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5 NLP Techniques for Grief & Coaching Loss With Neuroscience


Table of Contents

I teach an NLP technique for grief inside our NLP Master Practitioner and Mindset Coaching training. NLP and grief have in common that they are both individual, and unique to a person’s map of the world.

One of the highlights in our Master-Level course is teaching students how to design interventions for any presenting problem. As an example, I teach an NLP technique for grief.

My Story

I have had my share of different kinds of grief over the years. I come from a Dutch-Indonesian family, and my grandmother was the sun, around which the planets of my mom, grandpa, aunts, and uncles orbited. Since that time, it feels like all planets changed and somehow lost their course, the effects are felt for almost 40 years. Overnight, I saw my mother change forever. Now, as a middle-aged woman, I can pinpoint many of my childhood installations dating back to the age of 13 when this happened, including those that are relevant daily today. Both negative as well as positive. Like becoming a social entrepreneur and NLP training on Bali in Indonesia.

My best friend got lost inside a space of grief paired with trauma and unleashed a battle with alcohol since then. Another friend lost her daughter 19 years ago, also under traumatic circumstances, and she has never been the same.

Your Story?

Why is it that we aren’t experts in helping someone grieve? Even when we haven’t experienced devastating grief ourselves, we most certainly have been around people who have.

As friends, parents, significant others, and especially as coaches, we need to be informed about grief! As well as people who one day will experience it. When the moment comes, or if that moment is for you right now, you want to be prepared.

NLP Techniques for Grief & Being a Coach

Grief is a deeply personal process, and each of us grieves differently. To speak of “the NLP technique for grief” I feel is shortsighted, no matter how successful I have been guiding people through the process.

Cliché & Are You Really an Expert?


Overcoming a loss is a process, and some things you never really get over. And though we say this all the time, what does it really mean? It seems a little cliché. It is our limited map of the world that makes us incapable to walk a mile in the shoes of a person who has experienced the worst of losses. We really can’t imagine what it feels like. And even if you have gone through a similar loss, your experience is different than theirs. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is about empathy, but when something is unimaginable, we can only have pretend “empathy.” What you can, however, have is compassion, to give love, make time, and listen. And accept that you aren’t going to fix them. And most certainly are they not going to make their pain and sadness go away because it suits your narrative and life. Your clock.

Also, think of how unbelievably hard it is to have your child die, but not have a vast memory bank to even draw from? Or the opposite, the love of your life you always did live with is ripped away, and you have no idea how to do life without them? If you don’t know what that feels like in your body or your mind, then step into acceptance that you cannot judge or fix. You will be the painful arrow inflicted on someone, who was already hit by the most devastating arrow or sets of arrows already shot at them.

In this article, we will explore coaching and NLP techniques for grief, as well as approaches for coaching. At the same time, if you are grieving yourself, you may find some helpful suggestions.

You Cannot Talk about Grief and Not Talk About Love

At the end of the day, grief is about love. And the depth of our love mirrors our loss. It is therefore any NLP technique for grief, or grief counseling has to not just focus on what is lost, but honor the love that was there. Without going into the cliché right away of “love remains.”

It frustrates me that we habitually parrot so many clichés when we are trying to grief coach someone else.

The Neuroscience of Grief

Grief affects the brain differently, but these effects can be detected in different areas of the brain. The brain changes both in structure and function; it’s complex. It is entangled. As caring change-workers, we must accept that it does. We are not just talking to a sad person; we are talking to someone whose brain does not function the same way as our own.

Fact 1

Neuroscience has taught us that the best way to process grief is not by imagining the person still being there, and unlike the poem says read in so many funerals that they just slipped into the other room. We must imagine that the person is in heaven, an energy that remains, reincarnated, or whatever our belief system dictates.

Someone stops aging or keeps living the moment they pass on. They did not slip into the other room leading their life.

Fact 2

Grieving for the brain is more simplistic than the complex emotional response. Our brain is used to connecting and seeing a person and experiencing them in our world. When someone dies, our brain can no longer perceive them in the same way; we can no longer connect in person or see them. The brain’s expectations of who has always been there are no longer. The brain needs to learn that it can no longer perceive or see the person.

Fact 3

Grieving is learning. And this type of learning takes time, both by experiencing each day without that person there. So adaptation and learning kick in. But also by sleeping, when we sleep, we process information and heal. It isn’t time that heals all wounds; sleep does.

Why is it So Hard to Talk about Grief?

What Not to Say and Do?

Grief touches upon our deepest vulnerabilities and fears. So we quickly go to clichés, or minimizing the feelings.

For example:
– “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
– “It is God’s will.”
– “I know how you feel.”
– “You still have 3 other children.”
– “Time heals all wounds.”
– “If there is anything I can do, let me know” (And then do nothing.)
– “There are 5 stages of grief…” (No, there are not!)

If you have said any of these things in the past, don’t worry. The worst thing you can do is not say anything and avoid the person. Which many people do.

What to Say and Do?

What can you do?
– Express your sympathy.
– Validate their feelings and pain.
– Be non-judgmental about their experience.
– Listen.
– Encourage a person to share memories or talk about a person.
– Provide comfort and connection.
– Is there something practical you can do? Shop, watch the kids, etc.
– Keep in contact.

