Grieving Through the Holidays

Grieving Through the Holidays

Grieving through the Holidays written by Emily Mahoney, LCPC MT-BC. As December rolls around, holiday music fills the air, the lights are lit, and the world becomes a more festive place. It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” or at least that’s what we’re told it’s supposed to be. Except that, if you’ve experienced a major loss recently, the holiday cheer may feel especially dissonant this year, during a time when grief can become amplified and make one feel especially isolated. For those grieving, the holidays can become a painful reminder of the absence of a loved one and life permanently altered. 

We often think of grief as reserved for those who have experienced the death of a loved one, but it may be just as difficult to cope with the loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss due to estrangement, and miscarriage or fertility-related loss. In fact, these losses that are less visible can feel even more difficult and complicated; these losses often come with less support and more isolation. These losses can come with a cascade of other types of loss, such as the loss of normalcy or the loss of a future imagined. 

On top of the feelings related to loss, such as sadness, numbness, anger, and depression, grief can also manifest in physical and mental ways such as aches and pains, feelings of moving slower than usual, brain fog, fatigue, and forgetfulness. Changes in sleep or appetite due to grief may also make it very difficult to participate in holiday festivities. 

One of the most common things I’ve heard as a therapist about grief is, “this isn’t what I expected it would be like.” If you’re worked with me in therapy, we’ve probably discussed how there isn’t one right or wrong way to grieve, yet we can get stuck on expectations from ourselves and others. We can also get stuck on those questions that drive anxiety about our grief, like “What’s wrong with me?” and “Will it ever get easier?” These can keep us from accepting the way that we actually feel and doing something about it. 

As we approach the holidays, here are some ideas and questions that may help to approach this season with more self compassion and gentleness:

  1. Acknowledge that it will feel different this year, and that’s normal. You’re on a different wavelength from the celebrations around you this year, and that may be difficult. Allow yourself to consider what feels right for you. Does it feel right to dive headfirst into holiday decorating? Does it feel right to cancel the holiday all together? What feels right for you may be different from what you expect or what you feel others expect.
  2. Adjust your expectations for yourself. Holidays already involve a significant amount of pressure: decorating, shopping for gifts, hosting family, planning meals, etc. Tasks that once may have seemed joyful, or at least manageable, may now seem impossible. What can you do to take the pressure off your responsibilities this year and to ease the stress?
  3. Plan your supports. If you were planning the recovery from surgery, you would likely make a plan of how to take care of yourself and ask for help from those around to support your recovery. Grief requires that same care and recovery. First make sure your basic needs are met: what can you do to make sure you are eating, hydrating, and sleeping. Who can you reach out to for help? What are some comforting things that can soften this time for you? 
  4. For a death related loss: honor your loved one. What can you do to honor the person who died and feel more connected to them? Maybe it’s lighting a candle in their honor, serving their favorite dish, displaying a photo, or listening to their favorite song. 

For a non-death related loss, what is something you can do to honor yourself for the loss you’ve experienced. 

The quote by grief educator, Alan Wolfelt, comes to mind: “If we allow ourselves the grace that comes with love, we must allow ourselves the grace that is required to mourn.” It is precisely that–the grace we extend to ourselves–that can help us through this time. 

Looking for some additional resources, check out some of these below:

Support groups:

David Kessler Free Holiday Grief Support group

Grief Share’s Support Groups

Grief Support Group sponsored through Women’s Wellness Lounge

Fostering a Vibrant Life in the Wake of Personal Loss – Baltimore

Podcasts:

Grief Podcasts- Compilation

Songs That Heal- Music Therapy Tools & Techniques for Grief

Coping With Grief During The Holidays

4 Things- Grief During the Holidays w/Megan Devine- It’s OK That You’re Not OK

Additional resources/articles:

What’s your Grief

How to use music to cope with grief through the holidays

Journal prompts:

Mindfulness/holiday/grief

Guided meditation:

Free Meditation- Compassion During the Holidays

Holiday planner:

Grief Sensitive Winter Holiday Planner

For children:

7 Tips to Support Grieving Children during the Holidays

Looking for some Counseling for Grief issues please reach out to us at www.turningstonecounseling.com.

Help the Anxious and Depressed Women In Your Life

Help the Anxious and Depressed Women In Your Life

Paging Dr. Friend, Help the Anxious and Depressed Women In Your Life 

This month is Women’s History month and we wanted to share some important information about anxiety and depression in women. To start, did you know that women experience both anxiety and depression at a higher rate than men? 

There can be various reasons for this, but most likely we see this come about due to hormonal changes and societal expectations placed on women in today’s family units and workplace environments. Women are widely praised as being “superwoman” and while that title can be flattering, it bears an amount of pressure that is often unbearable.

The women experiencing anxiety or depression can be our closest friends, family members and ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard for us to speak up and tell someone how we are feeling, which is why when we find out that someone close to us has been suffering, it can appear to be surprising. The good news is that we can check on our friends and check in with ourselves to make sure that we are all okay.

