Two Ways to Make Your Grief Easier

Grief is never easy, but it can be made or become easier.  There are many ways your grief load can become lighter with the changing of certain factors in your mourning, but the best way is to increase somehow the amount of support, encouragement and care you receive from those around us. How can you make your grief easier?

Many mourners experience a lack of supportive people around them. The majority of those folks who are poor comforters just don’t have a clue about grief, what you are going through and what you might need.  And I would guess that the majority of the people around you are compassionate, empathetic and want to help, they just don’t know how. How can you change that situation?

  • Teach your friends, family and co-workers about grief, specifically your grief experience.
    People around  mourners get it that something horrible has happened and that you hurt. They don’t always “get” grief and its impact on you. Because they don’t understand grief and how it affects you, they feel helpless and uncomfortable about what to do. When people feel uncomfortable they can say and do things that end up not being very helpful and sometimes harmful.

 

You as a griever can help potential supporters by explaining and expressing the grief that you are experiencing. That means telling your story as many times as it takes to find a person who can become an important part of your support system. That means you have to get over your fears that what you're sharing with others will make them sad or drive them away from you.  At the same time, you need to walk a fine line between sharing enough and sharing too much or too often with the person who is supportive.   

  • Tell the folks around you, what you need.

If you don’t ask for what you need in your grief, most likely you may not get it. So don’t’ be afraid to ask for what you need from potential supporters who are compassionate and sympathetic toward your story and experience. That way you raise your chances of getting help, support, encouragement and care that will lighten your grief burden.  

 

If they offer to help in ways that you had not expected, be gracious and accept their gift of love and compassion as long as it is not overly intrusive. Remember: it is a blessing for them to be able to help you. So what happens when you reject a gift is that you steal their potential blessing that they can experience. If they give unsolicited advice, accept it with a smile and tell them politely what you really need is for them to be present, to be available and to listen without judging or trying to fix you or your situation. 

 

If they ask how they can help and you don’t know exactly what you need from them, thank them for listening and say that you will have to think over their offer of help and let them know later. In the meantime, ask them to close and available to listen to what you are experiencing.

 

Remind them that grief is a natural human response to loss of a loved one and that it is not an illness, mental or emotional disorder, a bad perspective or attitude, or a sin. So there is nothing wrong with you. You will just need time to process and progress in your grief. Also let them know that there is no set timetable on grief and that you may need help, support, encouragement and care for some time.

By doing these steps you will potentially increase your support system and the amount of help you receive in your grief journey. 

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Absence of Distraction

March 13th - A day that shall live in infamy as Facebook and its beloved affiliates, Instagram and WhatsApp, were shut down for several hours. Many found themselves struggling with the lack of habitual distraction they so easily run too in a moment of freedom. As hard as it is to recall, there was a time not long ago where we as a society could sit and think, imagine, daydream, and process emotions without the lure of distraction to see what others are thinking, imagining, or processing. 

 

What would it look like for you to take a day off from the distraction of social media and the mini devices that take our attention from the events, feelings, and people literally around us? Would the symptoms of withdrawal or FOMO might be too much to bear, and would you feel a sense of relief without the pressure to “know” everything as it’s happening in real time? What would it take for you as to create spaces, minutes, hours or days, where you could start that new hobby you’ve been talking about, meditate, read a book, or call someone to catch up? Time is the element we all wish we had more of, but since we are finitely restrained to 24 hours a day we must be intentional about carving out some of said time to do the things we often neglect for the “to do” of social media. I for one am thankful for the server malfunction that gave many the gift of time and space to explore intentionality, creativity and genuine connection even if it was only for a couple of hours. 

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Weathering the Storms of Life

Although storms are exciting to watch from the safety and warmth of home, being out in them is often another matter. Most people run for cover when a storm approaches, seeking safe harbor from the wind, the wet, the cold, the thunder and lightning. 

Life can feel the same way. Most people desire their lives to be generally calm and serene, with some excitement and challenges that they have chosen. Nevertheless, circumstances and events will occur which may turn your life inside out or upside down. 

Weathering the storms of life is a challenge for most folks, but can be tremendously hard for some.  Just like watching a storm from the comfort of your home, you may sometimes try to seek safety from the storms of life by taking cover inside your home. We can take cover and “hunker down” when we feel a storm coming in our lives, but is that the best way to handle our problems? Hiding from our troubles might not be the best answer.

Do you find yourself?

  • Pulling away from friends and family

  • Delaying difficult conversations

  • Assuming the worst

  • Avoiding putting yourself out there

  • Putting off projects

These avoidance tactics can prevent you from taking any emotional risk, and that's something you must do to achieve success. Here are a few things you can do help during a life storm.

Pay attention to your body.

