Grief Answers

Does anyone have experience of ambiguous grief

Dear Sushi,   Thank you very much for your message and for allowing me to understand the pain and the sufferings you and your mother have been going through since the loss. A loss is an irreplaceable and only time and compassion can bring comfort and peace during this process of healing.   When it comes to grieving, we all have our own ways of grief and processing. Each of us is uniquely different and that means we all connect with this process differently. Some cries, some write, some hide and some stay silent.     You are absolutely wise in seeking understanding over how you feel and so courageous in keep trying despite so many negative experiences in the past. I am so grateful for your trust and I do also see this as my privilege to be walking alongside you during this journey. I do believe with all of my heart that your wishes and prayers will come true and all these sufferings will stop.   In fact, they will. We are walking through a hard time, but if you notice, time is still moving and the clock is still ticking, no matter what we are doing or what we are not doing.   Therefore, let's keep loving ourselves, learn more about how to be kind and gentle with ourselves, practice accepting and appreciating who we are, and we'll walk together in this journey until you see what I've seen. :)   Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up the "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   Take a few more deep breaths and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   Once you've done this, scan your body again and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   At times where we are not practicing these tools, it's okay. Time is still passing and is carrying us to the comfort that we will find someday. Let's not judge or blame ourselves for not trying harder. We are all trying, and there is always a right time for everything. Just because we are not "trying hard" doesn't mean we don't want to try, perhaps it's just that the timing is not right yet. Let's be gentle, patient, and compassionate towards ourselves, especially when we feel like we are not trying hard enough.   I'm always and will always be here for you as long as you need me to.   There are times where we feel like we are not making much progress and I can relate to that personally. These are the times filled with frustrations, desperation, confusion, and probably hopelessness. As much as it is hard to see/feel or believe, we are indeed making progress. Time is moving (it always moves in case we don't notice).   Let's take this process slowly, gently, and allow ourselves to be healed. Meanwhile, allow ourselves to place them in a special place reserved in our hearts. That place could be different for you and the people around you, the key is that there is a special place reserved for them, and it is a place of great joy, wonderful memories, and the desire to live our lives in a way that they would have lived theirs.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

Is this something that you can help me with?

Hello Laura!  Thank you for reaching out to BetterHelp!  Yes, this is something we can help you with within therapy.  The loss of a child is tragic and I’m sorry to hear about your miscarriage.  When you are ready and willing to move onward and process this terrible experience, this is the best time to seek out professional help and guidance.  Sometimes people struggle with moving on from death or loss because they feel like it will devalue their life, or they won’t have a connection to them anymore.  Through the therapeutic process, you can learn how to establish meaning to this experience, process through your emotions, and perhaps learn to move forward in your life to honor that of your lost child.  I don’t know if you have been in therapy or counseling services before but, the therapeutic process is unique in that we take in what you have on your mind and help you navigate your thoughts and feelings to come to a resolution that best helps you.  We don’t often give advice or tell what you want to do but, help provide clarity, insight, and alternative perspectives to your situations or problems.  Often, we get stuck in our thinking and can only review the same problem and tried solutions.  In a safe and confidential environment, you are free to express your fears and worries and process through them in search of clarity and internal validation.  I’m happy to hear that you have moved back to our hometown are starting to feel more settled.  Being a safe and comforting place in your life is all the more reason to explore what inner struggles you may be experiencing.  Yes, this is a US-based service however, we do offer a variety of times that should meet your needs.  You can set up a counseling session through video, phone, or chat that is all through this website or phone application.  Also, when you go to book a time, the time will appear in your time zone as well as your therapists.  I have quite a few clients in the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands and, although it’s morning for me, they are usually off work and winding down for the day when we have our sessions.  I hope this was helpful and that you do decide to work through and process the life of your baby and what your future could hold. 
(MA, LMFT)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How to let hurt feelings go when you are dealing with family.

