Category Archives: Grief & Loss

Letting go of Grief

Contributed by Denise Daub

Allow Yourself To Grieve Through Some Heavy Sh*t — Then Let It Go

by Natalie Rountree

“There are things we don’t want to happen, but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without, but have to let go.”

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Are all the quotes, videos and blog post on social media regarding “Just let it go!” and “Only think positive Thoughts!” pissing you off or making you feel like you are just not doing life right? This probably sounds ironic coming from me, because those are the messages I send out too – but it’s important to know the difference between what to let go and when to allow yourself to grieve. By not allowing yourself proper time to grieve, you might find yourself looking to fill that emotional pain in dangerous ways (drinking or doing drugs, self-harm, neglecting yourself or others), isolating yourself, going through fits of rages and burst of meltdowns or straight up just going bat-shit crazy and not even recognizing why. This can last for a day, months, or years if you don’t face the pain to heal it.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natalie-rountree/allow-yourself-to-grieve-_b_10455620.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living

Mother’s Day Pain

By Kim Olver (originally posted May 10, 2014)

Today I want to acknowledge the people who may be in pain on Mother’s Day and in all the days and hype leading up to it. Who may those people be?

  1. A mother whose child has died
  2. A person whose mother has passed away
  3. A mother who has put their child up for adoption
  4. A child whose been adopted
  5. A child living in foster care
  6. A woman with a regretted abortion
  7. A woman who has suffered a miscarriage
  8. A mother and child separated by pride and misunderstanding
  9. Anyone else I may have left out
  10. Couples who are infertile

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Experiencing emotional pain is never easy but it is made even more difficult when the world around you is celebrating while you are feeling so sad. Those who have their mothers and their children to celebrate with will be happy and pampered on Mother’s Day. It is a special day set aside to honor the woman who gave birth to us.

If you are a mother without her child on Mother’s Day, you have some choices to make. You can embrace your feelings of grief and sadness and simply allow yourself to experience the loss. You can put a smile on your face, pretending everything is all right when inside you know it isn’t. You can use distraction to busy yourself so you are focused on other things. You can find a way to be grateful for the experience of motherhood, with all its ups and downs, and find the gifts, lessons and opportunities in the experience. Or you can create a new celebration of your own for this day . . . something meaningful to you.

If you are child without your mother on Mother’s Day, you have similar choices. You can embrace your feelings of grief, loss and sadness and just be in that space. You can pretend all is well when you know it isn’t. You can distract yourself with other things, trying not to think about her. You can find a way to be grateful for the mother you had, for better or for worse. She gave you life and taught you things . . . some you will embrace, others you will never repeat but all lessons nonetheless. Or you can find something else to celebrate on this day.

Whatever you do on Mother’s Day, recognize the choices you have and choose the one that serves you best. The world recognizes mothers on this day and your focus may need to be on how to take care of yourself today. You are just as valuable and important as all the mothers and children who will be happy today. Choose well.

Today I cry . . .

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

(In loving memory of Dr. Ken Larsen, 1939-2016)

Today I cry. A dear friend of mine has died. He was kind, gentle, intelligent and loving. I never heard him say anything unkind or negative about another person — remarkable!

Today I feel grateful. I was friends with a man who was kind, gentle, intelligent and loving. I never heard him say anything unkind or negative about another person. This friend inspired me to be a better person because of who he was.

Today I’m reminded of my loss. I go on Facebook expecting to see his “likes” and comments about something I posted, something he posted, or something that someone else posted. Logging onto Facebook has become painful because I am constantly reminded of the loss of him.

Today my  heart is heavy. My sympathy and sorrow is with his family for their loss. My sympathy and sorrow is with the world-wide Glasser family for our loss of a friend and colleague.

And my sorrow and sympathy is with us, the Mental Health & Happiness community. Dr. Ken Larsen, fellow founder, partner, blogger and videographer of the Mental Health & Happiness project peacefully died in his sleep Monday, February 22, 2016. That day his final blog was posted.

Not long before his death Ken asked,

If Choice Theory is the answer
What is the question?

