Saturday, June 27, 2009

What Causes Grief?

Grief is increasingly being defined more broadly. Previously, when someone mentioned that they were grieving, most people assumed it was due to the death of a loved one. Even though it is still the most popular reason why people grieve, other things can lead to grieving.

Wikipedia defines grief as the following: Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss. It includes the emotion numbness, disbelief, separation, anxiety, despair, sadness, and loneliness that accompany the loss of someone or something loved........Losses can range from loss of employment, pets, status, a sense of safety, order, or possessions, to the loss of loved ones. Therefore, we can even experience grief when we get divorced, have to move, lose our home from fire, disaster or financial reasons, etc.

Many things can cause us to experience grief. Chances are that you have experienced a form of grief over your life time. Some grief experiences are more difficult than others. Some grief experiences may even be "fixed" when the situation changes. For example, a person may quit grieving the loss of their former job/income when they find a new job. Conversely, some grief experiences will not be "fixed" so easily. For example, when a loved one dies the grief will probably take more time to process and to integrate the loss into our lives.

The death of a child, spouse, friend, parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, other family member or pet can be devastating. Sometimes a death is "expected" due to a terminal diagnosis. Other times the death is sudden and unexpected. Either way, the final outcome is death and usually brings about a degree of grief.

Unfortunately, our culture shies away from discussing and educating people about grief and the natural responses to grief. Thankfully, some of this is slowly shifting. Many things are playing a role in this trend. I think the shift is coming about largely because of the presences of Hospice organizations and how we are beginning to broadly define grief. I am in hopes that this trend will continue and our culture will become more tolerant and understanding of a grieving person.

Wishing you Peace, Comfort and Hope.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Honoring Our Fathers on Father's Day

The holidays can be anything but cheerful when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. This can be especially difficult on holidays such as Father's Day. Holidays stir up a lot of memories, traditions, family gatherings, etc. Therefore, it is common for someone to feel a heightened level of grief on a holiday. As well as feelings of anxiousness while you are anticipating the holiday's arrival.

Please keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. Sometimes you have to try many different things to find something that is helpful for your grieving process. So, how can you manage to get through difficult holidays such as Father's Day without your Father? My first suggestion is to MAKE A PLAN to do something on the holiday. Even though you probably don't feel like doing anything. However, when you are actively grieving, a plan to something is often better than a plan to do nothing. A plan to do nothing can sometimes increase feelings of being alone. As well as feed feelings of depression. So, it is important to make a plan to do something with supportive family, friends, church members, etc.

Below is a list of ideas of things you may want to try to honor your Father. Remember to invite supportive friends and family members to join you.

1) Plant a tree in his honor.

2) Write your Father a letter. Tell him anything in the letter. You can even mention how you miss him and what you are doing to cope with his loss. When finished with the letter you can shred it, bury it, or CAREFULLY burn it.

3) Make a donation to his favorite charity.

4) Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers in his honor.

5) Start a creative writing journal in his honor. For example, you could dedicate a whole journal to your Father and "write letters to him" in the journal.

6) Plant some flowers in your Father's honor.

7) Get together with family and friends that to reminisce about your Father.

8) Start a Memory Box in honor of your Father. Just use a simple box and start collecting special mementos that were your Father's or remind you of your Father. Keep the box in a special place.

9) Start a Memorial Garden. This can be as simple as a wind chime placed in the corner of your yard dedicated to your Father. Or, it can be more formal and include flowers, shrubbery and a bench.

10) Plan a get away with family and friends. Take a mini-vacation for the weekend.

This is a short list of ideas. There are many things you could do to honor your Father on Father's Day. Just keep in mind, the Holiday will last for only one day. As always, if you are feeling fragile seek professional help.

Wishing you comfort and peace on this Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Honoring Our Fathers

I would like to announce a free class that I will be offering. It is titled, Honoring Our Fathers. This class is just in time to remember our Fathers/Father figures for Father's Day. I know holidays can be very difficult for those of us that have experienced a loss. So, if you are missing your Dad, Grandfather, Uncle, Father Figure, please join us for this class.
This class is a conference call combined with an Expressive Art activity. You do NOT need to have any previous art experience to take this class. We will focus on honoring our Fathers, remembering the "gifts" they taught us and do an Expressive Art project. The class will last for approximately two hours. The first hour and half will focus on remembering our Fathers and the Expressive Arts activity. The remainder of the class I will discuss general grief issues and answer grief related questions.
There will be a limited number of spots. So, please contact me soon to reserve a spot. To reserve your spot leave a comment on this blog entry with your contact information. I will email you a confirmation.

What: Honoring Our Fathers, Conference Call/Expressive Arts Activity
When: June 18, 08 (Thursday)
Time: 8:00PM Eastern Time Zone
Cost: Free

NOTE: This class is not a substitute for therapy. If you feel fragile, please seek professional help in your area.