Hi, I want to start by saying that you are in a really challenging situation.  To lose a parent and then face uncomfortable family dynamics is too tricky and often more typical than you would expect in these situations.  So many times in the context of grief and crisis people show uncustomary behaviors.  I am so sorry that you have lost your mom and that you and your family are in the midst of so much difficulty.   You say that this behavior on your sibling's part is unusual.  Have you spoken with them about that observation?  I wonder if there is resentment on their part that you are the Estate Executor?  Is it possible to have a conversation with them all in person or on zoom if they are far away and address some of what is going on?   Some other questions that come to mind for me have to do with what happens in families in crisis.  People often act really in unpredictable ways in the context of grief and money.  Some things I wonder about are: Did your mom have a will?  Had she given different messages to different people in the family about what to expect when she died?  Was this process similar at the time of your dad's death?  What are you the most worried about in terms of what is going on right now?  Have you told your siblings how worried you are about losing them? Where are you getting support and help at this time?   I think that your capacity to label your feelings and your worries as well as to provide the Executor functions of an estate is an enormous sign of strength on your part.  You can not make people around you act in particular ways and clearly, you want to maintain connections with your siblings.  While I know that things take time and that it is not necessary to sort all of this out in one meeting, I would be happy to begin to process of looking at it all with you.  I would be happy to meet with you to talk when you are ready to do so.
(LICSW)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How to Deal with Grief when living abroad and you feel on the outside with your family?

Dear LostAbroad,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress/depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of becomes traumatized by it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result, we would do everything we can to avoid/fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like suffering, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace, and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, always accompanies a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight/avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings, or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid it, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings, and thoughts while continuing to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up the "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   Take a few more deep breaths and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   Once you've done this, scan your body again and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.     At times where we are not practicing these tools, it's okay. Time is still passing and is carrying us to the comfort that we will find someday. Let's not judge or blame ourselves for not trying harder. We are all trying, and there is always a right time for everything. Just because we are not "trying hard" doesn't mean we don't want to try, perhaps it's just that the timing is not right yet. Let's be gentle, patient, and compassionate towards ourselves, especially when we feel like we are not trying hard enough.   I'm always and will always be here for you as long as you need me to.   There are times where we feel like we are not making much progress and I can relate to that personally. These are the times filled with frustrations, desperation, confusion, and probably hopelessness. As much as it is hard to see/feel or believe, we are indeed making progress. Time is moving (it always moves in case we don't notice).   Let's take this process slowly, gently, and allow ourselves to be healed. Meanwhile, allow ourselves to place them in a special place reserved in our hearts. That place could be different for you and the people around you, the key is that there is a special place reserved for them, and it is a place of great joy, wonderful memories, and the desire to live our lives in a way that they would have lived theirs.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

I feel I am stuck, what do I do?

