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More Trauma Symptoms

First let me apologize to my readers for no posts over the last two weeks. My computer is down and I have had to do my writing at work. Since I usually do my writing on my computer at home in the early morning hours when I can’t sleep, using the computer at work has really slowed me down. However, I hope to have my computer back and right as rain soon. In the meantime, let’s finish up the discussion of trauma symptoms in this post.

Anxiety on Warning Road Sign on Sunset Sky Background.The remaining symptoms fall under the categories of avoidance and altered arousal, also viewed as avoidance and physical symptoms. To understand these symptoms, it is worth remembering the basic nature of trauma: Trauma results from an experience, which is unexpected, sudden, and which leaves you feeling powerless and out of control. It may be caused by a one-time experience or from repeated exposure and is most apt to lead to symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if it occurs in childhood.

With this in mind, it is very reasonable that you would avoid places, people, and experiences reminiscent of the trauma experience. If you cannot avoid them, anxiety or panic attack may result. Such anxiety and panic attacks can eventually lead to an inability to leave your home, known as agoraphobia. Another way of dealing with the anxiety may be developing flashbacks or very disturbing intrusive memories, nightmares, or other forms of feeling stuck in the trauma.

The physical symptoms such as muscle tension, aches, pains, and fatigue that may result from trauma may represent another form of distraction to keep you separated from the trauma.

Other physical symptoms of trauma may feel beyond your control too, symptoms such as a racing heart, increased startle reflect that leaves you very jumpy, and edginess and agitation. These are purely biological responses that come from the split-off part of the trauma, which resides deep in the brain. Although the thinking part of your brain may realize that the trauma is over, survival takes priority and all those symptoms are the result of your body and brain doing the best they can to protect you from further trauma.

Once you recognize that the symptoms make sense, it is easier to accept the need to seek out some help. Everyone heals from trauma at their own pace. So try to not judge yourself by another person’s experience. However, if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t easing or are evening worsening, it may be time to get professional help.

Lifebuoy for drowning man's hand in open sea or ocean water.

As a rule of thumb, if any of the following are a problem consider getting professional help now:

  • Excessive fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Difficulty forming close satisfying relationships, or feeling emotionally numb or disconnected from others
  • Scary or painful memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Inability to function at home or work
  • Using substances, sex, or other activities to feel better

Now that you have a good idea of what symptoms may result from trauma and understand why they occur, it’s time to decide if you need to reach out for some help to deal with your trauma.

Next week, I’ll share a few self-help strategies to try, as well as offer some ideas of the ways a professional counselor can be helpful.

As always, if you or someone you love is suffering from a traumatic experience, consider seeing a counselor. You don’t need to suffer alone.

Call me now! Find the peace you deserve.



Do You Have These Trauma Symptoms?

Depressed 3d man sitting with red question marks on whiteIn this series on trauma, I’ve talked about the difference between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a specific diagnosis of symptoms, and trauma, which is determined by the individual’s perception of an experience rather than the actual experience itself. We discussed the risk factors that may predispose you to developing trauma too. Now let’s look at what trauma might actually look like if you do develop it.

You may recall from the first part of this series that I mentioned how trauma symptoms are categorized into three different areas:

1-Altered cognitions and/or mood symptoms

2-Altered levels of arousal

3-Avoidance symptoms

Although some people and some organizations categorize the symptoms differently, they still contain the same symptoms. So if you know of symptoms that are ordered a little differently, that’s OK. Just look in any of the categories to find symptoms about which you are curious or that you are familiar with. I’m going to look at the symptoms one category at a time.

Not Everyone Develops PTSD

Remember that not everyone who feels traumatized develops PTSD or needs treatment. There are many symptoms associated with trauma and few people develop all of them. It is also helpful to remember that these are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events. Your symptoms may last a few days, weeks, months, or years- especially without treatment. If your symptoms are very distressing, last a long time, or seem to be getting worse, please consider getting some treatment.

1st up-Altered cognitions and/or mood symptoms

I’ll start with shock, denial, or disbelief first because that is most often the first mood or thought state that people become aware of or that others can observe in the behavior of trauma victims. This makes sense since one of the criteria of trauma is that it is sudden and unexpected. This may leave a person looking dazed and non-reactive. They may also feel disconnected and numb.