Here is one question he devoted his time, talent and energy to. How do we develop, improve and maintain Mental Health & Happiness? We are so lucky that he did. In honor of Ken we will be reposting many of his Mental Health & Happiness blogs over the next two weeks. This will give us all an opportunity to read and be inspired again by Ken’s ideas and words.

Another question where he devoted his faith, actions and love:

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Thank you Ken, for all you gave to all of us. You are loved and missed.

Emotionally Bankrupt

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Have you ever had the experience of being completely and utterly emotionally depleted?  It would be pretty amazing and unusual if this weren’t true for you as it is true for almost all people.

Three years following my father’s diagnosis of terminal lung cancer he died. His passing was not a surprise nor a shock and still it was devastating for his immediate family including me. I was privileged in that I was able to spend two of the last three weeks of his life with him and my mother.

My mother and father had celebrated more than 50 years of marriage only weeks before my father’s death. My mother was devastated following Dad’s passing. As she predicted, Mom  lived another ten years after my father died. However, she was never the same, never really happy again.

Once Dad died the family all assembled in North Carolina for the memorial service with the fellowship to begin our mourning and healing. Then it was decided that Mom would visit each daughter’s home for awhile before she would return to her own home to begin her life without Dad.

Six weeks after Dad died my mother had a heart attack. I had just returned home after accompanying her back to her home to help her begin this post-Dad part of her life.

canstockphoto0527001I was lying on the couch in my living room when I received the call about my mother’s health. I was told she had a minor heart attack and was stable. My mother told me that her heart was broken.

My sisters and I needed to decide what we were going to do. At this point I couldn’t even get off of the couch. How could I possibly get on a plane and return to my mother’s side?

This was my first experience of being emotionally bankrupt. Sadly, it has not been my last.

There was a “letter” circulating on Facebook recently where an old man explained grief, mourning and loss to a younger person. He described these kinds of life moments as being ship wrecked. Being overwhelmed by all of the sadness, devastation, grief and varying aspects of loss comes upon us as waves. And when the ship is first wrecked all we can do is hang on and stay afloat. Sometimes we hang onto another person, or a thought, a prayer, our faith or a possession.

Eventually these overwhelming feelings are not present 100% of the time. Eventually we have some moments of relief. How soon? There is no way of predicting. And for each person with each loss and each wrecked ship the timing and waves vary.

Eventually the waves become less and less frequent. Eventually we are not devastated by the wave. Eventually our memories become sweet and a source of comfort.

While we are waiting for the waves to lesson, and calm without taking us under, we must be kind, gentle, loving and supportive of ourselves. We must care for ourselves in ways that might normally feel like indulgences:

Take an afternoon sitting on a park bench, under a tree, or on the beach, and do nothing.

Take a hot bath daily, as a ritual.

Be quiet, still, and if needed alone. Let nature be your companion as nature is one of the strongest healers available to us all.

Stop working, at least for an afternoon or morning.

Stop doing for, caring and helping others, at least for an afternoon or morning.

If you have a pet, hug, love and pet him/her. Let your pet soothe and comfort you as you pet and love him/her. If you don’t have a pet, ask to borrow one.

Ask a friend to help you focus on fun, funny and wonderful memories.

Ask a friend to distract you and tell you stories that are completely unrelated to your  present experience.

Spend time holding, hugging, playing and cuddling a baby.

A word of caution about any and all of the above ideas. If you discover that this emotional soothing and regenerating is not working, is in fact contributing to you feeling worse STOP. You can return and try out any or all of these ideas in the future. For now, be gentle, quite and still with yourself.  Concentrate on breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out with no other expectation or goal.

Honoring your need for rejuvenation during the emotionally bankrupt and tsunami  times of our lives is important and essential for our Mental Health & Happiness.

Hope

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness                                                                        Desmond Tutu

“I wish I didn’t have hope,” she complained to her therapist. “I feel as though I am continually inflicting pain on myself by believing that what is happening is for the best, or that everything is going to work out. All that seems to do is keep me hoping. Then my hopes are dashed with more disappointment and more pain. Can you help me learn how to stop hoping?”

She was seeing a good, caring, skilled therapist. The best help her therapist offered was providing a safe and supportive holding environment.  Here she was able to express all of her feelings, fears, and upsets, including her unhappiness with HOPE. 