Hello! First of all, it is great that you have reached out for help. That is a hard first step for many to make. It can be difficult to figure out the best way to support loved ones when they are facing difficult times. And truly, you have been facing difficult times right along with him. Are you safe? Does he take his anger and frustration out on you in a way that is abusive? How does his paranoia manifest itself? Please make your safety a priority.  Your husband has experienced a number of things that would be challenging on their own. With "everything going downhill," it's even worse. He is grieving the loss of multiple things. He has not dealt with the passing of his father, so when he lost his job, his grief was likely amplified. You mention that he lost his job "not in a nice way." Again, losing a job is always difficult, but to do so in the manner in which he did is even worse. Throw in a global pandemic, and, yeah, it's a lot to deal with. In general, is your husband someone who doesn't ask for help, but rather stuffs everything down, or tries to ignore it? Can you think of any healthy coping strategies that he has used in the past? If so, try to engage him in those. What are his hobbies? Is there anyone, other than you, that he confides in or feels supported by?  Listening and reflecting is the best thing you can do to support your husband. Don't try to offer solutions, just reflect what you sense he is feeling back to him. Allow him to feel understood by you. Does he have a family member or good friend you can enlist for help? If so, you could ask them to invite your husband out to dinner or to do some activity together, just to get your husband out of the house, doing something he enjoys, along with having the listening ear of a trusted friend. If not, is there something the two of you can do together, again just to get him out of the house, doing something you enjoy doing together? I assume finances are tight due to the loss of his job, so look for free activities, a walk in the park or around your town/city, watch something on TV, cook dinner together and have a "date night" at home, etc.  Were you able to have a memorial service for your father-in-law or was it prevented by COVID? Regardless, I would encourage you to find ways to honor your father-in-law's memory, especially on his birthday and the anniversary of his passing. Prepare your father-in-law's favorite meal and share stories about him as you eat. Visit the place of his burial or one of his favorite places and remember the good times. Don't be afraid to share with him the times you are feeling sad about your father-in-law. Show him some of the ways you are processing everything. This is not an easy time for you either. What are the things you are doing to care for yourself? Would he be opposed to you seeing a therapist? I encourage you to practice radical self-care as well. We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. What a tough year you have faced together. Your husband is fortunate to have you. I hope my response has given you some things to try as you support your husband through this difficult time. Take care.     
(MS, LMFT)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How do I express my grief to a person who is dying? This is hard to hold alone.

That is so tough. You are going through something horrific and it is completely normal to have huge emotions surrounding it. There is a Famous quote by C.S Lewis that says "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear". It seems like fear of not being exactly what mom needs and fear of what's to come are fueling your question most of all. Maybe even some other fears that I can't get from this question alone!  My first bit of advice is to be as gentle with yourself as you would with another person in the same situation. You have needs in this process as well. You are grieving and you are sad and that is ok. You will not get this time back to truly share how you feel and say what you need to say. It is important to make this time count for both of you.  The answer to your specific question about remaining authentic while honoring what your mom needs is largely held in the balance. That balance is as unique as every person is. How do you find that balance? The balance is found somewhere between what your needs are and what your moms are. They actually may not be as different as you think. Talking about it with your mom is key in figuring out the balance.   When we avoid these types of conversations it often feels like the right thing to do at the moment. In reality, avoidance of these topics within a family can actually cause more harm than good.  Sometimes, both parties assume the needs of the other and then neither gets what they truly need. All of that With all good intentions from both parties. So make sure to Talk about it! Start with sharing a little of how you are feeling including your hesitation to be fully authentic in your grief. Side note: a prewritten letter or script may be helpful as you will likely be emotional. During this conversation, ask your mom what she emotionally needs from you during this time. You may find that what she needs most of all is your authentic self. Real emotions and all... 
(MSW, LCSWC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

Does therapy help with insomnia, anger, frustration, lack of interest for life and mental outburst?

Hello!  Let me begin by saying how sorry I am for your loss.  Finding yourself suddenly alone must be frightening and lonely.   There are so many complicated feelings and reactions to the "unfairness" of the situation.  You're certainly not doing "anything wrong"; you're just in new territory or uncharted waters!  The "job" of grieving is a process.  There are stages involved that include shock and disbelief (this can't be happening), sadness (feelings of intense loss), anger (doesn't have to make sense; anger at the world at ourselves, even at the deceased for leaving us), bargaining (please just let me wake up and find it's all been a dream) and finally acceptance (I get it; I don't like it but I get it).  This process takes place over time with the stages being revisited again and again.  As soon as you think you're moving forward, you can be back to a previous stage.  With grief and loss, and the adjustment to a different reality, there are other changes that are common.  Changes in appetite and sleep patterns, irritability, trouble concentrating and remembering.  Some individuals experience intense fear or anxiety and panic. The point here is that whatever you have been struggling with is absolutely normal! Therapy has been found to be helpful with all aspects of the life process.  Most of all, therapy is a safe space to express yourself.  Therapists are accepting and non-judgmental.  We bring personal insights as well as evidence-based tried and true approaches to improving the well-being of our clients.  Therapy can provide tools to better manage day-to-day problems.  We can assist with identifying social supports in your community as well as community resources for specific needs.  Therapy is considered a "healing" process.  We address lifelong trauma with clients, working together to process the experiences and build a better future.  Therapy assists with teaching skills such as mindful breathing and meditation to reduce anxiety as well as behavioral changes to improve sleep.  Therapy is a partnership where the goals are whatever you say they are.  We are here for you!  For a session or ten - you're in charge!  I'm happy to help.
(LCSW-BACS)
Answered on 09/27/2021

What is the best way to deal with loss of your mother?

