Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘grief’

Here is an excellent, in-depth article about grief, loss, and trauma from Western Governors University.

April 10, 2020

TEACHING & EDUCATION

Helping children with grief.

Sad child face

Grief is the body’s natural response to a loss. Historically, there have been five general stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Going through the five stages can be expected and understood, but the grieving process is individualistic; you can experience one of the stages, all of the stages, or none of the stages because all people deal with loss differently — including children.

According to Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, and Care, the impact of trauma in children depends almost entirely on the life stage that the event occurs during. The same book goes on to say that imposing adult grieving models on children’s lives has led to confusion and a generalized misunderstanding of how children grieve.

Particularly when it comes to coping with death, children have a unique way of processing and dealing with their grief. Oftentimes the first step to helping children grieve is ensuring that they understand the concept of death, and that there aren’t lingering misconceptions. In an article written by Mark Speece, he indicates that a child’s concept of death varies due to an inability to grasp the following terms:

  1. Universality: an understanding that all things that live and, eventually, die.
  2. Irreversibility: an understanding that once something has been declared dead, the death is irrevocable (aside from personal beliefs such as reincarnation, resurrection, etc.).
  3. Non-functionality: an understanding that when someone dies, the life-defining functions of a physical body cease to exist.
  4. Causality: an understanding of the relationship that everything has an origin: cause and effect.

In order to help children grieve, you need to understand the areas in which they are struggling. The same article by Speece elaborates on the terms of death and why children struggle with these concepts:

  • Universality: children are more likely to think that death is avoidable, and not universal. Overall, an inability to grasp that death can occur at any time, to anyone.
  • Irreversibility: children are sometimes unable to understand that death is permanent, not temporary or reversible through some means of intervention (either medically, or divine).
  • Non-functionality: children may have trouble comprehending that someone — or something — that has passed is unable to perform functions (both internally and externally).
  • Causality: children can oftentimes misunderstand the cause of death by unknowingly creating unrealistic causes of death (i.e. poor behavior), or fixating on specific concrete cases of death specific (poison, precise incidents).

It is important to take an individualized approach to helping children cope with grief. A great way to think of the grieving process is noted in Psychology Today, which says that “grief is like a fingerprint.” Yes, everyone has a fingerprint (like most individuals understand some form of grief) but every fingerprint is unique and unparalleled (similar to how grief varies from person to person).

How to help a grieving child as a teacher.

Empathy and creating an inclusive classroom are some of the top qualities and skills of a good teacher that go hand in hand with helping children cope with grief. While teaching degrees aren’t the same as counseling degrees, it is important for educators to learn how to be attentive to their students both physically and emotionally. Understanding the balance of too much and too little support can seem overwhelming, so creating an understanding of best practices can include the following tips:

  • Help younger students understand what has happened. While it is not a teacher’s responsibility to have the initial conversation, it is important for educators to reinforce the basic realities of death. Avoid using confusing ways of talking about death such as “passed away” or “deceased;” rather, be direct and reinforce the idea of death by using straight-forward approaches to the topic including words like “death” or “died.”
  • Reassure students that they can talk with you. Encouraging students and reminding them that they can speak to you openly can be a crucial resource for a grieving student. Leave the invitation open; by leaving the opportunity open, a child can approach and talk when they feel ready with little to no pressure.
  • Allow students to grieve in the manner that they choose. Some students will want to confide in anyone listening, while others would rather keep to themselves. Avoid making suggestions on how a student should grieve, and avoid telling a student they cannot grieve a certain way. How they cope may be extreme, but there are ways to manage extreme student behaviors.
  • Communicate with parents to get insight into the situation as a whole. Positive parent-teacher communication is crucial for the entirety of the education, but also specifically for insight into how the student functions best. Let the parents know of the various counseling resources available for the students, but also ask questions about how the child responds best, what things may evoke feelings, etc.
  • Provide structure and learning support groups. Keeping a child busy with structured activities can help students grieve while they are also learning. There is a lot going through a child’s mind at any given moment (especially following a loss), so it is important to offer alternative learning spaces such as tutoring, additional support, as well as flexibility surrounding deadlines and normal educational expectations.

How to help a grieving child as a parent.