Your body will tell you when you're in escaping mode with signs like tight shoulders, headaches, increased nervousness, indigestion, increased temper, and an inability to concentrate. At the first indications of these symptoms stop what you're doing and think about what you're avoiding. Then get to work on creating a modification in behavior with these tips.

Don't assume.

The inclination to assume that a conversation will be difficult, or that someone is angry with you is what heightens avoidance. As an alternative, go into conversations from a viewpoint of curiosity. What can I learn about this person? You never know what the other person is thinking, so if you go into a conversation assuming the worse, you are more likely to get it.

Split big projects into small steps.

When you fret on the overwhelming aspects of a project, you'll only doubt yourself more and more. Instead, break it into small steps and think only about your next step. Soon you'll be looking back, wondering what all the hype was about.

Do it sooner than later.

Putting off a dreaded project or conversation will not only stress you out but may lead to just the outcome you fear. Stop expecting the worst and just do it.

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Controlling Difficult Emotions

Everyday we experience a range of emotions. Some emotions are easy to experience. Feeling satisfied, joyful, content and energized are emotions we could all use more of! Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose the emotions we experience. Some emotions are more challenging. Feeling jealous, insecure, deprived, or fearful is much more difficult to manage.

 

How we control our emotions, mood, and affect is called ‘emotion regulation.’ This often happens unconsciously. Increasing our awareness of how we experience emotions and how we respond to emotions can lead to improved emotional health. 

 

Being able to regulate our emotions in the heat of the moment can seem impossible at times. Instead of acting out of a difficult emotion, be intentional and take a step back to choose how to respond. One strategy to gain more control over our emotions is the STOPP technique developed by Carol Vivyan:

 

  • S- Stop

  • T - Take a breath

  • O - Observe

  • P - Pull back - gain perspective

    • Take a bird's eye view of the situation

    • Determine if what is occurring is a fact or an opinion

    • How important will this be tomorrow? Next week? Next month?

  • P - Practice what works - proceed

    • What response would be the best response for me and those involved?

Will my response help the situation?

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Me, Myself, and Mommy?

Hey, mom. Yes, you. The hard working, guilt ridden, running on coffee (known as ‘mombie juice’ in my household) mom sitting and reading this for just a two minute break. Let’s talk about you for a minute. How would you describe yourself if someone asked you to? How many of your adjectives are related to your role as ‘mom’? If you said nearly all or all of them, it is time to make yourself a priority again, correcting ‘me, myself, and mommy’ to ‘me, myself, and I’.

 

Before you were a mother, there were likely several ways in which you would have described yourself, including hobbies and interests, self-care activities, a friend, a partner, and so on. Those were all parts of you; not one was the whole of you. Motherhood is now a part of you; and if it has become the whole of you, lets explore some ideas on redefining yourself. 

 

  • Prioritize yourself

  Even 15 minutes a day is better than 0. Go for a short walk, read a book, take a peaceful bath...or even longer..take that mom vacation!

  • Challenge the self-talk

   The self-talk leading to the guilt or shame needs a gentle reminder that you are important too

  • Reframe

  Think about those adjectives again. What would you like to include in that list and how can you make them happen? “I am a wife, mom, animal-lover, book enthusiast, chocolate connoisseur” not, “I am mom.”

 

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Spring is Coming: How to Prepare for Your Next Season

Brush away the cobwebs, sweep out the old, and tidy up for the new season; mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

 

Try to identify areas in your life that need revitalization. Maybe its your thoughts, your marriage, relationships with friends or co-workers, health, perspective, or simply your immediate environment.

 

Whichever it is, Spring is coming. 

Lets break it down:

 

S - Specific, Identify Specific areas requiring attention: thoughts, feelings, actions to that need to be "spruced up"

 

P - Prune. Cut and Prune the parts of your life that need removal. Sometimes in order to flourish we need to cut back, or cut off entirely.

 

R - Rinse, give your actions and thoughts a healthy wash up. Scrub those messy/dirty areas, decisions, and actions (you know what they are)   

 

I - Increase self care, coping skills, interests, and hobbies. Invest in yourself and your newly refreshed perspective. 

 

N - Nurture what you currently have that's positive and good. Not everything needs to be thrown out. 

 

G - Grow, challenge yourself to continue to Grow mentally, physically, and emotionally.

 

Remember, "If winter has the courage to turn into spring who says I can't bloom just the same?" -S.R.W 

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Shame and Self-Distancing

Your inner critic has a name. Its name is shame, and it seeks to negatively thwart every aspect of our personal and vocational goals allowing no room for growth. Once we recognize and externalize the voice of shame, we can detach ourselves from its grip on our identity and worth. One helpful tool in discerning shame and gaining power over its effects is self-distancing. 

