Friday, January 1, 2016

Circles

I was contemplating how circular the world truly is as we bid farewell to 2015 and welcomed 2016 at the same moment in time. Every ending leads to a beginning and every beginning leads to an ending. This applies to every moment without ceasing. I find it comforting to rest with this notion as people, places and experiences in life continually arrive and depart. We must adjust to changing conditions along the way, which is experienced somewhere along the spectrum of profound grief and tremendous relief.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inspiring Commencement Speech by Jim Carrey

http://www.brightstarevents.net/news/jim-carreys-commencement-address-at-the-2014-mum-graduation


This is a brilliant speech with many gems, such as, "You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love!" 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Transforming Loss: A Documentary



I wanted to share this valuable grief and loss resource. The producer of this documentary, Judith Burdick, lost her husband in a scuba diving accident at age 31, and was left to raise 2 young children. She was inspired to share her story and reach out to others, and has done so through producing this documentary interviewing six people that have experienced the death of a loved one. More information here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Humpback Whale Rescue: Courage, Trust & Gratitude

I read this touching story on a private Facebook Page so I would like to share it here.

A female humpback whale had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

This is her story of giving gratitude.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Faralon Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so badly off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her…. a very dangerous proposition.

One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.

They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, nudged them, and pushed gently, thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.

The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you be so fortunate …

To be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you. And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bereavement Support Groups in Seattle Area

Healing after a loss is often a long and difficult journey. Swedish/Edmonds offers groups and events that support people experiencing the grief that follows the death of a loved one. All parts of the program are offered as a service to the community and are free of charge.
The death of a loved one is an emotionally intense and deeply personal experience. While each person may react to the loss differently, there are many common threads that weave through the experience of grief. The emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual responses to the death may be surprising and intense. Evergreen Grief and Bereavement Services is available to provide support and education for all persons in our community who have experienced a loss through death.
Grief is not an event, it is a constant unfolding. Providence Hospice of Seattle offers a full range of compassionate response to children and adults who are grieving the loss of a significant person. We realize the importance of acknowledging the unique grieving process of every individual. Included in this acknowledgement is the understanding that grief has no timeline.
The Healing Center is a grief-support community for adults, children and families.  Our community offers a unique, long-term, multi-faceted approach to grief support, combining individual and group support with informal events and social networks.



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Financial Stress: Examine and Plan

Most people struggle with financial stress. This type of stress can cause fighting, bitterness, resentment, secrecy, shame, dishonesty, guilt and fear. There are no quick solutions, but there are steps you can take to feel more empowered. The first step is to answer three questions honestly. 1. How much money is being spent? 2. How much money is being earned? 3. How much debt exists? Write down the facts and make a "small steps" plan. The primary goal, when possible, is to pay down debt rather than accumulate more. If you find this isn't possible given all your expenses, seek advice, negotiate payment plans, and find areas of spending that can be adjusted. It is important to keep living and honor yourself through spending money on things that match your life values, while paying down debt. In doing so, you feel empowered, which improves your mental health. It is about taking small steps toward creating a healthier financial future rather than seeking quick fixes, depriving yourself, or putting life on hold until money issues are solved.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen

Dr. Kristin Neff gives a wonderful 19 minute talk about how we can be more compassionate toward ourselves, and how self-criticism undermines our motivation. She also shares a touching personal story about her son.



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Facing the Predator of Fear

Wildlife experts tell us what to do if we see a cougar 50 yards or more away. They tell us not to run, or turn our backs. They tell us running makes things worse because the cougar will see us behaving like prey, and give chase. Common suggestions include: standing up, facing the cougar, maintaining eye contact, making our bodies look bigger, and slowly moving to higher ground or a safer location. I believe this is also true when it comes to facing our internal fear responses to life situations. It helps to look at what scares us, give the feelings some attention, and take slow, thoughtful action so the feared element no longer intimidates us. I help people identify fears they are ready to examine, give attention and care to the arising feelings, and learn how to cope and respond when fear arises.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Closing the Day on a Good Note

Recently, I caught some of the 11 o'clock news, which I rarely watch. I was deeply disturbed by a particular news story that I could not get out of my mind. This was just one of several disturbing stories that aired within those first ten minutes. I found it an unsettling end to an otherwise lovely day, and it reminded me of the importance of being mindful about what I choose to watch. The world is not filled with violence, abuse, chaos and destruction to the extent news programming indicates. It is especially important to keep this in mind if you are already stressed, grieving, depressed, anxious or lonely. It is important to expose ourselves to relaxing and soothing things when possible, especially before falling asleep.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Couples Tip: Tell Them What You Want


