Posts in Healing from tragedy
Coping with Grief & Loss
grief and loss after divorce

A large part of my job is hearing of the struggles and losses of others and helping them heal and overcome those losses. Part of that healing comes from understanding what is normal and to be expected in certain situations.

I feel as though I am personally in a season of loss, and haven’t gone more than a few weeks without hearing of someone I care about losing a loved one. Grief is thick and strong and whether it is grief that comes from the loss of a relationship, or the loss of someone to illness or tragedy, it has varying shades, and the stages are the same.

I have been asked how I can help others if I haven’t experienced the situations that they are going through, and my answer is always the same: no two people experience the same thing in the same way, however I have experienced the emotions that come along with the different situations that I help others through.

I know sadness, loss, pain, and grief, and I also know joy, love, happiness, and connection. The other answer I typically give when posed with this question is: You don’t see cancer doctor because they’ve also had cancer, but you see them because they understand the science and steps that will help you heal.

No one can know exactly what a loss may look and feel like for you, however there are 5 common stages of grief that have been outlined and studied by Swiss Psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross that are well known and used by many helpers and healers and understanding where you are in terms of these stages helps normalize the situation and know what to expect. The common acronym for the 5 stages is, DABDA:

1.     Denial: in the face of a loss, the first reaction is denial that this could possibly happen. Denial is, “this isn’t happening,” “this can’t be happening,” “there must be some sort of misunderstanding or mistake,” “we can fix this.” It usually lasts only a short time, because it is difficult to deny the outward indications of what is happening.

2.     Anger: when denial no longer works, many people move to anger. Anger is, “Why would she be in that spot at that time, doesn’t’ she know how dangerous it is!?” “I can’t stand him anyway,” “I can’t believe God let this happen!” “How could I have let this happen? I can’t even look at myself right now.” People become angry at the person they’ve lost, others involved for causing the loss, or themselves for not doing something to prevent the loss.

3.     Bargaining: in this stage people sometimes bargain with God, or themselves in order to reverse the loss or impending loss. Bargaining is, “please God, just bring them back, and I swear I’ll live a better lifestyle,” “If I could just have one more moment with that person, I know I can save them, and our relationship,” This is seen more in situations that are less severe such as the loss of a job, but can occur in all types of losses.

4.     Depression: in this stage, the person experiences depression, and may stop doing daily activities. They may refuse to leave the house or have visitors and have much less energy. It’s also common for people in this stage to question life and the reason for moving forward if they too are going to die someday, or be met with the loss of another job, romantic relationship, or friendship.

5.     Acceptance: in this final stage, the person comes to accept the loss, and begins to make peace and resolves to move forward and find ways to commemorate their time with a person they’ve lost. Acceptance is, “this is happening, and my relationship is over, but I will move forward and look for what I truly want in my next relationship,” “although I’ve lost my mom, her legacy will love on in me, and I will teach my own children the lessons she taught me.”

Although these stages are presented in a logical order, it’s common for you to go back and forth between the stages. There is no set length for each stage, however if you are in the depression stage for longer than 2 months after the loss of a loved one and feel as though you are unable to get out of that sadness, have difficulty sleeping, and experience weight loss and low energy, this is a sign of Major Depression and you should seek the help of a therapist, psychiatrist, or consult your physician.

Depression symptoms after divorce, break-up, or losing a job that are lasting longer than one month can also be cause for concern, and the same advice applies.

It’s not possible to remove the various trials, peaks and valleys from our lives, but it is possible to find better ways to cope. If you are having difficulty coping with a recent loss, I’m here to help point you in the right direction and you can contact me at (909)226-6124 for a free phone consultation and we can talk about ways you start to feel better and pull yourself out of grief. 

Choosing Joy, Love, and Peace after Tragedy
joy love peace tragedy

Admittedly this was going to be a very different post, but in light of the recent mass shooting that took place in San Bernardino, CA, I just had to write about finding happiness in the wake of these tragedies we are hearing about all over the world.