 

Self-distancing involves increasing the psychological distance from your own self-centered perspective when assessing events that you experience. What this looks like is addressing yourself in second or third person allowing you to be able to detach from emotional situations and gain an objective view. A helpful way to grow in this skill is to speak about your situation or emotions as if you were talking to a friend as most of us give great advice and affirmation to those around us but we struggle to believe it for ourselves. Visualize yourself as an outside observer, allowing for a more compassionate and growth-oriented perspective. 

 

Practice self-distancing when you are feeling anxious, worthless, or struggling to make a tough decision and you may find you can make more rational decisions. When shame is recognized for what it is, a debilitating, nagging voice, separate yourself from its messages and speak encouraging words, allowing for space to grow and learn from your mistakes. No one is perfect and the goal is not perfection as shame would have you think. But as long as you are learning and growing, positive change is being made.  

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A Win Can Be A Really Big Loss

A Win Can Be A Really Big Loss

When couples don’t communicate well they are often left feeling like they must meet their own needs because their partner isn’t fully trusted. Each person in the relationship holds back so that they won’t have to be vulnerable and possibly get hurt. Unfortunately, if one or both people in the relationship believe that the other will not meet their needs they are left to meet them on their own. This type of communication and action dynamic becomes a situation where each person takes what they need from the other person, using or objectifying them to meet a need. When they try to meet their needs over the needs of their partner it becomes a take/take, or win/lose scenario. If I am meeting my needs alone, I win. If I win, that means someone has to lose. It might look like using a spouse as a sex object instead of their beloved spouse. It might show itself as a spouse treating the other like a servant. It takes many forms. Another form it might take is where each encounter in the relationship becomes a transaction. “I will win this time and I will let you win the next.” Unfortunately, the scales never balance and one, or both, are usually resentful and become conniving. 

 

Every aspect of the relationship could be a win/win for the couple. Relationships work best when they are “us” centered, not “me” centered. Instead of win/lose, which is taking what they feel they need, make relationship issues a win/win, which is give and receive. Find a different solution that gives each person something agreeable. Give and receive is choosing the “us”, a solution that maintains trust and intimacy and moves the discussion to a positive conclusion. Even with irreconcilable differences, find a win/win. Ever couple has them, but it’s how you accommodate them that matters. Remember:

 

  • A win for you means a loss for your partner.

  • Transactional relationships foster resentment over time.

  • Give and receive means that each person is looking to meet both of their needs.

  • Taking from your partner leads to tyranny and sometimes abuse.

Irreconcilable differences can be a win/win if you consider many options- use your imagination.

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Five Skills to Understand Conflict Management

There are discreet skills and attitudes, habits if you will, that can elevate your conflict practice to a new level. This article shares a selection of habits and attitudes that can transform a good conflict resolver into a highly effective one. By that I mean someone who facilitates productive, meaningful discussion between others that results in deeper self-awareness, mutual understanding and workable solutions.

We’re using the term ‘conflict resolver’ intentionally to reinforce the idea that we all can be instrumental in ending disputes, regardless of whether they are also mediators. These conflict management techniques are life skills that are useful in whatever setting you find yourself. With these skills, you can create environments that are respectful, collaborative and conducive to problem-solving. And, you’ll teach others to be proactive, by modeling successful conflict management behaviors.

1. UNDERSTAND EVERYONE’S NEEDS

It’s natural for anyone involved in a dispute to jump right in to handle conflict. When someone visits you to discuss a personality conflict, you assess a situation, determine the next steps and proceed until the problem is solved. But is that helpful?

When you take charge, the people in the conflict are relieved of their responsibility to find a solution. That leaves you to do the work around finding alternatives. And while you want to do what’s best for this person and everyone involved, it’s important to ask what everyone wants first-- whether it’s to vent, brainstorm solutions or get some coaching. Understand what the person coming to you wants by asking questions:

• How can I be most helpful to you?

• What are you hoping I will do?

• What do you see my role as in this matter?

2. ENGAGE IN COLLABORATIVE LISTENING

Collaborative Listening takes those active listening or reflective listening skills one step further. It recognizes that in listening each person has a job that supports the needs and wants of the other. The speaker’s job is to clearly express his or her thoughts, feelings and goals. The listener’s job is facilitating clarity; understanding and make the each person in the conflict feel heard.

So what’s the difference? The distinction is acknowledgement. Your role can be to help the each person gain a deeper understanding of everyone’s interests and needs; to define concepts and words in a way that expresses their values (i.e. respect means something different to each one of us); and to make her feel acknowledged—someone sees things from all points of view.

Making an acknowledgement is tricky in group settings. Understandably, you want to help the each person in the conflict but are mindful of the issues of the whole group. You can acknowledge each person’s needs even while safeguarding the needs of the group as a whole.

