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!

literature, Mental health

Deskraven Book Series: No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One

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A Deskraven Book Review

“On December 16, 1989, my husband had been unable to survive a similarly harsh winter, killing himself in the waning light of a late Saturday afternoon. My once-familiar world exploded with his suicide; in an instant, the life we had built together during our marriage of twenty-one years ended, without discussion or time for goodbyes.”

Page 5, Paragraph 2

When I first spotted Carla Fine’s No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One (1997) in the psych section of Barnes&Noble, I scoffed in disbelief. After all, how could anyone possibly articulate what suicide does to the human condition? I found this to be an important question, and one that inevitably lead to an answer. As a survivor of suicide and of close kin to mental illness, the literature was deeply aligned with my own heart. Because of this, it took me an exceptionally long while to navigate its 224 pages. I found myself walking away in ten page intervals with shock, anger and moments of clarity. While the pathology of suicide is a common topic on my bookshelf, I was surprised and enlightened by Fine’s emotional approach and generous helping of real personal development. I found her work to be in high contrast to the cold clinical literature I often find myself reading. Rather than checking those rigid question boxes, Fine walks us gently through the bizarre and often senseless grief suicide can bring while offering tangible solutions. This collaborative narrative offers long overdo validation while prioritizing the phenomenon of post-traumatic growth through shared loss. It was remarkably difficult to find more information on this author, but you can learn more about her work and speaking engagements by visiting her website.

CONTENTS

PART ONE: INTRODUCTION

1. Letting Go of Silence

PART TWO: THE SUICIDE

2. The World Explodes

3. The Initial Impact

4. The Final Farewell

5. The Stigma

PART THREE: THE AFTERMATH

6. The Blame and Guilt: Searching for the Whys

7. The Helplessness: Haunted by the What-Ifs

8. The Roller Coaster of Emotions

9. Legal and Financial Problems

PART FOUR: THE SURVIVAL

10. Beginning the Mourning

11. Effect on Families

12. Getting Help

13. The Public Suicide

14. Long-term Effects

15. Forgiving Them/Forgiving Ourselves

PART FIVE: AFTERWORD

16. Making Sense of the Chaos

PART SIX: RESOURCES

17. Organization and Resource Material

18. Support Groups for Survivors

19. Bibliography

PRAISE FOR NO TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

“I know of no other work on this subject that is so comprehensive and rich in exposition…a work of hope and great love for those who have killed themselves and those whom they leave behind. This is a must-read for all psychiatrists and their patients.”

-Michael F. Myers, M.D., American Journal of Psychiatry

“Powerful…vividly honest…offers hope in its summary of predictable patterns of adjustment.”

-Library Journal

“Our society’s inability to deal with suicide and survivors is articulated in a way that will benefit all…Perhaps if everyone could read this book, the suicide rate and our social inappropriateness to survivors would change.”

-Frank Campbell, President, American Association of Suicidology

FINAL THOUGHTS

The variables of suicide are dissimilar than that of a natural death. Thus, the psychological experience of grief is altered significantly and demands careful attention. Providing a message of wisdom and hope, No Time to Say Goodbye is an excellent tool for those of us still grappling in the dark. Due to the social stigma and isolation of suicide I thought it especially important to share this work. May it push you to ask those difficult self-seeking questions, and restructure your thinking on the lives of those who are touched by the untimely loss of a loved one.

VISIT OTHER DESKRAVEN BOOK REVIEWS

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog – and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

Prozac Nation

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE IS IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE IN CRISIS INTERVENTION PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

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**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

PTSD: How to Cope With Body Memories

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Dear Readers,

Someone reached out to me last Spring and asked if I knew anything on the topic of body memories. I didn’t, so I did some digging. What I found was an explanation for staggering bodily sensations that can result from trauma.

Put simply, most people associate memory with the brain. Even though science does not fully back this phenomena just yet, there remains a number of people who describe the debilitating weight of the physical anguish of an emotional or psychological condition. Perhaps most pervasive is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This disorder typically manifests itself after an individual experiences any traumatic event where their fight-or-flight response is provoked such as war-related combat, abuse, sexual assault, mental illness, loss of a loved one, or being close to someone in a traumatic situation. PTSD is characterized by reliving the trauma through flashbacks or memories, avoidance of similar situations or stimuli that may trigger or mimic recollection of the event, nightmares, behavioral changes, mood swings, guilt, insomnia, memory loss and isolation.

In some cases, body memories can last despite cognitive memory loss of the traumatic event. Designed to protect us, our bodies can certainly grieve harmful circumstances while our mind simply exits, or dissociates from, the situation. As a result, our ability to be intimate or affectionate with others is highly altered from our typical reactions. Often lacking conscious awareness, our relationships suffer greatly due to the inability to acknowledge or explain what is happening.