From here I list symptoms in no particular order and again it is important to remember that you may have some of these symptoms in varying degrees,  but few people have them all or have the same symptoms all of the time.

Many people experience intense anger, irritability and mood swings. This can be confusing to both the traumatized individual and their support people but do keep in mind that it is the result of the traumatic experience. Experiences that hit suddenly and without warning do not permit planning and leave one feeling powerless. Such powerlessness is a set-up for feeling like you have no control in your life. Most of us react to those kinds of feelings with anger.

Some people experience guilt and shame following a trauma. They may blame themselves at not being able to predict or prevent the experience even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The trauma may leave you feeling like something precious has been taken from you (and some define that something as your sense of safety.) The sense of loss often results in sadness or hopelessness.

When an event is experienced as unexpected and sudden leaving you feeling traumatized, anxiety and fear are the natural consequence. This mental state can make it difficult to concentrate and the resulting confusion may reinforce a sense of embarrassment, which leads to withdrawing from others.

Need Help Colorful Comment SymbolAs you can see, all these trauma symptoms make sense when you look at them individually relative to the types of events, which lead to trauma. Taking this direct and deeper look at the symptoms can help us all to realize that given the right circumstances anyone could be the victim of trauma.

This week I only covered the emotional and altered cognitive symptoms. Taking this closer looks makes sense of how people behave following trauma. Next week I’ll delve into a different category of trauma symptoms.

Understanding what the trauma symptoms are and why they occur can help you cope with the symptoms better whether you are the one experiencing them or the support person of a trauma victim. Learning and understanding give us power. And I believe that understanding that anyone can be traumatized along with the concept that these are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events can be very empowering indeed.

Check in next week for more about the symptoms of trauma. If you recognize any of these symptoms as part of your own experience or that of one you love, please consider talking to someone about your experience. You don’t have to suffer in silence or alone.

It’s time to heal and find your peace

     so give me a call at


Are You At Risk of Trauma?

sick teddy bear

Why are some people are traumatized by an event and others are not? It’s a really good question. Unfortunately the answers are neither simple nor easy. As I indicated over the last two weeks, a trauma is not defined by the nature of the event itself but rather by the individual’s perception of the event, thus making the answers more dependent on personal characteristics. Let’s tease this apart a little.

Little “t” and big “T”

First, let me say that there are two essential types of traumas: what we call little “t” traumas and big “T” traumas. Big “T” traumas are the things most people would expect to be traumatic like earthquakes, the destruction of the World Trade Centers on 9/11, or being raped. Little “t” traumas, on the other hand, are circumstances, which, when added to certain specific vulnerabilities of an individual, add up to a traumatic experience. Examples might include the experience of an 8th grade boy having his pants pulled down in the lunch line at school, or being fired from your job in front of your peers, or perhaps having your figure, sexual performance, or other attributes criticized by a thoughtless spouse at a dinner party. So, what determines who will be traumatized and who will bounce back with greater ease?

Here are three specific circumstances that impact the risk of developing symptoms in response to possibly traumatic experiences.

1-One of the most significant risk factors is trauma in childhood.

Anything in childhood that disrupts a child’s sense of safety and security may cause childhood trauma. If the trauma is not detected, treated, and resolved, the vulnerability remains with the child as he or she continues to mature. The risk is increased when the traumatic experience occurs near times of critical development, such as birth through the first 3 months, around the one year mark, the period of 18 months to roughly 2 years of age when children are noticing and reacting to strangers and beginning to explore on their own, and again from ages 3 to 5 when they typically begin to develop enough autonomy to attend preschool and kindergarten and start developing social skills. Children traumatized around these critical developmental times often learn to see the world as a dangerous and scary place.

These are a few events likely to create risk during these critical developmental times:

  • A chaotic or unsafe living environment
  • Serious illness or separation from primary care-givers
  • Invasive medical procedures
  • Domestic violence, neglect, or abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional)
  • Bullying, frequent moves, or challenges to family well-being, such as poverty

2-A person already affected by one traumatic experience

is at even higher risk of further traumatization by experiences which might not pose a risk if they happened in otherwise non-traumatizing circumstances (multiple stressors). Consider that the system that handles the stress is already on over-load.

3-Dependency plus few coping skills or supports also increases risk.

