Recently, I was recording with a podcast host and was asked to share one thing listeners could do after listening to the episode. It could be something helpful, a tip, etc. Rather than sharing a tip, two questions came to mind that, in a nutshell, help us to name areas of grief in our lives and those were:
What do you wish (about your life) would be different, better, or more?
Where in your life do you have a loss of hopes, dreams, or expectations?
As I have been reflecting on that conversation, there is another way I would challenge you to ask those questions.
What breaks my heart?
What breaks my heart lately is knowing how fleeting time truly is.
Time was also an aspect of the conversation with the host that has gotten me thinking about my relationship with time.
The first question the host asked me was how I felt at that moment, which was unexpected. All the same, I appreciated the question. My response was that I was feeling overwhelmed.
I know the next eight weeks of my life will feel like a time warp; I already feel like I’m in some time machine. Time is moving so fast that it’s challenging to get my bearings, to feel grounded and centered, and amid the excitement, joy, grief, and feelings of overwhelm, there’s a strong desire to make it all come to a complete stop. However, there is no stopping it.
Many events are happening between now and mid-May, when our oldest child will graduate from high school. And I think it’s all starting to hit us. And what’s breaking my heart the most these days is that our family dynamics will soon change. One of our “pack” will leave to start a new chapter of life, shaking up our sense of “home.” And, I think to myself…”My God, if this is what it feels like when one leaves the next, how will I ever deal with the last one leaving the nest?”
Parenthood brings up all of the childhood junk we’ve yet to address in our hearts, and what comes up for us changes with the tides of parenting life. And what if you never had the opportunity to be a parent? Or, what if you had the opportunity to be a parent but, because of any number of scenarios, the child passed away before being allowed to see them leave the nest and spread their wings?
There is grief – no matter which way you dice it.
So what’s been breaking my heart?
Knowing that my family is approaching change and what will that change mean? How will that change affect each of us individually? I can say that I’ve already noticed small shifts – in a good way. I feel as though communication has improved. We are almost trying to squeeze the juice of each day a little more. These are good things. However, is my heart still breaking? Of course.
I know change is a necessary part of life. Without change, we would remain stagnant; growth would be a foreign concept. Changes that bring challenges are an opportunity to look within ourselves.
It’s a poignant question to dig deep into yourself today. Give yourself an intentional 15 minutes, and immerse yourself in the gift of time to uncover something simmering below the surface emotionally.
Break the habit of thinking that the solution to your problems is to rearrange things outside. The only permanment solution to your problems is to go inside and let go of the part of you that seems to have so many problesm with reality. – From The Untethered Soul
Many people believe that they must be happy all the time. All their material needs are taken care of, so they should be happy.
Of course, that’s not how life works. While the physical dimension is important, there is an emotional and spiritual one.
And that’s where grief comes in. It sprouts whenever you lose someone (or something) truly valuable to you. Usually, it’s a person. But grief could also sprout after losing a job/career, dream, or home.
In this post, let’s look at some signs you are grieving and what they mean.
While grief is an emotional process, it can lead to physical symptoms, particularly digestive discomfort. When you feel stressed, it changes your body’s biochemistry. This process then affects your organs, particularly your gut, which is directly linked to the brain: many people going through grief experience bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhea, and many other symptoms.
A Sense Of Numbness
When something really bad happens, it can come with a sense of numbness. Essentially, your brain shuts down, preventing you from experiencing unpleasant emotions.
Of course, numbness is often only the first step. Over time, your mind will start to adjust to the new circumstances, and you will come to accept them fully.
Preoccupation With Loss
Funeral or memorial services, cremation urns, and grave markers are an aspect of the death of a loved one that the family left behind needs to address in honoring their loved one. But becoming preoccupied with grief in the years that follow the death of a loved one is a hurdle that so many people with, and sometimes for many, many years.
Even in the early months after a loss, it is a helpful approach to process your grief externally with the support of others.
Inability To Experience Pleasure
When you experience grief, it can be challenging to feel or experience pleasure in a normal way. Things you loved in the past no longer feel good to you.
Psychiatrists call this condition anhedonia, which means “an inability to experience a pleasure.”
See a specialist if you can’t enjoy the usual things in your life, such as food or exercise. They can help you process the emotions that are blocking your positive experiences.
Grief often comes with bitterness or the sense that the universe isn’t playing fair.
The problem with bitterness is that it eats away at gratitude. Being angry and hostile to the world around you moves you farther away from joy and well-being.
