Death

Can people really get over the loss of someone they loved? What “getting over” really means? Not crying as much? Doing the routine every day and not thinking how much that person would have enjoyed this or that? Or not getting over: constantly thinking about them, feeling sorry that they’re not here, lamenting how much they are missing out. I often wonder how is it that one person’s grieving is so different from the other. Within the same family, each person is grieving differently, some more intense, some are acting out, and others are discreet and peaceful and others so overwhelmed that they can’t function. Do they miss the person more? Did they love them more? Did they had a better relationship, a better connection / communication with them? Maybe, and maybe not. People may mourn someone strongly even if they were not really close to them or even if they never truly got along. And sometimes although the person really hurt them at one point and never loved them as much (an abusive parent for instance), the pain is as deep as anyone else because they grieve the relationship they didn’t have. And never will. Some people can’t cope knowing there’s no do over. Some people are impaired after a loss and others are more motivated and successful than ever.
I believe the answer may lie in two elements, simple but yet complex issues: Perception and Guilt.

How we perceive death is very important. I am not talking about ruminating about how they had so much more to live, and how they did not accomplish the things they wanted, or if it was an accidental death, how it could have been prevent it if and only if…well we could go on and on. That’s okay at first, that’s part of the stages of grief (remember Elisabeth Kubler Ross and her Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance stages). I am talking about understanding both emotionally and intellectually what is death. Death is transformation. Death is change. Death is inevitable. We know this. That people have to die. Perhaps you’ll say it’s too simplified as an answer but I’d argue I have a valid point.

Discerning that death will never be the right time for those of us left behind can help, but when we are sad and desolate, thinking that death is normal and people die, may not really help you. You can try to think logically, but it may not bring the comfort you seek in this process. Understanding death as normal transformation is part of the coping process. And the answer is to refocus. Shift your thoughts, your point of view. How about these cases: one person’s intense feelings over the death of their 92 year old mother? Do they want her to be 100? 150? Is that realistic? And of course the death of a child can never be truly understood. But a certain type of parent can make sense of it while others couldn’t.

Accepting death as normal is one thing, then accepting that dying is not the worst thing is another step. Refocus. Why dying is bad? I mean seriously. Does spiritual or religious beliefs tap into this? Do we believe they go to heaven or go with the angels? Or perhaps that they will return and be happier in another life. Do we believe there’s nothing more after dying? Dogmas, ideologies, and other theories can help us grieve differently. Finding one that will carry us to acceptance is usually the challenge. Learn, research, grow your knowledge.

Then there’s the second important issue I was mentioning before: Guilt. How guilty one feels over what was never done or said while the loved one was alive. Guilty because they are still here and can enjoy everything the deceased won’t. Guilty because they never forgave themselves, never said they loved them or spent enough time with them, perhaps never helped them; the list can go on and on. Yes everyone feels guilty at times. No relationship is perfect. No relationship is without flaws. People torment themselves with these doubts. Insecurities and lack of support is significant for someone who is depressed and anxious. Lamenting on disappointments can only cause more pain, it will linger there. We know, don’t we? Learn to forgive yourself. Say it: I forgive myself, I am only human.

Keep in mind that other factors can play an important role in how one can cope e.g. genetics, resiliency, life experience, family history, and education, as well as mental and physical health, managing skills and coping abilities are among these factors.

Shifting perspective and forgiving oneself, will support and help someone find happiness again. Nevertheless if it was so easy, wouldn’t everyone do it? I wouldn’t have a job if it was that easy, that’s for sure. What else can we do to start this adjustment? Step 1: Talk about it. You need to talk about it. Do not keep it inside or it will eat you. Talk about it with others, family, friends, and professionals. Seek help. Go to a grief support group, go to therapy, write about it, and let it out somehow. Now, really listen to your words. Be realistic. Do they make sense? If so, how? Challenge your own negative self-talk. That will lead you to changing your perspective. Shift your harmful thoughts. It will take time so be patient with yourself and do not think you have a deadline. There’s no cutoff date. Just move as your own pace but move. Breathe!