This one risk factor is actually the good news, because it is the one we can easily do something to change in a positive direction. Anytime you see someone under stressful circumstances, you can decrease the risk of their trauma by increasing the number of support people who are able and willing to be of help, step up to help the victims learn to help themselves, or simply be with them to offer encouragement and emotional support. This may not prevent all trauma from occurring but it will reduce the potential risk every time.

Now you know some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of an experience becoming a “traumatic event”. Knowing what to look for in yourself and those you care about may give you the time and allow you to shore up skills, offer support, and plan ahead.

Bear toys. Friendship support concept | Isolated

Next week, I’ll explore some of the symptoms of trauma. Some you may know about and others may come as a surprise to you. Knowing what to look for will make it easier to help yourself and those you love to get help and prevent a traumatic event from leading to a soul-destroying period of time, or a life-threatening condition.

If you believe that you or someone you care about is experiencing symptoms of trauma, please see a professional for help. Traumatic symptoms can ruin lives and make it extremely difficult for a person to enjoy living, but remember trauma is treatable. Get the help you need and find your peace again.

                 Pick up the phone now and call me at

                   801 494-7612 or email at



A Deeper Understanding of Trauma

Puzzle Head Last week, I explained the difference between trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) simply: Trauma is the emotional, physical, and psychological ways a person is impacted by their experience whereas Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a specific disorder as defined in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Anyone with PTSD has had some traumatic experience but not all who have been traumatized develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Your doctor or therapist can help you determine if you meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD, but only you can determine for certain if you have been traumatized by some experience.

What Trauma Looks Like

What does trauma look like? Different people experience trauma in differing ways. Some people develop high anxiety and even panic attacks, a fear of leaving their home or of going to specific places. Many have bad dreams and nightmares, or a sense of doom that doesn’t seem to have a specific cause. Others are unable to trust and find intimacy very scary. There are probably as many different faces to traumatic response as there are people who have been traumatized. One thing all traumatized people share is a significant disruption in their normal life functioning following the experience of trauma.

CAUSES of Trauma

So what actually causes trauma? For some people, trauma may result from a one-time event such as an automobile accident, a vicious attack, or even being the witness to one of these experiences. Other times trauma follows ongoing, repeated experiences of high stress such as living in a home of extreme control, anger, and conflict, especially if there is abuse present. Other examples of relentless stress that may result in trauma are struggling with a life threatening illness, living or working in a high crime area, or involvement in an emotionally destructive relationship. Remember that it is the subjective emotional experience, which determines the trauma, not the objective event.

Trauma Events/Experience

You are more likely to have a traumatic experience if the event happens unexpectedly and you are not prepared for it, if it occurs repeatedly and leaves you feeling powerless, and if it happened in childhood.

Here are a few experiences that have been reported by traumatized clients:

  • Surgery, especially early in life or for life-threatening conditions
  • The violent, unexpected death of a loved one
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Emotional abuse by a spouse or parent over several years
  • A humiliating, deeply disappointing experience in front of others

As you can see trauma does not always require the events many of us have come to think of as the types of things that cause trauma and the majority of people weather these events without being traumatized. However, many people do experience trauma following these and other experiences and when they do, it can leave them feeling isolated, alone, and defeated. It can put them at high risk of health problems, work and relationships issues, and even at risk for suicide.

Treatment For Trauma

Puzzle Head Solution

Trauma if often a destroyer of happiness and life, but it is treatable. Over the next few weeks, I will go deeper into aspects of trauma. We’ll take a look at the risk factors for developing trauma, specific symptoms that many experience, when to seek help for trauma. And we’ll explore treatment options for trauma and how to help someone you love, or yourself.

Join me next time for more on understanding trauma. If you or someone you love is ready to start working to overcome the effects of trauma with the help of a counselor, please

       give me a call at 801-494-7612.

Dealing With Trauma And PTSD?

PTSD signsTrauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are in the news a lot. News stories abound with details of frightening events reported to have caused both trauma and PTSD for a variety of people from combatants in the military to survivors of natural disasters. Some stories provide hints at the definition of these problems but rarely do they offer solutions for the devastation left in the lives of those who suffer from either trauma or PTSD. I’d like to offer a more complete picture. In the next few weeks, I plan to take a more organized approach to understanding the definitions, the causes, and the treatments to deal with trauma and PTSD.

