Living with loss

— The stages of grief

We’ve all heard about the stages of grief, but the reality is there is no rulebook.


Grief is one of the most universal experiences people go through. It comes with no rulebook and it affects everyone in different ways. The feelings that come with grief are often painful and confusing. But you don’t have to go through it alone.

“Grief is a healthy and natural response to loss or a significant change that shows that someone or something that we love has been lost,” says Dr Lefteris Patlamazoglou, a counselling psychologist and lecturer at Monash University.

“Everybody’s grief looks different and also changes through time.”


The effects of grief

Common responses include sadness, anxiety, anger, disbelief, guilt, irritability and social withdrawal.

“The irreversibility of the loss makes us yearn for the deceased or for things to be like they used to, ruminate over the loss, and worry about the future,” Dr Patlamazoglou says. “People who grieve often have difficulties sleeping, such as getting too much or too little, or having interrupted sleep,” he explains.

“Eating habits tend to change during grief, with some people experiencing over- or under-eating, or consuming poor quality food. Finally, people may neglect their hygiene or looking after themselves.”

It’s also completely normal to feel numb.

“Grief responses come and go in a wave-like pattern, as the intensity of grief fluctuates,” Dr Patlamazoglou adds. “Over time, however, the waves of grief became easier to manage.”


Disenfranchised grief

Also known as hidden grief, this occurs when our feelings go unrecognised by others.

“Grief becomes disenfranchised when it’s not or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported,” Dr Patlamazoglou says.

It could be that the manner in which you are grieving goes against the expectations of those around you. Or you may be grieving the loss of a job, fertility issues or leaving the country you grew up in. Disenfranchised grief sometimes occurs if there are social stigmas surrounding the way someone has died, such as a homicide, suicide or HIV/AIDS. It could be the mode of your relationship with the person who has died, such as an ex-partner, colleague or celebrity. Grief can also be overlooked if the person experiencing it is young, very old or affected by a disability or mental illness.

“Disenfranchisement causes people to feel like their losses are not worthy of grieving or that they are overreacting,” Dr Patlamazoglou says. This can cause the person to feel dejected or isolated.


Anticipatory grief

“People may experience anticipatory grief when someone they love is terminally ill or they are facing the inevitable death of a loved one or themselves,” Dr Patlamazoglou says.

“Some people see in anticipatory grief an opportunity to say goodbye and prepare psychologically for the loss of a loved one, while some don’t grieve prior to the loss.”

How can I seek support?

Whether it’s from a counsellor, friends or family, it’s important to seek support early to help you get through troubled times.

“Friends and family can assist by sharing positive memories of the deceased and doing some chores, such as cooking, cleaning and running errands,” Dr Patlamazoglou advises.

“Remind those around you to check on you, and at the same time respect your boundaries and privacy.”

He adds, “Counsellors and psychologists can also help you find ways to manage your grief that are meaningful to you and at a pace that suits your needs.

“Finally, meditation, spirituality or religion, as well as exercise such as walks, gym and yoga, can bring relief and joy.”

How long will it last?

While it’s common to wonder how long these feelings will last, grief has no defined timeline. “In fact, grief may never dissipate entirely,” Dr Patlamazoglou says.

“Rather it’s people’s coping with grief that usually improves with time.”

It’s important to know there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

“Allow yourself to experience grief and let it wash over you,” Dr Patlamazoglou advises. “Grieving is a reminder that you feel love for the person you have lost. Grief is not a burden you should get over but an experience that you can integrate into your life and, through time, you may also gain resilience and grow as a person.”


The power of memory

While it’s common to struggle on significant dates like birthdays or anniversaries, cherishing those memories can help you to cope with your grief.

“You can maintain your bonds with your loved ones by talking to them, dedicating songs to them, watching their favourite movie, cooking their favourite meal or visiting a meaningful place,” Patlamazoglou says.


Showing support

If someone you know is grieving, don’t be afraid to reach out.

“Be proactive. People who grieve may find it difficult to complete chores, so cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and running errands on their behalf can be very helpful,” Dr Patlamazoglou says.

“Also, connect them with a grief counsellor or support services. People usually receive a lot of support from family and friends soon after a loved one’s death, but this support dissipates later on.

Importantly, keep checking on grieving people regularly and respect their boundaries at the same time.”

Complete Article HERE!

What Comes After the Process of Grief?

By Nicole Schnitzler

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. You’ll likely recognize these five words in succession as the five stages of grief, a psychology model that outlines the way in which we can expect to cope—and heal—upon experiencing loss. But what if we’ve had it wrong all this time—and what if that’s actually a good thing?