Do things even if you truthfully don’t want to, that means engage socially and be physically active. Do not isolate. Do not be quiet. Never stop looking for answers, shifting your thoughts by learning and improving. Be kind to yourself. That is the key. Be forgiving. You will conquer your pain and be comfortable again. Death will always be one of those life predicaments we must face and heartache is something that we all share sooner or later….Do know that Death is one of life’s dilemma that we may never completely understand and that’s okay too.

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Got Goals?

Everyone tells you that goals are important. You need goals to have purpose in life. You need goals to achieve your dreams. You need goals to feel vital, that is worth living. But what about those people who are truly content with their lives? Do they have any goals? The goal to continue to live in harmony and as they are? Well, what do you tell someone who says they are no longer interested in anything anymore, and have no real plans for the future because frankly they couldn’t care less. So here I am trying to motivate someone who really doesn’t want to get anywhere, because even depression has become comforting, has been there for him the last 20 years of his life. Is his safety net, his excuse not to get up from bed every morning? What is there to do if get up early today?

What goals could you offer me to live a more fruitful and happy life he asks? There I paused. I thought for a while. Am I trying to change him because I think is best for him? Or because he knows he needs the change but he’s frozen to do anything about it (remember my previous post on fearing change?). Do I really need to do all the work here or do I just allow him to be. Stay where the client is at, they tell you in graduate school. But Gosh! He’s been there for decades I say; it’s time for a change. But nope, it’s not my call. It’s not my change to make. Then I realized I have to be the one to adjust my point of view. I need to focus on what is working well and perhaps that in itself can be the overall goal. Perhaps the fact that he will not deteriorate, will not become more depressed or even suicidal can be the objective, for now at least…keep going, not giving up but just surviving, carry on. All of sudden I remember the famous slogan and online posters “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Is it a worthy goal you ask?

Well, I truly do not know but it helps, and is what matters for now or so I think ….another life dilemma.

Another Perspective

Recently a young woman told me in tears she would take her boyfriend back even if it meant he’d cheat and go out with his friends every weekend as he used to do. She doesn’t care as long as he’s back with her. At first I thought what anyone would: very low self-esteem / lack of self-worth, dependent personality traits, you name it! A myriad of other reasons. Besides the evident explanations and wondering why anyone would do this. Or is there more to it? I think so. It’s one simple yet imperative thing, one term that however you define it, it can lead our lives forward or backwards. It can prompt us to do better and to achieve things or it can let us rotten and suffer. What is it? Fear of loneliness, but no really. It is FEAR of Change. Not just Fear in itself.
Change is the greatest fear there is, because we never know the actual result, we can think we do, we can plan and imagine it but the true effect is to be seen. Adjustment is never easy, change is the unknown. Are we going to end up all alone if we break up now? Are we ever going to find the one? We want change and we don’t change. We want things to be better, so we welcome a change but at the same time we worry and stress over how that change is going to affect us. Change can be the scariest experience ever for most people who are comfortable in their lives and even for those who dread their current situation. People find comfort of knowing what to expect every day. For instance, I had so many clients complaint about their terrible jobs. They tell me they “love what they do but…” they cannot bear their horrible bosses, their offensive coworkers, the daily harassment, the awful deadlines, the increased productivity goals, the hours, the demands, the pay, the hostile environment, you name it! The list goes on. They really do not love what they do but they convinced themselves they do so that way they can bear everything else. And they stay and agonize, they cry, they can’t sleep or eat, they can’t concentrate, they’re anxious and depressed; they’re irritable with family and friends, marital problems start to occur, their relationships suffer and their health too: headaches, nausea, constipation, back pain, muscle tension, on and on. Why is that?

Why people rather be extremely stressed and overwhelmed than do something to change all that? Once again is FEAR. But it isn’t necessarily the fear of losing their job and their financial security, their steady income that of course all of us depend on. Is not the fear “I’ll never find another job like this, I’m too old anyways”. There’s more to it. Is never that simple.