Monday, June 8, 2009

LOVE is Eternal

I truly believe that Love is eternal. Therefore, the love created between you and your deceased love one is still there. The love is not turned off like a light switch. So, what do you do with that love? How do you make the love meaningful now?

Finding ways to nurture the love can usually ease some of the pain associated with a loss. So, even though your loved one is not present physically, you can discover ways to nurture the love that you experienced with your loved one. Continuing to nurture the love and relationship usually brings a feeling of closeness and connectedness to your loved one.

So, what can you do with the love you have for your deceased love one and how can you continue to nurture the relationship? Depending on your spiritual/religious/personal beliefs, there are many different things you can do. For example, you can create a sacred space in your home that has meaningful pictures and/or belongings of your loved one. You can use this sacred space for prayer or a place to sit and "talk" to your loved one aloud or in silence. Another idea is to create a memory garden in honor of your loved one. The memory garden can include your loved one's favorite flowers, a park bench, a bird feeder, water fountain, etc. Anything that brings nature into your heart, gives you good memories about your loved one and makes you "feel" the presence/closeness to your loved one. Did you know there is an organization called the American Horticultural Therapy Association ( I encourage you to check out their link. The American Horticultural Therapy Association has a great site and more information on the benefits of gardening. Lastly, I would like to mention an Expressive Arts idea.....journaling. Journaling can be an excellent way to stay connected to your loved one. It may be difficult to start journaling, however, once you start it can be very therapeutic and insightful into your healing process. Journaling is a way to express yourself and it is not about using correct grammar, appropriate punctuation, etc. There are many different ways to journal. At this time I will only mention two. The first type of journaling you could do is write letters to your deceased loved one. Tell him/her the new things going on in your life, your concerns, how you miss them, when you "feel" his/her presence near you, etc. The second type of journaling you may want to try is to write about your feelings. This allows you to express your feelings and can lessen the "charge" of the emotions/feelings. As I tell clients...."Don't make live inside your head what doesn't have to...get it out of your head by writing, painting, drawing, etc.". There really are no right or wrong ways to journal. Try it and find a way that suits you.

These activities also continue the legacy of your loved one. Keeping the legacy going can be very helpful in the healing process.

Thankfully, many mental health care professionals realize the importance of maintaining a "bond" with the deceased and finding ways to continue the connectedness. Not too long ago, this was highly frowned on. However, many therapists realize this can be a normal response for some grieving people. I encourage you to find ways to nurture the bond and keep the love flowing. So, whether nurturing your love through a sacred space, memory garden or Expressive Art activities, attempting to try one of these methods may give you insight and offer some comfort and peace.

On your journey I wish for you to find ways to bring love, comfort, peace and hope into your life. I will end this entry with a question.....How can you maintain meaningful connections with your loved one?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Common Words Associated With Grief

There are many words associated with grief. The following identifies and defines ( some of the common words used.

Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss. It includes the emotional numbness, disbelief, separation, anxiety, despair, sadness, and loneliness that accompany the loss of someone or something loved. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. Common to human experience is the death of a loved one, whether it be a friend, family, or other companion.

Mourning is, in the simplest sense, synonymous with grief over the death of someone. The word is also used to describe a cultural complex of behaviours in which the bereaved participate or are expected to participate. Customs vary between different cultures and evolve over time, though many core behaviors remain constant.
Wearing dark, sombre clothes is one practice followed in many countries, though other forms of dress are also seen. Those most affected by the loss of a loved one often observe a period of grieving, marked by withdrawal from social events and quiet, respectful behavior. People may also follow certain religious traditions for such occasions.

Simply, mourning is what you show to the world how you are experiencing your grief. It is your outward appearance of grief.

Bereavement often refers to the state of loss, and grief to the reaction to loss. So, it is suffering the death of your loved one.

Anticipatory Grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. Typically, the impending loss is a death of someone close or one's own death due to illness. Anticipatory grief can also be a response to other types of impending losses ( a scheduled mastectomy, a pending divorce, a company downsizing, a country at war). The post-loss stages of grief: denial, bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance (Kubler-Ross) can also be present in anticipatory grief. Anxiety, dread, guilt, helplessness, and hopelessness are also common.

Complicated Grief as defined by Mayo Clinic....During the first few months after a loss, many signs and symptoms of normal grief are the same as those of complicated grief. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade, those of complicated grief get worse or linger for months or even years. Complicated grief is like being in a chronic, heightened state of mourning.

It is important to note, if you or a loved one are experiencing Complicated Grief seek professional help! Complicated Grief issues can be debilitating and last for years. Complicated Grief is mainly distinguished from a normal grief response by the intensity and prolonged phase of intense mourning. It may also be marked by excessive behaviors such as, drinking heavily, drug abuse, etc. Complicated Grief usually manifest itself over a long period of time, months or even years. Many factors can play a role in leading to complicated grief. Some things that can lead to Complicated Grief are unresolved issues associated with the loved one that has died, if there was an estrangement with the loved one, if there was excessive conflict in the relationship prior to the death, etc.