Grief

July 4th Your Way

Celebrating the 4th of July

Monday is the 4th of July, a time for parades, barbeques, picnics and fireworks. For many people this means traveling. For some just a short distance, for others longer road time. All the hustle and bustle can mean increased pressure, a faster pace, and crowding many activities into short time spans. In other words, more anxiety.

The Deadliest Days

The local freeway has already seen a number of fatal automotive accidents. We are, after all, in the 100 deadliest days on America’s roads. And the 4th is one of the 2 worst, in terms of fatal accidents. But should that stop us from enjoying the holiday?

Celebrating our nation’s history and spending time with family and friends for this summertime festival is a wonderful bonding tradition from one generation to the next, but it can be difficult for some folks.

Difficulty Celebrating

Those who look around the cheerful crowds and are painfully aware of the absence of a loved one may struggle to engage. If the loss is related to travel or cars, or to guns, then the noise, crowds, and excitement of fireworks displays may be overwhelming.

If attending the parade is too much closeness, the picnic too familiar in view of your loss, or the fireworks too jarring, maybe watching fireworks on television would be more comfortable. Maybe hot dogs on the Bar-B in the backyard with just a few people would feel right.

Celebrate Your Way

If you’ve experienced a traumatic loss that makes the 4th of July difficult this year for full participation, remember that although your reaction to the holiday may be quite different from the way others react, it is completely normal. Give yourself permission to heal in your own time and in your own way. July 4th is a day to celebrate freedom. Be sure to give yourself the freedom to honor your deepest feelings and celebrate in a way that makes you comfortable. Take the time you need to enjoy the holiday in a way that is meaningful for you.

 

5 Ways To Heal Your Broken Heart

Cuore infranto - Broken heart“What’s your process?” I asked. Kioshi just looked at me, her eyes flat, tears on her cheeks. “How do you move through the pain to the other side?” Kioshi shrugged. Her heart was broken and it was a recent pain, large and consuming. Her healing needed a kick start and she needed support to discover what would help get it going. I tentatively offered a few suggestions:

  1. Try to take some time just for yourself. This person has been a natural part of you for some time. Absence is going to feel wrong and very strange for a while. For now, indulge in things you really enjoy– just for you. Go to a movie, read a new book, or take up a new hobby you’ve always wanted to explore. New experiences cause the brain to secrete endorphins, those feel good hormones. You could use a little “feel good” right now.
  2. Take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, and plenty of regular exercise. Physical activity gives your mood a boost and increases your production of serotonin and dopamine, more feel good hormones produced by your brain.
  3. Try some laugh therapy. Pretending you aren’t hurt (also known as denial) won’t help, but smiling, laughing, and enjoying humorous movies or time with fun and funny friends, all help restore your sense of optimism and can actually trick your mind into producing a happier mood.
  4. Grow into forgiveness. As you move through your sadness and grief, examine what went wrong with the relationship. Take only your share of responsibility for what went wrong and allow the other person their fair share. Every pain has a lesson in it. Don’t be afraid of the pain or the lesson; you’ll survive. It may help your next relationship be a stellar one. When you are ready, forgive the other person.
  5. In time, move on. Only you will know when it is time, but when your heart has mended sufficiently, be open to new relationships. Remember it takes two years to learn a new job, get comfortable in a new town, and to heal from a painful broken heart.

Broken heart and thread on wooden background

As Kioshi thought about these ideas, she began to smile a little.  Her healing had begun as she let in the possibility of healing.

If you are experiencing the pain of a broken heart, try one, some, or all of these tips. Changes may happen slowly but they do happen.

Weight Loss Grief

To fat to fit jeans

My blog usually contains information connected to trauma, PTSD, and grief. So this article may seem unusual. I’m going to share with you some information about hypnosis, weight loss, and grief; believe it or not, there is a connection.

In 2014 Americans spent more than 7.3 billion dollars to lose weight ( not including weight loss through surgery). The amount spent is even higher if you add in the cost of bariatric surgery for weight loss.

Many of us have an identity that, on one hand, is of ourselves over-weight, and, on the other hand, doesn’t even see the excess weight. The connection between weight-loss and grief is the part that thinks of itself as over-weight and has lost its sense of self as a person of normal weight. In addition, when we actually do lose weight our identity changes and we face a whole new reality as a slimmer person. At that point, we have lost the sense of self that is over-weight and our awareness of how to act in the world is suddenly gone. That is when we go through some of the very same grief processes as a person who has any other loss. That does not mean we want to regain the weight, but there is some discomfort during that time.

Mature woman celebrating weight loss on a medical weight scale.