The anxiety of searching for another job and actually finding it is the first fear, they already are thinking how difficult and tiring would be to look for another job, hunting that perfect new position, comparing to the one they have, thinking they’re not capable of having that new position, they’re not the right person, not the right age, sex, gender, not the right background, education, whatever. And then the worst? Having to go to the interviews. Who doesn’t dread interviewing? Fear has them thinking all the negative scenarios about that. But if they get a job, thinking about that, how are they going to manage the new boss, new colleagues, and new tasks. Rather stay with the known old that the new young. The what if it worse, what if this or that. Changing what they know for the unknown leaves them paralyzed.

We all experience normal fears in our daily lives. However when one is willing to continue to grieve and undergo consequences out of fear, that’s when I think one has to realize the need to break it down. Use the adrenaline of fear to get what you want, talk to yourself that you can do it and that change can be a good thing. It is what you need now. Have a mantra every day “I can do this, I will do this” and go for it. It is never too late to change your life for the better, don’t let your fears stay in the way. Henry Ford was absolutely right, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” So be right! Think you can do this and you will. Fear no more. Here are the steps I believe can get you to conquer your fears:

Step 1: Write down your goals, be specific. What is it that you really want? How are you going to achieve it? When do you want to achieve, this month? This year? What does it look like? What will you be doing? Saying?

Once you know your goal, Step 2: prioritize! List the steps you will need to achieve this goal. If a job is the goal, what’s the time frame? How? Be specific remember? I will have a job as an accountant for a bank in the next 3 months. I will have a job as a hair dresser at the blah blah chain salons in a month. I will become independent and enjoy my single life dating as many suitable people I want and I will find the person of my dreams. He/she will be (whatever you want). Then prioritize: go out, dress well, have fun, be with friends, if a job is the goal apply to a new job every single day, send updated resumes, call people, go to interviews, don’t just sit and lament yourself.

If you noticed both step 1 and 2 are about recognizing, planning and doing the tasks that will get you there. But now the 3rd step and the most important is for you to mentally prepare yourself to be productive. What I mean by this, is that you need to see yourself positively, effectively and that you can actually believe you are doing this. Every day think about your goal. I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, the laws of attraction, visualization, daily affirmations, or whatever you want to call it that leads you to truly believe you can achieve your goals. It works!

When I say mentally prepare yourself, do something every day to get you there. Envision it. Take physical action to get there. And talk to yourself confidently every day. Tell yourself you can do this so your fears will lessen. Your goals will be closer as you become braver. Remember fears hold us back, the fear of change can freeze you. Move forward by conquering these fears through your actions and thoughts. If you’re unhappy with your situation, it’s time to fight your fears.

So there it is for today, another perspective, another life dilemma.

Hello world!

I am a licensed clinical social worker practicing psychotherapy for a large non-profit organization in California. I am super busy every day, I help hundreds of people every month. Sometimes I wish I could tell them what I really think instead of using my clinical skills and the appropriate validation of feelings and active listening skills. I know my clients have to come up with their own answers, their own solutions. That is what therapy is all about. I am there to support, to point out their options, to help them reflect and to identify their strengths. But I cannot tell them what to do, I can’t because if I do they’ll resent it especially if is not what they want or if it happens to backfire. After all clients are their best experts in their lives. So here I am. Because in my free time I like to write, I decided to start this blog with the idea of also  helping others who may need a little advice on life dilemmas. I will say what I think and feel is best. This is not a therapy website / blog. I am not offering therapy but my own feedback on different issues. You can take what you wish from this or take nothing at all. Do not do what I say, do comment if you agree or disagree. That’s what I am doing. Sharing information, teaching skills if any I can think of.  Also I’m using this blog to vent, to bounce off ideas, to reflect and to learn about myself and others. I hope this blog will be a space free of judgment and full of positive vibes for those who read it and contribute to it. I am not worrying about grammar or spelling (well maybe I am on spelling correctly) but I am writing worry free, I am not a professional writer. Thanks for reading.

Being this my first post I really didn’t have much prepared other than I wanted to introduce myself to this blogging world. My first attempt at writing for anyone to read and comment. I will try my best to write often, and I promise to make it short and sweet but at the same time useful (I hope).

Well this is it for today. I will return later….