Today I want to share a little more specific information about what trauma and PTSD actually are. First of all, they are not synonymous. You can have trauma without also having PTSD but it is unlikely that you will have PTSD without having experienced some traumatic event(s). There are many different types of traumas, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

First Trauma

Since trauma tends to come first, let’s start there. Psychological and emotional trauma is the result of an experience, which leaves you feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and in some way horrified. The experience is often sudden and unexpected, a threat to life or your security. Even without a threat of physical harm, some events may be perceived as traumatic by some people. The determination of trauma is based on the subjective experience of the individual, not the event itself. According to resources of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), only about 8.7% of the population in America experiences PTSD in a lifetime.

PTSD Is Next

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a specific collection of symptoms listed in the DSM 5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition), a sort of “bible” of mental disorders organized by the APA used for the purpose of diagnosing mental health issues, determining treatment needs, and billing third party payers (insurances).

PTSD symptoms are gathered into three basic categories, as follows:

1-Altered cognitions and/or mood symptoms

2-Altered levels of arousal

3-Avoidance symptoms

PTSD is further defined by when it develops relative to the causal event and how long it lasts. Although there is a diagnosis of PTSD for children, I will be dealing with only adult and adolescent issues in my blog.

As you can see trauma is summed up in the emotional and psychological ways a person is impacted by their experience whereas Post traumatic Stress Disorder is a specific disorder. Anyone with PTSD has had some traumatic experience but not all who have been traumatized develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

[Some compare understanding trauma and PTSD to the difference between having “flu-like” symptoms and having THE flu. We all get symptoms from time to time of muscle aches, head ache, and respiratory symptoms such as congestion or runny nose. These symptoms may be allergy or actual flu, which only a viral test can determine. Whichever it may truly be, we still explain our dis-ease process as having the flu.]

Pain concept.

Treat The “Pain”

The DSM is intended to help practitioners identify disorders and syndromes with some level of accuracy and consistency. Despite the intention for the DSM, some interpretation of symptoms remains a persistent criticism within and outside of the mental health community. Like many practitioners, I favor helping my clients whether or not they meet diagnoses. All pain deserves treatment.

Next week, I will explain more about trauma, the causes, and symptoms. In the following weeks, I will offer up strategies for self-help, medical and psychological treatment.

Both trauma and PTSD can be very debilitating. If you suffer with symptoms of either trauma or PTSD and are ready to take back your life, please give me a call at (801) 494-7612 or send me a message on my contact page. Help is available and no one should have to suffer alone.



Relationship Workshop: An Offer You Can’t Refuse

NLP Coaching

One of the most common issues that I see in my practice are relationship problems. Sometimes it is husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, or same-sex partners. The problem might be associated with communication, anger management, intimacy issues, or boundary and equality problems. Few relationships are completely problem free.

Most of us did not grow up seeing good relationships well modeled. So few of us have any idea of how to create the kind of relationships we actually want and envision in our head. Some people take a lot of time to research methods that promise to improve relationships. Occasionally, they even find their relationships do improve somewhat. However, unless you are able to get your partner to join you in the research, whether that is reading a book, taking a course, or some other form of learning, it may be very difficult to get the cooperation needed to effect real change in the relationship. The best improvement in couple’s relationships occurs when both halves of the couple are engaged in the learning.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you an opportunity to get a jump start on improving your love relationships. On Saturday, April 18, Gwen Laws, CMHC will provide a 4 hour relationship workshop to teach couples many practical ways to improve their relationship. Among other things Gwen will help couples learn to understand the different ways that people express their love and how to read your partner’s “love language”, teach you how to fight “fair”, and discover how to increase your connection with and the attraction between you and your partner. This is a hands on workshop intended to send you out with new skills to improve your love relationship.

Come learn how to improve your relationship in substantial and practical ways. I am delighted to share with my readers this wonderful opportunity for real time, in-person learning. I’m offering you or someone you know a discount for this amazing workshop. Contact me through this website and I will send you a unique code for $5 per individual or $15 per couple off the price of registration.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. So learn how to get a great start on your new love relationship before problems arise or become entrenched. Come learn ways to make a great start on your new beginning. Contact me through the contact form today.

marriage workshop flier

10 Ways to Increase Resilience

Bad News on Warning Road Sign.

