Jan 2, 2018 11:54 PM
Most of the time the new year brings new hope. Can you enjoy that experience while also honoring some of the disappointments and grief in 2017?
Oct 4, 2017 3:14 PM
Two common immediate reactions following a tragedy are feeling as if a prior loss or traumatic experience is happening again and re-evaluation of priorities. While the first immediate reaction is generally very emotionally and sometimes even physically painful, the second reaction can be helpful. It is so easy to get lost in the overwhelm of the current crisis and despair has a way of taking over if we are not intentionally fending it off. It is during the immediate aftermath of tragedy when we should find ways to be self-caring, determine our own values, and identify at least one behavior we can do now that align with our values. In doing so, we allow ourselves to continue to heal our older wounds and begin to heal the newest wounds. So, how can you be self-caring right now? What do you promise yourself to do today to take care of you? What do you value TODAY and HOW COME? Is it because you’ve been told you should value it while wondering if you truly do? Is it because you had a life experience that either instilled or reinforced that value? Is it because it’s just been a habit to value it; something you’ve always done without really giving it much thought? Can you imagine cleaning the closet out? Can you dump all the values, opinions, shoulds, shouldn’ts into a pile and sort through them, deciding what you want to toss, what you want to give back to its rightful owner, and what you want to hold onto and place neatly back in the closet? After you’ve done that, can you take it one step forward and do one thing today that aligns with the values that you have decided are yours to keep?
Sep 29, 2017 3:21 PM
I tell clients to honor their grief and that confuses them.
“Why should I honor my anger, hurt, and my sadness? I want it to go away! I want to stop hurting!”
When you honor your grief, you are honoring the importance of your lost loved one. You are saying, “You matter! Our relationship matters! That you existed matters! That you are physically gone from my life matters!”
Your tears, sobs, and even your laughs in the context of your grief are honorable.
Sep 5, 2017 10:39 AM
A dear friend of mine is in pain, especially this week, as she grapples with the 19th anniversary of her brother's suicide. As a therapist and also someone who has been a very active EMT for 19 years of my life, I have heard a lot of people contemplate suicide and idealize suicide and I have seen a lot of suicide attempts and some suicide completions. How do I cope with that? I compartmentalize. As an EMT responding to a suicide call, I needed to in order to do the job at hand. As a therapist, I have to compartmentalize JUST ENOUGH to stay focused but not so much that I am unfeeling. While compartmentalization (which is a defense mechanism used to sort of stuff or numb pain) enables us to go about our day without having a melt-down, it also inhibits empathy. It is sometimes hard for me to imagine the enormity of the pain a person must have felt to have decided that suicide is THE answer. It is sometimes hard for me to imagine the amount of pain the survivors of a person who has suicided feels. I thank my friend for putting her pain out there so that I can be reminded of the pain people feel and my responsibilities to my fellow humans!
I had the fortunate opportunity to watch Kevin Hines speak at a conference. He is an amazing man who survived a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge in an attempt to end his life. He opened his speech up with this: "'How are you? Is there anything you need? Can I help?' If anyone had said any of those things to me, I would not have tried to end my life that day."
As he states in this video, it is okay not to be okay and recovery happens!!! It is NOT okay to NOT ask for someone to back you up. If you are contemplating suicide and someone asks you how you are, even if they are just making small talk, tell them you are not okay and ask them to help you to not end your life today. I know that you don't want to go to the hospital but remember that it is part of the healing process and that you CAN feel better! HOW YOU FEEL TODAY IS NOT HOW YOU WILL ALWAYS FEEL EVEN IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE THAT NOW! THIS IS NOT HOW YOUR STORY ENDS should you choose to keep writing it!
Aug 13, 2017 5:03 PM
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Our family just learned about the death of a remarkable young man and his death is so tragic, so untimely, and just overall, heartbreaking. I'm now thinking a lot about the many deaths I have heard about as a therapist who specializes in grief. Of all the thoughts I am having, the one that speaks loudest right now is how sad it is that so many people are so unsupported in their grief when they hear about the death of an ex-partner.
Grief is the felt experience in response to a significant loss. Consider all the possible variables in this statement and know that grief is a completely personal experience. “The felt experience” includes so much that listing it all here would be ridiculous. People DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES if the loss is significant or not. If someone says the loss is significant, there is no questioning it! That the person said it means that it is, even if you do not agree.
Mourning is the collective behaviors someone does in grief including, but not limited to crying, praying and rituals. We mourn in an effort to process and heal from the loss. Everyone grieves and mourns differently. There is much validity in the "Stages of Grief" that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying however, many say that model is outdated and I refer to "The Tasks of Grief" proposed by William Worden in his 2009 book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy.
What???? TASKS??? What do you mean I have tasks to do, especially now while I'm grieving??!! Yes, you have tasks to do and completion of those tasks is called “Grief Work.” As the title states, grief work is work and can be seemingly impossible work at times. There are 4 tasks we must complete in our grief work and we NEED supportive people in our lives while we grieve.
Everyone needs to go through the tasks in their own personal way!!! I tell my clients something my professor in school told me daily (From whom or where he got this, I don’t have a clue); “Trust in your process. Be patient with your timeline. Be kind to yourself.” This is so important that I never get sick of saying this to people!! It helped me in my grief when my professor said it to me repeatedly and it can help In the grief work of others. While we need to trust in our own grief process and be patient our own timeline, WE NEED TO DO THAT FOR OTHERS AS WELL EVEN WHEN THEIR PROCESS AND TIMELINE DIFFER FROM OUR OWN!!
All too often, people are not fully supported when they are grieving an ex. Insecure current partners get in the way of the healthy grief process that everyone deserves to experience and work through.
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Jealousy absolutely has its place and never is its place in a loved one grieving a death!!! JEALOUSY ALWAYS INVOLVES MORE THAN 2 PEOPLE AND IS A RESPONSE TO A REAL OR IMAGINED THREAT THAT ANOTHER PERSON WILL TAKE OUR MATE! Jealousy is adaptive, folks!! When appropriately experienced, it motivates us to become a more attractive mate to our current partner and at times, it may lead to physical aggression or even violence to keep the outsider from taking our mate!!! Think about it! If the person died, there is NO WAY that person will take your mate from you (all spiritual and life-after-death beliefs aside)!!
When a current partner gets angry, resentful, and does and says hurtful things to their partner who is grieving an ex, it is nonsense!!! It simply does not make sense! Your partner is hurting because of his/her humanness, ability to love, and the importance of ALL relationships! Their grief and mourning DO NOT mean that they love the deceased person more than they love you, that they would rather be with that person, or that you are no longer the most important person in your mate’s life! IT DOES mean that your mate is human, is able to love deeply, and values their relationships, even the past ones.
If you find yourself feeling angry, hurt, resentful, scared, or jealous about your mate’s grief and mourning over the death of an ex, it means that you have wounds that need to heal yourself. Please invest in healing those wounds so that you can be at peace while you help heal your partner in his/her grief.