Constantly thinking about your loss and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it can cause headaches, too. Too often, following a devastating loss, self-care often takes a backseat. As a result, eating and drinking patterns may change, and self-care behaviors are no longer a priority. Therefore, physical symptoms, such as headaches or migraines, may become an issue.
Anger And Rage
Lastly, people who experience grief are at a much higher risk of anger and rage. Many people who experience the death of a loved one, whether it was a loving relationship or not, may ask, “Why?”
These types of emotions are perfectly natural. You may find yourself feeling irritated at the slightest things, many of which would never have affected you before.
Symptoms like those shared in this post can last for several months. What is important for all grievers to know is that these are normal and natural responses. And it’s also normal and natural for grievers to experience symptoms like these for months. All grievers can ask themselves if these symptoms are prolonged due to avoiding feeling the depth of the emotions that grief entails. Because so often, we will fall into the trap of avoidance behaviors in an attempt to not fully experience one’s emotions. These behaviors often only add shame and guilt to the emotional mix.
To move forward after a loss, it’s important to take an inventory of what is emotionally incomplete, then take action to address those emotions in a supported way. If you are grieving and are ready to take that inventory, I can support you through the process of an evidence-based framework in a guided and supported way through myone-on-one or group programs.
Suppose you have been dealing with mental health issues or been going through an emotionally challenging time lately. In that case, you may have thought about or even been recommended to go to therapy or counseling. If your first reaction is to deny or deflect this thought, you wouldn’t be the first person. Counseling can seem intimidating to some, but this fear often isn’t rational and might hinder your ability to live a healthy future. Here, we’ll examine what you can do to overcome this fear.
Many of us have an inner voice, and those of us experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues that can affect our self-esteem might find this voice can be our biggest critic. It can introduce worries about stigma and labels that can be applied to us if we go to counseling or therapy. We might want to think of ourselves well enough not to need it and also judge ourselves for needing that help in the first place. It’s essential to address that these subjective qualities that we attribute on our own (with some help from society) are different from objective facts.
When you’re looking for a therapist or a counselor, you might think that you don’t have much of an idea of what you need, which can introduce a bit of choice paralysis. How do you choose the right one? Some people will get recommendations from a doctor or another trusted individual. Still, you can also research services using the five qualities you should be looking for: qualifications, specialism, listening skills, a passion for helping others, and reliability. You can ease worries about your counseling experience by making sure you’re choosing the right help for you.
Help Doesn’t Have to Be Face-to-Face
Counseling has become much more accessible, thanks to the internet (and as a result of Covid-19). This can, in turn, make it a lot easier to arrange an appointment. Some people can feel a better sense of security when they’re in the comfort of their homes receiving virtual counselling, whether in Canada or the United States. You don’t have to be in an unfamiliar space, nor do you have to worry about the logistics of how you reach your appointment if that would typically be a concern. And, for those that don’t know, I also work with clients online and specifically on the topic of grief. I currently have a program called, Do Grief Differently™️, and in late November, I will launch an online grief recovery group program. If you’d like to keep up to date when registration becomes available, sign up for my newsletter, The Unleashed Letters, below this post.
Afraid to Tell Others
You might want to tell your friends and family about your choice to seek counseling because you want the people important to you to know or because you would like their support, one way or another. Having that conversation alone can be intimidating, but there are scripts that you can follow that can help make it easier to explain your situation. That way, you can ensure you’re effectively putting your side across.
Some trepidation as you go to counseling is to be expected, but many people find that this fades away quickly when they start going. Hopefully, the tips above can help you feel more confident as you make a new choice for yourself and your future.
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or another mental health challenge, it might be appropriate to seek the support of a therapist.
You don’t always have to be going through something to get therapy. There are a plethora of benefits to seeking therapy. However, therapy can allow you to open up about it and speak to someone when you are struggling. Ignoring or repressing your emotions is unhealthy and often leads to unhealthy behaviors. The sooner problem areas are addressed, the sooner one can pivot, make necessary changes, and gain positive momentum.
Seeking therapy will help you in the short term by providing someone to air your problems with while gaining valuable insights and tools to help you manage your emotions and struggles. And usually, but not always, family and those closest to you, aren’t the best options because they are too close; they have “skin in your game.” Meaning, that if you realize that you need to make necessary changes in your life, it is likely those changes may have an impact on friends and family, too. And change, by human nature, isn’t something we’re always comfortable with within our lives. By using discernment in who you choose to be your “heart with ears,” you will likely find yourself more open and honest.