It’s exactly the point author and grief coach Hope Edelman is trying to make in her recently released title The AfterGrief ($16), a book exploring the long arc of loss. “When Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced these five stages in the 1960s, it was for terminally ill patients, and they were called the ‘five stages of dying,’” says Edelman, who notes how those stages, in that regard, made a lot of sense—how one could understandably move from denial and anger about a diagnosis to bargaining for change to eventual acceptance of their prognosis. The problem came, she notes, when those five stages were transferred onto mourners, becoming mistakenly known then as the “five stages of grief.” “It was such a seductive idea to the culture at the time that grief was something that we could work our way through and be done with,” she says. “The media took it and ran with it.”

And for some time, for some people, that narrative seems to pan out okay. Until, that is, any or all of these stages resurface—and those who thought they had finished the grieving process figure they must have gotten something wrong.

“Now, all of the time you hear people saying, ‘I think I’m stuck in the denial phase,’ or ‘I can’t get past the anger phase,’ when, in fact, grief doesn’t work like that,” says Edelman. We can feel all of those emotions—out of order or all at once—and, as so many are realizing, over the course of a lifetime. “Grief doesn’t happen in these neat and tidy silos because it isn’t linear—it’s cyclical,” she says.

It’s exactly why Edelman set out to write The AfterGrief, for which she interviewed 82 individuals, most of whom spoke about their early life losses and the years that followed. She reviewed these accounts alongside interviews with grief experts and data from a series of studies, all with the hopes of creating a model for long-term bereavement—one that extended beyond the previously accepted “five stages.” “I became aware from my own experience and through my research that what we were calling ‘acceptance’ was not an endpoint at all, but a way station that we would depart from and return to many times over the course of a lifetime,” she says.

Edelman lost her own mother at the age of 17, an event that led her to write Motherless Daughters ($16) and Motherless Mothers ($14), books exploring the mother-daughter connection and impact of significant loss (the former of which has been translated into 11 languages and sold more than 1 million copies worldwide).

The AfterGrief was published 27 years after the release of Motherless Daughters, and throughout that time, I had been looking for some kind of model for long-term bereavement that would explain the ways in which grief continues to show up 10, 20, 30 years later—and there weren’t any that spoke to me,” she says. “Having lost my mother in my teens, I knew by now that this clearly wasn’t something I was getting over or getting past or putting down. It was something that I was carrying forward with me.”

Appropriately, the introduction to The AfterGrief is titled “Getting Over Getting Over It,” an immediate reassurance to those who have inevitably experienced the ways in which grief, in all of its twists and turns, can resurface over the years. There are the more expected “grief spikes,” as Edelman writes, times in which grief can return for events like birthdays and anniversaries, or milestones, such as weddings, graduations, or having children of one’s own. And then, there are the “sneak attacks,” a term Edelman adopted from Rebecca Soffer of grief website Modern Loss, describing the moments in which grief reveals itself quickly and unexpectedly. Edelman outlines her own on the first page of her book, detailing a recent experience she had while driving when “The Weight” by The Band started playing. When the refrain’s piano chords kicked in, Edelman was kicked right back to her childhood living room, where she would watch her mother, a classically trained pianist, maneuver the keys with perfectly painted red nails.

“I think of grief more as a constant renegotiation with the facts of a loss and our relationship to those facts—and that changes over time.”

“This kind of grief doesn’t typically last for long, but it can make some feel that they didn’t do it right or that their grief is unresolved,” says Edelman, pointing out that she never did agree with describing grief in such terms. “I think of grief more as a constant renegotiation with the facts of a loss and our relationship to those facts—and that changes over time.” For many, that’s where things can start to feel uncomfortable—when the story we’ve grown so accustomed to is now changing a few years, or a few decades, later. But that change, Edelman reassures us, is a good thing. “If we are growing and maturing and developing our perception of events in the past, then our perspectives are going to change, too.”

As such, Edelman closes out the book with a section on the act of “reframing,” the ways in which we can choose to create meaning around our circumstances. She references a recent interview she saw between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert—both of whom were just 10 years old when their fathers died (and, for Colbert, two brothers, as well)—when Colbert exemplifies this practice, speaking to the importance of loving the things in life we most wish had not happened.

“I think of reframing really as a deliberate or willful shift in perspective—we make a choice that we want our perspective to change,” says Edelman, noting just one way to do this is to acknowledge that while something sad and tragic may have happened to us in losing a loved one, that good things can still come from it. “We may not have had any choice in what happened when someone died—we may have felt really powerless and out of control—but as we carry that loss forward, we do have a lot of choice about how we’re going to do that,” she says. Done accordingly, those who have suffered trauma or tragedy can use those experiences as segues to growth and personal development.

And, Edelman says, as a catalyst for change that extends beyond us, as well: “We can better the world.”

Complete Article HERE!