Parents have a steep responsibility in helping their children grieve. While a parent cannot take away feelings of loss, they can help build healthy coping skills alongside being a key figure to confide in. If you have more than one child, it becomes exceedingly important to keep in mind that grieving may look different between children. Regardless of how young or old the child is, it is important to consider a variety of coping methods that can help. Parents should consider the following:

  • Be direct and honest. Anything less than the truth and the absolute truth can cause more harm than good. Just as stated above, children often misunderstand death, so it is important to be literal. This does not mean you have to do so in a blunt, inconsiderate manner, but rather avoid euphemisms that downplay or muffle the concept of death. If this is the initial time that the topic of death is brought up, this is especially important.
  • Be developmentally considerate. How you approach helping a 17-year-old may look entirely different than how you attempt to help a 10-year-old.
  • Encourage questions. One way to help get an understanding of aspects that a child is struggling with, is to encourage them to ask questions. Encourage them to always ask questions as they arise.
  • Encourage feelings. It is important to encourage children to express their feelings. Since everyone grieves differently it is important not to critique the manner in which someone may choose to grieve. While it may not make sense to you, the child is vulnerable, and criticism may make them feel like they are wrong in doing so.
  • Validate feelings. When a child expresses anger or frustration, support and acknowledge their feelings and reiterate that their feelings are completely okay, valid, and maybe even shared. Creating an atmosphere where feelings are normal is critical.
  • Communicate with other adults. Explain the current situation to others when the child(ren) is out of your care (e.g. teacher, dance instructor, coach, etc.). Creating an open communication channel for people in authority can give them insight into why behavior may be happening, as well as giving the individual time to prepare ways they can help the child grieve. When you don’t communicate these things, you can be doing your child (and whoever the individual is) a disservice.
  • Lead by example. Do not try and hide your grief. Be expressive, and grieve alongside them. Acting tough and avoiding the pain you are feeling can make a child feel that they need to do the same thing. In some cases, it can be reassuring for children to see that being upset is okay. This also gives you the opportunity to show a child (or children) healthy ways of dealing with grief.
Help Parents Homeschool Kids

Grief in elementary age children.

Elementary-age children — typically ages 5 to 12 have unique emotional needs when it comes to dealing with grief. Although teachers with elementary education degrees are trained specifically to work with children in this age range, not every adult is. During this period, a large hurdle can be introducing the concept of death. Children struggling with grief within this age group may ask questions about the deceased individual such as “When is ___ coming home?” or “Where is ___?” so it is important to be ready about how you plan to approach that conversation. Some tips to consider when helping elementary-age children cope with grief are:

  • Reiterate that the death happened. Sometimes elementary-age children need to be reminded time after time that the person isn’t coming back.
  • Avoid half-telling, or half-truths when talking about loss. The time is confusing enough, so be direct.
  • Pay attention to children that are grieving by distancing themselves.
  • Encourage children to talk about it, or ask questions. Create an understanding that it is important to talk about death.

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief in elementary-age children, regardless of the type of loss:

  • Anxiety
  • Clinging
  • Developmental regressing
  • Academic struggles
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Focus issues
  • Guilt
  • Change in energy
  • Imaginary beings
  • Isolation

Grief in middle schoolers.

Middle school-aged children become more and more fixated on observing how other people are responding to death. They may pose questions such as “Are you okay?” and “How are you doing with everything?” while worrying less and less about themselves. It is common for individuals to mimic the mannerisms or role that the deceased individual had. They also may ask extreme questions surrounding death such as “If I do ___ will I die?” or “What if ___ happens?”

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief for middle-school children regardless of the type of loss:

  • Emotional extremes
  • Expression troubles
  • Blaming
  • New interests
  • Humor
  • Isolation
  • Guilt
  • Easily molded
  • Developmental regressing
  • Academic struggles

Grief in high schoolers.

It is common for high schoolers going through the grieving process to isolate themselves; in fact, they may appear like their normal self. They feel that expressing a certain emotion is a sign of weakness. This can become exceedingly true if they have younger siblings, or are considered the “man” or “woman” of the house. They feel new responsibilities, and will oftentimes distance themselves both from their feelings and people. Phrases such as “I’m fine,” or “Stop worrying about me,” are common.

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief for highschool children regardless of the type of loss:

  • Removed
  • Lack of academic drive
  • Bullying
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Trouble in school
  • Confrontational
  • Moodiness
  • Emotional outbursts and extremes
  • Irritability/short-fuse
  • Displaced anger
  • Lack of motivation
Father and son

Loss of a friend.

The loss of a good friend can feel the same — if not worse — than the loss of a family member. It is important not to downplay this death as anything less than the loss of a family member. If the death was sudden and unexpected, a lot of questions can arise, and a child’s stress level can spike drastically. When a child loses a friend, it is important to address the situation. Call attention to what happened, then use your body language, and verbal language to indicate that you are there to listen, to answer questions, and to be a shoulder to cry on.

Loss of a family member

The loss of a family member can oftentimes be one of the hardest and most traumatic experiences that a child goes through. The important thing to consider is the relationship of that family member, and how close they were (both locationally, and relationally), can make a large difference in how to cope with the death. You can expect that when a mother — that is part of the child’s everyday life — dies, it will evoke a different response and set of needs than when a great aunt that the child(ren) had only met once passes. Be direct when having conversations about the family members death. Be okay with silence. You do not need to force conversation, and giving time to process things can give children time to feel, ask questions, and express themselves.

Loss of a pet.