Therapy will also help you in the long run, as issues often persist over time. As you develop tools to deal with your struggles, you will learn how to utilize them in everyday life and properly deal with any other curve balls thrown your way. Information and tools are great, but if you’re not integrating them into your life and taking action, information is just information. A therapist can assist you in maintaining an onward and upward momentum toward the life you desire.
We don’t get to the place in our lives where we finally seek help overnight. Therefore, we can’t expect one session to take away all the pain and hurt. Accountability with a trusted therapist is a wonderful investment in you and your future.
All this to say, therapy can only be as effective as it can be if the therapist possesses the qualities that align with you and make a great therapist. Your therapist needs the qualifications and experience to help you with your struggles and the compassion and listening skills to make you feel comfortable enough to open up. But also important is that they bring comfort to the room and you.
A therapist who is burned out will not be the best match because they are bringing that energy to you and your life, too. And, if they’ve managed to compartmentalize the problems in their own life and aren’t addressing their struggles with therapy themselves (if needed) and self-care, then you’re not receiving the best therapy possible either. This is often not talked about, but I think it’s important. In doing the work I do with grievers, either in a counseling-like session or in energy healing, I have become keenly aware of my mental health, self-care, and the importance of managing my energy. If I’m not tending to my needs first, I am no good to anyone else.
Five Qualities to Look for in a Therapist
Here are some top qualities you should look for if you are looking for a therapist.
You must hire a therapist who has the qualifications to be able to work with you. Therapy deals with sensitive issues, so you want to make sure you are in safe and capable hands. Therapy is supposed to help you, not make you feel worse. Don’t be afraid to ask for your therapist’s qualifications and skills; check that they are a regulatory body member.
As an Advanced Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, I have been trained and certified to work with individuals (and groups) both online and in-person in the area of grief specifically. People are surprised to learn that traditional textbook study programs do not prioritize grief. It’s not studied much at all. So many therapeutic studies, from my understanding, focus on everything but grief. This is great if you are looking for a diagnosis that will end up in a prescription. However, if you are depressed, it’s likely because, as a child, your anger was repressed. And, in grief recovery, you learn how anger is important and a valid emotion that needs to be honored and expressed.
If you are struggling with something like drug or alcohol addiction, it can be helpful to find a therapist specializing in this area, for example, Pathways Real Life Recovery. This approach is because a specialist will have skills beyond a typical therapist and invest time and money into learning more about your particular issue. A specialist can help you develop and progress in therapy and tailor the sessions to your needs.
This also applies to grief. If you know that the emotional pain and suffering you’re experiencing is due to grief, that’s where someone like me can offer an evidence-based approach to address it and not with years of talk therapy. Rather, in 8-12 sessions (depending if you choose to work with me one-on-one or in a group), you will have addressed the most painful relationship(s) of your life.
#3 Good Listening Skills
Listening skills are key when it comes to finding a good therapist. When you speak to a friend or family member, you may find that they have something to say or provide unsolicited advice. And, advice, I might add, is based on what they value.
A good therapist will not try to tell you what to do. Instead, they should have been trained to listen to what you have to say carefully and reflect and paraphrase what you have said back to them. They should strive to understand what you are saying, ask you plenty of good questions to deepen their understanding, help you see what you are going through from a different perspective, and help you draw your conclusions. A good therapist can also hear the things you don’t say, connecting the dots that, for most of us, are difficult to see ourselves.
We are so deeply tied to our stories, and by the time we get to the point where we seek therapy, we have likely repeated our story more than a hundred times. Or, perhaps have never spoken it before because there wasn’t anyone with which we felt safe to do so.
A “heart with ears” will never criticize, analyze, or judge. If you feel this way leaving a session, they are not the therapist for you (and probably shouldn’t be practicing).
#4 Passion for Helping Others
The role of a therapist is to help a person struggling with something. Most people will enter the profession because they have a passion for helping others, and this should be obvious during the sessions as they work with you to resolve your issue. You will be able to tell straight away if they lack the passion or enthusiasm to help you, as you will find it difficult to open up to them, you won’t be able to relax, and you will be able to sense it.
When a therapist is burned out, that passion will also dwindle. This is where it’s important to listen to your body’s cues. Your body may tense up. You may make yourself small in your seat rather than opening your shoulders and sitting straight. There might be physical symptoms; headache, upset stomach, and emotional shifts. These body cues may also respond to what is being discussed or fear of discussing difficult topics, too, so it’s important to discern between what is a response to the therapist and the topics of discussion.