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with grief from the loss of your mother and I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.  It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific anxieties you have about moving forward. Even writing a letter to her in a way that concludes as you moving forward with your life could be helpful.   Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with such difficult grief.              As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone whose life has worth even without your mother and that has been able to get through challenges in your past.  Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical-themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully, you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How long should I mourn my kid

Dear Victoy,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress/depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of becomes traumatized by it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result, we would do everything we can to avoid/fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like suffering, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace, and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, always accompanies a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight/avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings, or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid it, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings, and thoughts while continuing to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up the "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   Take a few more deep breaths and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   Once you've done this, scan your body again and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   At times where we are not practicing these tools, it's okay. Time is still passing and is carrying us to the comfort that we will find someday. Let's not judge or blame ourselves for not trying harder. We are all trying, and there is always a right time for everything. Just because we are not "trying hard" doesn't mean we don't want to try, perhaps it's just that the timing is not right yet. Let's be gentle, patient, and compassionate towards ourselves, especially when we feel like we are not trying hard enough.   I'm always and will always be here for you as long as you need me to.   There are times where we feel like we are not making much progress and I can relate to that personally. These are the times filled with frustrations, desperation, confusion, and probably hopelessness. As much as it is hard to see/feel or believe, we are indeed making progress. Time is moving (it always moves in case we don't notice).   Let's take this process slowly, gently, and allow ourselves to be healed. Meanwhile, allow ourselves to place them in a special place reserved in our hearts. That place could be different for you and the people around you, the key is that there is a special place reserved for them, and it is a place of great joy, wonderful memories, and the desire to live our lives in a way that they would have lived theirs.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

Is it ok to feel alone?

Hello! I am glad that you reached out. Sorry to hear about the passing of your parents. It's normal to feel alone after the passing of a loved one. Therapy would be a safe place to process your emotions and gain healing. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems, including reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as divorce. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time in the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. The good thing about Betterhelp is that you have so many qualified therapists to choose from.  As you start to process past sad and painful experiences such as grief you are more likely to reduce thoughts of anxiety and depression and be on a path to a healthier future and not feel so alone.  I wish you the best as you seek professional support!
Answered on 09/27/2021

How can I feel better?

Hello! I am glad that you reached out. Sorry to hear about the passing of your father. It sounds like you are grieving his passing. Therapy would be a safe place to process your emotions and gain healing. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems, including reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as divorce. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time in the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. The good thing about Betterhelp is that you have so many qualified therapists to choose from.  As you start to process any past sad and painful experiences such as grief you are more likely to reduce thoughts of anxiety and depression and be on a path to a healthier future.  I wish you the best as you seek professional support!
Answered on 09/27/2021

Can you get ptsd just from your parents passing away? I find I feel anxious a lot or overwhelmed.

