this tremendous amount of grief, or it could be that there was a suicide they didn’t understand, or there was, you know, the loss of a child is always very complicated, because it’s not the natural order of things. You know, as a parent, you don’t have a child and prepare for the loss of the child. And that’s, so that creates complicated grief. So those are just a few of the many complicating factors. But it just, I guess, is an illustration of some of the types of things where it’s, it causes poor separation and thoughts and irrational beliefs that can get in the way of luid grieving.
Kim Howard 11:23
That’s a great explanation. Thank you. Are there any specific complexities or difficulties with using EMDR for grief?
Tamra Hughes 11:31
Do you know really all, all EMDR therapy is phase oriented. But I would say that, particularly in the case of grief or complicated grief, you’re going to often need to extend the preparation phase, so that they just are having an opportunity to become a little more stabilized before you get in and actually start reprocessing the trauma. So that and then the other piece is, I would say that there oftentimes are the need for more inner waves. So often, they will need opportunities to speak unspoken words, what would you want to have said to your loved one? What would your loved one say to you? If they identify with faith of some sort? Or God? What would you want to say to God? What would God say to you opportunities like that, that give them a door and opening to speak those things that often create the per separation? And and feel that they have been spoken it and can move past that roadblock? And continue on with the grief.
Kim Howard 12:43
Thank you. How do you practice cultural humility as an EMDR therapist?
Tamra Hughes 12:48
You know, I talk about this a lot in my trainings in that it is so important for the EMDR therapist to really understand their clients mental model of the world. In my opinion, it is impossible to understand the client’s mental model of the world if you don’t understand the cultures that to which they identify or with which they identify. So when I say cultures, I really want to stress plural, because it is not just race, religion, sexual identity, gender identity, those are some of the things that nowadays we think of as culture. But honestly, we have so many layers of culture that each person identifies with, you know, you’ve got family, culture, social cultures, there’s the therapy and culture therapist, there’s the EMDR, therapist culture, and all of those things have kind of ways of being in them. And as we lean in with curiosity, we can ask those questions about things we don’t understand. Tell me about this filming. And what is that like for you, the more we understand about their mental model of the world, the better able we are to provide EMDR therapy that is effective, we are creating and fostering trust in that relationship, which creates such a strong incongruence oftentimes to the trauma memory, which is so important. And so it’s, it’s really about leaning in with curiosity, asking those questions, and asking what, you know, questions they have for you as the therapist, so that there’s that trust and understanding and just a mutual curiosity in the therapy relationship.
Kim Howard 14:43
Absolutely. Thank you. Tamra, do you have a favorite free EMDR related resource that you would suggest either for the public or other EMDR therapists?
Tamra Hughes 14:53
So I saw this question and I thought, oh, boy, you know, I don’t know that I have a favorite. And as a matter of fact, what I would say about this is, everybody should go into looking for a favorite. And hopefully none will be found. You know, I think what is so awesome is how much there is right now, out there about EMDR. And there are nuggets from all of it, you know, it is so different, again, kind of going back to the last two decades of my career in EMDR, I think about how it was in 2003. And there were some great resources, but just a few of them, and how it is in 2023, with tons of resources, resources, and podcasts and articles and books, and video demonstrations and exercises, because everybody brings this great creativity to the field. And so honestly, I think just being open to always learning being open to listening to other perspectives and creative ideas, is what, again, keeps this really alive and fun and living and moving in the field of EMDR. So no, I actually don’t have a very favorite, I would say there are so so many. And I love that.