If it were not for hopes, the heart would break. Thomas Fuller

pensivewoman_blueThat was her problem. Her heart was breaking. An essential relationship of more than 25 years was ending, not by her choice. Hoping that it would all get better or that they could end their marriage without inflicting pain on each other and their children seemed to be failing time and time again. Her heart was breaking.

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better we can bear a hardship today. Thich Nhat Hanh

“Don’t you see? Every night I go to bed following Scarlet O’Hara’s message that, ‘Tomorrow is another day,’ meaning  my world might get better, my relationships might mend and the pain might subside. And every tomorrow I wake up and nothing is better, no relationships have mended, and the pain is not subsiding.”

She was not proud that there were times when she considered suicide. She wanted relief from the relentless pain. There were people who cared, who wanted and did help and yet the pain and despair were relentless.

Having worked as the manager in an emergency service of a mental health center, she was knowledgable of strategies for suicide prevention. During those times when she was dangerously close to acting on her self-destructive thoughts she did her own suicide assessment. She also tapped into all that she knew, including the fact children of parents who suicide are much more likely to suicide themselves. To kill herself was not horrifying to her. But knowing that her action and absence gave her sons a kind of permission for suicide was completely UNACCEPTABLE. It was this knowledge that kept her from taking any irreversible action.

She knew it was vital to use whatever it takes to keep a suicidal person alive.  This included herself. During those dark and painful days she used this as her reminder and strategy. This enabled her to hang on for a little longer. She was beginning to realize that HOPE, including the HOPE that she would get through this time and arrive at a place where thoughts of suicide were a memory, was her ally and savior. She was beginning to be grateful that her therapist did not teach her how to give up HOPE.

It is a good thing when all you have is hope and not expectations. Danny Boyle

She was beginning to realize that things may be happening for the best, that things would work out. But that might mean that her expectation for her saved marriage could be replaced by the hope of a genuine and mutual love with another. She was learning how to embrace her hope, release her expectations, and to even give thanks for this tragedy as the start for greater hopes and fulfillments.

I share this personal story with you, dear reader, for those of you who may be feeling self-destructive presently. Please wait. If the world turning into more and more tomorrows doesn’t change your perspective, you can always choose suicide later. But if you choose it now, you will never know when a moment of glimmering hope might expand into love, light and laughter again.

Grief, Sadness & Sorrow

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

At this present moment a very dear friend of mine is experiencing the decline and impending death of both of her parents. For her in this moment it seems that these inevitable events are getting closer. Her immediate family, that includes her husband and daughters, are an incredible sources of love, strength and support. But sadly, as is true for too many people, there are other family members who are blaming, shaming and pointing accusatory fingers of guilt as a means of dealing with their own fear and pain.

Although not geographically close, a couple of us who are heart and soul sisters, not blood relatives, are able to be immediately present, comforting and supportive through texting. Who would have guessed that technical advances would lead to this extraordinary gift of presence.

We heart and soul sisters are able to offer the needed compassion not just because we love Annie, but because of our own personal experiences with the death of our own parents. For us the pain of losing our parents is still present, just not so immediate.

What place does grief and sorrow play in Mental Health & Happiness? Can you consider yourself Mentally Healthy & Happy even when feeling sad?

For me being Mentally Healthy & Happy means experiencing a full range of emotions: sadness AND joy, contentment AND dissatisfaction, fear AND faith, peace AND discontent, anger AND pleasure. Being Mentally Healthy & Happy means experiencing the negative emotions, and not staying stuck in them.

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If developing and maintaining important, caring and connecting relationships with at least one person is a major contributor to our Mental Health & Happiness, then we are bound to experience profound feelings of loss when these relationships end or change. I still miss both my mother and father every day. At the same time I know that “death ends a life, not a relationship” as Mitch Albom writes in his book “Tuesdays with Morrie.” I continue to maintain a strong relationship with my parents many years after their deaths.

For me, Mental Health & Happiness means I have strategies to deal with my intense negative feelings. I do not fear these negative emotions pretending I don’t experience them. Nor do I need to stay stuck or lost.