It is rare someone would get PTSD from one event or a couple of events. It would have to be an extraordinary event, something truly horrible to have witnessed. Typically PTSD comes as a result of the repetition of something that would put one on high alert for survival. Typically when a close one dies we can experience a deep sense of loss, we can also go through a cycle of difficult emotions such as denial, anger, depression, anxiety, numbness. The key is to notice what we are going through with as little judgment as possible. And then from a place of acceptance of where we are, we can ask ourselves deeper questions. For instance, if I am in denial about my father's death, I first recognize my denial without judgment. I may for example think that I'll see him knocking at my door any moment. Then I can ask myself something like: "Wow! My dad means that much to me that I want to be able to do things with him or talk to him, I want to continue to know he is there in this life with me! Why does he mean so much to me? What do I miss about him?" By starting a conversation with ourselves about the person we miss we start the process of understanding what is going on with us.   Similarly, if I feel numb, depressed, or anxious about the loss, I first need to ground myself in my current reality. "I feel numb!" or "I feel depressed or anxious!" Simply accepting how I feel helps me feel understood. These feelings can be scary, but we don't need to think they are forever. If I feel numb I can ask myself: "What don't I want to feel?" If I feel anxious, I can ask myself: "What am I really scared of when I think about living my life without my dad?" If I feel depressed, I can ask myself: "How did my dad give me a sense of being alive? Why do I need him to feel alive?"   These questions may not have immediate answers. But they start the process of connecting with a deeper part of ourselves. We need that to be able to move to the next part of our inner process.    The primary goal is complete self-acceptance and understanding in the way that we experience and process a loss, yet without giving up on our ultimate goal to find passion in what we do again.
(MSMHC, LPC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How can I manage my emotions after finding our I am pregnant without my sisters support?

Hello KC28, I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you are having a difficult time being pregnant while not having the physical support of your sister as you did before. I can't imagine how difficult that must be for you. Grief is a very complex thing, and it sounds like you may still be grieving not only the loss of your sister and the memories that you had with her but also the present things such as your pregnancy that you can't share with her as well as grieving future things that you envisioned your sister being a part of. Grief isn't so black and white and sometimes while we think we have grieved our loss and are in a better place something can happen in our lives and our grief gets triggered again.  We all grieve in our own ways. Some people take a week to grieve and others years and that is okay as there isn't any "right" way to grieve. Through counseling you can work through the five stages of grief; denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. There are five stages but that doesn't mean everyone grieving going in that order, goes through all of the five stages, or even stays the same amount of time in each stage. You are also experiencing a wonderful miracle right now of being pregnant and hopefully, you can find some joy in that even though you do not have your sister's support. It is important that you have a support system through this time especially while grieving as you are dealing with a lot of emotions and hormones. Support systems can be friends, family, a counselor, and/or a support group. Thank you for asking this question. It leads me to believe that you are looking for that support during your pregnancy and if you aren't already working with a counselor it would be great for you to so to get some additional support for yourself.  You mentioned you had a previous pregnancy so I imagine you have been through this before so try to remember that strength you had to get through it that time. You are strong and you can do this. 
(MS, LMHC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

Will I ever get better?

Dear Honeybee,   Thank you very much for your message and for allowing me to understand the pain and the sufferings you have been going through since the loss. A loss is an irreplaceable and only time and compassion can bring comfort and peace during this process of healing.   When it comes to grieving, we all have our own ways of grief and processing. Each of us is uniquely different and that means we all connect with this process differently. Some cries, some write, some hide and some stay silent.     You are absolutely wise in seeking understanding over how you feel and so courageous in keep trying despite so many negative experiences in the past. I am so grateful for your trust and I do also see this as my privilege to be walking alongside you during this journey. I do believe with all of my heart that your wishes and prayers will come true and all these sufferings will stop.   In fact, they will. We are walking through a hard time, but if you notice, time is still moving and the clock is still ticking, no matter what we are doing or what we are not doing.   Therefore, let's keep loving ourselves, learn more about how to be kind and gentle with ourselves, practice accepting and appreciating who we are, and we'll walk together in this journey until you see what I've seen. :)   Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce their intensity of them.   Floating, is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for them.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up the "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   1. OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   2. BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   3. EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   4. ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   • When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   • You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   • Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   • Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   • Take a few more deep breaths and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   • Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   • The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   • You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   • Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   • You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   • Once you've done this, scan your body again and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   • You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   • As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.     At times where we are not practicing these tools, it's okay. Time is still passing and is carrying us to the comfort that we will find someday. Let's not judge or blame ourselves for not trying harder. We are all trying, and there is always a right time for everything. Just because we are not "trying hard" doesn't mean we don't want to try, perhaps it's just that the timing is not right yet. Let's be gentle, patient, and compassionate towards ourselves, especially when we feel like we are not trying hard enough.   I'm always and will always be here for you as long as you need me to.   There are times where we feel like we are not making much progress and I can relate to that personally. These are the times filled with frustrations, desperation, confusion, and probably hopelessness. As much as it is hard to see/feel or believe, we are indeed making progress. Time is moving (it always moves in case we don't notice).   Let's take this process slowly, gently, and allow ourselves to be healed. Meanwhile, allow ourselves to place them in a special place reserved in our hearts. That place could be different for you and the people around you, the key is that there is a special place reserved for them, and it is a place of great joy, wonderful memories, and the desire to live our lives in a way that they would have lived theirs.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

