Why Grief Motivates You To Become Better

By Gloria Horsley

Grief can have many devastating effects on individuals, loved ones and friends. Knowing this, it’s difficult to see how grief could possibly have a positive outcome. However, if we dig a little deeper, we can understand how grief can actually motivate us to become better versions of ourselves and better leaders. When we think about how grief has affected us, most of us recall the feelings of loneliness, depression and even anger at the situation — whatever it may be. While it is hard to understand why these things happen to cause this grief, there is still hope.

Surprisingly, through all of the feelings we experience during the grieving process, we can actually find the motivation to become better from three primary reasons: gratefulness, inspiration and love. Here’s how you can transform your grief into self-motivation in three ways:

Lean On Gratefulness

Though there are events that happen in our lives that cause us grief, we still need to find reasons to be grateful. You may have heard someone once say, “I’m thankful to be alive right now.” You may have even said or thought it as well. Despite these events that have caused grief, think about how you are thankful to still be here today. By remembering to be grateful that you are here, you can actually choose to live for an individual you’ve lost or even for a cause that aims to bring about change. With the life you still have left to live, you can use it for the better, especially from your position as a nonprofit leader.

You can also ask yourself: What can I do now that I’m here and have another day to experience this thing called life? Perhaps starting new habits, such as taking a morning walk to be grateful for a new day, making a daily phone call or text to that friend or loved one you’ve been meaning to contact or even just cooking a meal for yourself more often. There are so many small habits you incorporate into your day that can help motivate you to move forward.

Get Inspired 

We all know how difficult it is to find inspiration after a loss or when we are grieving, whatever the situation may be. It’s important to remember that everything is out of our control. We cannot blame ourselves for bad things happening to those around us who we love. Knowing that, think about how you can help others cope with their grief. Especially as leaders in the nonprofit sector, we have the opportunity to evoke positive change.

Additionally, how can you turn your grief into inspiration and help raise awareness for your causes (whether personal or for your organization)? For example, if you have lost someone you know and love to a terminal illness that people may not know about, perhaps consider sharing information about it to educate others. Or perhaps there are no funds currently going toward that illness, or toward a specific project or community initiative that’s close to you or your organization, depending on the situation. Consider raising awareness and money for this cause and donating it to research centers or collaborative partners who are doing the on-the-ground work. Or consider starting a new branch of your nonprofit to address it. It can be a great way to inspire others to give and learn more about something that is important to you. 

Prioritize Love

Love is a motivator for all things, even during grief. By taking a loving approach toward others experiencing grief, you can truly help them. We can use love as a motivator to do great things and make the world a better place. Take a loving approach with whatever you do in life, and teach others what you can in a gentle and kind manner. Grief comes in many forms, and it’s important to be kind to people because we do not know what others may be going through. Prioritizing love is an especially important practice as a leader, whether your organization is large with hundreds of employees or a local NPO with a modest team.

In addition to us helping them during their trials, people can also teach us so much about love and kindness. Whether it’s in your nonprofit organization, or in your personal life, think about what others have taught you about love and kindness. These lessons can motivate you to be better by loving others, but can also teach you the importance of loving yourself.

Concluding Thoughts

No matter what you may be going through or where you are in the grieving process, be sure to remember that something good can come from any situation. You just have to think about what lessons you can learn from trials in life. It may not happen right away, but over time, you can learn to motivate yourself by remembering the reasons grief motivates you to become better. It definitely took me some time to find my motivation again, and when I did, it was for the three reasons I listed above.

Everyone has different reasons for why they are motivated. What are some of your motivators in life, even when you are grieving?

Complete Article HERE!

Living with loss

— The stages of grief

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

by

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”
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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.”

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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.

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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!

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

By

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!

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!

How to support children through grief and bereavement

By

When it comes to casual conversation, death understandably very rarely comes up as a subject that we jump at the chance of openly discussing.

Yet, it appears the coronavirus pandemic has made us all more aware of our own mortality and the mortality of those around us. Research by Dying Matters, a campaign group working to create an open culture around death and dying, found that nearly a quarter of UK adults (24%) say that the pandemic has made them more likely to have casual conversations with family and friends about preferences around their death.

While adults are potentially seeing the pandemic as a way to be more open about death, be that from coronavirus or other illnesses, one group is continually overlooked: children. Figures from Child Bereavement UK show that a child loses a parent every 22 minutes in the UK, equating to around 111 children being bereaved of a parent every single day.

