Rescuing Your Most Important Relationships

Posts tagged ‘Grief’

Coping with a Loved One’s Mental Illness

Witnessing the suffering of a loved one can be one of the most difficult situations we face. Among other things, we may feel powerless, frustrated and frightened. That’s true whether the suffering originates from a physical illness or injury, addiction or self-destructive activity.

When a loved one suffers a debilitating, persistent and chronic mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, those feelings can be compounded. Strange, unpredictable behaviors can be terrifying and confusing. Your loved one may suddenly rage at you with blame or be utterly dependent upon you for basic needs and emotional stability.

You may experience many confusing emotions yourself, including anger, grief, guilt, fear and sadness. As you struggle with each episode of illness and worry about the future, you may feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, since serious mental illness still carries a stigma, you may be keeping it a secret, resulting in increased isolation, frustration and difficulty because you may have no one to talk to about your feelings or no way to get information and support.

Read next weeks post to find out how To Help Yourself in coping with mental illness. . .


Book of The Month

A Decembered Grief: Living with Loss While Others are Celebrating

by Harold Ivan Smith

Suffering the loss of a loved one at any time of the year is difficult, yet during the holidays or special occasions, those grieving experience a more intense sense of loss. The world is moving forward and celebrating life and all its blessings, yet for grievers, a darkness pervades the holiday. This book is an invitation to Christmas and its companion holidays of the season which compose a grueling triathlon which begins on Thanksgiving and continues unabated for forty-five days until the last of the bowl games on New Year’s Day. Through quotes, prayers, Scriptures and the words of the author, A Decembered Grief is designed to guide the reader on the journey to healing.


Remembering 9/11

We will soon be remembering the 10th anniversary of 9/11. If you are like most other Americans, you can recall exactly what you were doing when the attack happened.

For some it seems hard to believe that 10 years has passed, for those that lost loved ones it seems like an eternity.  Albuquerque (and the rest of the country) has several memorials and events to commemorate 9/11. What will you do to honor the countless Americans that we lost? Here’s a link to some of local events being offered.

Grief Is…

Grief is a normal and human response to loss.  That does not mean that it feels natural or normal!  Grief is often intensely painful.  The death of a loved one is one of life’s most profound losses, but there are many other types of losses that also impact day-to-day life.  Changes in health, employment, family finances, parenting challenges, miscommunication, stress in intimate partner relationships are all examples of transitions with potential losses that are woven info daily life. Grief manifests itself in many ways:  physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social.  It may be helpful to remember that grief is a process.  A new loss often triggers previous losses (even those from many years ago).  Aspects of the grief process may feel like being on an emotional roller coaster.  There is no time table for grief (despite a societal culture that often rushes the healing process, minimizes the impact of the loss, or compares losses). The grief process towards healing is not linear.  There will be ups and downs, stops and starts, steps forward and back (and sometimes, “back some more”) as healing takes place.  The intensity and frequency of the acute pain of grief transforms as the loss and its meaning are integrated into daily life.  Several years ago I facilitated a support group of bereaved adults who were each grieving the death of a loved one as well as other concurrent life transitions.  Their hearts were understandably heavy.  Their strength and courage were apparent, even in the midst of their pain.  The following are several lines of a poem I shared with the group as encouragement.  Please know that you are not alone.  To A Grieving Heart.  Kindness can take many forms to a grieving heart.  Quiet gifts, really.  A smile, a touch, a hug, a word of support.  A thoughtful act freely given, listening with the heart, an understanding of pain not yet spoken. Reminders of the universality of grief; reminders of the human face of grief.  Reminders of how you are cared for, how much you are supported, how much you are loved.

When Your Counselor Needs Counseling

This newsletter is a bit different from our usual tone. As many of you know, my Dad died just a few weeks ago, very suddenly. First, a huge thank you to all of you who scheduled and rescheduled your appointments, and for your understanding and compassion as I had to leave town two weeks in a row. Losing a parent is certainly the hardest thing that I have ever been through, as those of you who have also lost a parent already know.

At Albuquerque Family Counseling, we spend a great deal of time talking with you about the benefits of self care, as a tool that should be used not just when in crisis, but even in times of stability. Do you ever wonder if we actually “walk the talk”? If we truly believe in the value of what we do as therapists, how do we handle our own transitions and life crises?  

In answer to that question, yes, we do. I knew immediately when the situation with my Dad arose, I would not be able to handle it on my own and solicited referrals from several other therapists that I trust. I started sessions with a counselor who specializes in grief, and it is some of the best money that I have ever spent. Having a safe, supportive place to go to work through my feelings, gain additional tools for coping, recognize my strengths and bear up my weaknesses is invaluable to my mental health. It’s hard to ask for help- even someone who spends all of their time in helping others realizes that- but it is a necessary element of a healthy mental attitude.

Long before there were therapists, there were family members. Relatives listened, or gave us advice, or sometimes just told us to buck up. If family couldn’t help, there were friends or a clergy member. But most likely, we were also warned not to broadcast our troubles, and many people suffered their mental problems silently.

Times change, and so has society’s acceptance of seeking help. The old stigma of being seen as weak or incapable is largely gone, helped by many who are open about their life struggles. Going to a therapist is now seen as a positive step in most people’s lives. Therapy is a unique relationship and what makes it valuable sets it apart from friendships, working partnerships, family connections and love affairs. Good therapy is a balance in which two people are collaborating on a single project: helping you deal with your problems and achieve the change you want, in one unique agenda.

It’s the simplicity of that agenda, combined with a structured schedule, confidentiality and trust that make this unique relationship work so well for so many people. Rather than proof that someone is “sick,” it is a sign of good health to make a commitment to change.

The strength of therapy is that there are no strings attached. Here are some further benefits of the therapeutic relationship:

1. Safety. If the relationship is right, you can feel safe to reveal your fears, dreams and fantasies without fear of repercussions or judgment on the part of the therapist. Unlike telling a friend or family member, your words to a therapist won’t come back to haunt you.

2. Confidentiality. The therapist is bound by ethics and law (except in a few well-defined cases) not to reveal what you have said during sessions. This adds to the feeling of safety and trust, and aids in people making changes.

3. Learning. Therapy can be seen as a deeply educational experience, in which a therapist acts like a coach or teacher to help the client see the world-inner and outer-in new and positive ways.    

Into each life some rain must fall, and we all have felt deluged at least once in our lives. Grief, loss, anger, financial hardship, relationship problems, stresses-all of these are a normal part of life. So is seeking help when coping is just too hard. In the end, it’s your life, and you know best how to make it a richer, happier and more fulfilling one-with a little help. Life is short- make it the best that you can.

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