Grief and Loss Articles

5 Steps to Find Calm: An Interview with Robert J. Wicks

Friday, June 20th, 2014

New Photo

Renowned psychiatrist Peter Kramer once said that the opposite of depression isn’t happiness. It’s resilience, the ability to bounce back from tragedy, to regain a healthy sense of perspective after traumatic or stressful experiences.

In my recovery from depression and anxiety, it is calm — more than excitement or joy or contentment — that I seek. I want merely to enjoy a good night’s sleep and an evening without negative intrusive thoughts. I want to keep my heart rate down during challenging weeks, to let emotion take a back seat to rational thought, if that is even possible.

The Positive Effects of Heartbreak

Monday, June 16th, 2014

The Positive Effects of HeartbreakI read with every broken heart, we should become more adventurous. ~ Rilo Kiley

My heart hurts, I would say to others. And that kind of emotional pain is not just specific to me or only relevant to my life circumstances. I consider heartache to be a universal truth that comprises the human experience.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, right? I know, I know. It’s incredibly cliche. Once the dust settles — once we are able to process our feelings accordingly and obtain a bit of distance from that gut-wrenching state — while finding some semblance of closure, we could grasp the benefits of heartbreak as well.

A Technique for Feeling Painful Feelings

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

A Technique for Feeling Painful FeelingsMany of us avoid feeling our feelings because we worry that feeling them will be more painful than just pretending they don’t exist. Or we assume they’ll simply skulk away (and stay away permanently).

However, according to therapist and author Tina Gilbertson, LPC, in her book Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them, “You let feelings ‘go’ by feeling them fully. Once they’re felt, they can leave.”

The Five Stages of Grief After a Diagnosis of Mental Illness

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

The Five Stages of Grief After A Diagnosis of Mental IllnessIn the eight years that I’ve lived with schizophrenia, I’ve seen good days and horrible days, I’ve had successes and I’ve had failures. But nothing can compare to the despair I felt in the first few months and years of living with the illness.

They say there are five stages of grief when you lose a loved one. I can tell you from personal experience that those five stages also exist and are just as intense when you’re told you’re crazy.

Meditation on a Friend’s Suicide

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Meditation on a Friend’s SuicideA friend killed herself this weekend.

Stop for just a moment and measure how you feel on reading that. Feel into your shoulders and your chest, your gut. Feel the visceral reaction to the statement of fact that someone loved took her own life. Own it.

It is our inability to physically, let alone emotionally, deal with the choice made, the act, that threatens to keep someone so special from living on in our memories.

The Other Person Behind a Chronic Illness

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

aamft.orgMy husband asked me this morning how I slept.

I wasn’t sure if I should tell him the truth.

Yesterday was a bad day in a string of good days, which feels like a blizzard the first week of April. Aren’t we done with this?

Hallucinations of Loss, Visions of Grief

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Hallucinations of Loss, Visions of GriefWhen I was a boy and there was a death in the family, the mirrors in our house would be covered with a sheet, as Jewish tradition dictated.

The “official” explanation of this custom, according to our rabbi, was that gazing at one’s reflection in a mirror is an act of vanity — and there is no place for vanity in a period of mourning. But my family had a different understanding of the practice: the mirrors were covered so that we would not see the face of the deceased instead of our own reflections.

As a psychiatrist, I think this bit of folk wisdom may see more deeply into the human soul than the theological teaching.

Falling out of Love is Simply Awful

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Falling out of Love is Simply AwfulNearly all of us know the feeling — the blissful first days of new love. We get swept away with the emotional highs, exhilarating new experiences and stomach-tingling thrill of falling head over heels for someone new. It’s an amazing experience and can happen oh so fast.

To fall in love is awfully simple … but to fall out of love is simply awful.

The Realm of Love: Getting Real

Saturday, May 10th, 2014
{Flickr photo by Quinn Dombrowski}

{Flickr photo by Quinn Dombrowski}

Once when I broke up with a man, I was struggling with getting over him. When he quickly got engaged to someone else, I was devastated. At the time, I was going to school and confided in my professor, who invited me to look deeper at my grief: “Consider whether you are mourning the relationship you actually lost, or whether you are mourning the relationship you wished you had.”

At first I didn’t understand, so he added, “People are usually not missing the reality of the relationship, they are missing the fantasy of what they wished the relationship had been or become. In actuality, they discover they are mourning the loss of an illusion.”

The Masks of Trauma

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

The Masks of TraumaSometimes I receive emails from acquaintances I knew in my early years. They usually start by expressing their deep concern for me and what I went through.

Each message like this is healing because validation and concern for my situation was something I desperately needed as a child.

But their next questions are more challenging. “Should I have known?” “How did I miss the signs?” The answer has always eluded me. I really have no response.

Why Are We Drawn to Sad Movies?

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Why Are We Drawn to Sad Movies?“The best movies transport us beyond time. We hitch a ride on the emotional roller coaster of the main character’s quest.” – Cathie Glenn Sturdevant

Conjure up any heartbreaking film: Chances are, I’ll most likely be interested in it.

Deconstructing the Fear of Rejection: What Are We Really Afraid Of?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Deconstructing the Fear of Rejection: What Are We Really Afraid Of?The fear of rejection is one of our deepest human fears. Biologically wired with a longing to belong, we fear being seen in a critical way. We’re anxious about the prospect of being cut off, demeaned, or isolated. We fear being alone. We dread change.

The depth and flavor of fear varies for each individual, although there are common elements at play. If we’re willing to look, what is our actual felt experience of rejection? What are we really afraid of?

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