What to Expect With End-Stage Heart Failure


End-stage heart failure is the most advanced stage of congestive heart failure. At this point, treatments don’t offer too much symptom relief.

There are four stages of heart failure. The first two stages—A and B—are considered pre-heart failure, where lifestyle changes and medications can largely keep the condition at bay. By stage C, you may have symptoms like swollen limbs, fatigue, and shortness of breath with physical activity.

By stage D, the heart has experienced significant damage, and it has begun to affect how other organs work, like the kidneys. Treatment for this stage includes surgery, heart transplant, or ventricular assist devices. You may also pursue hospice care—treatment based on comfort alone.


Congestive heart failure is usually thought to be a condition of the heart, but it can affect other organs as it progresses. It continues to get worse with each flare-up, or exacerbation, and 90% of people with the condition eventually die of pump failure.1 This is when the heart can no longer function as a pump, and circulation of blood and oxygen through the body stops.

Symptoms of end-stage heart failure stem from this deterioration of the heart’s pumping power. As the heart grows weaker, it can’t pump enough blood to other parts of the body, and blood and fluids begin to back up.

Tissues and organs that don’t receive enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients fail to work effectively. The symptoms of end-stage heart failure are caused by the body’s attempt to compensate for a weakened heart.

Symptoms of end-stage heart failure are similar to those in stage C, only they are more severe. They may include:2

  • Swelling and fluid collection under the skin
  • Shortness of breath, even at rest
  • Pulmonary edema, where excess fluid fills the lungs’ air sacs
  • Weakness and fatigue, especially with physical activities
  • Low blood pressure
  • Malnutrition, or failure of your body to absorb nutrients
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Increased nighttime urination


As your end-stage heart failure progresses, it will become more difficult to perform routine daily activities like bathing or walking through your house. You may require home care, a move to a skilled nursing facility, or frequent or continued hospitalization.

At advanced stages, you may need to be hospitalized for intravenous medications, oxygen therapy, or other treatments. If you don’t improve with hospitalization or need skilled nursing care, your medical team may recommend hospice or palliative care:

  • Palliative care: Contrary to what many people believe, palliative care is not necessarily end-of-life care. Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and discomfort caused by a chronic illness. Treatments continue with palliative care in many cases, but there is a greater focus on improving the quality of life. In people with heart failure, a palliative care visit during a hospital stay for heart failure was linked to decreased future hospital stays and intensive care unit admissions, and fewer aggressive treatments.3
  • Hospice care: Hospice care also focuses on comfort and quality of life, but you also make the decision with hospice care to forgo additional invasive or lifesaving measures.


Only about half of the people who have heart failure that’s in stage C or beyond live for five years after their diagnosis.3 More than a third of people with advanced heart failure die within a year of being hospitalized.

People who receive heart transplants or a ventricular assist device, which can help the heart pump out blood as it grows weaker, have a better outlook. While life expectancy on a ventricular assist device is limited, people can often expect to live 10 years or more after a successful cardiac transplant procedure.1

The American Heart Association (AHA) supports frequent conversations between you and your medical team in end-stage heart failure. Shared decision making is a partnership between you and your doctor where you openly and regularly discuss your condition, treatment options, and prognosis.

To help with the shared decision-making process, AHA offers the following checklist:4

  • Annual review of your condition and progress, current treatment goals, and plans to address emergencies and worsening of your condition
  • Review of treatment goals after “milestone” acute events like a hospitalization, heart attack, or need for defibrillator shock
  • Open and honest conversations about the side effects and quality of life impact that different treatments or worsening of symptoms may cause
  • Discussions about the impact of your condition and treatment options on you and your caregivers or family
  • Palliative care alongside medical treatment to help manage symptoms
  • Hospice care or other end-of-life planning to make sure your wishes are met when your condition advances

What Does Moving to Hospice Care Involve?

If you and your family have made the decision to pursue hospice care while receiving inpatient care, a case manager or social worker can help facilitate the process. If you are at home and would like to transition to hospice care, hospice agencies can help make the arrangements. Hospice agencies will review your needs and have a doctor order the appropriate medications for you. These medications will focus not on treating your condition, but on managing your symptoms and comfort as much as possible.

Caregiver Support

Supporting and caring for family and friends with end-stage heart failure can be difficult. At advanced heart failure stages, a person with this condition will need help with their daily activities.

Coping with the demands of caregiving can be difficult. If you are a caregiver, enlist the help of others, and involve your own healthcare providers in creating a plan that keeps your health and well-being in mind. There are services that can offer respite care, or temporary medical care for the people you care for when you need a break.

