The following articles have been taken from: www.counselingforloss.com/
by Marianist Mission
So many people see in death nothing but a cruel separation from loved ones. Even good and religious people make that sad mistake. In death there is certainly the very real pain and sorrow of physical separation. But it is equally true that our loved ones remain with us. They do not just go off to some dark and distant place. They simply continue into eternal life. We do not see them because we are still in the darkness of this world. But their spiritual eyes, filled with the light of heaven, are always watching us as they wait for the day when we shall share their perfect joy. We are born for heaven and we end this life of tears to begin our life of endless happiness.
I have often reflected upon this beautiful truth and found it the greatest and surest comfort in time of mourning. A firm faith in the real and continual presence of our loved ones has brought the conviction and consolation that death has not destroyed them, nor carried them away. Rather it has given them life! A life with power to know fully and to love perfectly. With this new life and new power our loved ones are always present to us, knowing and loving us more than ever before. The tears that dampen our eyes in times of mourning are tears of homesickness, tears of longing for our loved ones. But it is we who are away from home, not they! Death has been for them a doorway to an eternal home. They are still with us, lovingly and tenderly waiting for the day when we, too, will enter the doorway of our eternal home. It is such a mistake to see death as separation and nothing more. For us who believe, death is a preparation for eternal union with those we love, in the peace and joy of heaven.
Joanie Overbeck - TLC Group, Dallas Texas
|"Making lemonade out of lemons" was an adage I had heard all of my life, but
until I was faced with what looked like the worst nightmare of my life, it really had no
meaning for me. Now, I can say that this phrase and the attitude it exudes helped me get
through one of the darkest hours of my life. The perspective invoked by this saying has
helped many resolve their grief in the most positive of ways, including myself.
On the same day in September, 1987, I delivered a stillborn baby and due to complications had a partial hysterectomy. I had no other children. I was lost and felt like my future had been erased. I had no idea what to do next. But, for some reason that old adage that I had to make lemonade out of lemons came to me. I didn't want these tragedies to defeat me, keep me down. I wanted to find a way to make these tragedies into something positive. And, fortunately an opportunity arose that allowed me to do just that.
A nurse in the labor and delivery department, that had been by our sides during some of the most crucial hours, asked me to be a part of a bereavement program for other parents. That program included talking with parents on the phone and a support group. I was able to be of some help to other parents and by being of some help to others, my husband's and my travail was not in vain. Our baby's short life became so meaningful. And, most of our "why's" were answered.
I no longer felt like a victim. I was a survivor. I might have stayed stuck in my grief if I hadn't had the opportunity to make something good out of a profoundly sad situation. "Making lemonade out of lemons" was the very best grief medicine for me as it has been for others.
Many, many people have chosen to "make lemonade out of lemons". And, because they did, the world is a far better and safer place. MADD was founded because Candy Lightner's daughter was killed. Many, many lives have been saved because of her efforts. Polly Klaas's father Marc has made a huge impact on child abuse laws. Nancy Brinker has raised money and awareness for breast cancer victims in memory of her sister through the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
The list is long. Most are just average citizens who woke up to a particular cause and the need for change. They took their grief and the memory of their loved one and decided to help others as a tribute to their loved one and as a way to deal constructively with their grief.
I cannot tell you when is the right time or what is the right way to "make lemonade out of your lemons", but I want to plant the seed because you, your loved ones and the world will be better off if you find a way to use the learning and compassion from your loss to help someone else. What a wonderful living tribute and memorial to your loved one.
(TLC Group grants anyone the right to use this information without compensation so long as the copy is not used for profit or as training materials in a profit making activity such as workshops, lectures, and seminars, and so long as this paragraph is retained in its entirety.)
Editorial - TLC Group, Dallas Texas
|Few concepts have insinuated themselves into the popular culture as thoroughly as the
so called "5 Stages of Grief": Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression,
Acceptance. We've heard it from professionals in all areas of the healthcare system (who
should know better) as well as from lay persons of all ages (who shouldn't). There is even
a lengthy comedy routine about it by Dustin Hoffman playing Lenny Bruce in the movie
Lenny. The time has now come to ditch it as the concept has done more harm than good. |
Three Common Myths about the 5 Stages:
All of the above points to a basic misunderstanding about what grief is to begin with so it's not surprising that myths continue to propagate. This is most likely because the pervasiveness and impact of grief wasn't really recognized by the psychological community until around the 1980s and even then it was slow in coming.