Now that I’ve connected weight loss to the usual subjects of this blog, I’m moving on to telling you a bit about a new program I’ll be offering in mid-January for those who wish to lose weight and learn to live a healthier, happier life.

TRIMLIFE WEIGHT RELEASE PROGRAM

The program I’m offering is called Trim Life Weight Release Program and it involves the use of hypnosis to increase weight loss and make the process of losing weight easier and more permanent.

Many people with excess weight have gone on many different diets, lost weight and then regained it, plus even more weight. They remain challenged by cravings for sugar or high fat foods, or struggle with over-eating or a pattern of binge and purge. This pattern of going on and off diets, finding minimal success followed by defeat as the weight adds up, leaves them depressed, afraid, and feeling hopeless.

TrimLife is a natural process that works permanently to help a person reach their healthy living goals without ever requiring the use of will-power, calorie counting, or restrictive diets. How does it do that? Through the use of HYPNOSIS.

The TRIMLIFE program is a 6-week program of once a week 3 hour meetings in a group format where people are taught hypnotic exercises that:

  • regulate blood sugar
  • shrink the stomach to feel less hungry
  • install a hunger/satisfaction gauge in order to learn to listen to their body
  • increase metabolic rate
  • decrease stress
  • over-come food cravings and addictions, and
  • change beliefs that lead to emotional eating

The program does not require dieting or exercising. The program uses hypnosis and educating people about healthy eating choices along with other lifestyle changes to reduce excess weight and meet the goals they set for a healthier, happier life.

The program is an opportunity to learn the tools that can keep you moving toward your goals. You leave the program with everything you need to keep working toward and to meet those goals, including 6 CDs with all of the hypnosis exercises, a book with all the TrimLife information, and a workbook to guide you through the whole process. In addition, you during the 6 weeks you learn and practice the hypnosis exercises.

Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar business in the US every year. Yet 95% of all diets fail, 89% of exercise equipment (including gym passes) are in disuse after 4 months, and over 98% of the weight lost is regained and/or surpassed after the first year.

This is one type of loss that many of us want. If you have struggled with yo-yo diets, over-eating or food cravings, or the binge/purge cycle, come join a group dedicated to leaving weight issues behind forever. And if you find yourself grieving after losing weight TrimLife can help with that too.

Call me to reserve your spot in the first class of 2016.

                   Call 801-494-7612

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.

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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.

Your Unfinished Everyday Grief

Мультфильм лица с эмоциями

My private practice in counseling seems to currently be filled with grief issues. Does that mean I am dealing with lots of people who have lost a loved one to death?

Well, yes, one of them has lost a spouse and another client’s husband died a few years ago but the new marriage is very satisfying. Yet this client is grieving because an old relationship that was thought to have ended has recently been brought back to life in ways that are extremely disruptive to the entire extended family. I work with a client who is grieving the loss of a canine companion that brought great joy and a sense of safety, remarkable since following sexual abuse in her youth, she has feared she might never feel safe again. However, not all grief is related to death.

Reasons Other Than Death

One of my couples is working on healing their relationship following a long separation due to poor choices made on both their parts. Each of them experiences a form of grief.  For a different client, anxiety is the thief that stole away the freedom to go where he wants when he wants and grief is part of his process. With another client, we search for ways to help her adjust to the changes in her life that are the result of her children getting older and making some very difficult choices, not always the way she would have them choose. Her grief is, in part, about the loss of an imagined life she has been developing since got married some twenty plus years ago.

Grief In Every Day

Grief isn’t always about death, dying, or bereavement. You grieve over many things in most of your days. Lost opportunities, lost time, lost health, lost jobs, all kinds of losses, but you also grieve over changes. The promotion that takes you to a new state, the difference of opinion that challenges a friendship, the doubt you feel rise up in your heart when some policy seems to discount those you love, or the space you feel grow between yourself and your partner while he or she mentally works out a particular issue…alone. These lists go on and on.

Grief and Loss

Yes, grief is about loss but loss is more than the result of death. Think about what form loss takes and to what degree you feel it in everyday, because when you ignore loss, even the subtle and less apparently destructive types that occur with change, the effects can be cumulative and they will be cumulatively negative. In effect, if you cannot grieve the small stuff day-to-day, how well will you grieve the big stuff like the unexpected death of someone you love?

Loss and Disappointment

You may ask: So what am I supposed to do when I don’t get the promotion I expected: go home and wail and cry and gnash my teeth? You could…if it hurts that deeply and only you will know exactly how deep any given loss (read disappointment) hurts. On the other hand, if you think of your lost promotion as a disappointment then chances are your reaction will be milder, but you will still have a reaction. Facing it head on and honoring the hope you had, which is now dashed, and expressing the distress, to whatever degree you feel it, completes your relationship with that pain. It allows you to release it and move on.