The relationship between a child and their pet is something that is truly unique and one-of-a-kind. In some cases, the pet may have been their very first friend in life. Many children feel guilty for the death of a pet, and they obsess over things that they could have done differently to avoid the death. Sometimes the loss of a pet can be a more intense grieving process than the loss of a human. There are some things you can do to help a child with their pet loss, these include:

  • Avoid downplaying the loss of a pet. This may be the first experience with loss, and this type of loss can be deep, personal, or could be emotionally hurtful for a child.
  • Talk to the child about their feelings surrounding the loss. Ask questions, encourage the child to ask questions as well
  • Create a memorial (e.g. burial ceremony, sit around telling stories, make a memorial clay paw mold, etc.).
  • If you choose to get another pet, let the child know (no matter how long ago the death occurred) that the new pet will never replace the old pet.

Loss of a classmate or teacher.

The loss of a classmate or teacher can be a very traumatic event for a child. Whether in high school or preschool, these are the faces that they spend the majority of the day with. Teachers and classmates can both have big impacts on the life of a child, so it is important to treat the loss of a classmate or teacher like any other type of loss.

Be direct and be patient, allowing them time to think and to ask questions. Encourage conversation, ask them about their relationship, and just be there for them.

Talking about suicide with a child.

When a child loses someone as a result of suicide, there are specific, unique concerns to bear in mind that vary depending on the age of the children. The importance of mental health awareness in schools is crucial, and so is talking about mental health awareness at home. In an article titled “Experts Explain How to Talk About Suicide With Kids By Age, Deborah Dilboa claims that it is important to talk about suicide with children for three reasons:

  1. Children deserve truth. Lying or hiding the truth from children in order to protect them can cause more harm than good in the long run.
  2. Mental health conditions can be genetic, so if a family member takes their own life, it becomes exceedingly important to talk about mental health, and give children accurate information.
  3. Hearing (and talking) about suicide and its impact on others is something that is good for all individuals to talk about — regardless of whether a suicide has pressured the conversation.

The same article goes on to give tips and suggestions for talking about suicide with children by age. The breakdown goes as follows:

  • Preschool – Kindergarten: Stick to the basics and keep it simple. Providing the foundations of what suicide is, and the specifics of the occurrence is not necessary at this age unless they are explicitly asking.
  • Ages 7 – 10: Offer truthful, concise answers. This is still considered an age group that doesn’t need all the details, but this is a good time to introduce suicide as someone dying from a disease, or an illness stemming from depression. This age needs truth, but not an overwhelming amount.
  • Ages 11 – 14: Be more direct and concrete. Talking about suicide during this age is more crucial because pre-teens are starting to become more aware, and some are experiencing mental health issues, or mood dysregulation that elicits some sort of coversation. Enter the questions by asking the child what they understand about the situation, and enter the conversation where they are.
  • Ages 15 – 18: This is the age where you switch from hypotheticals. Using phrasing such as “if you or a friend” changes to “when you or a friend.” During this age, teens are often distant and do not want to talk to parents about this, but so it becomes important for parents to let teens know that their feelings are completely normal, as well as offering resources available to them (e.g. counselors, family friends, prevention centers, etc.).

If you — or someone you know — are at risk of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “TALK” to 741741.

Coping with the trauma of witnessing death.

Coping with loss when an individual has witnessed death takes special considerations, tips, and approaches. Regardless of age, children may experience the following effects from the trauma of witnessing death:

  • Fear
  • Clinginess
  • Immobility
  • Nightmares/night terrors
  • Unfounded fears
  • Irritability
  • Academic struggles
  • Sleep troubles
  • Flashbacks
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Suicidal thoughts

Coping with these various effects requires extra reassurance and support following the traumatic event. Helping children cope with trauma should include the following considerations:

  • Minimize media exposure: The media can often cover material in a way that is more traumatizing for children. Avoid exposure to graphic images and videos, and if your child seems interested in the media’s coverage, watch alongside and fill in contextually as needed.
  • Engage your child: While you cannot force a child to talk, you can provide structure in order to be a key part of emotional healing. Provide ongoing opportunities to talk and encourage conversation while validating feelings. By and large, create a safe area to feel, express, and ask questions.
  • Encourage physical activity: Burning off adrenaline, and releasing endorphins (caused by physical exertion) can help children sleep better at night as well as help taking a child’s mind off of the traumatic event.
  • Create a healthy diet: Nourishing the body in a healthy manner affects an individual’s mood and ability to cope with the stresses of a traumatic event. Cook more meals from home to promote whole, minimally-processed food. In doing so, more opportunities for conversation arise, and you can promote healthy food choices by eating the same diet.
Child playing on tablet

Addressing the emotional needs of a child.