For example, in 1974 "The Handbook of Psychiatry" defined grief as "...the normal response to the loss of a loved one by death." Response to other kinds of losses were labeled "Pathological Depressive Reactions".
In 1984, Dr. Terese Rando---a noted grief specialist, researcher and author---defined grief as "...process of psychological, social and somatic reactions to the perception of loss".
In 1991, the Grief Resource Foundation of Dallas, Texas found that, for them, a good working and practical definition of Grief as "the total response of the organism to the process of change".
Today, in December 1996, we at TLC Group have come to accept the Grief Response as the Unified Field Theory of All Mental Illness (a subject of another Tip of The Month!)
Curiously, most non-grief specialists commonly accept the definition of grief given in 1974. So what is grief and what produces it? A helpful equation, which proves itself daily in all instances is: Change=Loss=Grief.
This means that:
So, are the 5 Stages without value? Not if they are used as originally intended, as The 5 Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News. One can even extrapolate to The 5 Stages of Coping With Trauma. Death need not be involved.
As an example, apply the 5 stages to a traumatic event most all of us have experienced: The Dead Battery! You're going to be late to work so you rush out to your car, place the key in the ignition and turn it on. You hear nothing but a grind; the battery is dead.
This is not a trivial example. In fact, we all go through this process numerous times a day. A dead battery, the loss of a parking space, a wrong number, the loss of a pet, a job, a move to another city, an overdrawn bank account, etc. Things to remember are:
It was mentioned above that Grieving only begins where the 5 Stages of "Grief" leave off. Grief professionals often use the concept of "Grief Work" to help the bereaved through grief resolution. One common definition of Grief Work is summarized by the acronym TEAR:
This is Grief Work. It begins when the honeymoon period is over, the friends have stopped calling, everyone thinks you should be over it, the court case is resolved, "closure" has been effected, and everything is supposed to be back to normal. It's at this point that real grieving begins.
Notice that the first step of Grief Work is ACCEPTANCE, the last stage of the 5 Stages of Grief. Let's throw out the 5 stages of grief and replace it with a greater understanding of Grief Recognition and Resolution.
Children And Grief
Families and the Grief Process
Kathleen Braza, M.A.
Grief and Your Health
|The loss of a child is a life-shattering experience. It affects us physically as well
as emotionally. The grief we experience is felt on an emotional level and the stress of these emotions can
create havoc with our bodies. If we had a physical illness before our child died our grief
can exacerbate the existing illness. It can also open the way for physical illness if we
have been previously healthy. Grief makes us susceptible to diseases such as the common
cold sore throats and other infections. Other diseases shown to be connected to the stress
of grief are ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis asthma heart disease and cancer. The
connection between the mind and body is not always recognized, but there is real
scientific evidence that what we think and feel has a direct effect on our biological
systems. This is an especially important issue for bereaved parents because the loss of a
child is the ultimate in stress and a stress that lasts so very long.
Bodies of all human beings (and animals alike) react to stress in basically the same manner. In 1944 Hans Selye a neurophysiologist formulated the three phases of stress reactions but it is only recently that scientists can identify with considerable accuracy what actually takes place. According to Selye the reaction to stress happens in three phases but for our purpose we will only discuss phase one.
The first phase or the "alarm reaction" occurs immediately on contact with the stressor (grief at the death of our child). At the death the brain "translates" the stress of grief into a chemical reaction in the body. The pituitary gland located at the base of the brain is stimulated to produce a hormone called adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH). This reaction is a "protective" one and in essence makes the body ready to do battle. The ACTH (from the pituitary gland) then travels to the adrenal gland, a gland at the top of the kidneys, which causes a chemical reaction which ultimately produces cortisone. As the cortisone level increases it causes the production of ACTH to level off. This circle of the building up of one chemical that stimulates the production of another chemical that "turns off " the original one is known as "biofeedback.".
What happens in the case of grief where the stress continues for many months' The biofeedback does not operate as it should. Because the stress is continuing, the production of ACTH is continuing thus causing the adrenal gland to produce more and more cortisone. The result is an abnormally high level of cortisone circulating in the blood sometimes exceeding ten to twenty times the normal levels.)