Some of these strategies we are sharing with Annie right now are:

Planting both feet solidly on the ground
Taking 4 deep breaths, with eyes closed, arms open wide, expanding heart and gut space with deep inhalation and  blowing out fears, frustrations or just air as you exhale
As you open your eyes repeat your meaningful affirmation All is well, I am well, You are well and so it is that All is well. (Or whatever mantra you create that is meaningful and helpful for you.)

Remember that being Mentally Healthy & Happy does not mean that you are always cheerful, happy and full of sunshine. Being Mentally Health & Happy means that you know, create or learn effective strategies so that when the hard, challenging and stormy life experiences are part of your days, weeks or present moments, you take the time to learn and grow. This too shall pass is true. But imagine seizing even these moments to celebrate the full experience of your life?

Laughter is the best Medicine

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I don’t know if it’s the season of the year, my aging age group, the present zodiac constellation with everyone’s Mars in retrograde, or simply random moments coinciding, but something is going on in my world. Too many of my family and friends are experiencing challenges with their health and physical well being. For example: one friend’s husband of many years is finally recovering from a life-threatening illness. Another friend is watching her parents’ health and lives decline. Still another was in a serious accident breaking both of her ankles.

                                    A merry heart doeth good like a medicine — Proverbs 17:22

Knowing that all of the magic wands I own would not provide the immediate help or cure, instead I offer my love and support. And I continue to seek the opportunity to find humor and bring laughter.

A good laugh heals a lot of hurts — Madeline L’Engle

Several months after my father died and my mother was recovering from a heart attack I listened to the audio version of the best book for my Mental Health & Happiness: Sweet Potato Queens by Jill Conner Browne. I laughed out loud listening to the author’s sweet, mellow southern accent read the outrageous descriptions in her book. When one of my sisters was suffering from the same deep grieving I loaned her the audio book telling her she had to go to bed and listen, staying there until she had laughed out loud three times before getting up again. Our grief was still central in our lives, but the laughter had given us temporary relief and healing.

Laughter opens the lungs, and opening the lungs ventilates the spirit — Unknown

In his highly acclaimed and well known book Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins states, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” At the time the medical community was skeptical although his readers were inspired. Now, thirty years later there are more than a few who are researching and validating Cousins’ personal discoveries.

Your body cannot heal without play.

                                    Your mind cannot heal without laughter.

                                    Your soul cannot heal without joy. — Catherine Ruppenger Fenwick

Are you facing some challenges, tough or hard times, or a moment of grief in your life right now? Perhaps it’s time for you to purposely pursue laughter. As I did research to write this blog I found a website, www.laughteryogaamerica.com where I also found my smiles and laughter. There were more than a few websites and YouTube videos that can also assist if you need. laughingdog

To improve your Mental Health & Happiness for now, absorb these last two quotes.

Earth laughs in flowers — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people — Victor Borge

Overcoming depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and more

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Want to develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Then you need to effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to feel less stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, alienation and powerlessness? Then you need to more effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to stop continually  obsessing over one thought, loss, sadness or failure? Want to stop your never ending internal argument of whether or not to ingest that forbidden substance, whether it be food, drink, or drug? Then you need to more effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions every day.

sadwomanAre you feeling a complete lack of hope, feeling so despondent that you have been considering ending your life? Maybe you are feeling this right now. Then you need to effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions right now, especially your instruction to connect in a meaningful and authentic way with one other person.

These are your psychological instructions: the urge to feel safe & secure, to be loving with a sense of belonging and connectedness, to be powerful, to be playful, and to be able to make choices with freedom.

Ask yourself these questions:

Who do you feel closest to in the whole world? Who do you share your hopes, dreams, wishes and sorrows with? If you don’t have at least one person in your life that fits these requirements,  start cultivating that kind of a relationship NOW! Your answer could be a pet, or God, or some other similar answer. That’s okay. However, if you can add a real person that would be even better.

Where do you feel important? What are you doing that you know makes a difference in the world, including just your own immediate world? If you can’t give an answer to this question start doing meaningful work, whether volunteer, paid or family work. We all need to feel as though we are making a difference. Make a contribution and know that your presence adds value not just to your own life but the lives of others.