Palliative and hospice care can help caregivers cope as their loved one’s condition deteriorates, and they can find ways to make them comfortable as much as possible. The American Heart Association also recommends that caregivers find support groups in their community or online.5

Frequently Asked Questions

What is end-stage heart failure?

End-stage heart failure is the most advanced stage of heart failure. At this stage, medications and treatments can no longer improve the symptoms or prognosis. The focus of treatment at this stage will be to manage your symptoms as best as you can and prioritize comfort.

What are the signs of end-stage heart failure?

In end-stage heart failure, you may experience severe shortness of breath, swelling, and fatigue. It may become difficult to live independently and meet your own daily needs.

What should I expect at end-stage heart failure?

In end-stage heart failure, you may need frequent hospitalizations, and each acute event may make your condition worse. Your healthcare team may suggest skilled nursing, palliative, or hospice care to help you manage your condition.

How long can you live with end-stage heart failure?

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition that worsens with each flare-up. Your outlook and prognosis are better if you are healthy overall, you have been following your treatment plan, and you are responding well to your treatments. Being willing to pursue invasive treatments like a heart transplant will also increase your life expectancy.


End-stage heart failure is the most advanced form of heart failure, where your heart cannot pump blood effectively to meet your body’s needs. Treatments that have helped you manage earlier stages of the disease may not work anymore, and your healthcare provider will prioritize alleviating the discomfort of your symptoms. It’s still important to stay healthy because that could potentially improve your prognosis.
Continue reading “What to Expect With End-Stage Heart Failure”

My Dead Husband Is Haunting My Sex Life

I’m frustrated as hell.

By Jessica Stoya

I’m a woman whose husband died a few years ago. It was very traumatic, as he died at a relatively young age, and we had been extremely close and very much in love. I still have a strong sex drive but had no interest in dating for the first couple of years. It’s only been recently that I’ve been thinking about dipping my little toe back into dating.< Like all widows, I have dreams about my late hubby. I’m also a person who sometimes has pretty vivid sexual dreams. Unfortunately, I’ve been getting a highly uncomfortable blend of these dreams. Basically, any time since hubby died, if I start having a hot sex dream about another man—bing! hubby appears in the dream, and I can’t go through with it because, well, he’s right there, damn it. He’s pretty much cockblocking (or pussyblocking) me every time. Last night, I was having a super hot dream, and there he was, right on schedule. I remember telling someone in the dream he was my ex-husband, not my husband, so I think on some level I’m trying to detach from him. But I definitely never get to the point in the dreams of saying, “Look, I love you and all, but you’re dead. Can you step out, dude? I got this thang going on.”

I haven’t scattered hubby’s ashes yet. The plan was to do it last year, but then COVID. The place he wanted to be involves at least a long weekend, a couple of daylong drives, and an ocean trip. I’ve got the money and the time now and am hoping my state opens up enough that I can make it happen within the next few months. I’m thinking that might bring some final closure of some kind. Any advice on how to deal with it in the meantime, though? I wake up from these dreams frustrated as hell.
—Horny and Haunted

Dear Horny and Haunted,

I hope your instinct that scattering his ashes will help provide closure proves correct, and that you’re able to do so soon. You might also imagine scattering his ashes and saying goodbye now. Think about the place you’ll release them—what it looks like, what it will smell like, whether there will be wind. Spend some serious time fleshing out the image in your mind. Rehearse what you’ll say, if that’s part of the ritual, and listen to and acknowledge your feelings as they come up. Another thought journey that might help is imagining what you wish you’d said to him in the dreams. You seem like you have a clear idea of what you wanted to express. Maybe writing it out or imagining him in front of you as you speak could help.

As for the dreams themselves, are you able to remind yourself of where you are in your timeline and able to choose who you’re thinking about? If so, when you wake up frustrated, masturbation with conscious control of your thoughts might help resolve your arousal. If your thoughts keep drifting to your husband when you’re awake, take a deep breath and return them to where you want them. The trick to this is repetition—you’ll likely need to refocus multiple times, and calmly doing so rather than getting frustrated is the goal. Meditation outside of masturbation time can help train this skill.

Regardless, grief is one of the most difficult things we live through. It’s a process, and it may always be with you in some way. Be kind to yourself, and when you feel like you need a distraction, go for it.

Complete Article HERE!

Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal


While it was certainly an adjustment, overall, I felt like I came out of COVID-19 unscathed. I’m certainly not trying to brag. I was, and still am, fortunate to work from home when I need or want to — and most of our employees are able to do the same. I was really grateful for the quality time with my family, finally getting around to projects that I’d been putting off, and it even enhanced my business savvy.

Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal

With so many other people suffering and trying to get back to work — and the economy is struggling — I don’t take it for granted that I’m grateful every morning when I wake-up. I do, however, long for the good-ole-days.