During the pandemic and beyond, children have not just lost parents; they are also having to deal with grandparents, family friends, teachers and even siblings dying. Campaign groups and charities are working to help identify bereaved children and offer them the support they need, whether the bereavement is due to coronavirus or any other type of illness or injury. It’s now becoming apparent that we need a shift in public discourse, education systems and possibly even legislation in order to help bereaved children feel acknowledged and safe.

The current situation

The Childhood Bereavement Network analyses data from sources like the Office for National Statistics and uses its own research to estimate that 1 in 29 five to 16-year-olds has been bereaved of a parent or sibling – equating to a child in every average school class. “Unfortunately, there are no official figures on how many children are bereaved of a parent,” says Di Stubbs, a bereavement practitioner for charity Winston’s Wish. “A study has shown that 78% of children in the UK say they have experienced a ‘significant bereavement,’ showing that our children are very aware and affected by the mortality of those around them.”

Charities like Winston’s Wish were seeing many children before the pandemic to help support them through bereavements, alongside working with adults who know bereaved children to offer advice on how to best help young people during periods of grief. While children were facing countless bereavements before coronavirus, the pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated the situation. “COVID emphasised our natural assumptions,” says Di. “The children we work with fall into many different groups. We are dealing with children who have been bereaved due to coronavirus. We are also dealing with children who have experienced a loved one die due to other reasons over lockdown, as the same amount of people are still dying from health conditions like heart attacks and strokes.”

There’s also another group of children that is now finding grief to be an issue. “Children who were bereaved before the pandemic are now finding that the current situation has really highlighted these intense emotions,” explains Di. “Suddenly, everyone is talking about death and bereavement all the time. Even for children who are not grieving, many have been quite suddenly exposed to the fragility of life and are having to respond to a new world.”

children bereavement

Navigating a new world

Coronavirus, and the lockdowns implemented to curb the spread of the disease, have caused confusion for many children around dying. “All of the rituals surrounding death, like funerals, were suddenly not there anymore,” says Di Stubbs. “We saw extremely sad situations, like shielding grandparents trying to comfort children over the death of a parent, whose only option was to do this through a window as no contact was allowed.”

Roseleen Cowie, regional lead at charity Child Bereavement UK, echoes this sentiment. “The effects of the pandemic have caused further pain for children going through a bereavement,” she says. “Without the usual rituals, children cannot say goodbye when someone dies, which has added to the difficulty. This is superimposed on the grieving, resulting in an additional loss and some people expressing their grief more deeply than may have been expected.”

Shelley Gilbert MBE, founder of specialist bereavement service Grief Encounter, stresses the importance of supporting bereaved people during and after the pandemic. “COVID has stolen things away from most of us, some bigger than others,” she says. “If someone special dies for young people, they are gone forever, and we need to think about how we support children throughout this period.”

Understanding children’s grief

Children grieve in a similar way to adults, but with some noticeable differences. According to the experts, ‘puddle jumping’ is to be expected. “Puddle jumping is the process by which children move in and out of their grief,” explains Roseleen Cowie. “A child may be very upset one moment and perfectly alright the next. Being aware of that is really helpful for people, especially in schools, as you can then appreciate that this is the way that children grieve.”

Puddle jumping tends to be different to how adults experience dealing with grief. “Adults tend to wade through grief, but children do this much faster; cycling in and out of grief and oscillating much faster than adults,” Di Stubbs explains. However, in many ways, the features of grief in children and adults are very similar, if not the same. “We can’t expect children to grieve differently to adults,” says Di. “All that anyone can do when they are bereaved is experience whatever intense emotions they are feeling. Eventually, we all grow around grief, allowing ourselves to experience new adventures and have fun.”

children bereavement

Talking to children about death

Undoubtedly, the consensus from experts is that children need to talk about death. “We recommend people use words like ‘dying,’ ‘dead’ and ‘death’ around children so that they have a clear understanding of what this is, as they won’t understand euphemisms,” explains Roseleen Cowie. Di Stubbs notes that language is particularly important, as phrases like ‘heart attack’ won’t make sense to some children, who may instead become distressed at the thought of a loved one being attacked, rather than understanding this to be a medical term.

Another expert who stresses the importance of using the right language is Nima Patel. A qualified primary school teacher and conscious parenting coach, she began her business, Mindful Champs, to encourage the practice of mindfulness between parents and children. Her latest project, a grief journal for children, encourages them to express themselves in whatever ways they can after a bereavement. “In 2017, my father suddenly died,” Nima discloses. “Seeing people lose loved ones during the pandemic, I wanted to create a toolkit for children and young people that I never had,” she says.