Many couples I see want to support each other better. Often we have an unrealistic expectation that the "right" partner will "know" how to respond. One of the ways to feel supported by your partner is to help them help you. If you are upset, share with your partner what is happening within you, and if you can, guide them toward understanding what you want or need. Your partner may or may not be able to provide what you seek, but at least they have an opportunity to try in the moment, or at a later time. Either way, you will both learn something important.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Good" Changes Cause Grief and Loss

Clients have asked me, "I made a change in my life for the better, so why do I feel sad?" The way I view change is that there is always something left behind. For example, if you decide to quit a stressful job to start a new one, it might seem as though you should feel only relief and happiness. However, there is something lost in any transition. Change can be stressful, even if it is "good" change. Change often means leaving a familiar routine for a brand new one. Questions, doubts and fears may arise. Unresolved feelings connected with your job experiences may surface. Fears about the next steps may come up. You will likely feel more aware of the things you WILL miss, possibly casting doubts about your decisions. Additionally, in the case of changing jobs, you will be ending your current co-worker relationships, and forming new ones with strangers. It is important to keep all of this in mind as you go through any type of transition, and welcome in emotional responses and feelings as they come and go.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Continuing Bonds With Loved Ones

For those who have lost a loved one, it is normal and can be important in the process of healing to continue a nonphysical relationship and some sort of communication with the person who died.  Letter writing, putting up photos at home, returning to a special place that was important to the deceased and celebrating anniversaries, holidays and birthdays are a few examples. Communication with the deceased can be especially important if the relationship was painful, tumultuous or distant. It is possible to heal relational wounds after death. It is never too late to experience and express emotions toward the person who passed away.

References:
1. Shallcross, Lynne. “A Loss Like No Other.” Counseling Today Jun. 2012: 26-31.
2. http://uncommonground4500.blogspot.com/2010/04/continuing-bonds.html

Friday, May 11, 2012

Television's Impact on Mental Health

Excessive or compulsive TV watching "is believed to exist as a type of behavioral addiction similar to pathological gambling. In 1990, a symposium at the convention of the American Psychological Association developed the definition of TV addiction as 'heavy television watching that is subjectively experienced as being to some extent involuntary, displacing more productive activities, and difficult to stop or curtail'" (Kaufman).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey reported that in 2010 the average American age 15 and over spent over half their leisure time watching TV.


In the article 'Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor,' (Scientific American, February 2002) Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi describe their experiment and results. "To track behavior and emotion in the normal course of life we have used the Experience Sampling Method (ESM). Participants carried a beeper, and we signaled them six to eight times a day, at random, over the period of a week; whenever they heard the beep, they wrote down what they were doing and how they were feeling using a standardized scorecard.” Results showed that “the sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue. Survey participants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted. They say they have more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. In contrast, they rarely indicate such difficulty after reading. After playing sports or engaging in hobbies, people report improvements in mood. After watching TV, people's moods are about the same or worse than before."

"In a paper entitled 'Television Dependence, Diagnosis, and Prevention,' Professor Kubey describes a cyclical effect of watching television. Heavy TV watchers tend to be people who feel anxious or lonely and watching TV provides a break from negative thoughts or ruminations. Providing a pseudo-social media experience, the television creates a virtual connection between the watcher and other people, however this does nothing to help the real feelings of loneliness or boredom" (Kaufman).

Kubey explains that “the possibility of a vicious circle wherein the experience of negative moods and thoughts when alone and when unstructured may interact with the ease with which people can quickly escape these feelings by viewing. As a result of many hours spent viewing television over many years, some people may become unpracticed in spending time alone, entertaining themselves, or even in directing their own attention."

If you are concerned about your TV watching habits, I suggest keeping a log of how often you watch and observe how it impacts your state of mind. Do you turn the TV on automatically or plan what program to watch? Is it enjoyable? Does it improve your mood? Would you feel better if you chose a different activity? Take some time to consider how you spend your leisure time, and if your choices promote mental wellness.

Bibliography

Kaufman, R. (2005). Television Identification and Self-Help Guide. Retrieved from http://www.turnoffyourtv.com/healtheducation/addiction/addiction.html

Kubey, Robert and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor.” Scientific American. February 2002.