Can you give me some coping mechanisms for thr coming week

First of all, I'm sorry about the loss of your dad. That is a situation that is typically really difficult by itself. Now you're going on holiday with your mum who you don't get on with really well. Your question was, "How do I deal with any potential arguments?" That's a good question. It is a little challenging because I'm sure there's some interesting background information that would make the answer a little easier to fit your situation. But I have two ideas. But before I list them, I'm guessing you have a history of conflict with your mum that has not gotten resolved very well. Maybe your dad was even a referee sometimes, at least that is a common component of family arguments, where one person is the mediator or peacemaker. If that was the case, then let the unresolved feelings go. Since you're insightful enough to know there could be a problem, here are two other suggestions that might help. 1) Before you go on holiday, do some mindfulness or grounding exercises where you get very relaxed, listening to your breathing, realizing that you're right there in that moment and all is well. Then visualize that in the near future while you're with your mother, you will feel compassion for her loss, and if she gets edgy, you will just listen, and not feel a need to counter what she says. This holiday will only be of a limited duration. Realize you can "let it go." Visualize that you will imagine yourself a tea kettle that just allows the steam to escape. You don't keep the heat and pressure inside. 2) Be aware that animals who face a hard situation don't internalize it as human beings do. For example, there's a rather famous video of a deer being chased by a cougar. It's apparently in the spring and there's a lot of ice melt around. The deer runs through standing water which with his long legs he navigates well. The cougar with her shorter legs gets slowed down by the water and the deer escapes. He gets to the top of a nearby hill and sees that the cougar is no longer following him. This is the interesting part: the deer shakes himself, and then just starts eating grass as though nothing happened. So the point is if your mom starts to argue, again, just listen. If you start getting a little irate, when there's a break in the conversation, if you're in a position to do it, excuse yourself, step away and just shake yourself, letting the tension go. Then return and say something like, "This is a hard time for both of us, isn't it?" I wish you well. I think you can do this in a way both of you can heal. Hopefully, you won't even need these two suggestions.
Answered on 09/27/2021

How to move from losing a mother?