Here are a few quick tips to help women who struggle with anxiety and depression. Let’s help each other out this month and for the years to come!

  1. Make a list of your closest friends who are women or identify as women (and family members as well!). 
  2. Set a day and time to check in with them and catch up on their lives at a time convenient for the both of you. To schedule this can be a challenge, we are all so busy. Try this format: Monday- send a quick text message to the friend/family member and see what days and times are usually best for a call to catch up (in person is great too, if you both have the time- the key here is to help feel better not stress either of you further). Send a quick calendar invite so that it isn’t forgotten. Have your call or meet up!
  3. During your check-in call or meeting, practice active listening. A good rule of thumb is no nearby phones or distractions. This could be after the kids have gone to bed or on the weekend when they are at a friend’s house. 
  4. Set a time to follow up with your friend or family member! The relationship doesn’t end here, set some reminders to check in with them and make sure that they know that they feel valued and loved. 
  5. Explore how you felt after the call or meeting. Did what they say resonate with you? Did you feel you wanted to take your own advice? Make one last appointment for self-care to take care of YOU as well. 

This practice is not just helpful for your friend, but it can be helpful for you as well. If you feel as though people don’t reach out to you as much, this will help to connect with them and often a little effort goes a long way. Your friend may be encouraged by you reaching out, and want to make more of an effort as well. Relationships are work, and so is lifting each other up! The more that we connect on the phone and in person, the better we feel mentally and spiritually. Who will you reach out to this month? 

5 Tips For Finding A Therapist

5 Tips For Finding A Therapist

With so many options on the internet for therapy, finding a therapist can be overwhelming. Add overwhelm to how you are already feeling and it’s a recipe for frustration! We understand and want to help you find the right therapist for you.

While many great platforms exist to help you find a great therapist (for example: Psychology Today or Therapy Den), we are providing 5 easy steps to help you get started. These steps can be used along with platforms like Psychology Today, or separately! 

Our steps can help you find the right match and there are many things to consider when finding a therapist. The search may not be quick, but that’s ok! It’s most important to take the time to find someone who is qualified, experienced, and someone you can trust. 

Here are a few tips to help you in your search for finding a therapist:

  1. Research: Before you make an appointment, make sure to research. Look for a therapist who is licensed in your state and specializes in the type of treatment you need. Read reviews, ask for referrals, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  2. Ask for recommendations: This applies to people you already trust! Talk to trusted friends and ask for their recommendations. We don’t recommend speaking with family, as that may lead to difficult situations. However, friends may be able to provide you with insight into which therapist would be the right fit for you.
  3. Consider your comfort level: Your comfort level is important when it comes to therapy. Make sure you feel comfortable with the therapist you choose. Set some internal boundaries and consider the type of person you are most comfortable with before meeting. For example, some therapists can be more blunt and to the point, and some can use a softer approach. Whichever will help you most is the right choice. 
  4. Schedule a consultation: Before committing to a therapist, schedule a consultation to get a feel for how the therapist works and if they are the right fit for you.
  5. Check your insurance: Before scheduling an appointment, make sure your insurance is accepted at the practice. If you have any questions, they can assist!

We hope these tips will help with finding a therapist! To learn more about our therapists click here.

How to make marriage work

How to make marriage work

In the months and years after the pandemic experience, relationships have been suffering. Let’s face it, marriage is tough and making a marriage work is hard!

For many of us, we aren’t sure how to make it better and feel like we’ve tried everything but nothing seems to help. Frustration sets in, and causes us to feel as though we’ve failed. Maybe you’re tired, burnt out, confused and starting to feel hopeless.

At Turning Stone Counseling we always say you don’t have to struggle alone; there is support. That statement includes married couples as well! Although there are two of you, it can be a very isolating experience when situations start to become difficult. 

Marriage is not easy. It takes two people who are determined to make it work and are fully committed to the relationship. To help guide couples, Dr. John Gottman created the Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work. These principles include trust, commitment, acceptance, respect, compromise, support and optimism. 

Trust is the foundation of any successful marriage. Both partners need to be honest with each other and be willing to keep confidence to make marriage work. They must also be able to rely on each other in difficult times and know that their partner will support them. His work is beneficial for those having a tough time in their marriage, and those looking to avoid difficulties in the future. 

Here are 3 key marriage solutions that you will learn after completing our workshop:

  1. How to know the difference between a perpetual problem that can be changed, and one that cannot. 

A great example of a problem without an easy solution would be a partner having ADHD and constantly forgetting to put keys by the door. This may be frustrating for the non-ADHD partner, but they will be able to understand why it keeps happening. There may be something that can be done to remedy this problem, but the ADHD is not something that can be changed.

A problem that may have a solution and could be changed would be the burden of chores within the relationship. How can both partners make a chore routine that will work well for their individual needs? A solution and change is possible. 

  1. Better ways to communicate with each other. 

One of the ways that we work with communication is using the “I feel” statements. It’s easy when we are frustrated with each other to place blame. Taking the blame ourselves and explaining why it makes us feel a certain way, is a helpful way to allow the other person to easily step into our shoes and see our perspective. Remember, everyone is seeing the world from their unique and individual perspectives. 

