Mother’s Day is a celebration of mothers and motherhood. I recognize that Mother’s Day can bring mixed emotions to both children and mothers impacted by social distancing and other challenging circumstances related to trauma, grief and loss.
While moving back home after college is quite common, estimated at 50% a majority of parents welcome their children back home and many parents and young adults have found living together at this time to be mutually beneficial in many ways.
Our need for human connection is so powerful that it is essential to our physical and mental well-being.
Have you ever looked at someone and noticed a series of scars on their wrists? Did you make a face or pass judgement about that person without knowing who they are or what they’re going through? Likely.
Of the many symptoms of mental health conditions, self-harm is one of the least understood and least sympathized. It’s also one of the few physically visible symptoms. Therefore, it’s often responded to in a way that’s derogatory and potentially harmful. For example:
“That’s just teenage angst.”
“Why would anyone do that to themselves?”
“You’re just trying to get attention.”
These reactions grossly undermine how serious self-harm is. Self-Harm is usually a sign that a person is struggling emotionally and isn’t sure how to cope. It’s a sign that a person needs support, understanding and professional help. Most importantly, it’s a sign that shouldn’t be ignored or judged.
Your Initial Response
It can be shocking to notice a person’s self-harm scars. Your instinct may be to stare or immediately express shock. But self-harm is a sensitive topic that should be approached in a certain way.
Whether you know the person or not, it is essential not to display shock or horror even if that’s how you feel. Don’t say anything that could shame them or make them feel judged or foolish. You don’t want to draw attention to their scars, especially in public.
If the person is a close friend or family member, don’t ignore what you’ve seen. Wait until you are with them in private, and then talk to them about what you noticed.
Having A Meaningful Conversation
The most important part of talking to someone about self-harm is to frame the conversation in a supportive and empathetic way. Show concern for their well-being and be persistent if they don’t open up right away. When having a conversation about self-harm, consider the following do’s and don’ts:
- Show compassion
- Respect what the person is telling you, even if you don’t understand it
- Stay emotionally neutral
- Listen, even if it makes you uncomfortable
- Encourage them to use their voice, rather than their body as a means of self-expression
- Encourage them to seek mental health care
- Pity them
- Joke about it
- Guilt them about how their actions affect others
- Give ultimatums
- Remind them how it looks or what people will think
- Make assumptions
After that first conversation, it’s important to follow-up with your loved one to show your ongoing support. If they have not sought out care, continue to ask about it and offer to help them find a mental health professional.
You can also offer to help identify their self-harm triggers. You can do this by asking questions like: “What were you doing beforehand?” “Was there anything that upset you or stressed you out that day?” If a person is more aware of their triggers, it could help prevent future self-injury. Assisting your loved one find and practice healthier coping mechanisms is also a great way to help.
Self-harm is a serious issue that should be addressed as soon as you find out it’s happening. Keep in mind that one of the best things you can instill in a person who is self-harming is that you are there for them and that you care about them. You can always be helpful to someone even if you don’t understand what they’re going through.
Grieving someone alive is not a conventional form of grief that is often talked about, but is a real issue that is faced by the living. Death is often viewed as the base requirement for grief but mourning the deceased is only one facet of death. If you have never experienced this, you likely do not understand what we’re talking about. How can you grieve for someone that you haven’t lost? If you have experience this sort of grief, you probably are cheering inside your head that someone has finally put to words what you’re feeling.
Grieving for someone alive, is not the same as anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is the type of grief that comes about when you know that you will soon be experiencing a loss, such as when a loved one is dying or in the hospital. If you are experiencing anticipatory grief or looking for resources on it, please visit the following link: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/anticipatory-grief/.
WHY UNCONVENTIONAL GRIEF HAPPENS
If you’re not familiar with this form of grief, you may be unsure how this is possible or what often triggers this form of grief in people. Often, this form of grief is caused by a loved one becoming someone that you no longer know or recognize.
COMMON CAUSES OF UNCONVENTIONAL GRIEF
• Mental Illness
• Drug or Substance Addiction
• Dementia or Alzheimer’s
• Brain Injury
• Family Trauma
The unfortunate truth of grieving someone alive is that they are still there as the person you once knew but psychologically are a different person than they were before. Also, many of these factors are outside of the control of the person experiencing them or the person who is watching their loved one suffer. It can be hard for either party to recognize because the person does not always look like they are sick.
Don’t look at these causes and think that they mean that you love this person any less though. This form of grief, just like grieving someone who is deceased, does not change the level of attachment to the person. Simply, this person is no longer acting how they were before and have had a dramatic shift in personality. If your brother is suffering from a drug addiction, his behavior may become erratic and he might start stealing from yourself or other family members. Some will grieve the life that he is not living as he focuses living for his addiction. If someone is dealing with a mental illness, they may now be dealing with depression so badly that they are unable to go on living their life or they may be experiencing delusions or hallucinations.