Hurricanes, house fires, vehicle accidents, drownings, and sexual assaults. Horrific, unexpected, tragic things happen every day. Why do some people come through adversity and others crash and burn? Is it something you are born with? Are resilient people luckier, stronger, or more faithful? What is this quality that allows many people to not only survive truly awful events but, in many cases, experience post traumatic growth?

Professionals call it “resilience”. Simply put resilience is the ability to bounce back after a trauma. It is the willingness and ability to work through the highly charged emotions and experiences that are extremely stressful. It is influenced by genetics and early life environment but it is not solely an inborn trait. Resilience can be grown and improved. Supportive relationship skills, cultural beliefs, and traditions all influence resiliency and can be enhanced. The emotions, thoughts, and actions that make up resilience can be learned and developed throughout life.

If you have experienced some event that taxed your resilience and you would like to work to improve your ability to bounce back or to be prepared to face the inevitable adversities of the future, here are 10 areas that may help improve your resilience:

1-Close relationships

Close relationships offer support and a safety net in times of stress. A sense of belonging may help you weather stress until you find your balance and extra people means more options to consider.

2-Self-image and confidence

Believing that you are capable of handling stresses and navigating the ups and downs of life makes it easier to seek the help you need in tough times.

3-Positive emotional regulation

Positive emotions support neuroplasticity, increasing the brain’s ability to make connections (learn) and consider new possibilities.

4-Good problem solving skills

This is a skill that begins at birth and if it is not well developed you can always learn better critical thinking and communication skills. Free online classes are available to teach problem solving skills.

5-Internal locus of control

This is a fancy term for perceiving yourself as being in charge of yourself and your “destiny” rather than being controlled by external forces, also called victim-thinking. It gives you a “take charge” mentality.

6-Resource seeking

Recognizing that you need help and having the willingness to reach out for it increases the likelihood that you will get the support to cope with problems and bounce back sooner.

7-Healthy coping skills

Avoiding unhealthy coping skills such as drugs, sex, alcohol, etc increases the likelihood of clear minded choices more often leading to wise and useful outcomes.


Decades of research on service has demonstrated that helping others buoys an individual’s sense of self-worth and fair-play in getting what you need to do well following a traumatic event.

9-Finding meaning in life

Meaning making in life is a primary goal for humans. Taking the time to look for the meaning in what happens to you can increase your willingness to take appropriate risks and grow.

10-Gratitude and joy

Feeling and expressing gratitude and joy in life creates an optimistic mental direction and increases the chances of seeing and utilizing positive influences from many different aspects of life.

Hello I Am a Survivor Nametag Surviving Disease Perseverance

Resilience does not preclude having negative emotions or events in your life. Indeed, resilient people have just as many negative emotions as others do, but they also have more positive emotions. They have greater joy from feeling good, not from avoiding feeling bad. Resilient people not only feel better but they seek to develop resources to live well.

If trauma is a part of your past or if you agree that everyone can reasonably expect the occasional set-backs from life consider choosing from the above named areas to work on increasing your resilience. If you are currently feeling that your resilience is challenged and you need some extra support, give me a call. Lets work together to boost your ability to survive and thrive.



Moving Into Grief

Young woman holding paper with sad and happy smileyTonight after my last client, we are moving our offices to a different building. Our practice has expanded in the last few months. We’ve doubled the number of therapists and so we need to increase our work space. I am very excited about the move.

I have selected artwork for the walls, bought a new rug, and chosen the new chair in which I will spend many hours four days per week. I have enjoyed many hours of arranging and re-arranging the furniture in my mind and on paper, and I can hardly wait to get everything organized to fit my new environment. Mine is the smallest office space in the new suite but it is a corner office with two huge windows. So LOTS of light but since it is on the eastside, it won’t get hot. Yea!

Tonight I feel some of the thrill I remember from childhood at Christmas time, that great anticipation. However, I am also aware of a hint of sadness. I am leaving behind an office space that I did a lot to make mine more than three years ago.

My current office is closest to the front of the suite so I can go right into my office as soon as I arrive at work. I see everyone who comes into the offices because they go by my office on their way to sessions with the other therapists. I stay relatively well informed because I can’t help overhearing parts of most conversations that occur in the lobby and the offices near mine.