Losing a loved one is hard. The reaction to that loss is usually fraught with intense emotional pain that can persist for a very long time. A typical grief reaction can last anywhere from six months to one year.  However,  it may take even more time to grieve a loss depending on the nature of the relationship with the deceased,  cause of death, and social support, among other factors. Grief is a normal human experience. Some harmful myths about grief have probably made it harder for people to walk through the process of grief in a healthy manner. A couple of common myths that perpetuate the suffering for survivors are that grief is a sign of weakness or that it is a mental illness. Both myths only do more harm to the one mourning as it elicits guilt and shame which subsequently makes avoidance a likely response. Unfortunately,  many people avoid grieving through unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as excessive alcohol consumption or drug abuse, for example. There is no "right way" to grieve.   Although, Kübler-Ross's stages of grief model helps us understand the grieving process in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining,  depression,  and acceptance. However,  these stages may not occur in order or you may even find yourself revisiting a stage you already progressed through - all of which is normal. Wishing to wake up from a dream after experiencing a significant loss is a very common reaction to losing someone important. It probably feels like a bad dream. Imagining your life without your mother sounds unbearable.  It seems the pain has become so intense that it may even be tempting to repress your grief by pushing out memories of your mother. It would seem that denying her existence even would be a solution to your pain. Although this option may offer you temporary relief followed by guilt, it does not eliminate the necessity of expressing your grief fully. The only way to arrive at the final stage of grieving - acceptance - is to experience all the emotions (although painful) that arise without judgment or avoidance. If we do not honor our grief by confronting, identifying, and making sense of our emotions, then we run the risk of prolonging our grief reaction, which increases the likelihood of our grief triggering a depression episode. One way to facilitate your grieving process is to work through the stages of grief in therapy or even join a grief support group. You can facilitate the grieving process with yourself first. You can start by letting go of judgment and just allowing your emotions to flow as nature intended.
(LCSW)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How do you get over losing a parent?

Hi A, I am sorry to hear about your loss. Losing a loved one can take a toll on your emotional well-being. It is important to get professional help as soon as you can. I know how difficult this must have been for you and I want you to know that you have taken a step in the right direction.  The grieving process has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Knowing about these stages can help you identify your feelings with them and can help you in the recovery process. The initial stage is denial and in this stage, we are trying to go through the reality of loss and trying to suppress the emotional pain by denying or questioning the reality. This sudden shift, in reality, can be overwhelming for our brains to accept and thus we end up only remembering the shared memories we have had with the loved one rather than focussing on the reality that they are no longer with us. Denial helps us cope with the situation as slowly we come to accept it rather than feeling overwhelmed. The second stage is anger in which we express our emotions through anger once we come to realize the reality. This stage is the first emotion we feel as we start to express our feelings. However, to others, we seem impatient and unapproachable as well as short-tempered and this can isolate us because it is a time when we need connection and comfort from others. People around us usually don't understand this stage and usually step back though we need them the most. The third stage is bargaining. In this stage, we feel so desperate that we start to bargain to avoid the emotional pain. We start to bargain with a higher power (God) to save us from this pain and we often give something up or promise to be better human beings etc. We often bargain because we feel helpless and asking help (bargaining) with a higher power makes us feel a little bit more in control. Often, we realize things we have said in this stage and wish to go back and take our words back (many people bargain their own life etc). Once we get over the bargaining stage we become more clear of the reality and as the fog subsides we internally start to feel the pain. This leads us to feelings of internal sadness and depression. This stage, though natural, can make one feel isolated as communicating with others is not something we look forward to. The last stage is acceptance. In this stage, we are still feeling sadness and pain. However, we are no longer bargaining or getting angry at the situation, rather we are accepting it.  As I had mentioned above grief is a process and takes time. As you read about these stages I want you to try to identify yourself and your feelings and see what stage you are in. A therapist can help by supporting you and helping you go through these stages. A part of you will always miss your dad. However, with time you will know how to handle yourself better emotionally.  I hope this was helpful to you and I wish you the best.  Warmly, Dr. Saima 
(PHD, MS, MA)
Answered on 09/27/2021

Best way

Dear Best Way,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress/depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of becomes traumatized by it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result, we would do everything we can to avoid/fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like suffering, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace, and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, always accompanies a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight/avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings, or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid it, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings, and thoughts while continuing to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up the "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   Take a few more deep breaths and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   Once you've done this, scan your body again and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

Do people find healing

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with grief and I am so sorry about the loss of your mother. It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific anxieties that you have around healed from the loss of your mother.   Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with these kinds of life challenges.    As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth and that has been able to get through challenges in your past.  Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical-themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully, you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take the weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How can I cope with stress, ptsd, and severe anxiety? I’ve been a mess since the passing of my dad.

