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Julie Morrell, MFT

  
  

Category Archives: Life Skills

Going through Grief & Loss?

When people are going through the upheaval of grieving the loss of a loved one, they have many lows of emotional reactions.

Missing a loved one is especially hard during the holidays.

Everyone’s response to loss is different and will NOT be the way you grieve, because grief is as unique as each individual.

So with that said, here are explanations of the 5 reactions people have and they are not on a linear timeline. NOT everyone goes through all of them in the prescribed order.

I am writing about this because if we live long enough, all of us will go through grieving the loss of someone who we love deeply.

Our grief is as individual as our lives.

The five stages, 1) Denial & shock, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance

Knowing what the reactions are help frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.

Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. I’ve written an expanded explanation of each of these reactions to grief below.

These reactions to grief are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.

Below are explanations of each stage or reaction to loss and grief.

DENIAL: Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss.

In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on.

We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

ANGER: Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits.

It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this? Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything.

Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now that your loved one has died. Suddenly you have a structure – – your anger toward them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.

BARGAINING: Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently.

We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

DEPRESSION: After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of.

The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.

ACCEPTANCE:: Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing.

In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one.

We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time. (The Stages of Grief were written by Grief experts: Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler)

David had mentioned he wished they had changed the word “stages” to “reactions” . Because the stages are not neatly packaged. David Kessler can be found on Facebook as he continues his work in the area of grief. He has also written a new book this year. Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief which came out November 5th 2019.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,
Julie Morrell, MFT

Deciding to Stay Clean & Sober

There are a few key reasons why people with an addiction problem decide to go into drug rehab & then decide to stay clean & sober. Here is what they have told me. ~ Julie Morrell MFT

1) As their substance abuse eventually became an every day event, they eventually got sick & tired of being sick and tired.

2) They got tired of disappointing the people they care about & eventually decided they don’t want to do it anymore. Seeing and hearing the disappointment in their loved one’s voice & face, becomes more excruciatingly painful. They realize they are messing up.

3) They realize they have no more friends & family that care for them, ( the tough love route) so now they are motivated to get clean. Because now they are truly all alone. Being an addict is very isolating. Using has made them incredibly and painfully lonely.

4) They realize they have a different relationship to drugs and alcohol. It’s a different relationship than what other people have, in that once they use they can’t stop. It’s an addictive relationship. They resolve they need rehab help to help them not use again. It’s at this point, that someone in their life might say to them. You need professional help, and they finally listen.

5) It’s interesting to note, that often times when an addict begins to come to counseling, they-want their depression or anxiety symptoms treated and lifted, and they DO want to have a better relationships with others. And at the same time they are not recognizing that it is the substance that is making their symptoms of depression, anxiety and failed relationships much worse. They often won’t tell the professional they are using at first, which is why it is important for them to see someone who knows about drug and alcohol addiction.

It’s often at this point that the addict will begin to listen to the idea that they indeed have a problem. Hearing it from a professional carries more weight then hearing it from a loved one. Hearing they need inpatient help begins to be a concept they are starting to consider. Outpatient counseling won’t help get them sober. And inpatient rehab will help someone with a substance abuse problem detox safely. Drug and Alcohol rehabs are equipped to help addicts safely detox. Detoxing from substance is not something a person can do on their own and can result in death. Detoxing needs to be medically monitored and done in a safe setting. When they realize this, it will often help them make the decision to finally get treatment.

Every substance abuse situation is different, and not all addicts react the same, however, if someone has been abusing substance for a long time. It is my belief that 30 days of inpatient treatment is a good start, but not enough to help someone make a complete change. It isn’t until after 60 days of inpatient treatment that you will start to see a kinder more gentle person begin to emerge. And after 90 days of being clean and sober, people can manage their every day stress much better, and studies show that people are less likely to immediately relapse. They have a much better chance of a renewed life after 90 days drug free.

If this is a situation you are familiar with, you might want to read the book,” Addict in the Family”, by Beverly Conyers. It will help you understand the challenges you are facing. It’s extremely difficult to interact with an addict, precisely because they can be so deceptively manipulative. Also, you might want to read or listen to the CD called, ” Reclaim your life” – You and the Alcoholic/Addict, by Carole Bennett. It’s important to go to Al-anon meetings and educate yourself regularly. If you don’t like the first one you have tried, go try another. http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/local-meetings

And if you are an addict go to 12 step meetings. Here is a link to AA meetings, http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-local-aa
The truth is, living a life of isolation will encourage a relapse whereas being connected with others will help someone remain sober. Being sober and staying sober is much more easily done when staying connected with others and committed to the sober community. Millions of people kick the life of addiction and live clean and sober lives. You can too. It’s possible!