PTSD is a condition that I personally live with. In my case, for example, body memories may explain why I have jump reactions to my environment, hyper-peripheral vision, or knee-jerk reflexes when someone is trying to be intimate with me. This has improved through therapeutic practice, trust and logic. However, at its pique, this inability to tolerate touch, louder than reasonable sounds (breaking glass specifically), or even leave the house really took a toll on my partner. It might also explain why we may feel the same way around a certain time each year.

Healthy Place offers more information regarding how to cope with this.

From the above referenced article by Jami Deloe:

“Dealing With Body Memories in PTSD Recovery

There are things that I can do to deal with what my body is feeling (Relieve Symptoms of PTSD: Allow Your Body To Shake). These are the things that help me get through the tough times with body memories in PTSD recovery:

Allow myself to feel the feeling. This isn’t easy. My first inclination when I am feeling a negative emotion is to shut it down, or stuff it away. I’ve learned that denying the emotion isn’t a healthy way to deal with unwanted feelings. Ignoring or avoiding the feelings is like putting a band-aid on a severed limb, it won’t work. The feelings will fester and bubble up until they are properly dealt with. 

Pay special attention to self-care. When I am dealing with any PTSD symptom, I have to remember to take care of myself. This means eating when I’m hungry, sleeping when I’m tired, and doing things that make me feel better. Sometimes just allowing myself to relax and do nothing is what is best for me — the laundry can wait.

Talk to someone about it. While my tendency is to isolate, I know that if I express how I am feeling to someone else, it lessens the power that the negative feelings have over me.

Tell myself the truth. Telling myself the truth is vital. Whether I am having a flashback, body memory, or just thinking about my traumas, I have to remind myself that I have survived and I’m no longer in that situation. It sounds simple, but it is profound in healing from PTSD to remember that no matter how devastating the trauma was, it’s over, and I survived.

Body memories, like every other PTSD symptom, can be healed. It takes a lot of self-awareness, a little bit of willingness and being honest with yourself, but it can be done.”

Do you experience body memories associated with PTSD? Please share your insights in the comment section below.

**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!

Uncategorized

High Functioning: When Depression Gets Dressed in the Morning

Dear Readers,

As some of you may remember, back in 2015 I completed a 15-week Virtual Internship on an emotional support forum called 7 Cups of Tea. This afforded me the opportunity to mentor Members and Listeners through a peer-to-peer support model on all things mental health on an online platform.

(Excellent resource! If you would like additional information on this free therapeutic cyber-space, please visit the link or comment below.)

During this time I was also in mental health recovery myself, and took the time to share some of my personal experiences. Among them, was the epiphany of what it means to be “high-functioning” when you have a mental health condition, which directly lead me to the topic of outward appearances and the stigma so many face.

While preparing for my fifth psychiatric appointment, which took each and every one of my spoons at the time, I emerged showered, dressed, haired, and make-up-ed. My then-husband took one look at me and said,

“You look way too put together to be crazy. You should go in pajamas and slept on makeup.”

While dismissing my anger, my mind became illuminated and preoccupied by the visual representation of mental illness in society.

It’s true. More often than not it is messy. We are so quick to assume the homeless passer-by or eccentric widow must certainly be succumbing to some episodic behavior of the depraved and diagnosed. And yet- who is accounting for the high-functioning mentally ill, or those who may find themselves blissfully twirling through a period of normalcy?

What of those who protect their self-worth, fighting to emerge from the infamous blanket tower or the voluminous scribbling of unrealistic ideas?

What of those who are somehow able to stand on two legs long enough to advocate for their children, even though a bottomless storm is creeping beneath?

What of those who attempt to meditate with psychosis ringing in their ears?

What of those who experience mania in a not altogether euphoric religion or productive frenzy?

Most importantly, what are the consequences of this strength?

Natasha Tracy illustrates,

“So yes. I’m capable. I’m talented. I work hard. I produce stuff. Yay me. But the price I pay for that is not being able to be anything else.”

From “High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder” featured on America’s Mental Health Channel.

So, the next time you jump to judge someone’s capacity you might stop and instead consider the truths we all contend with. Consider the chronic pain manifested by depression, the smile of a co-worker, or the family crisis on line three.

EVERYONE has mental health. The true mastery is in balancing the chaos with enough self-care to allow yourself to function.

Just because you can pay your bills on time, doesn’t mean you’re any less sad than Susie-Q over there. Just because the voices in your head encourage you to swim in the ocean, doesn’t mean you can’t run your own business.

**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!