A high level of cortisone is one of the things that causes our immune system (the system that normally tights off disease carrying bacteria fungi and viruses) to falter. The high level of cortisone affects yet another gland the thalamus which manufactures the white cells of our blood. With the thalamus not functioning properly It cannot produce white cells that are effective. Those white cells normally locate and phagocytize (eat up) the invading germs. viral particles or even pre-cancerous cells. Thus with the white cells unable to function properly the individual is 100% more susceptible to the most common germs.
Of course this is an over simplified description of the chemistry of stress but knowing that there is a legitimate reason for susceptibility to illness during grief encourages us to take preventive measures. Knowledge that changes in eating habits; problems with sleeping: restlessness; lack of physical energy; and various other manifestations, are a normal part of the grieving process will lessen the stress to some extent. Another way to lessen the stress and probably the most helpful is to acknowledge and appropriately express the emotions that we feel during grief. These measures can considerably decrease the potential for illness to develop because it displaces and releases the tension brought on by the stress of grief. And certainly good nutrition exercise and proper rest are essential preventive measures.
Another point to consider too is that the stress of grief is rarefy the only stress we are experiencing at the time of our child's death. Problems in our marriage or with our surviving children are only two examples of the other stresses that may be added to the stress of grief. Put a number of stresses together and our bodies will surely suffer.
We must be very aware that our child's death and the resultant grief is a legitimate reason for physical illness. We must do whatever we can to lessen our susceptibility. Heading directly into our grief and allowing ourselves to face our painful emotions is the most helpful thing we can do. Talking about our child and the circumstances of the death crying when we need to and talking with someone who will listen non-judgmentally to our anger and guilt is the only way to successfully resolve our griefand ultimately resolve the stress that is caused by the grief.
The majority of bereaved parents experience some kind of physical illness in the first four to six months after the death of their child. For most the illness can be directly tied into the extreme stress of their child's death. I know it is hard to be concerned about yourself physically when you hurt so badly emotionally. but remember you will not always be in this emotional pain. Remember too if you have damaged your body in the early months of grief you run the risk of never completely recovering from the physical illnessand recovery for bereaved parents means recovery in body as well as mind.
By Joanie Overbeck - TLC Group, Dallas Texas
|Contrary to popular belief and advertisers, the holidays are not a time everyone looks
forward to. If you have lost someone through death or divorce or lost your home, your job
or your dreams or relocated or..., this holiday season may be dreaded. You may wish you
could just snap your fingers and it would be January.
Even though no one can take away your pain or struggle, there are things to do that will make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable. One of the most difficult aspects of traumatic change is loss of control which leads to feelings of instability and insecurity. By implementing the following, you can begin to regain control and take some very positive steps toward loss recovery.
Let Your Needs be Known
Develop One or More Coping Techniques
Watch Your Physical Health
Resolve to Use Your Learning to Help Someone Else
TLC Group grants anyone the right to use this information without compensation so long as the copy is not used for profit or as training materials in a profit making activity such as workshops, lectures, and seminars, and so long as this paragraph is retained in its entirety.
Rules of Grief Etiquette
by Joan Rudnicki
|I am the mother of four children. My daughter, Jean, is a fifth-grader; my son,
Stephen, is a first-grader; my son, Christopher, is almost two; and my oldest child,
Ellen, died of a brain tumor four years ago. If Ellen had lived, she would be an
eighth-grader at Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois.
I am not a grief professional; I am a bereaved person, and I count myself the friend of scores of bereaved people. Most of these people have lost children, but some have lost spouses, parents or dear friends or other relatives.
In the four years since Ellen died, I have attended more than one hundred grief support group meetings, so I am confident that I speak for many bereaved people when I offer what I call the "Rules of Etiquette to Help Those in Grief." If you are like I was before my daughter died, you probably are familiar with some, but not all, of these "rules."
Before my daughter died, I wasn't sure how to help people who had suffered a loss. From somewhere - probably my mom I thought that writing a condolence letter was a good idea, so sometimes I did that. But if I couldn't think of the right words, I didn't write the letter at all. I didn't always avoid bereaved people. But if I thought they didn't see me (say, at the grocery store), I did avoid them. Usually I was relieved if I didn't have to interact with them too much until enough time had passed and it looked like they were "over it.,'
In my heart, I knew I wasn't helping them much. But on the other hand, I was sure I wasn't hurting them. I knew I never said the wrong thing, because I used our conversations to distract them from their grief. I never spoke about the person who died - after all, what would I do if the bereaved person started to cry? So I chatted about the weather, or redecorating the house or where we went on vacation, etc.