I’m certainly not the only one. Anecdotally, when I catch up with friends, family, and colleagues — some still want to meet virtually — I can hardly tolerant virtual meetings anymore. And now, the numbers have started going up in many areas of the country because of non-vaxxers.

In short, we all started to miss what we considered “normal.” According to David Kessler, author and grieving expert, that’s because we started feeling different types of grief.

Why we’re grieving — All of these things happened in Covid — and some still feel it.

“We feel the world has changed, and it has,” Kessler told HBR. “We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different.”

“The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection,” he adds. All of these are “hitting us, and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Additionally, we’re also dealing with anticipatory grief — like when the numbers started going up about a week ago — what if we have to do this all over again? We will go through anticipatory grief when we’re uncertain about the future. “Usually, it centers on death,” he says. “We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday.”

“Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures,” he says. “There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people.”

The reason for this is because our primitive minds realize that “something bad is happening. However since you can’t see it, “our sense of safety” is broken, he adds. “We’re feeling that loss of safety.”

“I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this,” Kessler says. “Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”

If there’s any silver lining, though, it’s that there are simple and effective ways to cope. For starters, Kessler recommends understanding the stages of grief and learning calming techniques. But, you should also try these nine other strategies to help you accept and manage your feelings.

1. Don’t get stuck.

“I see a lot of jokes on social media about drinking at 10 a.m. and sharing ‘quarantinis’ over video chats, almost to the point of normalizing these self-medicating behaviors,” writes Megan Seidman, a primary therapist at Caron Renaissance. “People are cut off from their usual methods of coping, and many are turning to unhealthy ways of immediate gratification to numb their discomfort.”

It should go without saying that not only is that dangerous in the short term, but it could have long-term implications. Besides putting your health and wellness in jeopardy, being funny about the consequences of much sadness may give people ideas who are on a different level of pain — and could lead to substance abuse.

Some people never allowed themselves to grieve, and now they think we might be back in the same problems that happened a year ago. They “haven’t allowed themselves to feel the loss, fear, and grief they have,” they may experience “complicated grief and post-event trauma.”

“Complicated grief becomes all-encompassing, making it difficult for people to think about anything else,” explains Seidman. “They cannot accept the reality of the losses they’ve experienced and therefore fail to adjust to the new reality.”

What’s more, it’s going to be more challenging for these individuals to get “back into their former routines.” Seidman warns that we could “see issues in ongoing relationships, divorces, rumination over losses, and difficulty sleeping. Once the social distancing is alleviated, if people haven’t worked through this process, they’re going to have a harder time reconnecting with others.”

2. Add predictability.

You may have never thought about this until your routine was broken due to the pandemic. But they’re incredibly important. First, Northwestern Medicine notes, “offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization.”

Now we’ve headed back to the office — but maybe you haven’t committed to going into the office every day as before. Maybe you don’t have a routine yet — this can make you suffer from stress, unhealthy eating, and insomnia.

If you gained a few (or a lot) of the Covid-pounds — you may have gotten yourself in poor physical condition. And, you may be ineffectively using your time and feeling non-productive.

To counter the above, add some predictability to your life. Personally, I’ve started a new routine. It took some trial and error. But I set a routine of when I will be in the office and when I will work from home. I also had all of the employees commit to a determined schedule. It helps all of us to know what is going on and when.

If you’re struggling with this, here are some pointers to get you on your way:

  • Build your resistance. Don’t waste your energy fighting against change. Instead, accept it, practice some self-care, and focus on your current priorities.
  • Follow your usual patterns. If you wake up at 5 am, start work at 9 am, and eat dinner at 6 pm, try to keep that schedule. You may need to be flexible, but sticking to your previous schedule as close as possible gives you a sense of normalcy.
  • Schedule your habits in your calendar — schedule healthy habits like exercise or writing so that you’ll follow through. Physical activity is a proven way to reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Create an optimal environment. If you’re working from home, create a dedicated space reserved only for work. Don’t forget to keep it cleaned and organized as well.
  • Ask for help if you’re struggling — reach out to your support systems like a mentor or friend.
  • Take a reset day. Sometimes you need to take the day off and get things in order. But don’t squander this opportunity. Instead, use it to clean your house, review your goals, or tie up any loose ends.
  • Be the tortoise. A new routine won’t happen overnight. So be patient and work your way back into a routine.

3. Connect with others.

Last year — all the stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and social distancing took a toll on your mental health. Why? According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Social Connections and Health Research Laboratory at Brigham Young University, it’s because “being socially connected in meaningful ways is actually key to human health and survival.”

While this was a concern before the pandemic, it does highlight the importance of connecting with others. So if you are still in some kind of a funk since Covid — make it a point to connect more completely with your loved ones. Just do it — pick up the phone — you are free to meet with people for now. Take advantage of that.