Where do you feel like you have choices and options? Can’t answer that question? Then start  paying better attention to your world and your life now. You have lots of options and choices, including the choice of reading this blog to the end or doing something different. You have more freedom and choices than you realize. You just need to start noticing and giving thanks for all this freedom and choices. (If Viktor Frankl had choices then so do you.)

When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt, tears streamed down your face and your belly got tired? Can’t remember? You my friend are in dire need of more fun and learning in your life. Start doing something, anything to be more playful and joyful. This can include going to a funny movie and watching and hearing others laugh, Laughter is contagious. Find a laughing yoga class near you and attend. Search on YouTube for videos of others laughing and watch long enough until you get tickled too.

Where do you feel safest in your world? This is the place where you seek shelter and comfort when you’re frightened. Don’t have that place? Then create it! If you have to, close your eyes and visualize being in a place from your past or your imaginations where you felt held, comforted and safely in a nest. We all need our own personal refuge.

Now that you have completed this brief needs assessment evaluation, do you have any ideas of what you can do to help develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Let today be the day you get started.

For better results and greater effectiveness, connect with an accountability buddy. You help your buddy succeed in an area of his choosing, and ask for the help and support you need to succeed in improving your Mental Health & Happiness.

Mother’s Day Pain

By Kim Olver

Today I want to acknowledge the people who may be in pain on Mother’s Day and in all the days and hype leading up to it. Who may those people be?

  1. A mother whose child has died
  2. A person whose mother has passed away
  3. A mother who has put their child up for adoption
  4. A child whose been adopted
  5. A child living in foster care
  6. A woman with a regretted abortion
  7. A woman who has suffered a miscarriage
  8. A mother and child separated by pride and misunderstanding
  9. Anyone else I may have left out
  10. Couples who are infertile
Experiencing emotional pain is never easy but it is made even more difficult when the world around you is celebrating while you are feeling so sad. Those who have their mothers and their children to celebrate with will be happy and pampered on Mother’s Day. It is a special day set aside to honor the woman who gave birth to us.
If you are a mother without her child on Mother’s Day, you have some choices to make. You can embrace your feelings of grief and sadness and simply allow yourself to experience the loss. You can put a smile on your face, pretending everything is all right when inside you know it isn’t. You can use distraction to busy yourself so you are focused on other things. You can find a way to be grateful for the experience of motherhood, with all its ups and downs, and find the gifts, lessons and opportunities in the experience. Or you can create a new celebration of your own for this day . . . something meaningful to you.

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If you are child without your mother on Mother’s Day, you have similar choices. You can embrace your feelings of grief, loss and sadness and just be in that space. You can pretend all is well when you know it isn’t. You can distract yourself with other things, trying not to think about her. You can find a way to be grateful for the mother you had, for better or for worse. She gave you life and taught you things . . . some you will embrace, others you will never repeat but all lessons nonetheless. Or you can find something else to celebrate on this day.

Whatever you do on Mother’s Day, recognize the choices you have and choose the one that serves you best. The world recognizes mothers on this day and your focus may need to be on how to take care of yourself today. You are just as valuable and important as all the mothers and children who will be happy today. Choose well.

Trusting-Part Three

By Kim Olver

This is my third and final blog about the healthy relationship habit of trusting. This is something that works for me and I hope it can also work for you. I know in the area of trust, one of the things that gets me through is a faith in the balance of all things. I believe that just like the naturally occurring elements, situations are equally balanced with positive and negative charges.

This belief especially helps me when I have experienced broken trust. While that is a painful experience, I also know there is equal positivity attached to it. I just have to find it. I know there is a lesson, gift or opportunity that will bring me joy or enlightenment so there is no injury when trust is broken.

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An example I just learned about this weekend happened when a woman I was speaking with told me about her father committing suicide. It was a terrible betrayal of trust. She was in serious pain over the experience. When she thought about a lesson, gift or opportunity, she said, “Wow, when my father died my sister and I inherited enough money that we were both able to buy our own homes. This would never have happened if my dad were alive.” Naturally, if she could choose, she would want her father back but we often have no control over the broken trust; we only have control over what we choose to do about it.

Learning how to balance out the pain with a lesson, gift or opportunity is one choice you can make that will improve your relationships as well as your mental health!

Can you think of the lesson, gift or opportunity that came from the last time you felt betrayed?