This is a personal post for me to write as well, as I want to be completely honest with you - I’m struggling a bit on how to do this gracefully, but I’m slowly moving forward, choosing joy, love, and peace, and I’ll tell you how.

This tragedy hit very close to home for me. This is my community, this was a place that I had frequented for meetings in a previous job, this was a conference room that I sat in, and these were people that I worked closely with in the past.

I was all gung-ho with Christmas spirit, and shopping happily for family and friends when a woman stopped me in the store to tell me about what had taken place, and I immediately lost every bit of joy from my being. I sat in my car and wept. I then went through the rest of my day in a haze, and was glued to the TV and Internet, listening for details about how this could have possibly happened in my backyard.

I didn’t sleep well the night I heard the news, and was hoping that waking up the next morning would mean it was just a bad dream, but turning on the TV, I realized in fact that it was true. I then inundated myself with more media coverage, trying to piece things together, and find understanding about what it was that could lead these people to take innocent lives.

After hearing the same story be told in various different ways, with no definitive answer about a motive I realized, I’ll never know, and I’ll never fully understand. Regardless of what the media reports the motive was for this couple to commit this horrible act, it will never be good enough, and I will never be able to completely wrap my head around it.

What I can wrap my head around, and what I can understand are the 300 law enforcement officers who responded in the aftermath of this tragedy. I understand the thousands gathering for a candle light vigil, the hundreds of thousands of prayers for victims and their family members, the hundreds of people rushing to give blood to help the wounded, and the countless fundraising campaigns popping up all over the internet to help support the families of the victims.

I understand because I know there is good in the world. I understand because I am choosing to see the love that exists surrounding a tragedy like this.  

I have a choice to push past fear and anxiety, and choose to be present with my children, family and friends. I’m not denying the sadness that I feel when I think about those who lost their lives, and I’m not denying the overwhelming grief their families are feeling right now, or that I’d be feeling had I lost a loved one in this horrific way. All of that exists. I’m also not denying that larger changes need to happen, but I’m not getting into any political debates, because I don’t pretend to have the answers.

The couple responsible for this terrible event is made up of 2 people. Their intent was to rob people of their lives, of their joy and happiness, and create a sense of terror. That was their wish, and I have chosen not to let them succeed, and I urge you to do the same. In order to reduce and manage my distress I am doing the following:

I’m allowing myself to experience my emotions when I feel them, going from shock to sadness, to anger and grief.

I am recognizing that my difficulty sleeping and concentrating are temporary. On the way out of the store after hearing the news, I dropped a bag filled with breakable items – the cute Christmas plates I had bought were shattered, and although I cursed myself in the moment, I understand that my butterfingers were a common side-effect of hearing the shocking news.

I’m surrounding myself with family and friends, and talking about how I’m feeling in the aftermath of all of this.

I’m turning off the news. Although I want to stay informed of the investigation, and want to be sure that there are no other safety threats, it just becomes the same thing over and over, and keeps me stuck in negative feelings.

I’m practicing being present. I’m hugging my children a little tighter, sitting on the floor playing, and looking into my baby’s eyes. I’m savoring the moments that really matter, and loving just a little bit harder.

I’m continuing my regular routines, eating healthy, and taking care of myself. I love a good workout, and I’m using that to decompress and lessen the stress I’m feeling in my body. 

I’m dedicating my meditation and yoga practices to feeling more love, and I’m spending time praying for all involved.

I understand that I can control the way I parent and teach my children to show love, honor and respect for others in hopes of creating a brighter generation.

I’m choosing joy, love, and peace. I hope you will too.

 

*If you are experiencing grief as a result of this tragedy and don’t feel you are able to get back to your daily functioning, and as though your emotions are very intense, it’s time to get help. Reach out to a mental health professional that can assist you with moving forward. I am also available for a consultation and am happy to help you find a suitable therapist or counselor.