Archive: Grief

June 7, 2018

Giving and Receiving Real Support

Support

One of the things I’ve noticed when someone who is well known dies by suicide, is that people are quick to try to figure out why.

They want a reason…maybe because a reason gives us the illusion of control…or maybe because as humans we are meaning-making creatures.

I also see a flurry of posts about mental health, getting support and reaching out if you are struggling. And yes, if you are struggling and are able to reach out, do! Get support. Make requests. Let the people who love you know how they can help.

Here’s what I think is missing in this discussion – most people who are really struggling aren’t able to reach out. Demanding that people should have reached out or asked for support can be judgmental and blaming.

This winter I had the flu. It was awful! I was in bed for days, feverish, coughing so hard it hurt and every cell in my body ached. I was miserable. I totally needed support. And you know what? I was suffering so much, that I didn’t have the capacity to reach out and ask for help. Many of my closest friends and family didn’t even know I had the flu until I was “better.” I was focused on getting well (actually because I was dehydrated at one point and kind of hallucinating, I was really just focused on staying alive, that’s how rough this flu was). I had a couple friends who checked in on me during that time. One sent a message and I replied telling her I was really sick and she sweetly told me that if I needed anything to let her know. It was so nice and thoughtful, and also…I didn’t even know what I needed. I was too sick to be able to think or identify needs or make a plan or make a request. One of my friends who knew I was sick checked in and offered to bring food or offered to pick my daughter up from school. And that was the kind of help I was able to receive. All I had to do was say yes or no. That experience really helped me understand how hard it is for someone to reach out when they are struggling.

When some is struggling their entire capacity is being taken up by the struggle. There isn’t anything left. And even though a text message or phone call might not feel like it’s a lot,  it is too much to demand from someone who is depressed or anxious or grieving or really sick.

So in addition to asking people to reach out when they are struggling, I think we could also do a better job of reaching out to the people we love and seeing how they are. Check in with the people you love. Ask how they are doing. Get together. Be honest with each other. Share what’s on your mind and in your heart.

And if you have a friend who is grieving, or struggling with illness or mental health challenges or just having a hard time, offer tangible ways you want to show up for them. Don’t wait for them to reach out. Be proactive. Take action.

If you want more ideas about how to support a friend who is struggling this post will help.

Filed under: Communication, Friendship, Grief, Support, Vulnerability, health — admin @ 5:57 pm

November 25, 2014

How do you support someone who is struggling?

support

It’s so hard to witness a loved one’s pain. It’s so hard when someone you love is struggling. You might wish you could swoop in, ease their pain and make it better.

You might not know what do to and leave it up to them to tell you what would feel supportive.

One of the most common questions after someone famous (or someone you know) ends his life is, “Why didn’t he ask for help?” I see article after article, imploring people to ask for help when they are struggling. Yes! Yes! If you are able to, please ask for help. However, when people are really depressed or deep in their grief, they rarely have the energy or thought to reach out and ask for help.

I work with people who describe themselves as depressed and they often share how hard it is to do ANYTHING, the last thing they can do is ask a friend for help. When they are deep in their depression, they don’t even know what will feel supportive.

I know that when I’ve felt grief, there were times it didn’t even occur to me to pick up the phone. When you are grieving, your world is filled with that feeling, those memories, the heaviness and it can feel strange or impossible to reach out. It can feel unsettling that the rest of the world seems to keep spinning when your world has stopped.

And for those who love someone who is struggling, it can be confusing. Am I supposed to ask about their grief and talk about the person who is gone? Or cheer them up and take their mind off of it?

Here are some ways you can support someone who is struggling

  • Ask her how she is feeling. Be open to her response. Keep the conversation going.
  • Empathize. Don’t talk her out of her feelings. Don’t try to convince her it’s not so bad.
  • Ask her what she needs.
  • If she is grieving, ask if she wants to talk about the person she misses. Does she want to hear stories you remember? Does she want to share stories about that person?
  • Keep checking in. Ask if she would prefer texts or phone calls and then check in regularly. Checking in can be as simple as “Thinking of you. How are you today?” “Can I bring you anything?” “Would you like some company?”
  • If your loved one is grieving, help her honor special occasions and events. Acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries.
  • If your loved one is depressed, offer concrete things you can do together. “Let’s go for a walk.” “Let’s go to this event, I will pick you up at 4pm.”
  • Let your loved one know she is not alone!