Hello Lola: I am so sorry that you lost your dad. It is so hard to deal with a loss like that. It can be a very helpless feeling. There are no words that ever make a person feel better. It is important to understand that your feelings are 100% valid and there is no timeline that will define when the intensity of these feelings will subside. You will always miss your dad. As time goes by, navigating your days will not be quite as difficult or emotionally draining. You have to give yourself that time to heal. I don’t know that anyone ever “gets over” the loss of a loved one. I think we just learn how to get from one day to the next. At some point – and this point is different for everyone – we have to learn to accept our loss. It’s not that we are saying, “Oh I now feel ok with my dad’s death.” It is more like, “I know I have to accept this loss as well as my feelings, and I need to find a way to honor his memory rather than being stuck in anger and depression.” It is not at all surprising that you feel angry – especially if his passing was due to something very unexpected like an accident or maybe COVID. Anger is a feeling that we get when we believe that there has been an injustice. You might very well believe that the world has been unjust by taking your father. Anger can also be a cover-up feeling for hurt or fear – other feelings you might very well be experiencing. You might be questioning your faith – if you are a spiritual or religious person. It is not surprising that you might try to medicate your feelings by drinking. While it is not the healthiest way to take care of yourself, it is understandable that you might pick a method that has a sure-fire and quick effect. At the end of the day, though, you (and only you) will need to decide how you want to respond to these feelings. No one can tell you how you “should” or “should not” grieve the loss of your dad. There are no rules. Some of the things that other people have found helpful include writing in a journal about your memories of your dad, creating a memory book with pictures, making donations in his honor, doing volunteer work with organizations that represent what he stood for. One of my favorites is rock painting. This is something you can do alone or with others. You simply collect some rocks (big ones), wash them off, and then paint them whatever colors you want with whatever message you want to put on them. You might put those rocks on his gravesite or keep them in a container at home. All of these things provide you with an avenue to do something positive rather than being stuck in negative feelings. There is also another way to deal with those intense feelings. There is a therapy called DBT which is essentially a curriculum of techniques to handle difficult emotions. The point of DBT is not to ignore or stuff emotions but to identify them, accept them, and respond in an appropriate manner. If you were to learn some of these skills, you might not feel a need to drink because you would have found another way to reduce the intensity of those emotions. DBT skills training is something I frequently discuss with my clients. These skills are useful for all of us no matter what we are experiencing in life. They include skills such as mindfulness skills (like deep breathing), tolerance skills (accepting our feelings), emotional regulation (recognizing our feelings and learning alternative ways of responding to them), and interpersonal skills (healthy ways of interacting with others). Some of these skills might be useful to you as you continue to deal with this loss. I am wondering about your support system as well. Do you have other family members you can lean on or good friends? Do these people provide you with an emotionally safe environment where you can talk about your dad and your feelings? Have you ever attended a grief group, or would that be of any interest to you? It is important to have a support group to lean on when you are struggling with these feelings. There is something called your “emotional bank account” which refers mainly to self-care. The more you are taking care of yourself, the more you will be able to tolerate the feelings related to this loss. Your emotional bank account is filled up by doing things that make you feel nurtured such as a massage, getting a manicure, going for a walk in the forest, listening to your favorite music, spending time with a good friend, etc. It is important to do these things and more (nutrition, exercise, sleep) in order to keep your emotional bank account at least somewhat filled up. You are going to be emotionally vulnerable when your emotional bank account is empty. Being vulnerable means you are not as resilient as you would be if you were taking good care of yourself. The bottom line is self-compassion – treating yourself the same way you would treat a good friend going through the same thing. Avoid beating yourself up about things you did or did not do. Take care of yourself and allow yourself to engage in those behaviors that feel good. Know that whatever you are feeling is valid. It does take time but eventually, you can get to a point where you feel a certain amount of acceptance and peace. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support though. We all need to. I hope that this has helped a little. Thank you for taking the time to read my response. Judi  
(MA, LMHP, LADC)
Answered on 09/27/2021