A person will experience many emotions while grieving someone alive. These emotions may be more powerful and more confusing than the grieving process for someone who has recently passed. Anger is a prominent emotion that shows up. The grieving individual could feel anger towards their loved one for the issues they are dealing with and have a hard time understanding that they may not be able to change, such as in the case of mental illness. While experiencing anger, you may feel guilty as well that you are experiencing anger or guilty that you cannot control or change the situation.
Unlike when someone dies, you are unlikely to experience positive emotions while grieving someone alive. When someone passes, you are surrounded by the comfort of their loved ones and are often able to look at the joy of their life. This rarely happens with unconventional or ambiguous grief. Just like when someone dies, you are likely to be overcome with sadness. However, the reminder of your sadness is constant every time you think of this person or hear about them.
How to Grieve Someone Alive
• Let yourself grieve. Don’t attempt to hide or suppress your grief for this situation just because society or your loved ones don’t understand or acknowledge what you’re going through. Be open to sharing how your feeling to close family and friends and don’t push yourself to be someone you’re not at this time.
• Find other people in the same situation. Connecting with other people who are experiencing the same kind of personal loss as you is an invaluable resource. This can come in the form of a support group or finding an individual to speak with. Having someone understand what it is like to be grieving someone alive will help to put your situation in perspective and help you to gain insight on the validity of your feelings.
• Don’t forget your memories or the past. When you are experiencing ambiguous or unconventional grief, it is easy to forget why and how you previously loved someone in the midst of their hurtful behavior. Remind yourself of the good times that you had and why you originally loved them. It is okay to cherish old moments and mourn that they are gone. Remember that that person is still here though, just not at the moment.
• Open yourself up to change. One of the hardest parts of grieving someone alive is that you are forced to accept a changed relationship that you do not want. It may be difficult for you to look on a loved one in a different life, but you may be able to experience a rewarding relationship with them in new ways than before. Focusing on finding joy in your new relationship will help keep your mental state positive rather than gloomy.
• Always remember that the illness is not the person. For many people, this is the hardest mental hurdle to overcome while grieving someone alive. Stop yourself from thinking of your loved one as the disease they’re dealing with, whether it be addiction, Alzheimer’s, or depression. You will still likely feel angry towards the person but understanding what they’re actually dealing with can help you process some of those feeling.
Unconventional Grief, Ambiguous Grief, or grieving someone alive are all very real and pertinent forms of grief that need to be treated, understood and addressed. Become a member of The American Academy of Bereavement today to find more resources on grief.
By: Bridget Eickhoff
Anxiety, worry, and panic are felt by many of us at some point in our lives. After attending a training by David Carbonell, Ph.D. on chronic anxiety, I picked up some helpful tools that I would like to share.
The more you oppose unwanted thoughts, feelings, and sensations the worse they can become
A big reason behind anxiety symptoms is self-protection. People often interpreted anxiety as a signal for danger, meaning fight, flight, or freeze; but what if that was a false signal. What if this feeling is intense discomfort that will eventually pass if it is not forced to be silence. Next time you are experiencing anxiety check-in with yourself and if you indeed are in danger or is this discomfort? If it turns out to be discomfort allow yourself 5-10 minutes to worry, you may be surprised how different it feels to allow the worry to have its time rather than continue to suppress it.
The Rule of Opposites
Think of yourself swimming and trying to avoid a large wave coming your way. You may ask yourself “what is the best way for me to avoid this wave?” Your instincts may say to swim away from the wave and hope you can be faster, but in reality the easiest way to avoid the wave is to swim under it. The same can apply to feelings of anxiety and worry. During a panic attack your gut may tell you to hold your breath or take in more breaths at a time, when what is shown to help is taking deep belly breaths. Next time you find yourself beginning to feel anxiety or panic, try to recognize how your gut tells you to react and think about what the opposite might be.
The next time you are experiencing high anxiety or a panic attack be AWARE
Acknowledge and accept the feelings
Wait and Watch – recognize what the sensations in your body and your thoughts (this could be a good time to try doing the opposite of your usual)
Action – make yourself comfortable while waiting for it too pass
Repeat – go through steps a-c and try to think to yourself it will end no matter what I do
End of intense anxiety or panic attack
Our therapists at CARE Counseling are trained and competent in working with those experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Your counselor will be able to help explore with you common patterns of negative thinking, help you develop successful coping skills, and teach calming strategies.
For more helpful information on anxiety click here
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