Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 38: The 7 Stages of Grief & 7 Ways You Can Help

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.”― José N. Harris, MI VIDA: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love

Dear Readers,

First and foremost, I have noticed a big boom in my stats so let me take a moment to thank each and every one of you for your readership. This blog has never been about exposure, fortune or fame. I write because my heart tells me to in hopes of reaching those in need. Also, because there is catharsis for me in the telling.

There is no textbook on how to cope when someone we love dies. To be certain it is differnt for everyone based on the circumstances. Likewise, as we move through these stages it is important to remember that not everyone experiences the same order or frequency. Having been through a great deal of it, I am a firm believer that grief is a great equalizer of the human condition. Indeed, every single one of us will encounter a significant loss in our lifetime which begs the question, why don’t we talk about it more often? You may have heard of the five or seven stages of grief. So, what are they?

1. Shock & Denial:

The initial blow of meaningful loss often leaves us feeling shaken. Our brain has many mechanisms designed to protect us from trauma, and these are part of that structure. Shock and denial may leave you feeling numb or disassociated from your circumstances.

2. Pain & Guilt:

Similar to a physical injury, the shock phase will dissipate and leave you in a state of excruciating mental and emotional anguish. It is crucial that you allow yourself to feel and move through this pain without numbing yourself with drugs or alcohol. Be sure to avoid that awful temptation to suppress as this will most likely extend your grief process. I promise you it will surface, maybe even when you least expect it, so I encourage you to manage it to the best of your ability in the safety and privacy of your own home. You may feel overcome by guilt as you try to rationalize your actions or inactions during an often uncertain and terrifying time.

3. Anger & Bargaining:

Grief can quickly give way to frustration leaving you with a strong and often scary sense of righteous anger. You may cast blame where it is unwarranted or find yourself exceptionally irritable. Do try to be mindful not to direct your anger toward those closest to you as this may have lasting effects on your relationships. You may also question the cosmos asking an endless list of “whys?” and “what ifs?” You may find yourself secretly willing to give up lifestyle choices if only it would bring your loved one back.

4. Depression, Reflection & Loneliness:

It is highly likely that the pain of grief will be the most searing agony you have ever experienced and will leave you feeling especially drained. When you are moving through depression you are beginning to process the magnitude of your loss. You may find yourself keeping your loved one alive by sharing memories. Reflection is a normal part of the grieving process so while I encourage you to be gentle with your friends and loved ones during this time, do not let them invalidate you. Remember, the stages of grief come and go in waves. They may cycle out of order and/or repeat for some time following a loss. You may feel deeply isolated and alone during this time as human psychology remains a solitary experience that can never truly be shared, even with those who love and understand you most of all.

5. The Upward Turn:

As you begin to adjust to your loss you may find yourself slowly returning to your routines with a sense of calm. When discussing grief with others I often point out that while you can certainly heal and move on with your life, loss – especially untimely or violent loss – will leave you forever changed. While our wounds may heal, our scars run deep and we simply learn to carry the pain because we are faced with no other choice. During this phase your depression may begin to lift slightly.

6. Reconstruction & Working Through:

As your functionality returns, you will find yourself more geared up for problem solving and practical solutions to your new normal. Often times these are things we can control when life seems hopelessly chaotic like finances, planning or logistics.

7. Acceptance & Hope:

During this last phase of grief you will come to accept the reality of your loss. Acceptance does not equate instant joy or happiness. It simply means that when your turmoil lessens, you will again be able to function properly and remember your loved one with a peaceful sadness rather than gut-wrenching sorrow. Another hallmark of this phase is planning for the future. Bear in mind that moving forward does not mean you love your lost one any less.

There is power in knowledge. Similar to a diagnosis, understanding what you or a loved one is going through during a time of great tragedy can offer relief, aid us in moving through loss without getting stuck, and restore some lost sense of ability. So now that you’re aware that everything you may be feeling is completely normal and will come to pass, what can you do if you are the partner of someone who is grieving? PsychCentral offers 7 Tips for Supporting Your Partner After a Devastating Loss:

1. Commiserate.

This can be a surprisingly difficult thing to do. When your partner starts talking about all of the negative emotions they’re feeling, your instinct will be to jump in and say “Hey, everything is actually GREAT!” But that doesn’t solve anything and it can make your partner feel like you’re not validating what they’re going through.

But there’s an easy solution. Two easy words that make everything better – “That sucks.”

When your partner is grieving, sometimes, they just need you to acknowledge their pain and loss. So you just nod and say “That sucks,” and, at the least, they’ll know that you’re hearing them.

2. Recognize That You Can’t Fix Everything.

This goes hand-in-hand with #1. Commiserating is important, but it’s also important that you don’t try to project plan your partner to death.

If they’re overcome by pain, it’s not always constructive to say “We can fix this. We can make this better. This is what we can do.”

They just have to live through the bad parts – there’s not normally an easy solution to grief.

While your intentions are admirable, just remember that not everything can be fixed. Occasionally, you just have to endure the bad stuff until the hurt goes away.