These any many other aspects of my work environment from the last few years are about to change dramatically and I will miss some of it. I will need to adapt to all of it and that means a bit of sorrow, a bit of grief.

“How can you grieve for an office?” you may wonder. That is the nature of grief; it is about change, about loss, about missing something and adapting to its absence. Even something as mundane as the office environment I’ve had for the last several years. It’s not like I will sit in my chair and cry but I do feel the sense of something important in my life changing. Some would think this silly but it is important. It is an opportunity to deal with one of those little daily griefs that give us a chance to practice so that when the BIG GRIEFs come along we are better prepared.

innenarchitektin plant neue projekteI am taking the opportunity to spend some time reflecting on the previous years and how I gradually tried out different things in my office until I found the arrangement of furniture and décor that suited me in that particular environment.

I’ve thought back over the clients, friends, family, and peers that have visited with me in my office space, the impact each of them has had on me, how they have helped to shape me as a person and as a therapist. I have taken time, and will take more to express my gratitude to various persons for the many ways they have helped me and enriched my life. This is very much like the processes we go through when we have bigger, overwhelming losses.

I am also spending time thinking about the new opportunities that lie before me as we move into the new office suite. I have hopes and dreams connected with those opportunities. I have expectations. The move presents me with role changes within my work relationships. (Shoulder shrug…) More adaptation.

Grief often gets a bad rap, much like the mental defense of denial, but both serve a good and important purpose. Denial acts as a cushion and grief allows for reflection and assessment, change, and growth. As I let myself feel the enthusiasm and excitement about the move, I also let myself embrace my grief. My grief, even this little grief, has much to teach me and anyone who knows me well knows that I am a lifetime learner…and love it.

Join me weekly for new tips on mental health subjects, grief, and trauma…hit the subscribe button at the top of the page.

Grief Versus Faith: How to Heal From Loss

man in a desert

A few months ago I was told by a young man that he was still hurting over the loss of his mother, who had died not long ago. “It hit me a lot harder than I ever would have expected,” he told me. He said that when he tried to share his grief with his wife she suggested, “you need to have more faith.” Not surprisingly he had made great efforts to hide the depth of his sorrow since then but that hadn’t helped him to get over his pain.

In this part of Utah the culture is strongly influenced by a particular religious belief system. This system is centered on the family and a belief that families will be reunited in the next life. The perceived cultural message from that influence is often that death is only a temporary separation of family members and therefore death should not be especially painful. While for many that belief brings a great deal of comfort, there are others in our area who feel pressured to not feel pain when their loved ones die. Simply stated that is asking the impossible and it forces some people to stifle or ignore their true feelings, which makes healing from the sorrow much more difficult.

Grief is not about faith, your belief in the Devine, or your belief that ultimately all will be well. Many who have suffered complicated grief as a result of the suicide, murder, or accidental death of a loved one, including many who developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, report that they never lost their faith in their belief system. In fact, they often credit their faith as a big part of what sustained them during their journey into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Unfortunately, when people get the message that they are not grieving in a normal way they may begin to hide their feelings, which further isolates them, placing them at risk of mental and physical health problems. Rarely does grief, normal or excessive grief, have anything to do with faith.

Grief is a period of adapting to the loss of one you love. It involves many emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. It defies clear explanation or control. Grief tends to come in waves for most people. At times you may handle your grief quite well and soon after be completely overwhelmed by it. There is great variability of the duration and intensity of grief from person to person as well as death to death. And no one can predict or determine for another person what their grief should look like.

Bear toys. Friendship support concept | Isolated

Most people manage their grief with the support of friends and family. Only a few find that they need something more. On those occasions when you find you or a loved one are struggling to move forward in your grieving or the intensity seems excessive to you, it may be very helpful to reach out to a grief specialist for some extra support. One of the first things the specialist will do to be of help is to normalize the experience of grief for you.

Grief is about the pain of separation. Sadly, when you see a family member or friend hurting in grief, it can trigger feelings of helplessness in you. The result of trying to reassert control may be to put pressure on the grieving person to “have more faith” or “pray harder”, etc. It would be far more helpful to kindly provide a place for the grieving person to feel safe to share their pain and loss. No one can fix grief for another person. You can’t bring back the object of the grief; you can’t take away the pain. You can share the burden with a warm embrace, a willingness to listen, and the encouragement that you will continue to be there as they travel this uncomfortable and lonely path on a dark journey. Indeed, companioning a griever along his or her journey can be sacred time.