Nima realised the importance of having honest and open dialogues with children around death by using language that they can understand. “Children will have so many questions around death, but adults often don’t know how to answer these,” she explains. “My aim is to help children develop language to express themselves, and encourage adults and children to voice their feelings. If emotions aren’t spoken about in the home on a daily basis, a lot of children don’t have the language needed for emotional events, like a bereavement.”

Many children may find they need professional support when they are bereaved, and adults and schools are able to refer children to charities like Child Bereavement UK, Grief Encounter and Winston’s Wish or to NHS services. The way in these organisations can support grieving children or adults who are concerned about bereaved children can take a multitude of forms, from offering helplines to one-on-one counselling sessions.

If you know a bereaved child, in addition to talking to them about their grief and emotions, another good way to help them express grief is through creativity. “Sometimes words are not enough to express our grief and this is where creativity comes in,” explains Shelley Gilbert MBE. “Being bereaved often means you haven’t the words to describe what you’re thinking or feeling. Old words have no meaning or take on new meanings and you’re learning words you’ve never heard before. Following the loss of someone special, we need a new language of grief.”

Creativity can come in many forms when expressing grief. Winston’s Wish encourages children to make memory jars or emotional first-aid kits, while there are also resources out there made specifically for grieving children, like Nima Patel’s Mindful Champs Grieving Journal. “We encourage activities like memory jars, flower releasing ceremonies and memorial trees in the journal to help children express their grief however they wish, be that verbal or non-verbal,” says Nima. Di Stubbs also recommends that books can be a great resource for children, including I Miss You: A First Look at Death and Goodbye Mousie to explain death to young children and Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone You Love for teenagers. A further reading list is available at Winston’s Wish.

children bereavement

Assisting children with learning disabilities

For any child, dealing with grief can be tough, frightening and confusing. For children with learning disabilities, who may have acute difficulties expressing themselves, this can be a particularly hard time, especially during the pandemic. “We can’t emphasise enough the huge impact that the pandemic has had on children with learning disabilities,” says Tracey Hartley-Smith, a learning disability nurse and clinical lead at Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. “Coronavirus has impacted children’s opportunities for developing their social and communication skills hugely. We’ve seen through our work and heard from parents, carers and colleagues that children with learning disabilities have experienced heightened anxiety during this time.”

Tracey and her colleague, Dr. Jacqui Wood, a clinical psychologist at Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, have continued working with children with learning disabilities throughout the pandemic, including supporting them through grief and bereavement. “We encourage everyone interacting with a bereaved child to use the same, simple phrases when talking about death, as repetition is so important for consistency,” says Jacqui. “Visual aids, such as pictures or symbols, can often be helpful for sharing information with non-verbal young people, and helping them to express themselves,” she explains. Tracey adds that, as well as using the right language, “children with learning disabilities need to feel safe and loved, in whatever type of communication they use for this reassurance.”

Jacqui has recently published a guide specifically tailored for parents or carers of children with learning disabilities, which is accessible here. “Keep routines and boundaries, as they help establish predictability and security for children,” she advises. “Try to find opportunities to involve children in arrangements like funerals, to help develop their understanding of what has happened. Children with learning disabilities may also benefit from multi-sensory memory items, such as a piece of clothing from their loved one to touch and smell. This can help them learn to manage their expectations over time, so they adapt to remembering their loved one rather than physically seeing them,” she explains.

Jacqui also advises encouraging emotional regulation activities, be these for fun or relaxation. “Help children have fun during this difficult period by encouraging movement, whether that’s running around in the park or splashing about in the bath,” she says. “For calming sensory experiences, try dimming the lighting in your home, making a den to establish ‘quiet time’ or just comforting your child with regular hugs.”

children bereavement

Acknowledging and making memories

Above all, acknowledging that a child or teenager is grieving is incredibly important. Research by Dying Matters shows that 72% of those bereaved in the last five years would rather friends and colleagues said the wrong thing than nothing at all, and 62% say that being happy to listen was one of the top three most useful things someone did after they were bereaved.

“Above all, we should remember that love never dies,” says Shelley Gilbert MBE. “Lots of our work focuses on remembrance in difference ways, including remembering our loved ones as they were in the past and thinking about them in the present and future. When we make new memories, it can help to remember that our dead loved ones are with us in some way.”

When adults grieve, there is trauma and then a long road to acceptance. And, we should not assume that children and teenagers are any different. As Roseleen Cowie says: “When helping bereaved families, our ethos is that grief is a normal part of life: you can’t get over it or make it better, but you can learn to live with it.”

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