How Can You Help or Coach Someone Who is Grieving?

I think the biggest favor you can do is ask: “How can I best help you?” And it doesn’t matter if you are a parent, friend, coach, or a therapist! The sooner we understand that we aren’t the expert over others, the more effective we end being. Accepting our own limitations is a hard thing to do, as it fires up feelings about our own inadequacies.

How Can You Help Someone Using NLP Techniques Who Is Grieving?


Simple NLP Technique for Grief 1

One of the biggest mistakes I feel an NLP trained person can make is to want to use NLP techniques with any negative context or emotion that arises. For example, switching your emotions to a positive or neutral any time you experience pain is possible, but a bad idea. It just will come back later. If lucky, it won’t take you out entirely for months or years when it does.

A person who truly understands when to sit with pain, and in what way, and experience it. It is OK to permit yourself to be sad, or any emotion that is associated with grief.

Lie down, close your eyes, and allow yourself to feel the sadness. How does sadness display inside the body? Does it start somewhere? Move in a certain direction?

Just sit with it. Make no attempt to push it away or change it. And explore what happens when you do.


Simple NLP Technique for Grief 2 – Process of Dying and Loss

Rather than going back to the process of dying, the loss itself, or going into the future of what you should have had is usually not useful. If this is something you still want to process, then float your awareness out of your body and see yourself on a movie screen. This is dissociation, and it isn’t that there is absolutely no emotion there, there are emotions of the observer. Which is far less intense.

You could soften it a little more by dimming the visual, making it smaller, and creating more distance.

Simple NLP Technique for Grief 3 – Positive Memories

Go back to that special memory of the past. And see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt. At the same time, you must be clear that you are reliving a memory of the past as if you are back in this moment. Rather than that moment happening in the present time or the future.

You can augment by making the image brighter, larger, and bringing it closer. Intensify the sound, the feelings if you wish.


Simple NLP Technique for Grief 4- Informed by Neuroscience

Remember, it is not OK to pretend as if someone still exists in the present or the future as they have ever been. It is, however, OK to imagine what you will see, hear, and feel a time in the future where you step into a place of healing, gratitude, living life to the fullest, honoring this person’s memories, and even envision them as an invisible guardian angel, an energy of even in heaven.

Sadness can live in the same place as gratitude, love, resilience, hope, comfort, inspiration, etc.

Simple NLP Technique for Grief 5

Create a movie screen in front of you, add everything this person represented to you, the emotions, the memories, the lessons, the values. Etc.

Imagine the movie screen dissolving into tiny little marbles (hearts, flowers, pool balls, etc.)

Float about your life-path from today to the day that you pass on. Imagine you can fly over this life path, and allowing each marble finds its way onto your future path.

How will the energy or memory of this person be carried through in the rest of your life?

How will you make them mater beyond their own life time?

How will you be able to find this person in a different way through your life? How will you take their teachings and their values forward? How will you make them matter beyond their own life time?

How will you give yourself the gift of their significance?

Master Practitioner NLP Technique for Grief

There is an NLP Master Practitioner level NLP technique for grief which is both taught inside our Master Practitioner training. As far as I know, no one teaches this as part of their class.

We teach it both live and online.

What Else?

We All Die

This may sound a little direct. But I remember someone being diagnosed as terminal at 19 who I loved, and someone told me to put things into perspective: “No one grieves Johnny Dinosaur.”

I am not sure I was ready to hear that then, but I did understand it. Now, many years and many losses later, I do agree this is a life cycle. There is a point where we all have passed on for more than 10 years, 50 years, 100 years, and 1000 years.

Perhaps, it is about what we can do in this lifetime, to change the trajectory of future generations. As dismissive as I was of Johnny Dinosaur, I do feel what I do as an NLP Trainer can change the trajectory of my students’ lives far beyond my and their lifetimes. And this was originally influenced by my grandmother and anyone I lost after through both physical and mental disease, as well as old age.

Stop Trying to Fix Things

An essential principle in grief coaching is the recognition that grief is not a problem to be fixed but a process to be experienced, processed, and worked through.

NLP techniques for grief are not about eradicating it, it’s about offering strategies to manage and integrate the experience of loss into one’s life in a healthy way.

 Grief is an Individual Process

Each person’s grief journey is vastly different. It depends on past losses we have experienced, our age, our culture, what we have learned from our parents about grief, our belief system, and from an NLP perspective, how the brain processes information.

Also, factors like resilience, hope, optimism, which are all learned strengths that we either developed or not, are going to be a huge matter.

And how much did we love this person? And how integral were they to our day-to-day lives?

Grief Comes in Waves

The 5 stages of grief have been debunked a long time ago as non-sense. Sure, we experience many emotions, but we don’t cleanly cycle through 5 stages of grief. This Kubler-Ross concept was debunked a long time ago.

Why are the Five Stages of Grief Wrong?

Grief is not linear; it ebbs and flows. One minute you are sad, the other moment you are grateful, relaxed, or even happy.

 Ultimately, it’s the thoughtful and compassionate application of an NLP technique for grief that guides individuals through their unique paths of mourning and recovery.

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