Here are some additional resources I found.

Supporting a grieving person

How to help a grieving friend

How to help someone who is depressed

Filed under: Death, Emotions, Grief, Support — admin @ 7:58 pm

April 11, 2014

What is the point of life?

point of life

Do you wonder about the point of life? Or the meaning of life?

Why are you alive? What do you want to leave behind? What do you want to do with your life? Are you scared about dying?

If you knew you only had two weeks to live, what would you do? How would you live differently?

And what keeps you from doing that now?

Death often shakes us up and makes us more alert. It reminds us that we are alive and asks us, “What are you living for?” People who have had near death experiences talk about how they “woke up” or realized how precious life is or were never the same after the experience. They share there is a different quality to life, it’s in technicolor. It means something. What does your life mean? People who are dying may take different risks or share things they have holding in or show up differently. What would you do if you found out you have 3 months to live? What risks would you take? Who would you forgive?  Who would you connect with? What if you disappeared and no one noticed?

It’s one thing to contemplate our own death….and it’s another to be rocked by the death of someone we love. I remember standing in a parking lot when my dad was dying and watching the leaves blowing in the trees and wondering, “How can the world just keep moving? Why isn’t every just halting to a stop?!?” My world was forever changed, why wasn’t the rest of the world stopping? When he died I felt really confused about the point of life. This is something I hear from other people too. There is questioning about “the point of life” or why we are here. There may be uncertainty about what it all means or if it is worth it. If the people we love can disappear, why risk love? What is the point? There is just so much pain and uncertainty.

What is the point of life for you? What do you want? What do you want in your life?

Some people say having a family is the reason we are here. Or they want to leave a legacy behind. For others life is about making a difference. Some people believe life is about having as much fun and adventure and experiences as possible. For others there is no point of life, you just do the best you can.

What do you want your life to look like?

What is YOUR point of life?

At the end of your life what do you want to feel? What do you want to look back on? Have you read about the top 5 regrets of the dying? Would you have any of these regrets?

One of the gifts of my dad’s illness and death is that I’ve been able to reflect on my own life, my own desires and what life means to me. What does life mean to you?

Filed under: Death, Grief, Live Your Best Life — admin @ 12:44 pm

February 5, 2014

Living isn’t for the faint of heart

This beautiful traveling altar was sent to me by a wonderful supporter and someone who recognizes when I am "in it."

This beautiful traveling altar was sent to me by a wonderful supporter and someone who recognizes when I am "in it."

So many big things are happening. So many of us are IN IT! And sometimes it is hard.

Major changes, challenges, growth opportunities and struggles.

We are starting businesses, ending relationships, raising children, speaking out truths, saying goodbye to people we love, going back to school, struggling to pay our bills, giving up our dreams, grieving, choosing to have a baby, struggling to get pregnant, moving to places where we don’t know a soul, leaving places and people we love, hearing bad news, receiving life altering diagnoses or prognoses and wondering, what is the point of it all?

We are taking risks and sometimes falling and standing again and trying.

We are flourishing.

We are saying yes to love, laughing with our heads thrown back and our mouths wide open, receiving touch and warmth and connection, dancing with our arms out and our hips swaying, making love and calling out our pleasure, loving our bodies and shaking off shame.

And sometimes we aren’t.

Sometimes our heart is breaking. Sometimes we are crying on the bathroom floor. Or sometimes we wish we could be crumpled on the bathroom floor, but there are mouths to feed or floors to wash or other tears that need to be dried. Sometimes we are stuck in shame, unable to be seen or see ourselves, wishing we could just disappear…sometimes forever.

Oh man, this stuff is hard.

Oh man, this life can be hard…and wonderful…and glorious…and hard.

Sometimes the joy is so big we feel guilty. Sometimes we worry that it will all be taken away…there is too much good and when other people are hurting it feels uncomfortable to have too much good. Sometimes we feel like we need to pay for the good or earn the good or even things out a bit. We worry we are undeserving…we don’t enjoy this moment because we think about how awful it will feel when it’s gone.