How Self-Absorbed are you?

We all have to focus on ourselves at times to get things done and to take good care of ourselves. However there is a level of self-absorbtion that makes life difficult for those that live with the #self-centered person. If you bend toward self-absorbtion you will want others to be more perfect for you & do more things for you. It is crucial that we love & take care of ourselves – but that is very different from being extremely #self-absorbed. If you love yourself in a balanced healthy way then you accept who you are – but understand that you have flaws & that others do too. And if you forgive yourself for #sins you have committed in the past, then it will do you well to forgive others as well for the same.

We all have flaws, and we all have talents that make us unique. If you love yourself in a healthy way, you feel secure in yourself and your own accomplishments – and you won’t then look to others to give you self-esteem.

So how can you tell if you have healthy self-esteem or if you’re too self-absorbed and a bit too #narcissistic? The following questions can help you with this:

  1. Do you always need to be the center of attention? For example, do you dress in bold colours or in wacky styles so that other people notice and comment on your looks? Or, do you stoop to spreading gossip or doing crazy things to keep the interest and spotlight focused upon you? Or, does every conversation have to be about your interests and what you think other people SHOULD be doing– and you tend to switch off when others talk about their lives, and their interests?
  2. How do you deal with other people’ feelings? Do you put your feelings first and act as if that’s all that matters? Do you tend not to notice or ask how other people feeling? (or if you do, you view it as irrelevant)?
  3. What is your attitude to others, and their views? Do you tend to see yourself as always having the right answer, as being better than others, and deserving of respect? Do you tend to think that others are either wrong or stupid, or they’re less important or well-informed than you?
  4. How do you view your own problems and needs? Do you think that your problems and your needs are more important, or more urgent, or more serious than those of other people? Do you want all your problems to be sorted out right now – or else you’ll hyperventilate or get really mad? Is your spouse exasperated with your constant disapproval and critque of others? Do you demand that things go the way you think they should?
  5. Is your way always right, and your solution’s always best? Hence, no-one should argue with, or criticize, your thinking. Do you take it personally if others fail to realize how perfect your suggestions and your answers clearly are? Or do you get upset if others are not immediately responsive to you in the way you think they should be?
  6. Do you have a controlling personality? A self-absorbed person will usually want to control others, and likes to set the standards and rules in others’ lives. For example, how to cook, how to clean or how to drive a car. The controlling person is the one who sets the temperature for the room, if they are tense, other’s get tense. When people live with a controlling person eventually the controlled spouse or child will rebel and will want to run their own life. In short, they grow up.

Note: If several of these traits are applicable to you then it may indicate that you’re a bit too self- absorbed. Learn to relax your grip on others and focus more on being more kind & interested in others. Purposefully being kind to others creates a whole different more positive mind set. Not only will they like you better, you will like yourself better and feel more relaxed and less stressed.

If over the years people have eventually stop interacting with you , it might be because you lack #empathy & #compassion toward others. And perhaps you do not reciprocate kindness. And if you are prone to anger management problems along with cutting judgmental remarks & vibes people will avoid you. No one likes to be around someone who is self-absorbed, judgmental and critical. The nicest person will eventually find this trait tiresome. The antidote is kindness & compassion!

Julie Morrell on Emotional Intelligence

Have you heard of the phrase ” Emotional Intelligence” ? EQ for short? Dr. Jeanne Segal, has found that high levels of emotional intelligence consists of these five key skills:

1. The ability to quickly reduce stress.
2. The ability to recognize & manage your emotions.
3. The ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication.
4. The ability to use humor and play to deal with challenges.
5. The ability to resolve conflicts positively & with confidence.

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Are you honest, #loving & forthcoming with your feelings? Honesty fueled by love is the most emotionally, powerful, #grown up way to live your life. And if you can embrace this concept in your #communication style, the people in your life will feel your love & care for them in the most #powerful way possible.

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Are you a person who can truly emotionally connect with people? According to research scientist Brene Brown, If  you can emotionally connect you will then you will have these character traits below.

1) People who can connect with others can also tell their real life story with their whole heart.
2)They have the #compassion to be kind to themselves.
3)They have connection with others as a result of authenticity. You can’t have a real connection with others otherwise.
4)They embrace #vulnerability.
5)They have the willingness to say, ” I love you” first.
6) They have learned to breathe through difficult #life challenges.
7) When you truly connect with another, you will have more #Love & Joy in your life!