When Ellen died, I learned the hard way that even with the best intentions this way of dealing with bereaved people is unsupportive -perhaps even hurtful. Unless a person who is trying to be comforting has experienced a similar loss themselves, they generally need to be told what to do to give the help that is needed. Our culture often does not prepare us to interact in a supportive way with those who are struggling to cope with the death of a loved one. Therefore, I would like to share the following "rules of grief etiquette."
Do this whether the death occurred ten days, ten months or ten years ago. People die, but our love never dies. Let me say it again, love never dies. That is what grief and mourning are all about. We have to find constructive ways to deal with all of that love for someone who is no longer here to receive it. I love Ellen today, four years after her death, as much as the day she was born. I fell in love with her that day and my love for her will never die.
If you knew the person who died, please share your memories. If you think a father would have loved to have seen his daughter make that great soccer play, tell his widow. If you didn't know the person who died, ask about him or her. What was his favorite color; what did she like to do on a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon?
If you don't talk about the person who died, it is as if he or she never lived at all, and that is even worse than the death. A bereaved father I know told me that when his family and friends refuse to talk about his absent son, it is as if his beloved child had been killed all over again.
A caveat to this rule is to ask the bereaved person if this is a good time to recount a memory. You might say, "You know, I just remembered something about (use the name of the loved one)." Or, "I would like to ask you something about your (wife! husband! dad! mom! child! sibling ...). Is this a good time for you to hear it?" If the answer is no, stop there. But ask them again a few days or weeks later. At some point, the bereaved persons will be not only ready, but very grateful for your gift of remembrance. Nothing brings me more joy than hearing a memory someone shares about Ellen.
Another caveat: When you talk about the person who died, your worst fears might come true and the bereaved person might cry, but those tears are good and very healing. You can look at those tears in a positive light. I once came across a list of about ten milestones for a bereaved person that lets that person know that he or she is making progress on the journey of grief. All of those milestones began with the phrase: You know you're feeling better when ..." One of the milestones is, "You know you're feeling better when you can say your loved one's name or tell a story about your loved one and not cry.
This milestone does not happen magically at some point in time. We no longer cry when we hear something that used to make us cry because we have finally told our story enough to take the raw, stinging pain out of it. How many times each of us has to tell the story before we can do it without crying is unique for each one. Some bereaved people seldom cry when talking about the person who died; some cry every time for years.
Say, "I'm sorry," or "I wish you didn't have to feel so much pain," or "I don't know what to say, but I really care."--you feel as if you've already said the wrong thing, acknowledge it, but don't change the subject to cover it up.
Allow the survivor to talk. Say, "I don't know what your loss is like, but if you want to tell me about it, I would like to listen." If the bereaved person doesn't want to talk, wait and ask again another day. Keep making it clear that you want to listen. Ask again and again even years later. Because love never dies, the pain from the loss never totally disappears. The deep, sharp pain of new grief does change. It becomes less intense, less overwhelming. With adequate support, the bereaved person will be able to manage the pain instead of being at the mercy of it.
Some potentially difficult times are holidays, the change of seasons, the absent one's birthday, wedding anniversaries and, of course, the anniversary of the day the person died. Don't ignore these special and significant times. If you know the survivor(s) well, ask how you can help them on those days. If you don't know them well, send a card and/or write a note telling them you are thinking of them, as well as of the person who died. It is always appropriate to write down a memory and give it to the family. You don't have to wait for a holiday to do so.
Also, remind the family of memories they have shared with you. Many bereaved people are fearful that their memories will fade away, so writing them down is a marvelous gift. You could use a holiday as an occasion to send any family pictures of the loved one that you might have. Do something in memory of the deceased (such as donating money or time to charity, buying a book on a subject they care about and donating it to the library, or planting a tree or garden) and tell the family about it. Let the family know that their loved one has a place in your life, too, and that you will never forget them or their loved one.
If you always invited them before, keep doing it. In your invitation, make it clear that you are aware that it might be hard for them to accept. Ask if you can do anything to make it easier for them. Ask if lighting a candle at a dinner party to represent the beloved person would be comforting.