4. Practice gratitude.

Realize that the glass is not still empty — practice gratitude to put things into perspective.

Furthermore, gratitude can make you happier and improve your relationships. It may even help reduce physical ailments. These include headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory infections.

And, when it comes to being grateful — there are several ways to go about it. The most obvious would be writing in a daily gratitude journal. But, you could also send someone a ‘thank you,’ paying compliments to others and viewing each day as a new opportunity. Going for a walk outside and reflect for a moment at the end of the day and write down your wins.

5. Make time to play.

Your “play” doesn’t have to be like when you were a kid in school literally. But, scheduling time to play can give you that much-needed mental boost since it reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins. Additionally, it can make you more creative by encouraging problem-solving.

What counts as play? Anything. Board and video games, kicking a soccer ball around the backyard, puzzles, coloring, and singing are considered to play. If you can call someone to come over — do it. Our office has started to play pickleball every day at lunch and for an afternoon break. We invite other offices to join in our “tournaments.” It has been so refreshing. After such a long quarantine, sometimes we forget to get other people to come. If this is you — mark it on your Calendar or set an alarm.

6. Reduce screen time.

Now that the pandemic is over — determine to limit your screen time. Get outside and do stuff, especially since it’s summer and we can. Make a list and go do everything you dreamed about when you couldn’t get out. It is amazing how many great things are out there that are free or of little cost. But you can’t get out and do extra things if you are glued to the TV.

I’ve also established tech-free zones in the house. And, before listening to podcasts before bed — go back to reading books. You’ll be amazed at how well you sleep.

7. Focus on what you can control.

How to let go of control is no easy feat — especially for entrepreneurs. But, if there has been one key takeaway from the coronavirus, it’s that no matter how much you demand it — there are plenty of things in life that are out of your hands.

Right now, you can do things like getting on a plane, host a party and even go to a concert or sporting event. So go do each of those things. It is amazing how quickly you will perk up and be more productive.

If you are back at the office — go out and get some plants (all our office plants died). So we all went out and picked plants for the office together at a nursery — because we could. Also, get some new pillows for the office couch out front.

8. Stop worrying about being productive.

We live in a world where we obsess about being productive. And that can be problematic. Being “on” 24/7 and trying to maximize every minute of your day can make you anxious and exhausted. So to be productive and motivated — keep yourself fresh with new ideas and thoughts and do something fun.

If you feel up to getting things done, go for it, work fast and do it. On the other hand, if you are lagging in your new “back to the office” zone, give yourself a break — you’ve been through a lot.

9. Be aware of red flags.

Finally, pay attention to your grief if you have it. Don’t swallow! But pay attention to the red flags. Has your alcohol consumption increased? Are your sleeping or eating patterns different? Do you feel hopeless? If any of these things are still bugging you since the end of covid — look for a way to pull yourself out of it. It sounds cliché — but eat right, sing, dance and exercise. Ask around what others are doing, or if someone feels the same way you do.

If you answered yes to any of the above, then please seek help immediately. You can start by talking to your spouse, partner or best friend. But, you may need to reach out to a mental health professional. Please do this sooner than later so that you can move forward.

Complete Article HERE!

What Should Happen to Our Data When We Die?

Anthony Bourdain’s A.I.-generated voice is just the latest example of a celebrity being digitally reincarnated. These days, though, it could happen to any of us.

By Adrienne Matei

The new Anthony Bourdain documentary, “Roadrunner,” is one of many projects dedicated to the larger-than-life chef, writer and television personality. But the film has drawn outsize attention, in part because of its subtle reliance on artificial intelligence technology.

Using several hours of Mr. Bourdain’s voice recordings, a software company created 45 seconds of new audio for the documentary. The A.I. voice sounds just like Mr. Bourdain speaking from the great beyond; at one point in the movie, it reads an email he sent before his death by suicide in 2018.

“If you watch the film, other than that line you mentioned, you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the A.I., and you’re not going to know,” Morgan Neville, the director, said in an interview with The New Yorker. “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”

The time for that panel may be now. The dead are being digitally resurrected with growing frequency: as 2-D projections, 3-D holograms, C.G.I. renderings and A.I. chat bots.

A holograph of the rapper Tupac Shakur took the stage at Coachella in 2012, 15 years after his death; a likeness of a 19-year-old Audrey Hepburn starred in a 2014 Galaxy chocolate ad; and Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing posthumously reprised their roles in some of the newer “Star Wars” films.