It’s best to pay close attention at your initial meeting; before any parts of your story come up and feel into the vibe of the therapist. If you feel a sense of support, comfort, and openness, you may have found a great therapist for you.
Therapy is an ongoing thing. It is not something you do once, and you are fixed. This is why it is important to find a reliable therapist. A reliable therapist is an important part of your journey, as you need to be able to work with someone long enough to trust them, and you need to work with someone consistently to make progress on the things you are struggling with. If you work with a therapist who doesn’t feel fulfilled in their work, they may suddenly become disengaged in conversation, be difficult to reach, or lack empathy in their approach, their reliability will show itself.
Finding a good therapist is vital if you want to progress in your life. Follow these top tips to help you find a therapist with the right qualities. And, if you know that grief is holding you back, please reach out to me; I am here to support you – you are not alone.
P.S. I will announce an online group program soon, at this writing (Sept. 2022). If you’d like to be kept “in the know,” you may find it helpful to join my bi-weekly newsletter, The Unleashed Letters. My newsletter is where I share personal aspects of my life, content not shared anywhere else, and business news. If you know you’re ready to move forward and get beyond the emotional pain of grief (due to any of the 40+ losses), click the link to learn more about my one-on-one program, Do Grief Differently™️.
In this article, we will discuss survivor’s guilt, what it is, and potential treatments that can help those experiencing it.
Though survivor’s guilt has always existed in some form, the term itself was used to describe the feelings of those who had survived the holocaust during World War Two. It refers to the complex range of emotions experienced by people who have survived a severe accident, attack, natural disaster, or illness where others have died. It is often found among armed forces veterans who have served on active duty.
Those with survivor’s guilt cannot explain why they have survived while others haven’t. They might not feel worthy or despair at the situation’s unfairness. If you’ve been in an accident or an attack where a loved one has died, the condition can feel even more intense as you may feel as though you should have died instead of them.
Rather than being a disorder, survivor’s guilt may be categorized as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but these are not mutually exclusive. PTSD is often treated with talking therapies, EMDR, and self EMDR in addition to any recommended medication.
Symptoms of Survivors’ Guilt
The severity of the symptoms that come with survivor’s guilt are wide and affect people to a greater or lesser extent and can manifest as both mental and physical signs, including:
Intrusive thoughts of the event or situation
Physical symptoms include:
Changes in eating habits
Survivors’ guilt can leave you with complex feelings about yourself and others. For example, you might obsess over the event, convincing yourself that you were to blame or that you should have been able to influence the outcome.
If you’ve survived a serious illness, you might feel like you weren’t worthy and that much better people than you who died should have lived.
Even if you’re usually a well-balanced person who can put things into perspective, survivor’s guilt can cause you to question everything about yourself and the world. You might even blame yourself for it happening, even if there was no way for you to have influenced or prevented events.
Who Can Develop Survivor’s Guilt?
Anyone can experience survivor’s guilt after an accident or illness. It depends on the circumstances and severity of the situation and your mental state. Researchers have linked the development of survivor’s guilt to a person’s ‘locus of control.’ This describes how much control over their lives people believe they have. If you don’t believe that things are ‘just meant to be’ or beyond your control, you might find it easier to accept the situation.
If you believe that all circumstances and situations can be anticipated and controlled, then you might be more inclined to blame yourself.
Other indicators could include:
Previous history of trauma or experience or a similar situation (with or without PTSD)
Poor self-image and low self-esteem
Existing mental health conditions such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder
Poor access to mental health support
Lack of social network and support
Treatment for Survivors’ Guilt
Those experiencing this condition can have serious mental health issues, affecting all aspects of their lives. It is often also accompanied by PTSD and other parts of psychological and physical trauma.
Any treatment plan must consider all of these factors to be effective. A mental health professional can use a range of treatments, including:
Individual or group therapy sessions include other people who have survived similar situations.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to identify negative thought patterns and learn to replace them with others to change thought patterns and assess the situation realistically.
In some situations, your doctor might feel you would benefit from taking certain medications such as anti-depressants or sleep aids to help with insomnia. This can be done alongside other types of treatment and therapy, and it may take a combination of treatments to help put you on the track to recovery.
Surviving an accident, illness, or traumatic event is liable to make anyone feel guilt or ‘why me?’ thoughts. For many people, these thoughts eventually go away or are manageable, but for some, they can affect the quality of life and leave a lasting mark on your mental health and well-being, which is why it’s essential to seek help as soon as you can.