3. Hold Their Hand.

It’s a simple act, but it can mean so much. Just sit with your partner. Touch them. Hold them. Put their hand in yours.

Let them know that you’re there for them without ever saying a word. Because sometimes they don’t need to hear words.

They just need to feel the warm body of someone who loves them sitting by their side.

4. Run Interference For Them.

Does your girlfriend’s mom stress her out? When her mom calls, tell her that her daughter is already asleep and you chat with her on the phone for an hour.

Basically, if your partner is struggling with loss, make it your job to reduce the stress in their lives anyway you can.

You know the things that stress them out. Throw yourself in front of those stress bullets and take a few for the person you love.

5. Ask If They Want To Talk About It.

And, if they say “No.” listen to them.

Check in from time-to-time to see if they feel like talking, but, if they don’t, you should NOT press the issue.

Offer yourself as a sounding board if they need it and, if they don’t need or want it, don’t get offended. It’s about them, not you.

6. Pick Up The Slack.

Your partner needs space to grieve and, when they’re suffering, every minor little everyday detail can feel like an intrusion, like something massively unimportant that’s trying to draw focus away from the pain, which, in turn, just makes the pain more painful.

If possible, do whatever you can to reduce the number of things they have to worry about in a day.

Do the laundry, make dinners more often than you normally would, troubleshoot minor household inconveniences without them.

Don’t make a show of it. You’re not looking for a pat on he back for being the best girlfriend ever. You’re trying to make them hurt less. So keep your extra effort on the downlow and give your partner more bandwidth to deal with their pain.

7. Love Them.

Duh, right? But it means a lot. It means everything.

Just find quiet moments to reaffirm to your partner that you really, truly love them.

It can make a huge difference.

Show them that you love them (and tell them too) and maybe they’ll remember that the world isn’t all pain and misery, which is pretty much the best thing you can do for them in that situation.

Have you ever lost someone close to you? What helped you the most?

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 35: Anger is Actually Sadness

Anger is one letter short of danger. “ -Eleanor Roosevelt

Dear Readers,

In a society that encourages violence and diminishes heartfelt feelings, it is no wonder that most people forget to remember anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is our psychological kevlar. It is there to protect us from emotional anguish and discomfort, as well as to communicate with others in a social setting. Anger is necessary, but what I’m curious about is what people are doing to detect and manage their primary emotions in a way that is constructive.

Anger, while useful, can often derail and distract from the heart of the matter. When managed poorly, it can even cause more harm than good. So I asked myself, why on earth are we skipping the acknowledgement step?

The truth is, no one likes to be vulnerable. So rather than speak up and say those measly but meaningful sentences, we explode. Why is it so hard to say, “You hurt me.” or “I’m sorry.” Why is it easier to fling into a rage that will escalate your vitals, often leaving you feeling drained or embarrassed? I once heard anger described as the bodyguard to sadness. Perhaps too many of us are unwilling or unable to articulate our grief, and so we cling to anger because despite the physical discomfort, it remains an emotional sidestep.

I have struggled with depression most of my life. So often my symptoms manifested as anger or irritability, but I never made the distinction. All I knew for certain was I wanted to be sad in peace, and something as small as daily obligation would send me into a fit of frustration. Likewise, when confronted by the harsh words of friends and lovers, I was extremely defensive. I would deny, almost to the point of delusion. I would accuse and avoid to dodge the pain of an honest conversation. I’m not proud of this, but the truth is it taught me a few things.

1.) The ability to empathize with yourself is invaluable.

Often times we forget that the seat of all our relationships begins with the one we have with ourself. Much of my formative years in therapy involved developing my inner dialogue away from criticism and contempt toward self love. Think about it, what kinds of things are you saying to yourself on a daily basis? If you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with others. Most importantly, the ability to comfort yourself alleviates that need from your friends and family who may go to frantic efforts to do so.

2.) It’s okay to be vulnerable.

As members of a pull-up-your-bootstraps society, you may find that others may be denying or dismissive when it comes to heartfelt subject matter. I encourage you not to let their discomfort be your own. These moments can teach us a great deal about ourselves if we actually address them instead of suppress them. When I find myself in these types of situations, I try to imagine the worst case scenario. Then I ask myself if I can live with that outcome. In most cases I can, therefore, I have nothing to lose in being vulnerable with others. The truth is, I have gained a great deal of healing and wisdom in these moments of genuine companionship. Scientific research continues to support the fact that we are social creatures, and a sense of connection to our community alleviates distress. The key is finding those who are worth suffering for.

3.) Accountability starts with communication.

Taking ownership of our emotions and the way others treat us is not always easy. However, the consequence of not doing so seems to be much greater. If you make a mistake, apologize. If you are wrong, say so. If someone hurts you, let them know. If someone tells you you are hurting them, modify your behavior. Communication seems like the simplest road to resolution, and yet we avoid it because it makes us vulnerable. Scroll back up if you still need help with that.

Most of us know by now that anger is a surface emotion, but it’s the knitty gritty of what’s underneath that is truly the most rewarding self work you can do. Next time you get angry, ask yourself why. Perhaps you’re struggling with fear, depression or inadequacy. Perhaps you deny, attack, and avoid because it’s just too painful. Perhaps you’re hungry, tired or lonely. Perhaps you’re like me, and you get angry the moment you feel like you’re stretching yourself too thin.