Living isn’t for the faint of heart.

But what are our choices?

We live and feel it all…the up the down…the high the low…the lovely the miserable…the ecstasy and the brutally hard –- or we shut down, we numb out, we self-medicate, we build walls, we close up, we push away, we turn inside out, we give up.

When you close to pain, you close to joy. When you numb the hurt you numb the bliss. When you avoid heartache, you avoid heart-opening.

It’s a bitter truth, eh?

You have a choice. Neither is easy. Life isn’t easy. And truly living isn’t for the faint of heart.


December 4, 2013

Alone for the Holidays

sad holiday

  • Break-ups are hard.
  • Losing someone you love is hard.
  • Feeling alone is hard.

Add the holidays into the mix and things can feel unbearable.


What should you do if you are alone on a special holiday?


  • You can skip the holidays all together - If the thought of carrying on as usual this year feels too painful, perhaps taking a year off from the holiday season will serve you. Check in with yourself. Are you depressed? Are you afraid? Are you avoiding something? Or do you legitimately want to take this year off?
  • You can use special rituals or recreate special memories – If this is your first holiday after losing someone you love, it might feel comforting to honor that person. Make his favorite foods, embrace his favorite rituals, hang a stocking in his honor, share your memories and let your loved one live on through your intentions and love.
  • You can create new memories. Are there things you always wanted to do but you weren’t able to in the past? Maybe there is an event you wanted to enjoy or a certain decorations you used to wish you could hang or perhaps you wanted to travel on the holiday but couldn’t. What is stopping you now? Let yourself create the kind of holiday you are yearning for.
  • Surround yourself with love and support. Reach out. Call. Ask. Ask again. It’s easy to feel forgotten during this time of year. People are busy with their own lives and rituals and traditions. Don’t assume they are too busy for you. They may not know you need support. If you don’t have friends or loved ones near; find a group, volunteer, find a place where you can go and feel less alone.
  • Let yourself feel your feelings and then move on. Pretending you aren’t sad or hopeless or lonely isn’t going to make those feelings go away. Have a good cry. Look at pictures or ornaments and feel what comes up. And then dry your eyes and find some support or create new memories.
  • Give to yourself. Are you going to miss the presents you used to receive? Does seeing your empty stocking on the mantle tug at your heart strings? Fill it yourself. Is it the same? Of course not, but it’s better than being taunted or reminded of your alone-ness every time you walk in the room!

The holidays can be magical and they can be heartbreaking and sometimes they are both in one moment. So up the self-care. Surround yourself with love. Honor your wishes and your wants. Be your own best Santa Claus this year and take care of yourself!

Filed under: Grief, Holidays, Support — admin @ 12:52 pm

June 8, 2013

Breaking Down or Breaking Open?

broken open

You know when things feel so hard you don’t know how you will continue?

When your heart is breaking

or

You feel battered by life

or

You have been betrayed and you don’t know who/what you can believe anymore.

Those times you feel hopeless and confused – and faith or trust are just words that you can no longer cling to…

Those times…oh those times…the times you stay awake thinking or crying or wishing and bemoaning…those times you can’t eat (or all you can do is eat)….you bargain…you try to use logic…you try to understand…it’s like doing a complex math equation with fruit instead of numbers…

Those times the hurt feels so strong you really don’t understand how you aren’t having an actual heart attack at this very moment.

It is in those moments where things feel like they’ve ended that they begin.

You feel broken.

You want to break down.

You ARE breaking open.

This is your chance to see what is inside…what you are made of.

You are hurting (maybe even feel like you are dying)…can you also be open?

Filed under: Change, Grief, Strength, Vulnerability — admin @ 4:55 pm

April 11, 2013

Saying Goodbye

saying goodbye to dad

After a couple year battle with cancer (with many ups and downs) my father passed away in March.  It’s a strange thing, knowing someone is dying.  I mean, we are all moving toward the end of our lives…but having a terminal illness puts the imminence of death, right in the forefront.  After his diagnosis, I was able to head back to the Midwest and visit many times.  I had time to create new memories with my dad.  I’m thrilled that my dad and my daughter were able to spend a little time together, since he died 7 months after her birth.  I’ve had time to question, journal, talk about my feelings and grieve (even before his death…kind of a pre-grieving).