I have learned so much from sharing such sacred time with those traveling in grief. I am grateful for every person who has allowed me the privilege of journeying with them and deeply grateful to those who have accompanied me on my own lonely treks into grief. If you are in the experience of your own grief or know someone who is, I hope you are blessed to know that a burden shared becomes lighter. While telling a griever that they are “doing it wrong” only adds to their burden and sense of aloneness, traveling the weary road with them is a gift…for both of you.

9 Ways to Get Unstuck

Where Do I Start Thinker Person Wondering Direction Plan I work with people who often seem very stuck in their issues, unable to see a perspective beyond their own. Disappointment, selfishness, the need to be right keep them from looking at the problem through their partner’s eyes. They may be stuck in the dance of family, friend, or work pattern, or their own entrenched beliefs, habits, or choices.

When you are stuck, it’s easy to succumb to a feeling of hopelessness. Although it may feel like everything is cast in concrete, that is not the case. The way out of your stuck-ness is actually at your finger-tips and, with a willingness to try something new, relatively easy to accomplish. Here are nine ideas to help get you unstuck. Try one. Try them all; try something different.

1-Seek your inner guru.

Take 10minutes to visualize yourself 15-20 years into the future.  Have a conversation with yourself and ask how you solved the problem you now face. How did he/she change to improve things?

2-See through the eyes of a child.

Imagine yourself faced with this problem as a smart, fun, natural child. Try to come up with 10 different ways a child might make the problem fun, funny, or simple.

3-Work on it in your sleep.

Before you fall asleep, ask your subconscious to give you a solution to the dilemma. Having a journal next to your bed will allow you to record ideas that float up from your subconscious before they dissipate shortly after awakening.

4-Find ways in which “the problem” is actually working for you.

Take the “devil’s advocate” perspective to see ways that the problems works– if you are on the other side. Seeing that perspective can open up all kinds of new opportunities.

5-Get up and move.

Walking, dancing, swimming, and other forms of motion can open up your inner wisdom in a way that nothing else can. Many high powered business professionals swear by the lunchtime walk around the block to find hidden solutions in their mind. The action unlocks ideas and perspectives otherwise caged by sitting at a desk.

Worship to God.6-Climb a mountain.

Close your eyes and imagine that you are seeing the problem from the valley floor. Begin to climb the mountain and every now and again stop your ascent to look around. Notice how the view changes as you get close to the summit. When you crest the mountain top, take in the 360 degree view. You can see the problem from a distance and also note that there are a variety of perspectives that may be helpful.

7-Lean in to the discomfort.

Sometimes there is no way to change a situation and all you can do is wait for time to pass. In that time, you can choose to be miserable, fight it the whole time, and learn nothing from the situation, or you can surrender. Things are the way they are. You can then look for the value in such an experience. Leaning in doesn’t mean you condone or agree with what is going on; it simply means you stop wasting energy and accept reality. That gives you the freedom to let the experience wash over you and it turns your focus to seeing what lessons are available.

8-Let out your inner child.

A great technique to access the creative part of your mind is to use your non-dominant hand to write or draw. So borrow your children’s crayons or get a large paint brush and work sitting down (like a child would). You can ask yourself a question about the problem keeping you stuck and then write the answer with a crayon in your non-dominant hand or simply draw a response. You may be amazed at the things that bubble up from deep inside.

9-Get back to basics.

Part of being stuck is the intense focus you have on how and why the “other” should change. In that intense focus you may have forgotten to take care of yourself. Basics like eating right, getting enough exercise and sleep, and drinking lots of water may have been lost along the way. Get back to the basics of taking care of your physical needs. In addition, take time to examine the alignment (or lack of it) of your actions and your values. You may find that your actions have drifted toward needing to be right instead of supporting the more important and useful value of connection with others. Getting back to basics can bring immediate clarity.

While this list is not exhaustive, let it be a springboard to get you moving. Most of the time, you will find that even a little movement is the start of an avalanche. Want to break up that stuck-ness? Get out of your comfort zone. Big changes come from repeated small efforts. Get moving, Get Unstuck, and good luck!


One small change might be to subscribe to this blog or share it with those you care about!