A death — no matter the type of loss — can be emotionally draining, confusing, and frustrating for a child. While addressing the loss of a relationship, you need to address certain feelings. It becomes exceedingly important to know of the different emotional needs of grieving children to be aware of. Like dealing with all types of grief, the emotions that children feel following loss vary from person to person, but the following are common emotional needs of children that warrant addressing:

  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Sadness
  • Stress

Acknowledging and validating these feelings is important to help these feelings turn into something positive. As current research evaluates stress and mental health of Generation Z, it’s obvious that mental health is of vital importance and it’s crucial to learn to validate and accept emotions to help younger generations. These are the feelings that they are experiencing following the loss of a loved one, so it is important to normalize them, be mindful, and encourage conversation surrounding each.

Healthy management of childhood grief.

There are many efforts that a parent, teacher, or another figure of authority can do to help a child who is experiencing grief. Each grieving process is individualized, and ongoing, so it is important to be aware of the ways you can contribute to the healthy management of childhood grief.

How to have a conversation about grief.

How a child reacts to having a conversation about grief will always vary, so regardless of how children grieve, there are ways parents and other adults can support them. According to a document written by American Academy of Pediatrics, “After a Loved One Dies — How Children Grieve and How Parents and Other Adults Can Support Them,” they write that while explaining death to children:

  1. Speak frankly and directly. Use word choice such as “dead” or “died.”
  2. Check back with your kids after giving them some time to process in order to make things exceedingly clear.
  3. If a child seems reluctant to talk, respect their space and check back later.
  4. Encourage feelings and questions.
  5. Allow all expressions.

Coping with loss in the short-term.

Coping with loss in the short-term may entail things such as conversational coping. The beginning stages are generally focused on creating understanding, grieving, and processing. These short-term stages are the foundational pieces that create the basis for healthy coping mechanisms, and for the groundwork leading into long-term coping strategies.

Coping with loss in the long-term.

Long-term coping strategies for loss are focused on moving on, healing, and creating normalcy. This stage is less involved with creating the foundational pillars, and focuses more on moving on. This phase often includes counseling, new hobbies, reminiscing, re-visiting a gravesite/spreading ashes (if applicable) and other steps towards letting go.

Resources.

There are various resources that are important to be aware of when learning how to manage childhood grief in a healthy manner. Some examples include:

If you’re studying to become a teacher or if you’re a parent, it’s important to be as prepared as possible to help children. Particularly when it comes to grief and death, these situations can creep up unexpectedly, so it’s important to be prepared before that happens.

 

Make No Apologies

Bonds That Bind: A Short Story Collection by Austin L. Wiggins.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41khyPzdn8LMost of these stories are about people who are alone and isolated, and/or lonely. The writing is flawless, and you can feel the pain, sadness, despair, and hopelessness, seeping from each character. With Bonds That Bind, Mr. Wiggins has compiled an array of men and women who bleed metaphorically and literally. Each story in the collection takes us inside the head and heart of someone who has nothing left to lose. They live within their self-imposed box of how they see the world and themselves.

Here is an excerpt from The Outsider, where a marginalized tuba player expresses his dissent the only way he knows how. “It took him until mid-afternoon to regain composure. With cloudy eyes, Derek glared at the tuba and scolded it for mocking him, but the cumbersome heap of brass pipe would make no apologies. Like his playing ability, the tuba had gathered a thin, palpable layer of dust that had been piling up since Christmas. ‘It’s been two months,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to start practicing again.’ By this small, noncommittal decision, the mere spark in Derek’s chest became a storm. The first notes blared like a horn of war, and they didn’t stop. He channeled the fury in his tempest heart, and it was only then that Derek knew he was angry.”

This collection includes a foreboding tale about a young man who joins his brother Dave in a failed quest for a fast buck (The Bird That Flew Overhead); an insurance agent who helps his brother, which results in his becoming a life-long target (One Man’s Sin); a meticulous office worker, George, who is oblivious about his home life until it’s too late (Radiance); a shunned tuba player (The Outsider); a lonely teacher with a bad addiction (Of Flowers); and a counselor who takes matters into his own hands (What Ails Us).

Bonds That Bind is not a feel-good, romantic, or inspiring set of tales. If it tried to be, it would have failed. The author doesn’t shy away from emotions or situations that are uncomfortable – all signs of a writer who knows what they are doing and isn’t afraid to reveal what we often sweep under the rug. The icing on the cake is that in spite of their flaws, thoughts, and deeds, Mr. Wiggins has captured traits and feelings with which readers’ can identify. Though we usually don’t go to the extremes of his characters, we care about what happens to each one.

Is He or Isn’t He?

41Ks4pk78-LJacqueline and the Judge by Jaye C. Blakemore.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I don’t recall any murder mystery that has a judge as the suspect. Their surely must be one, or some, but Jacqueline and the Judge is the first one I’m aware of. Wether it is the first, or one of many, it is a damn good story. The style of writing, by Ms. Blakemore, reminded me of some of the best films from the forties and fifties, where an innocent man is accused of murder and must prove his innocence (or is found to be guilty).