If you want to see improvement in your relationships and overall happiness, it begins with your sense of self. Ask yourself, do you know how to comfort yourself without behaving impulsively or unfairly burdening others? When was the last time you were truly vulnerable with someone? Are you communicating your needs to others, and responding to theirs in a mature and constructive way?

The truth is, anger is often sadness – we just don’t know it yet. While anger can be a useful vehicle, it requires a great deal of practice, self awareness, and willingness to change to truly examine and manage the whys. It’s not easy, but that which is truly worth it seldom ever is.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 30: Today My Son Was Diagnosed

Dear Readers, Today, I fell to tears on my way home from work after a losing sleep battle at 5am, chronic pain, and the challenge of another trying day for my son. Today, Zachary was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Today, I grieve for my son; for the way things will always be harder for him, for the way he can not yet apply insight toward his behavior, for the friends and caregivers who will misunderstand him and unwittingly make things worse, for the way he covers his ears when noises are too loud, for the way his IQ soars but his social life suffers, for the way I fiercely attempt to guard his self-esteem, for the way I fear I wont be vigilant enough, for those who will and do pressure us into difficult decisions, for the way he severely grapples to regulate his emotions, for the songs he sings that so many will mishear, for the constant redirection of a conformist society, for the way his intelligence will always lend itself to his awareness that he is different. If you don’t believe in these diagnoses, do me a favor and keep your opinion to yourself. I can assure you our pain as a family is very real, but it is not unattended. Zachary has received hundreds of hours of counseling, various therapies, behavior intervention plans, the benefits of countless round table committee meetings by his cheerleaders, and accommodations as his progression and challenges fluctuate. For now, I will have to rest in the years of education and instinct I have invested in. I will have to rest in the competence of the team, physicians, teachers and loving family that surround him. For now, I will have to rest in the knowledge that even when I am imperfect, I am enough. Final Summation: The ability to comfort yourself is invaluable. **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health

Ugly Truth 007: Psychomotor Agitation Hurts

Psychomotor agitation is an increase in purposeless physical activity often associated with depressive and manic episodes of bipolar disorder. It’s a classic symptom that most people readily associate with mania: restlessness, pacing, tapping fingers, dashing about meaninglessly, or abruptly starting and stopping tasks. While psychomotor agitation can take many forms and vary in severity, it is an indication of a mental tension that cannot be managed and one that manifests physically with frenetic activity. – Marcia Purse, VeryWell Mind Good Evening Readers, Welcome back to 100 ugly truths about mental health! Last night I began to sink after I triggered myself while reading some old writings. Suddenly I was flung into the flashbacks of the memories I was revisiting. The walls around me soon fell away and I found myself off the ground. I reached for my loved ones in attempt to take my own advice. I flailed while trying to remember my coping skills, but I was just no match for my slipping mood. It wasn’t long before I jumped to distraction, whirling through my nightly routine without ever actually accomplishing anything. I was spinning, frantic, agitated and growing angrier with each passing moment. What was happening to me? When you’re diagnosed with a mental health condition it provokes a sort of self examination. It is a natural response to want to peel away the dysfunction from your personality. I crave understanding and logic when faced with the mystery of madness, so I excused myself for a breath of fresh air after confessing to my partner that I was unwell. It never takes Google long to come up with an explanation, and there it was, psychomotor agitation. This symptom is generally associated with mood disorders, PTSD, and anxiety. Similar to the relationship between panic attacks and fear, psychomotor agitation is a physical manifestation of internal events. The truth is if you or your loved ones don’t have the insight to spot this, you may not understand why you feel the way you do. Fortunately, because this symptom is physical it doesn’t take long for other people to notice. My partner will often point out that my face is changing and I’m not quite myself. My eyebrows will furrow, my lips will purse, and I commonly catch myself in an angry cleaning frenzy. As indicated above, abruptly starting and stopping tasks is a hallmark of this frenetic energy. It can be very draining, damaging even, causing you to act unlike yourself and possibly hurting others in your path. The truth is this is something I’ve only recently started working on. Mindfulness is a lifestyle people use for many reasons, but the practice of self awareness is key when managing mental illness. You have to hold yourself accountable if meaningful change is ever going to happen. This agitation carried over into my morning and I was filled with regret when I was unable to process the loud clangings of my 7 year old. Ultimately, I couldn’t shake it on my own and turned to medication. Relationships are often a social tool. They are extensions and reflections of ourselves. When I lived alone I had a very hard time with symptom management because I didn’t have an informing audience. The truth is, sometimes it takes an exterior observation to see more clearly. Insofar, isolation has been my most powerful coping skill when agitation occurs. Isolation is often seen as a maladaptive behavior, but under these circumstances it is a useful way to decompress and protect loved ones from your irrational anger. How do you cope with agitation? Have friends or loved ones ever pointed out your strange behavior? This evening, I challenge you to quiet your defense mechanisms and be receptive to the truth. **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!