Reassure the bereaved that you will not be hurt if they decline, but don't pre-decide for them that an occasion would be too difficult for them. Let them decide for themselves. If they decline, respect their decision, but don't stop inviting them. What is too difficult to do at two months might become do-able at eight months.
Remember that love never dies, and the residual pain will never totally disappear. Last spring, I was at a PTA meeting where some moms were casually chatting about how difficult it was to schedule parent-teacher conferences when you have children at two schools. No one there seemed aware of the fact that I would love to have had their troubles. I was sad, angry and totally distanced from everyone in the room. It isn't that I didn't want them to talk about their children I just wanted to tell them, "If you do think of my loss, don't change the subject or ignore me. Acknowledge that the conversation made you think of Ellen, and you were wondering if I was thinking of her, too. Acknowledging my pain always causes it to melt away.
by Elizabeth Cross McDonald
|This summer I survived the two most devastating realities I have experienced since my
father's death in 1980. The first was anguishing in its inevitability: my 31 year old
brother's death from the cancer that stalked him for seven years. The second was worsened
by its utter uselessness and avoidability: the deliberate way virtually every friend and
acquaintance, save my very closest, has avoided and ignored me during this time of grief.
I do not believe that those who knew about Al's death did not worry about me and my family. It is likely that many were concerned. But I know that most of my friends are young, and have not yet had a close family member die. Death is scary or unreal, and few can envision themselves in the position I have been in twice. In a word, they are ignorant about my feelings and how to react to them.
A few of the braver approached me with hearty, superficial greetings that suggested my absence but not its cause: "Well hello, nice to see you back" or "So school's about to start, are you ready?" This was, for all its well meaning, very painful for me. I felt these people were using trivialities as a way of saying, "These things are more important than his death, and I'm more concerned about today's weather than how terrible you feel." With uneasy smiles on their faces, these people made me feel like a fool.
To a few, I said, "Perhaps you didn't know my brother died." The response was a muffled, "Oh, yes... I'm sorry." I stopped volunteering this information: it was awful to realize that these people, through all the banality, knew about Albert, and said nothing. Some people undoubtedly kept silent in the hopes that I would approach them to talk and they could then be duly supportive. This was a gross error of judgment. I needed to have friends voluntarily open their hearts in sympathy, as I was feeling vulnerable and afraid that those I turned to might turn me away. To me, the silence said, "Leave me alone, I don't care."
Still others made efforts to engage me in conversation, as long as I was able to be cheerful and not talk about Albert. To these people, my casual comment like, "Oh, I remember when Albert and I visited that person" was nervously ignored and met by an embarrassed silence. I needed to be able to remember my brother reflectively, without self-consciousness or shame. And even close friends could not understand that waves of grief, anger and depression affected me in ways I myself could not understand. How I needed their patience and support, their faith that I was angry at Death, and not at them.
My grief is now settling into the long depression that is a necessary step to healing. But every week, people on campus - maybe your friend or roommate - also face the unthinkable tragedy in a place where youth can lead people to feel immortal. These people need your support, and it's not hard to give it to them. If someone you know, whether closely or just vaguely, is bereaved, please don't be shy or afraid. Take the initiative, walk up, look into his or her eyes and say, "I am so sorry to hear about the death." (Only one person did this to me. Though I was not particularly close to him, his generosity moved me to tears.)
You need not give your philosophy on tragedy in life or your favorite remedy for depression. The bereaved person does not expect or want this. And if you consider yourself to be a close friend of the bereaved person, now is your chance to prove it. Listening - not avoiding the bereaved's sadness or being afraid to have the friend cry to you - is essential. If your friend does cry, consider yourself lucky that he or she is comfortable enough to share these deep emotions with you.
And don't try to stop the tears - they are also a step to healing and must flow freely. If you feel anger or hostility directed at you, take comfort that anger and grief are interconnected. The friend is not angry at you, it is simply his desperate attempt to justify or focus the waves of anger and desolation that surge uncontrollably through him.
If the bereaved are surrounded by people who care, the grieving process is made less bitter and devastating. Yet caring and concern for your friend is meaningless unless you directly tell her that you do care. I understand that Dad and Albert had no intention of abandoning me, that they left me through no power of their own. The intentions of my silent friends are much less clear. Remember this: Just say, "I heard, and I'm sorry."
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