This contemporary tale is told from the perspective of Judge Luca Valentino, whose wife has just died in a car accident. He is deep in grief, and the Judge’s mourning is portrayed with great insight and understanding. Here is an example. “It felt like someone had reached into his stomach and pulled his guts out. A whoop of air came out of his mouth and before he knew it, he was hunched over and uncontrollably weeping.”

In the beginning, it is clear that the judge is grief-stricken and truly loved his wife (Sylvia). He is soon spending time with a younger woman (Jacqueline), whom he happens to meet at the diner he and Sylvia frequented. Jacqueline is upset over a breakup. Luca tries to comfort her, as is his custom. His wife said he always had a soft spot for those in trouble. Jacqueline and the Judge become friends and talk frequently.

Then, out of the blue, shit hits the fan. Detectives (Teagen and Smith) show up at the judge’s house, incriminating evidence is found, and Judge Valentino’s entire life comes into question. Jacqueline and the Judge is a great story. If I didn’t have to sleep, I would have kept reading it nonstop to the end. Jaye C. Blakemore is a very good writer. I’d suggest you get a copy of this story and find out for yourself who is, or isn’t, guilty.

 

Let It Run Deep

61gbBPp8TJL._AC_US218_More Than Simple Words: Reality vs Love
by Xcaliber Anthony and Derrick Marrow.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

The best way I can review this intimate collection of poetry by Mr. Anthony and Mr. Marrow, is to write a poem about it. Here is my reaction to More Than Simple Words.

Rhyming, lyrical, longing and love
More than simple words is all the above
It whispers of grief, trust, and intimacy
with sublime and insightful legitimacy

These poets hearts are crying for freedom
and reveal the depths of our racism
Redemption, pain and peace travel steep
and the words are laid plain for us all to keep

If you love love, and don’t want it to sleep
read More Than Simple Words and let it run deep.

One of my favorites from the authors revealing collection is One Love.

You keep my tongue in ecstasy
The mental images bless me
Your rapture keeps me stress free
Emotions change when you caress me

I study your history
I don’t repeat those mistakes
When I’m gone you miss me
I know what’s at stake

My mind revels in your rhythm
Passion entered my system
You schooled me with your wisdom
You flowered this lifeless stem

Wrong words can cause a schism
so I watch what I say
We split preconceptions like a prism
for you eternally I’ll stay

My lips wait and wish for your kiss
As a kid I never imagined this
You took the mental cuffs off my wrists
We too struggle to attain bliss

Now we play music fingerless
remember the world is yours
Tighter than a clinched fist
we shine brighter as we mature

Love, Loss, and Justice

41qJDuxS8fLAn Experiment In Emotions – A Short Story Collection by P.A. Priddey. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love, anger, frustration, sadness, grief, jealousy, pleasure, helplessness, and rage. These are some of the feelings explored in An Experiment In Emotions, and an inkling of what readers’ may experience while reading these short stories. For the most part, these tales delve into relationships between men and women, and the misunderstandings that often occur. All, except one, involve couples breaking up, being torn apart, and/or finding a way to get back together. They are well written, and worth your time.

The collection includes a three parter, “The Dark Secret of Padwell”, which involves a strange “ritual” that is accepted by most people in the town, until Jack decides not to play by the rules, and refuses to marry Becky. In the beginning, the story reminded me of the film Indecent Proposal, with Robert Redford, when he offers a young couple a million dollars if he can sleep with the wife just one night, but it changes in the second act and takes on a much more sinister vibe. There are ten stories within this collection. My favorite was “The Vigilante, the Author, and Niblit”.

The Vigilante… had some nice touches, with the vigilante (Katie), Niblit (the cat), and Nick (the author), all coming into contact one night by chance, and sharing a secret that brings unwanted public attention, and the police, to their doors. Perhaps it is because the stories main characters include the author and a cat – one of which I am, and the other which I love – that toyed with my heart strings and made me partial to its telling. Without giving anything away, let me say that one of the three protagonists is actually a matchmaker in disguise, of which there are a number (disguises that is).

The next to last story in An Experiment in Emotions is called “The Monster”, and is one of the most unexpected. What is unexpected is who ends up helping whom, and how there motives and incentives change along the way. Stacy is pregnant, and her abusive husband, Carl, wants her to get rid of it. In the process, Stacy meets Jade Jones, and everything is turned upside down. For the first time in many years, Stacy begins to believe that she has choice, and experiences hope and acceptance. Though Mr. Priddey may not have experienced everything in this story, or the others in this collection, he definitely identifies with, and conveys, the emotions with insight and passion.

It Has Its Own Shape

Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss by Dipti Tait.
Review by Gabriel Constans.