I’m so grateful for the time we had.

I’m most grateful that I was able to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye to someone you love, is so hard.  It’s not something I’ve had experience with.  Saying goodbye isn’t something that is talked about in polite circles.  In some cases, we avoid saying goodbye.  I’m writing more about this topic in my April Newsletter (subscribe here)…not just about death, but saying goodbye to friends we’ve outgrown or a lover we no longer love…saying goodbye can be tough.

Mid-December my father’s doctors said they didn’t think he had much time left.  I went back to the Midwest to celebrate my daughter’s first Christmas and my father’s last Christmas.  My family assured me they didn’t expect me to come since I was just there in the fall, but I knew I needed to say goodbye.  When I arrived my dad looked great!  He was climbing on a stepladder and decorating the tree.  He was laughing and playing with his grandkids.  I have to admit, my “say goodbye plan” started to teeter a little bit as I began to doubt my dad’s prognosis.  How do you say goodbye to someone who looks healthy and happy?

The trip was grand. Sweet and bitter. Full of holiday traditions, sharing past memories and creating new ones.  The hardest part was trying to figure out when and how to say goodbye.  On the last day of my trip my dad and I planned to sit down and talk after a nurse made a visit to our home.  We were going to talk about logistics, final wishes and I wanted to say goodbye.  That changed when the appointment didn’t go as planned and dad had to go to the hospital.  He assured me he would be back before I had to leave, but that changed too, when he got to the hospital and was admitted.  I wish I could accurately describe the emotion and panic I felt. We had to leave for the airport in one hour, the baby was sleeping and I had a deep need to say goodbye.  I almost talked myself out of that need.  I knew he loved me.  I knew he felt supported and loved by me.  And if I really listened, I knew that I needed to say goodbye.  I felt anxious as my mom drove us to the hospital.  I really didn’t even know what I needed to say.  I didn’t know the exact words.  My dad was quite surprised when we burst into his hospital room.  I was given some time alone with my dad and ended up having the last conversation I will ever have with him (other than a jumbled text message that I saved).

I can’t quite describe what took place.  We talked about death, we talked about living, and we talked about love.  I said goodbye.  I told him how sad I am that he won’t know my daughter and she won’t know him.  There were tears.  There were hugs.  And I said goodbye.  As I think about it or write about that moment, I am still filled with emotion.  It was so powerful.  And then I walked into the brightly lit hospital corridor and I felt lighter.  I felt so content.  I felt such peace.  Still sad, but so present and open and serene.  So right.

Shortly after my dad’s death I was asked if there was anything else I wished I had said.  I am so happy that I can say I feel completely confident and truly resolved about our last moment together. I miss him.  I get sad when I think about the next time I’m with my mom, my siblings, and our kids; and dad isn’t there.  I am also so grateful that I was able to say goodbye.

Filed under: Communication, Family, Grief, Love, Relationship — admin @ 1:32 pm

March 14, 2013

What should I do with my grief?

The cure for anything is saltwater; sweat, tears or the sea. - Isak Dinesen

The cure for anything is saltwater; sweat, tears or the sea. - Isak Dinesen

Grief isn’t sexy.

However it is real and common.

My private practice focuses on relationships and sexuality and I still see people who are struggling with grief regularly.  If you have relationships you will grieve (at some point).

We don’t often talk about grief – what it looks like, what it feels like, how to experience it or heal it.

Often people are told it’s OK to grieve – as long as they do it in private and do it quickly.

As my dad enters the last stage of his life, I’m thinking a lot about grief.  Right now I’m on the Oregon Coast, soaking up some sea air and feeling my feelings.  I’ve packed goodies, journals and my wee baby.  I’ve also brought along This I Know by Susannah Conway.  I’m only a couple chapters in and I’m already finding it very moving and comforting.

Here are a few things she says about grief.

Feel your pain.

Find support.

Pay Attention.

Time will help.

You can also find more about grief and healing on her blog.  If you are grieving, you don’t have to do it alone.  Get some support.