  1. Learning ways to diffuse a tough situation. 

By utilizing the four horseman from Gottman, or rather the four conversation styles, a couple will be able to understand the communication aspects and know what will trigger their partner so that they can make sure to avoid that style of communication. It will also teach each partner about why they respond the way that they do, and how to reframe the situation or redirect the discussion. 

If this sounds like a workshop that would help to improve your relationship or to set your relationship on the right foundation for the future, we would love to have you at our next workshop in April. Sign up here to reserve your place in the class!

What is Trauma and trauma therapy?

What is Trauma and trauma therapy?

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a word that is often used to describe a range of experiences and symptoms. It is a physiological or emotional response to something that had a deeply disturbing effect on an individual. It can be a present or past experience and often has lingering effects on the rest of our nervous system. 

We can have small trauma’s or big trauma’s throughout our life. Small trauma’s can be the loss of a loved animal or a bullying incident in school. Big trauma can be a car accident or being injured while serving our country. The individual is the one who identifies whether a trauma is big or small based on how their body is responding to it. 

Trauma can have a wide-reaching impact on one’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, potentially affecting all aspects of life. Without proper therapy for trauma, trauma can continue to affect a person throughout their life.

The Impact of Trauma on the Brain

Trauma has been linked to a wide range of physical, psychological, and behavioral effects. The impact of trauma on the brain is particularly profound, as it can result in neurological disturbances that can last for extended periods of time or even become permanent. 

Traumatic events/experiences create a stress response within our bodies. This stress response has been shown to affect the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Over time and/or left untreated, changes to the brain in these areas can result. Learning, memory, and the way we process information can be altered and affected. Bessel van der Kolk describes three additional ways the brain changes when trauma has occurred. 

Symptoms of Trauma

Symptoms of trauma are vast and can look like many other disorders and illnesses. It’s important to talk to a skilled practitioner to better understand your symptoms in relation to trauma. Below is a list of trauma symptoms we often see: 

Cognitive:

  • Intrusive thoughts of the event that may occur out of the blue
  • Nightmares
  • Visual images of the event
  • Loss of memory and concentration abilities
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings

Behavioral:

  • Avoidance of activities or places that trigger memories of the event
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in previously-enjoyable activities

Physical:

  • Easily startled
  • Tremendous fatigue and exhaustion
  • Tachycardia
  • Edginess
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic muscle patterns
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Vague complaints of aches and pains throughout the body
  • Extreme alertness; always on the lookout for warnings of potential danger

Psychological:

  • Overwhelming fear
  • Obsessive and compulsive behaviors
  • Detachment from other people and emotions
  • Emotional numbing
  • Depression
  • Guilt – especially if one lived while others perished
  • Shame
  • Emotional shock
  • Disbelief
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

Types of Trauma

If you do any google search on types of trauma, you will get an array of different answers. We have expanded our definitions of trauma types over the years. Here is a breakdown: 

How Trauma can show up includes: 

  • Acute Trauma which is a single incident/experience of trauma. 
  • Chronic Trauma which is repeated or prolonged exposure to a trauma incident/experience.
  • Complex (or Developmental) trauma which is both childhood trauma and the long-term effects of trauma throughout the span of time. 

Different Trauma Types can include any of the following: 

  • Natural Disasters
  • Accidents
  • Community Violence
  • Sexual Abuse and/or Assualt
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Medical Trauma/Birth Traumas
  • Physical Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Relational Traumas that can encompass things like neglect, physical or sexual abuse
  • Work or Organizational Traumas
  • Vicarious Trauma (often seen in First Responders and other helping professionals
  • Military Service Traumas
  • Religious Traumas
  • Cult Traumas
  • Racial Trauma or Insidious trauma towards Oppressed and Marginalized groups

Then you can include the impact of Big Trauma/Little Trauma’s discussed earlier. Again its how the individual defines their own experience to that particular incident including their physiological and emotional response.

Benefits of Therapy

Trauma therapy provides a ton of benefits for individuals seeking out healing from their traumatic experiences. Some benefits include: 

  • Developing a clearer understanding of themselves through psychoeducation
  • Establishing or Re-establishing a sense of safety within the world
  • Developing resources that help ground and support an individual through challenging emotional moments. 
  • Identifying coping strategies to support healthier interactions with friends, colleagues, loved ones. 
  • A decrease in symptoms. 
  • Developing healthier attachments. 
  • Developing hope and a better sense of self. 

How to Find Therapy for Healing

Trauma therapy can be found in your area by searching specifically for therapists who specialize in therapy for trauma. Therapists should not only be trauma-informed but also have more advanced training to support you in your healing journey. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, trauma is a wide-ranging and complex issue that can have serious, long-term impacts on individuals, families, and communities. It is important to understand the causes of trauma in order to be able to identify it and provide appropriate support for those affected. Trauma is something that impacts us all, whether directly or indirectly. For those who have been personally impacted by trauma, it’s important to remember that you are not alone and there is help available.