411Up78mHJLGood Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is rich with personal insight, and emotional intelligence. The following quote alone is worth the book’s weight in gold. “It’s a natural process, like the tides that come in and out on the shore of the ocean of your consciousness. Some are high; some are low. It’s about learning how to surf the waves of grief and not drown in the intense sorrow of loss.” Ms. Tait shares the story of her experiences and reactions to her mother and father’s deaths, and how she has learned to not only ride the waves, but to help others stand up on their own board.

The realizations of grief’s depth and width within our lives is written with clarity, honesty, and compassion. The author’s realization that loss is variable and unique to each individual, based on a myriad of factors and conditioning, is vital for acceptance and healing. “A grieving period is individual to the person who grieves. It has its own shape, form and identity based on belief systems, personal experiences and our own unique programming.” This is so true, and yet we often want a cookie-cutter method of how to proceed and navigate loss, without taking our uniqueness into consideration.

This book shares many aspects of grief that we may feel, or think about, but often do not acknowledge, let alone process. There are chapters on loneliness, guilt, shock, stress, and the reality of loss in our daily lives, as well as the possibility for growth. Ms. Tait provides a number of ways to work with our emotions and thoughts that surround grief. These include journaling, the Three P’s (Positive thought, Positive Actions, Positive Activity), moving into emotional intelligence, and the “No/Yes Principle”. “The self-healing process begins when a person can recognize that they want to change.”

There is little doubt that Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is well worth your time and attention. You may also find that it helps you live with the pain of loss with a little more understanding, and acceptance, and provides that bit of support that perhaps you had not have realized was needed, or available. In addition to getting a copy of Good Grief, by Ms. Dipti Tait, you may also wish to take a look at my book Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter. It is similar to Ms. Tait’s, but told through the eyes of a number of people experiencing the death of a loved one, as well as my interactions with them.

A Series of Events

51ABoAle4SLHope & Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is an insightful collection of essays, combined with a workbook and discussion guide, of how to live with hope and possibility after experiencing trauma. The trauma that Mr. Shetterly experienced was sexual, physical, and verbal abuse from his father and brother as a child. This trauma is spoken of briefly at the beginning of the book, but is not the focus of this work. It is primarily, and gratefully so, concerned with how we can heal, understand, and care for ourselves after having experienced such events.

“It is not a book with scientific facts and research,” states the author. “This book is about life and the struggles we face. It is also about the healing, hope, and possibilities that exist within us.” Some of the chapters included in this recipe for insight, and growth, are: “Self Acceptance”, “Rewiring the Brain”, “Personal Growth”, “Our body Connections”, “In the Moment’, and “Listening”. There are clear explanations of different issues that arise when we decide to stop running, or numbing, the pain of abuse, and a clear path on how to make it out of the valley of darkness and despair.

“Life is a series of events, choices, reactions, and growth. While one event can impact our future, it does not mean that it will control our future.” To take the step of acknowledging what has happened, can be terrifying, and the reality of not acknowledging what has happened, can fill one’s life with constant fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion. The author also speaks about healing the body, emotions and mind, by including body work, music, and affirmations. Some of the sections I found especially helpful were those that involved a guided relaxation exercise (body scan), how to calm one’s self, be mindful, and focus on the breath.

There is a lot of personal resonance with this book, and the author’s words. I have nine foster sisters that were all sexually abused in their biological families. Our adopted daughter experienced a variety of traumatic events with her birth family. I have written extensively about grief, loss, and trauma, and worked as a bereavement and trauma counselor with hospice, in hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons, and overseas with survivor’s of multiple traumas. Hope & Possibility Through Trauma, by Don Shetterly, is a welcome addition to the resources now available for those most in need of such sustenance, insight, and inspiration. Do not hesitate to get a copy for yourself or another.

Searching For Someone

Some people are easy to find. Others, not so much. Especially when you are trying to meet up with someone to interview for a story and/or book. That’s what I’ve discovered through the years in my attempts, and some success, in tracking down people I’ve wanted to talk to, especially those that are well known.

With the internet it has become easier to get people’s information and background, but getting their contact data, or getting through there gate keepers (managers, agents, family, lawyers, etc.), is another matter. It can take persistent emails, and calls, to get a response, let alone an interview.11898_cover_front

When I was putting together a book about loss and grief sometimes being the catalyst for people to not only change their lives, but to also create social movements and influence public opinion (Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call), it literally took years to get ahold of everyone and complete the interviews.

Obviously, people who were less known were easier to contact and meet, but women like Nancy Goodman Brinker (who started the Susan B Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, after her sister Susan died); Candace Lightner (who founded Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, after her daughter Cari was killed); and Leah Rabin (who gave speeches about reconciliation and peace around the world, after her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated) were another matter.

The difficulty isn’t always due to an individual’s reluctance, or apprehension, about being interviewed, or not knowing who you are (if you are not a known author, journalist or organization), but most often it is their schedules. They have limited amounts of time, and some are booked years ahead. In those cases you have to be willing to go where they are and get whatever snippet you can.