What resources have helped you with your grief? Please shared them on my facebook page.

Filed under: Emotions, Grief, Self-care — admin @ 1:24 pm

December 9, 2012

Be Gentle With Yourself This Holiday Season

DSC01093

I was intending to write a post on the 4th about creating holiday traditions.  However, that day I found out that my dad’s battle with cancer may be coming to an end.  I can’t really think about starting new traditions as I grieve.  I can’t think about ways to celebrate this wonderful season, while I think about the last moments I may have with my dad.

Most of my family lives in the Midwest so I was on speaker phone as they all gathered in my dad’s hospital room to talk about next steps and possibilities.  As I hung up the phone, my mind started reeling with all of the things I “need to do” before I fly home to be with my family.  For a few minutes I considered just canceling Christmas this year.  For a few minutes I thought about trying to do things as I usually do (the parties and baking and presents and celebrating and traditions).  I was already feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to balance my practice, my 4 month old and the holidays and now my mind was racing with things to do for my dad and my family…things to say…memories…feelings…

The holidays can be so overwhelming! They can be full of “shoulds” and obligations and guilt and stress. The holidays can also be heartbreaking if you are alone or grieving.  The holidays can be bittersweet if they remind you of a lost love or loved one.  The holidays can be hard!  We don’t need to make them harder than they already are.  If you are struggling this holiday season, please give yourself a break.  You don’t have to do it all (and you probably couldn’t even if you tried).  Please be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself a break. Turn down the volume on your inner critic and turn up the volume on your inner cheerleader.

It’s OK if you only do the holidays half way. 

It’s OK if you skip the holidays all together. 

It’s OK if you have a full blown rockin’ holiday season.

What’s most important is that you take care of yourself and celebrate (or not) in the way that feels best for you.  Be gentle with yourself this holiday season…that is one gift of love that you can shower on yourself.

Filed under: Emotions, Grief, Holidays, Self-care, Self-love — admin @ 4:03 pm

December 9, 2011

I’ll have a blue christmas without you!

Sad during the holidaysFor many the holidays are a time of joy, frivolity and celebration.  For others, this time of cheer and mistletoe really brings home feelings of loneliness or grief.

The holiday season can be really hard if you’ve recently gone through a break up. Cozy evenings, holiday parties and fantasies about special gifts you were going to exchange might make you miss your ex even more.

The holidays can be hard if you have been single for a while and really want to be partnered. Seeing couples connecting over a mug of cocoa (or eggnog) might really highlight how lonely you feel.

This time of year can feel unbearable if you are grieving the loss of a loved one or have a sick family member. You may find your thoughts consumed by memories of past holidays.  Or your heart may be breaking as you realize new memories won’t be created this year.  If you may be losing someone in the next year, you may be trying to “make” this the best holiday ever!

If you are struggling with sadness this holiday season, you are not alone (even though you may feel like it!)  The holidays can be very hard for many people.

Here are some ways to cope.

  • Get some support! Talk to a therapist, friend, family member or pastor.  Join a support group.  Talk with someone who has experienced a similar loss.  Make sure you are expressing your feelings.
  • Find some comfort! What would make you feel even a tiny bit better?  Get a massage.  Buy yourself a special gift.  Create new rituals for yourself.
  • Have realistic expectations. If you are struggling this holiday season, it probably won’t be the best holiday ever!  It’s OK to have ups and downs.  Can you just show up each day and see what happens?
  • Choose when to stay home and when to participate. If going to your friend’s holiday party will only make you feel more alone, let yourself stay home.  On the other hand, if staying home for the 7th time this week is going to make you feel horribly lonely, go out!
  • Don’t force yourself to be cheery and don’t force yourself to be miserable. Let yourself feel your feelings!  You may be sad and that’s OK.  You may also be surprised at how cheery you feel (even when you are grieving).  That’s OK too.

Take extra care of yourself if the holidays are hard.  Practicing self-care can help.  Even if you feel alone, you don’t have to be lonely.  Get the support you need.

Filed under: Emotions, Family, Grief, Holidays, Relationship, Self-care, Support — admin @ 9:02 am

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