Kubey, Robert. "Television Dependence, Diagnosis, and Prevention." Associate Professor, Department of Journalism & Media Studies. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. 1996.

Other Links
http://escapeyourtelevision.blogspot.com/
http://addiction-facts.com/tv_addiction/tv_addiction.html

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dispelling Myths Regarding Grief

I am currently reading When Children Grieve. In this book, James and Friedman list six myths in our culture surrounding the subject of death: Don’t Feel Bad!; Replace the Loss; Grieve Alone; Be Strong; Keep Busy; Time Heals All Wounds. I believe these myths are also applicable when adults grieve.

Parents tend to instinctually, out of compassion, seek ways to relieve their children’s pain and shelter them from feelings of grief. However, grief responses are unique and unlike a skinned knee or broken toy. Grief cannot be fixed. Death is a natural part of human life, and, like adults, children naturally heal. Like adults, children experience heartache because they loved a companion and now that companion is dead. Often the loss of a beloved pet is the first loss a child experiences, and it important to teach children healthy ways to cope with grief. It is important to avoid disrupting the natural grieving process.  The six subsequent posts describe the myths outlined by James and Friedman.

James, John W. and Friedman, Russell. When Children Grieve. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.

Additional Resources: http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/

Myth 1: Don’t Feel Bad!

Loving friends and relatives mean well when they say, ‘“Don’t feel bad, he/she lived a long life.’ Or, ‘Don’t feel bad, at least he/she didn’t suffer.’ Or, ‘Don’t feel bad, he/she’s in a better place (14).’” However, these comments unintentionally promote inappropriate responses. The truth is that grief responses are painful and unpleasant in response to painful and unpleasant losses. It is a highly appropriate time to feel bad.

James, John W. and Friedman, Russell. When Children Grieve. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.

Myth 2: Replace the Loss

James and Friedman describe a story where a six year old boy’s dog dies and his father says, ‘“Don’t feel bad, [pause] on Saturday we will get you a new dog (25).”’ Now the boy understands two major misconceptions about his emotional responses: don’t feel bad, and replace the loss (25). The idea that this boy can replace painful emotions with pleasure is a concept that can have long-term consequences. It devalues the boy’s relationship with his pet, discourages appropriate painful responses, and subsequently disrupts or prevents the natural healing process.

James, John W. and Friedman, Russell. When Children Grieve. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.

Myth 3: Grieve Alone

Grieving is ultimately about relationships. When we loose someone we love, we feel pain from separation. This is why it is important to grieve with loved ones. Children are comforted when they see their parent grieving, because it mirrors what they are feeling so they can accept and understand their own feelings are appropriate and welcomed. It helps children when adults witness their pain and empathize with how they are feeling.

James, John W. and Friedman, Russell. When Children Grieve. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.

Myth 4: Be Strong

In most cases, children mirror their parents. If a child looses a mother, and her father is advised by well-meaning friends and family to “be strong for his child” by “grieving alone” and not showing painful emotions, then the child may mirror the same response. The child may also “stay strong” by suppressing emotions, and this may shut down the natural grieving process of both the child and parent.

James, John W. and Friedman, Russell. When Children Grieve. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.

Myth 5: Keep Busy

“Grief, caused by death or by divorce, probably represents the largest change in the moment-to-moment life of a child. Adapting to life without someone who has always been there can be painful, difficult, and confusing (46).” James and Friedman go on to explain that it is important to keep the pace of life at a similar level as before the loss, so children do not have to cope with additional changes. This is a myth that connects to a belief that keeping busy is a constructive way to deal with unexpressed emotions. It is more likely keep you distracted from the pain caused by the loss and keep emotions buried deep within (48).

James, John W. and Friedman, Russell. When Children Grieve. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.

Myth 6: Time Heals All Wounds

Healing from grief is a journey that takes time, but time is not the healer. Too often, we are encouraged to “move on” or “get over it” or “get back to normal” without allowing the grief journey to unfold in what ever time period is necessary. Loved ones may unconsciously want mourners to “move on” so they do not have to witness pain or face their own. The grief journey mirrors the motion of ocean tides, currents and waves. Healing from grief is not linear, but healing happens when we allow natural responses to unfold. There are no rules, no steps, and no preset time frames involved.

James, John W. and Friedman, Russell. When Children Grieve. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.

Saturday, January 14, 2012