I’ve also had unsuccessful attempts at getting interviews for different articles. and news organizations, as a freelance journalist. Even though I went to Rwanda twice, I was never able to meet with President Kagame. The closest I got was his press secretary. An interview with Christina Aguilera and Joan Baez has also alluded me, after many attempts and conversations with there managers.

If you need to interview people that are heads of government, well-known in entertainment, or in social movements, don’t give up before you try. Be persistent, yet courteous; creative, and respectful; and be able to explain briefly (in a call, email, or personal contact) why you want the interview and who you are.

Articles: http://tinyurl.com/glpyt2p

Books: http://tinyurl.com/z8pdtj7

My Mother Was Murdered

Excerpt featuring Lee Mun Wah. From Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

lee-mun-wah“Your mother’s been murdered!” The woman who gave you birth is dead. Her life intentionally ended by another man. This was the cold reality Mr. Lee had to face in 1985. Feelings of fear, anger, rage and revenge soon replaced the numbed existence of shock. Instead of letting these intense, understandable reactions control his life, Mr. Lee searched for answers. He began to reach out, to confront and explore the ingrained, unconscious attitudes that lead to hate and violence, and discovered a way to shift the imbalances of power, heal the wounds and open our hearts.

As a seminar leader, speaker and filmmaker, Mr. Lee’s work has been highly visible, effective and utilized throughout the nation. His first film Stolen Ground, about racism towards Asian-Americans, won special merit at the San Francisco International Film Festival. His second video, of a weekend encounter group for men, The Color of Fear, won the 1995 National Education Media Award for best social studies documentary and has been used in thousands of organizations and businesses to deal with and discuss prejudice, bias and race. 

LEE MUN WAH:

I was born in Oakland, California at a time when people were living in mixed neighborhoods. I had a real glimpse of what a community could look like with all different ethnicities. My parents were very poor, though as a child I didn’t know that. Some of the distinct things I remember were that there were very few Asians in my classes and very few or almost no Asian-American or African-American teachers. When I noticed this consciously it became a real loss.

I was born into a very alive, dynamic family. I always thought that all Chinese families were like this. It wasn’t until later that I realized my father was a very unique man who really believed in going out in the world and creating what you wanted. He influenced me greatly in that way. My mother was very warm and personable; very intimate and in that way created my sense of family, of being close to people.

A lot of these life experiences prepared me, without my knowing, for the type of work I do now, when I talk about the country having a national relationship. It’s about how a family treats each other. I don’t think it’s just a sense of family, it’s also part of our Asian, Chinese culture . . . that we’re there for one other . . . that we respect and honor each others needs . . . the warmth, security and safety of a family . . . being up front and honest . . . trying to be a good person in the world and with those you meet. A number of people have that in there culture as well, but I don’t think many have made the connection of family into a larger community, in a global or workplace perspective and I think that is the missing link.

The American thing is often, “Me, me, me!” Business is first and task oriented and not loyal to workers. When business is down or they’re “restructuring” and they lay you off, they’re actually saying, “You are no longer needed, the company is more important.” It isn’t about taking care of the people who work for you but about having them compete with each other. I don’t run my family or workplace that way. And when I go out into the world that’s something I work for, to change that paradigm.

I don’t think you can legislate an end to racism. You have to have a change of heart. That’s why I talk about a relationship. It’s the only real connection we have. Often, we don’t act until there’s a crisis. What we need to realize is that the crisis is happening every single day and there’s always something you can do to address it.

We’ve never understood culture in this country. We think it’s the food, the costume or the holiday, but we don’t touch what it really means to us on a spiritual, emotional, ancestral way. When the American Indian tells us that it’s not enough to pass the sage around the room but to really understand where that comes from. To understand the relationships and the way we treat each other; that it’s really expressed in our movements, in what we don’t say, the way we hold each other, the way we wait for and acknowledge one other. We don’t take the time to really look, to really experience. Americans want everything fast . . tangible. The American Indian is right when they say, “You want my customs, my rituals and my land, but you don’t want me.” What we do is we use people and cultures. We use them when it’s convenient, for a service, for artifacts. Rarely do we take the time to understand how we relate to each other.

We don’t look into the realm of what we don’t know. I think that’s the part I’m talking about. When I do workshops I have people look around the room, listen to silence; listen to what’s not being said, to bodies that are talking all the time. We usually don’t listen to the nonverbal, to the energy in a room, to the impact of our ancestors that have brought us to this place. We are very present and future oriented but don’t pay enough homage or respect to the past. When are we open to learn from other cultures . . . to integrate values from other cultures? When companies say they’re multi-cultural or multi-racial I ask them to name one cultural factor they’ve integrated, that they see as practical, as useful, that they use every single day.