Simply put, acknowledgement does not mean agreement. It means letting everyone know that you can see how they got to their viewpoint or opinion. It doesn’t mean taking sides with someone or abandoning your responsibilities to the group. Acknowledgement can be the bridge across misperceptions. Engage in Collaborative Listening by:

• Help each person to explore and be clear about their interests and goals

• Acknowledge their perspective by saying phrases like:

I can see how you might see it that way.

That must be difficult for you.

I understand that you feel _______ about this.

• Ask questions that probe for deeper understanding on both your parts:

When you said x, what did you mean by that?

If ______ happens, what’s significant about that for you?

What am I missing in understanding this from your perspective?

3. BE A GOOD TRANSMITTER

Messages transmitted from one person to the next are very powerful. Sometimes people have to hear it ‘from the horse’s mouth’. Other times, you’ll have to be the transmitter of good thoughts and feelings. Pick up those ‘gems’, those positive messages that flow when others feel safe and heard in mediation, and present them to the other person. Your progress will improve.

We’re all human. You know how easy it is to hold a grudge, or assign blame. Sharing gems appropriately can help each a person begin to shift their perceptions of the situation, and more importantly, of each other. To deliver polished gems, try to:

• Act soon after hearing the gem

• Paraphrase accurately so the words aren’t distorted

• Ask the listener if this is new information and if changes her stance

• Avoid expecting the people involved to visibly demonstrate a ‘shift in stance’ (it happens internally and on their timetable, not ours)

4. RECOGNIZE POWER

Power is a dominant factor in mediation that raises many questions: What is it? Who has it? How to do you balance power? Assumptions about who is the ‘powerful one’ are easy to make and sometimes wrong. Skillful conflict resolvers recognize power dynamics in conflicts and are mindful about how to authentically manage them. You can recognize power by being aware that:

• Power is fluid and exchangeable

• People possess power over the content and their process (think of a person’s concerns as the water flowing into and being held by the container)

• Resolvers possess power over the mediation process (their knowledge, wisdom, experience, and commitment form the container)

• Your roles as a conflict resolver will have a significant impact on power dynamics

5. BE OPTIMISTIC & RESILIENT

Agreeing to participate in conflict management or resolution is an act of courage and hope. By participating, people are conveying their belief in value of the relationship. They are also expressing their trust in you to be responsive to and supportive of our efforts. A persons may first communicate their anger, frustration, suffering, righteousness, regret, not their best hopes. You can inspire them to continue by being optimistic:

• Be positive about your experiences with conflict management 

• Hold their best wishes and hopes for the future 

• Encourage them to work towards their hopes

Be Resilient. Remember the last time you were stuck in a conflict? You probably replayed the conversation in your mind over and over, thinking about different endings and scolding yourself. The others can get stuck, too. In fact, they can become so worn down and apathetic about their conflict, especially a long-standing dispute; they’d do anything to end it.

Yes, even agree with each other prematurely. Don’t let them settle. Mediation is about each person getting his or her interest met. Be resilient:

• Be prepared to move yourself and the others though productive and less productive cycles of the mediation

• Help the others see their movement and progress

• Be mindful and appreciative of the hard work you all are doing

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Dealing With Cabin Fever

Do You Have Cabin Fever?

Cabin fever is an expression for a common outcome to being isolated in a house for an extended amount of time. Some specialists believe that cabin fever is a sort of condition, while others feel that it is linked to such disorders as seasonal affective disorder and claustrophobia. Do you think you might have cabin fever? 

Symptoms of Cabin Fever

Not everyone suffering from cabin fever will experience the same symptoms, but many people report feeling intensely irritable or restless. Other commonly experienced signs are:

  • Restlessness

  • Exhaustion

  • Sadness

  • Lack of patience

  • Food cravings

  • Decreased motivation

  • Hopelessness

  • Extreme stress

 

Note that these symptoms may also be indicative of other conditions and only a trained mental health professional can make an accurate diagnosis. Not everyone who fears being cooped up at home in the winter has cabin fever. Only when someone exhibits several of the symptoms mentioned above is a phobia more likely.

 

Surviving Cabin Fever

If your symptoms are relatively minor, taking active steps to combat your feelings may be enough to help you feel better.

  • Get Out of the House - If you are isolated or confined to your home, this may not always be possible. But if you can go outside, even for a short time, take advantage of that opportunity. A short walk can help you feel better quickly. 

  • Continue Normal Eating Habits - A day stuck at home could be an excuse to eat too much. Some skip meals altogether. Eating right can increase our energy levels and motivation. 

  • Set Goals - Set daily and weekly goals, and track your progress toward completion. Make sure that your goals are reasonable, and reward yourself for meeting each mark.

  • Keep Your Brain Busy - Work puzzles, read books or play board games. Fueling your mind can help keep you move forward and reduce the feelings of isolation and vulnerability.

 

 

 

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