Addiction can happen to anyone, at any time, and at any age. Even the most loving families often have members who are struggling and who turn to substances to help them to get through the day. Addiction is not a weakness, and it’s not something that you can wish away. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, I imagine it’s all you can think about. If you have a family member who is dealing with this kind of pressure and stress, the best thing that you can do is learn how you can help them. Helping them through their addiction is the only way to get through it together, and that’s why you need to learn what to do next.
In addition to taking some steps to get your loved one into a treatment facility such as a place like Delphi Health Group, it’s important as a family member to have an understanding of addiction and how to continue to take care of your health while you are supporting them. Just because you’re not the one dealing with the addiction, doesn’t mean that you’re not dealing with the consequences.
Let’s take a look at 10 tips that can help you support someone struggling with substance use disorder.
Read as much as you can. As somebody watching from a distance, it can make you feel very helpless to see somebody struggling so much and not be able to do anything about it. The thing is, you can do something, and that something is to educate yourself. Read as much as you can and learn as much as possible about addiction and what it means for your family member. You cannot experience addiction for them, but you can understand as best you can what they are dealing with, how they are feeling, and what they could be looking into for the future.
Connect with your friends. It’s not easy to live with or support somebody who has an addiction to a substance, which means that as much as you want to be the support system, you need a support system yourself. Speak to your friends and see who you can get to help you with this situation so that you can at least feel like you have someone to lean on. Connecting with peers can very much be a lifeline for you. There are also support groups available, in some areas, for the families who care for someone struggling with substance use.
Encourage family therapy. The problem with addiction is that the addiction itself is selfish. Your family member who is suffering is not selfish – I will just say that – but the addiction is inherently selfish because it pulls that person into it without guilt or consequence. Your family member wants to care for themselves but they cannot. Your family member wants to care more for you and their other family members. However, they can’t. Addiction is something that takes a lot of strength from a person, so encouraging family therapy is a good idea. You cannot shame somebody out of addiction, but you can find support for your family while you are going through it together. Also finding a treatment facility that not only addresses the addiction but any past trauma that may have led to addiction, like at Inner Voyage Recovery Center in Atalanta, GA.
Do the little things. Well, they’re not little things. While you can’t pull somebody from an addiction, you can make sure their basic needs are met. Do they have clean clothing? Are they bathing and grooming themselves? Do they need access to food or shelter?
Manage your personal expectations. When someone struggling with substance use disorder enters treatment, the whole family goes on this recovery journey. There is a sense of palpable hope that runs through the group, but you need to manage your expectations. Just because somebody enters into rehabilitation services, doesn’t mean they are going to be instantly better. This is going to take time. You need to be willing to see the whole thing through from rehab and beyond.
Do things that make you happy. Your whole life cannot be about somebody else’s addiction. You have to be responsible for your own joy, and your own bliss. This means that every time you have somebody in your family who is recovering from addiction, you’re going to have to move the spotlight off of them occasionally and put it back onto yourself. While you are busy caring for another person, you have to remember to care for yourself.
Make sure you exercise. Getting out of the house, getting out of a space with somebody who is addicted to a substance, and going out into nature can make a big difference to how you feel; it’s a benefit to your mental health and well-being. It is not easy to be one-to-one with somebody who cannot help but want their addiction and their substance. Get outside and breathe some fresh air; you need the break.
Make sure that you’re getting sleep. If you want to help somebody in your family who is dealing with addiction, you have to help yourself first and foremost. It is not selfish to put yourself first, and that means making sure that you are sleeping. It may be helpful to work with a therapist who can help you emotionally cope with the circumstances at hand, to make sure that you are able to get as much sleep as you need to feel better within yourself.
Attend therapy for yourself. Family and group therapies are not your only option. You can take yourself to a private therapist and talk to them about the struggle that you are having being a caregiver to somebody who is addicted to a substance. If you want to help someone struggling with a substance use disorder in your family, you have to ensure that you are well supported so that you are in the right frame of mind to do that. Addiction is not easy, and this is not something you should ever have to deal with by yourself. If you are getting somebody you love the help they need, you need to ensure you are receiving help, too. Imagine how much better the relationship could be if you both re-enter the relationship having addressed your “stuff” individually.
Be their advocate. There is so much misinformation that surrounds addiction, and for some people, addiction is a weakness – somebody didn’t have the willpower to stay away from an escape. Addiction is chemical, and it’s not a weakness. If you want to help somebody in your family with their addiction, you must do what you can to advocate for them at all times. And, advocate for yourself within the relationship, too. Working with a therapist yourself can assist you in doing so without shaming the loved one who is struggling.
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