The turning point for me (after my mother was murdered) was when I wrote a play in which I acted out facing my Mom’s murderer. It also helped to look at the context from where it came. I tried to find and talk to the man who killed my mother, to no avail. On the day we finished The Color of Fear he was sentenced to life in prison. He’d killed four or five other women in addition to my Mom. Before that I had continued trying to contact his family. It turns out that some of his relatives lived in a home we’d been renting. It was really shocking. I talked to the woman who lived there and she said a cousin of hers had killed someone as well. When she went to his trial she had to leave because all she could see was “The little boy I’d grown up with”. She told me, “You may never know why he did it.”

Had my mother not been murdered, I’d never had made the film (The Color of Fear). I began to really see and sense that perhaps there was a meaning to this. It serves my healing and in many ways it’s healing for this country as well, because surely if I can go through this then others can open their hearts and have compassion as well. I’m not so sure hatred or guns or bars do any good . . . it only makes fear larger. Fear is not something you can protect yourself from, you have to walk through it.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

From Under Her Feet

An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. An interview with Sybil Anderson-Adams.

Adams-AndersonHer life was the picture of success. Her husband was an attorney, they were drawing up plans for their dream home, and she recently quit her teaching job, to spend more time with their three children. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her feet. What started out as a headache in court, turned out to be a leaking aneurysm. In spite of the doctors’ assurances to the contrary, within three weeks Sybil Anderson-Adams husband was dead. Without comprehension or time to have said good-bye, she struggled to survive and make sense of the incomprehensible.

As a result of her desperation and need to find answers, Sybil reached out to her friends, neighbors, doctor and church, and formed a support group for young adults who’s partners had died. The first meeting brought together twenty-five people who’d previously thought they were alone. With her need, and ability to communicate her process and grief to others, she continues to open the door of life for those who thought it had been slammed in their face and locked shut forever.

SYBIL ANDERSON-ADAMS: “When I arrived at the hospital the doctor said, ‘I have some bad news. Your husband stopped breathing.’ I’ll never forget those words. ‘He stopped breathing.’ He finally said, ‘I’m sorry . . . he’s passed away.’ It was then that it hit me . . . like a wosh.  I doubled over . . . just like you see in the movies.

After the shock had subsided, I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was the loss of identity. I was the type of person who always had my entire life planned out. Before Neal died, I’d never really had a traumatic event. I had things all figured and scheduled . . . which, as you know, gives you a sense of control. But I had no control over this one and that was my undoing. I had to decide where I was going; who I was. There was an urgency. I remember going to a counselor and saying, ‘When will I not feel this way? When, when, when?!’ The reality was so strong that I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

Then one day, I remember making a decision. it was something one of my kids said. You know, ‘Out of the mouths of babes!’ One of my sons says, ‘If you hadn’t stopped and talked to Dad that one day long ago, you might never had known him or gotten married.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I had this vision where I decided that whatever came up I’d say, ‘Yes!’ That I would do things no matter how hard it was. When my kids had stuff they needed to do . . . cub scouts, swimming . . . I made a decision that no matter what, I wasn’t going to hide at home anymore, I was going to go. And what I found was that doing that made me stronger, even though a lot of the events I attended were absolute disasters! Taking some kind of action made me feel brave. it gave me confidence.

I remember sitting with another friend who was at that same juncture. She said, ‘I hate this. I want to be out of here.’ I felt the same at the time and replied, ‘Yeah, just get me out.’ And that’s one of the reasons I started a support group, and keep it going to this day. I needed those people so bad. They were my reality. If somebody else could make it, so could I.

For awhile I could only live for the day. The future was nonexistent. I’ve met many people throughout the years that say the same thing. They said, ‘Good-bye” in the morning and their spouse was dead by the afternoon. It changed my whole concept of how I look at things. I laugh more often now. We’ve got three teenagers and one in early adolescence. They can make you laugh or cry. If I wasn’t able to laugh once in a while our life would be one miserable hell.

I think all survivors make that decision at some point. You have to decide to live. My kids forced me into it. I’d be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, not wanting to get out, and one of them would come in and say, ‘What’s for breakfast?’ What are you going to do; I couldn’t stay in bed? I had to get up. I was the only one they had left.

We had a saying in our house, ‘Life sucks.’ It was kind of our motto for awhile. The kids would say, ‘Life sucks!’ and I’d look at them and say, ‘Yeah, then what?’ They’d answer, ‘Then you die.’ I’d continue, ‘So, then what are you going to do about it?’ They’d look at me, roll their eyes and say, ‘Come on Mom.’ It’s made them real. They see a different reality then most kids.

Life has become a really interesting place. Neal’s death and where my life has gone since, has added another dimension. God knows I wish it hadn’t happened, but without it I could have lived until I was eighty-five and never discovered this! Life is such a gift, though I’m not thrilled with the way I had to really find this out. I love being in this state of mind. I’m doing things that I never knew I could or would do. There was a point two years after he died when I realized, ‘My God, I can do anything!’ I survived something that at first glance seemed like an endless hole of despair. I didn’t think I’d ever climb out . . . but I did.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

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