Few examples drew as much attention as the singing, dancing hologram that Kanye West gave Kim Kardashian West for her birthday last October, cast in the image of her late father, Robert Kardashian. Much like Mr. Bourdain’s vocal doppelgänger, the hologram’s voice was trained on real audio recordings but spoke in sentences never uttered by Mr. Kardashian; as if communicating from the afterlife, the hologram expressed pride in Ms. Kardashian West’s pursuit of a law degree and described Mr. West as “the most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world.”

Daniel Reynolds, whose company, Kaleida, produced the hologram of Mr. Kardashian, said that costs for projects of its nature start at $30,000 and can run higher than $100,000 when transportation and display are factored in.

But there are other, much more affordable forms of digital reincarnation; as of this year, on the genealogy site MyHeritage, visitors can animate family photos of relatives long dead, essentially creating innocuous but uncanny deepfakes, for free.

Though most digital reproductions have revolved around people in the public eye, there are implications for even the least famous of us. Just about everyone these days has an online identity, one that will live on long after death. Determining what to do with those digital selves may be one of the great ethical and technological imperatives of our time.

Ever since the internet subsumed communication, work and leisure, the amount of data humans create daily has risen steeply. Every minute, people enter more than 3.8 million Google search queries, send more than 188 million emails and swipe through Tinder more than 1.4 million times, all while being tracked by various forms of digital surveillance. We produce so much data that some philosophers now believe personhood is no longer an equation of body and mind; it must also take into account the digital being.

When we die, we leave behind informational corpses, composed of emails, text messages, social media profiles, search queries and online shopping behavior. Carl Ohman, a digital ethicist, said this represents a huge sociological shift; for centuries, only the rich and famous were thoroughly documented.

In one study, Dr. Ohman calculated that — assuming its continued existence — Facebook could have 4.9 billion deceased users by the century’s end. That figure presents challenges at both the personal and the societal level, Dr. Ohman said: “It’s not just about, ‘What do I do with my deceased father’s Facebook profile?’ It’s rather a matter of ‘What do we do with the Facebook profiles of the past generation?’”

The aggregate data of the dead on social media represents an archive of significant humanitarian value — a primary historical resource the likes of which no other generation has left behind. Dr. Ohman believes it must be treated as such.

He has argued in favor of designating digital remains with a status similar to that of archaeological remains — or “some kind of digital World Heritage label,” he said — so that scholars and archivists can protect them from exploitation and digital decay.

Then, in the future, people can use them to learn about the big, cultural moments that played out online, like the Arab Spring and the #MeToo movement, and “zoom in to do qualitative readings of the individuals that took part in these movements,” Dr. Ohman said.

Public social media profiles are one thing. Private exchanges, such as the email read in the Bourdain documentary, raise more complicated ethical questions.

“We don’t know that Bourdain would have consented to reading these emails on camera,” said Katie Shilton, a researcher focused on information technology ethics at the University of Maryland. “We don’t know that he would have consented to having his voice manipulated.” She described the decision to have the text read aloud as “a violation of autonomy.”

From an ethical standpoint, Dr. Shilton said, creating new audio of Mr. Bourdain’s words would require the permission of those close to him. In an interview with GQ, Mr. Neville said he “checked” with Mr. Bourdain’s “widow and his literary executor,” who approved of his use of A.I.

For her part, Ottavia Busia, Mr. Bourdain’s ex-wife, said she did not sign off on the decision. “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that,” she wrote on Twitter July 16, the day the film was released in theaters.

Celebrity Holograms and Posthumous Privacy

As Jean-Paul Sartre once put it: “To be dead is to be a prey for the living.” It’s a sentiment that philosophers are still mulling over today, and one that Patrick Stokes, the author of “Digital Souls,” sees as directly related to digital remains.

As he sees it, creating a digital version of a deceased person requires taking qualities from the dead that are meaningful to the living — such as their conversations and entertainment value — and leaving the rest behind.

“We’ve crossed into replacing the dead,” said Mr. Stokes, a senior lecturer in philosophy at Deakin University. “We’ve crossed into not simply finding a particularly vivid way to remember them, but instead, we found a way to plug the gap in existence they’ve left by dying.”

In the case of public figures, there is an obvious financial incentive to create their digital likenesses, which is why their images are protected by posthumous publicity rights for a certain period of time. In California, it’s up to 70 years after death; in New York, as of December 2020, it’s 40 years post-mortem.

If a company wants to use the image of a deceased person sooner, it requires consent from the deceased’s estate; resulting collaborations can be mutually profitable. As such, moral guardianship can be complicated by financial motives.

Some artists are explicitly expressing their desires. Robin Williams, for instance, who died in 2014, filed a deed preventing the use of his image, or any likeness of him, for 25 years after his death as an extra layer of protection on top of California’s law.