Grief in the Relationship

Completing the relationship is a great way to look at how to deal with the day-to-day experiences of grief we all have. Using the promotion as an example, your hope or expectation for the promotion is the object of your relationship. When it fails to materialize, you will benefit from expressing whatever your real feelings are. You can do that mentally or aloud to your partner or spouse. You may choose to speak to the one whose decision resulted in your feelings, to the person who received the promotion instead, or elsewhere. You can do it verbally, in writing, or mentally, as mentioned.

Woman consoling her crying friend and sitting on the sofa

Finish Relationship Business

Not expressing your thoughts and feelings of disappointment may result in you seeing yourself as unworthy of happiness. Thoughts and feelings not expressed leave the relationship incomplete and may thereby cause you to limit your life.

Appropriately expressing your sadness, disappointment, or even anger when you experience loss or change in relationships completes an interaction. It is an opportunity to finish the business of your feelings and actions. It allows you to experience the ending as “clean” and thus you are free to move forward in health.

Complete Your Griefwork

At the end of each day, consider reviewing your experiences and completing whatever business lingers from changes, endings, or losses. Say what needs to be said in whatever way it needs saying, then go to sleep with the ease of knowing the griefwork for that day is done, finished, completed. You can awaken in the morning refreshed and ready to take on a new day.

Practice on the daily small stuff will result in an easier time with the next BIG grief issue. If you find yourself stuck in the daily things that cause you disaapointment, anger, envy, or other difficult emotions, it may be that you have not allowed yourself to grieve something. Give me a call and let’s work to complete that business.

                                    801-494-7612

I’m Grieving For My Friend

Grief in the Cemetery

My best friend’s husband died a few weeks ago. He was 74 years old, not in good health, and still recovering from a major (and very risky) surgery from 3 months previous. He had to use a cane or a walker to get around and that infuriated him. In fact, he hated and resisted everything that had to do with aging. It wasn’t a surprise that he died. The timing of his death, on the other hand, couldn’t have been worse.

My friend was out of town for a week for work. Although he never answered her calls or texts while she was on her trip, that wasn’t completely strange. So she didn’t really begin to worry until the last night that she was away. When she arrived home, she found him dead on the floor in their bedroom. The coroner said it appeared to have happened nearly a week previously.

When she called to tell me about it, she was well into the guilt many would experience in such circumstances, even though there was no accurate reason for it.

My friend is a therapist too.

I have dragged her to enough continuing education offerings on grief to KNOW, like me, she is well informed about grief. However, it is never the same when it is your own situation. In addition, she has a lot of support from her wonderful family. She has sisters and brothers who rallied to her aid, two marvelous daughters,  grandkids, and a son who live locally and will do anything and everything they can to help their Mom. In this regard she is a very fortunate woman. Yet she has just begun a journey that is incredibly painful and lonely, even if someone travels it with you.

I have been surprised at how hard this has hit me. My friend lives in Ogden and I in Orem. For all the help I can be to her, I might as well be on the moon. She knows that she can call and talk anytime she needs to do so, day or night and I hope she does. She was there for me when my husband died by suicide in 2000 and I will be there for her now, in any way I can. Yet, I feel so impotent.

The intensity of my reaction to my dearest friend’s loss robbed me of my energy for several days. I found myself confused and unable to concentrate at my usual level. Working with my own clients required real effort for me. I think (and I hope) that they were unaware of my difficulty. It almost feels like I am grieving myself and maybe I am a little.

My friend has lost relationships previously, and she had been through the death of both of her parents. But she has never had a spouse die, especially under circumstances as complex as this.

calla lilies

In grief work it is said that when you lose a parent, you lose your past; when you lose a child, you lose your future; and when you lose your spouse, you lose your present. Who are you now, without that person? What do you do now, the rearranging of responsibilities, etc.? And since you can’t go on as part of that dyad, why go on? For some people, it can really undermine the things you believe.

Thinking about what my friend has lost now and the things she will be called on to work through over the next weeks and months– this is what has exhausted me. It really hasn’t brought up pain from my own grieving experience, but I do have some idea of what challenges lie ahead for her. In a way, I wish that I could shoulder some of the burden for her, but that really isn’t possible. Nor would it be kind. It would rob her of the opportunities that grieving brings.

So instead, I will be available to walk this valley of the shadow of death alongside my friend. I will be available to cheer her, encourage her, listen and just be with her on this, one of the most difficult journeys that humans are called to take.

I survived my own journey on that lonely path, with the love and care of a few good people, and she was one of them. Now I have the privilege and opportunity to pay it back, just a bit. Who knows what marvelous things I may learn along the way…

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