Kim Howard 16:23
That’s good. And it’s interesting how I mean, it’s been about 20 ish years since you became an EMDR therapist, but it is interesting how if information and things change. Now a days, it’s it seems to change a lot quicker than it used to. But you know, it used to see be almost like a decade kind of cyclical kind of thing. You know, this is what we did in the 90s. And this is what we did in the early 2000s. And then things have changed for whatever the profession is, or whatever the size of society and culture is, you know, I was watching a movie this weekend, and the movie was made in 2012. And part of the plot was that these two people were at a video store, and I’m like, video store? 20…what….those don’t exist anymore. So, I Google, when did blockbuster close, and they closed in 2014 to two years before this movie was made, they were still a viable option in our society. You know, people were not streaming from Netflix as often, right? Netflix existed back then. But you know, and so I’m like, wow, that was only like 11 years ago, 11 years ago, you know, and so things like that change. So professions, in terms of access to information, platforms have educated society in general, about any subject matter that you want, you know, you can find it out there. And my husband jokingly calls YouTube, YouTube College or YouTube University, if you if you need to know how to do something, change a tire, fix something in your home writing, whatever it is, if you can’t find it on YouTube, then you’re not gonna be able to do it, probably because there’s, there’s probably some content out there for you to learn about whatever your subject is. So it’s good that that information is open. I mean, we are EMDRIA. So we’d like to think that we, you know, we’re the be all end all, of course, but you know, not everybody has all the information. So if you find it and the source, then it’s legitimate, and it’s good, and it’s healthy, then, no pun intended to go with that. I mean, you know, at least you have access to that information. And that’s really the goal here. So.
Tamra Hughes 18:21
It really is, and I just think that with EMDR, there, there is so much not only that we learn from each other, but that we can really contribute. There’s plenty of trauma in this world, and there is plenty to go around. And so bringing your unique self as into the role as a therapist, and really building upon the academic research based information that’s out there on EMDR you can still create your own creative niche with the EMDR. It’s really cool. Yeah.
Kim Howard 19:04
Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Tamra, what would you like people outside of the EMDR community to know about EMDR therapy for grief?
Tamra Hughes 19:11
It is very powerful, very meaningful and very touching to witness my very, very, very favorite thing to use EMDR with and it’s, you know, it has some nuances that look a little different than standard EMDR. And it doesn’t always start and end the same way. There’s a meandering path to EMDR with grief, but it is extremely powerful.
Kim Howard 19:47
That’s good to know. If you weren’t an EMDR therapist, Tamra, what would you be?
Tamra Hughes 19:51
Oh, boy. Well, I would probably laughed at this because the other side of me would like to be an interior decorator or an art or something like that. So totally, totally different. But it is something that, you know, I have this sort of artistic side to me and I like painting and I like decorating. So, you know, after a long day of EMDR, I often want to go rearrange the furniture.
Kim Howard 20:22
I like it, I like it. And I think you’re the first guest on our podcast to be an architect or an interior designer. So and I can see from your bookshelf, the audience can’t see it. But I can see from your bookshelf, you have all of your books lined up color coded.
Tamra Hughes 20:36
What does that say about me?
Kim Howard 20:38
One side of me says, Oh, I love that concept. But the editor side of me says the books are not alphabetical. How can you find anything? You know? You have to remeber what color the cover was in order to find the book you’re looking for. But…
Tamra Hughes 20:49
We can EMDR that.
Kim Howard 20:53
We have we have a phase for that. We’ll take care of it. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Tamra Hughes 21:00
No, I just think it’s, it’s wonderful that you are doing this podcast. And you know, thank you so so much for inviting me to be on this. It was a lot of fun. It’s always fun to see you.
Kim Howard 21:12
We were happy to have you. And we appreciate all the work that you and all of our members and any other therapists out there who are not connected to EMDR. Or even if they are and they’re not members. We appreciate all the work you do because the world truly needs need you all and it’s a better place because of you. So thank you.
Tamra Hughes 21:28
Oh, well, thank you. I learned probably more from my clients than my clients ever learned from me. So it’s it’s definitely a wonderful blessing for me in my life. I really enjoy it.
Kim Howard 21:41
That’s a good way to end the podcast. Thank you. Tamra.
Tamra Hughes 21:44
Thank you, Kim.
Kim Howard 21:46
This has been the Let’s Talk EMDR podcast with our guest Tamra Hughes. Visit www.emdria.org for more information about EMDR therapy, or to use our Find an EMDR Therapist Directory with more than 15,000 therapists available. Like what you hear, make sure you subscribe to this free podcast wherever you listening. Thanks for being here today.
EMDR International Association
Copyright © 2023 EMDR International Association
Howard, K. (Host). (2023, October 1). EMDR Therapy and Grief with Tamra L. Hughes (Season 2, No. 19) [Audio podcast episode]. In Let’s Talk EMDR podcast. EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org/letstalkemdrpodcast/
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