Consumers are also making their opinions known. The company Base Hologram, which has produced hologram shows of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Maria Callas, reversed plans to put likenesses of both Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse on tour, after they were criticized as exploitative. Just because producing such performances is legal doesn’t mean audiences will accept them as ethical.

Currently, United States federal law does not recognize the dead’s right to privacy, said Albert Gidari, a lawyer and former consulting director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.

“But,” he said, “as a practical matter, because so much of the information about you is in digital form today, residing with platform providers, social media and so on, the Stored Communications Act actually does protect that information against disclosure without prior consent.”

“And obviously, if you’re dead, you can’t consent,” Mr. Gidari added. A consequence is that families of dead individuals often cannot recover online data from their loved ones’ digital accounts.

As a way of asserting agency over their digital legacies, some people are choosing to create their own A.I. selves using a growing number of apps and services.

Some, like HereAfter, are focused on family history. For $125 to $625, the company interviews clients about critical moments in their lives. Those answers are used to create a Siri-like chat bot. If your great-grandchildren, for instance, wanted to learn how you met your spouse, they could ask the bot and it would answer in your voice.

Another chat bot app, Replika, creates avatars that mimic their users’ voices; over time, each of those avatars is meant to become the ultimate empathetic friend, ever-available by text (free) and voice calls (for a fee). The service gained traction during the pandemic, as isolated people sought out easy companionship.

Eugenia Kuyda, the app’s creator, got the idea after her friend Roman Mazurenko died in 2015. She used what is known as a neural network — a series of complex algorithms designed to recognize patterns — to train a chat bot on the textual data he left behind, which communicated convincingly enough to charm Mr. Mazurenko’s mother. That same technology underpins Replika’s chat bots.

“Replika is primarily a friend for our users, but it will live on past their death bearing the knowledge about its creator,” Ms. Kuyda wrote in an email.

In December 2020, Microsoft filed a patent for “Creating a conversational chat bot of a specific person,” which could be used in tandem with a “2-D or 3-D model of a specific person.” (“We do not have anything to share about this particular patent,” a Microsoft representative wrote in an email.)

Other projects seem aimed at offering emotional closure after the death of a loved one. In February 2020, a South Korean documentary called “Meeting You” was released. It chronicled the virtual-reality “reunion” of a woman named Jang Ji-sun and her young daughter who died from cancer.

The daughter’s avatar was created by Vive Studios in close conjunction with the Jang family. The company has considered other applications for its V.R. technology — creating a “digital memorial park” where people can visit dead loved ones, for instance, or teaming up with health care providers guiding patients through grief.

This is all happening in the midst of a pandemic that has radically altered the rites around death. For many families, final goodbyes and funerals were virtual in 2020, if they happened at all. When digital-afterlife technologies begin to enter mainstream use, they may help ease the process of bereavement, as well as foster connections between generations past and present and encourage the living to discuss death more openly with each other.

But before then, Mr. Stokes, the philosopher, said, there are important questions to consider: “If I do start interacting with these things, what does that say about my relationship to that person I loved? Am I actually doing the things that love requires by interacting with this new reanimation of them? Am I protecting the dead? Or am I exploiting them?”

“We have a rare chance to actually be ethically ready for new technology before it gets here,” Mr. Stokes said. Or, at least, before it goes any further.

Complete Article HERE!

Students run hotline for grieving pet owners

By WCVB staff

Grieving the loss of a pet? You may be surprised to learn there’s a nationwide hotline that could help.

It’s offered by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

For the last 25 years, the school has been offering a free service for anyone in the country that many have never heard of.

“People sometimes are really at loss to even function, not going to work. They’re tearful all the time, and they’re reaching out for help,” said Eric Richman, a clinical social worker at Tufts.

The hotline is run by students who make it clear they are not trained therapist or counselors. They are looking to practice communication skills and learn about the empathy it takes to be a vet, like fourth-year student Meghan Hanlon.

“I’ve taken calls from people and had people that I’ve talked to multiple times,” Hanlon said.

Richman said they deal a lot with children who’ve lost an animal.

“It’s usually their first experience with loss and death, and if handled correctly it can be really powerful, positive one for them,” he said.

While most of the calls are for dogs and cats, the students hear about all types of animals and those calls have doubled since the pandemic.

“Because of COVID they were even more isolated, and their pet provided that sense of security and connection,” Richman said.

The hotline usually operates during the school year Monday through Friday from 6-9 p.m.

Some pet owners may be uncomfortable admitting to friends and family how much the loss of their companion affects them, but the students at Tufts want everyone to know they’re here to listen.

“You never always know the right thing to say, but people are always so glad to have someone listen to them,” Hanlon said. “And I think that the most important thing is letting them talk and work through grief that they’re dealing with.”

The pet loss support hotline number is 508-839-7966.

Complete Article HERE!