An excerpt from Resilience by Linda Graham
Everyone knows what it’s like to be knocked off center, to lose their inner sense of balance and groundedness, at least temporarily, when faced with life’s unwanted curve balls. Whether it’s a troubling health diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a serious car accident, a layoff, or a natural disaster, life can intensely challenge our resilience.
In Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster (New World Library, October 2, 2018), author and psychotherapist Linda Graham, MFT, guides readers step by step through a process of cultivating more well-being in their lives by strengthening their resilience so that they can respond skillfully to any upset or catastrophe that would derail that well-being. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.
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Sometimes your thoughts can drive you crazy, blocking clear thinking and impeding response flexibility. Sometimes your thoughts trigger further thoughts, evaluations, judgments, and condemnations that reduce your resilience. These thought patterns are ways of filtering reality that can be counterproductive.
You can learn to work mindfully with your thoughts, and with all the amazing, creative, dazzling constructs of your default network mode, especially when those constructs turn dark or constricting, so that you can also experience their coming and going. Even your deeply held beliefs about the truth of the way things are can shift. And you can come to understand the processes of your brain that create, install, and defend those constructs to the death.
Here’s a list of common thought processes that human beings use to filter their experience.
- Assumptions: We learn from past experience, and based on that experience we sometimes think we know more than we know. We filter our perceptions of reality through those assumptions rather than seeing clearly what is actually true or needed now.
- Projections: We assume that what we have learned is true for ourselves is true for other people as well. We project our assumptions onto them, usually without their knowledge or permission, abandoning theory of mind.
- Objectification: We lose the sense of ourselves or another person as an active agent of changing experience. Instead we see ourselves (and others) as an object, a thing, an “It” at the mercy of external events and other people’s choices, powerless to change our experience (or our responses to it).
- Mind reading: We presume we know what another person is thinking, feeling, or needing without empathically checking with them. Or we may presume that the other person already knows what we think or need without bothering to tell them directly: “If you loved me, you would know how I feel.”
- Discounting the positive: We fail to register positive traits in ourselves or in others, belittling ourselves, devaluing others, and deflecting or neglecting appreciation in either direction.
- Overgeneralizing: We may exaggerate attributes of an experience, perceiving things as global and pervasive, applying to everything and everybody; we see things as “always” or “never.” We may take things personally whether or not that’s true or relevant, seeing things as permanent and unchanging. (This overgeneralizing is known as the three Ps: pervasive, personal, permanent.)
- Catastrophizing: We may immediately assume the worst: if we sneeze, we assume we’re catching a cold, which means missing work for three weeks, which means losing the job, which means losing our home — from sniffle to disaster in less than three seconds.
- Black-and-white thinking: We see everything in categorical terms, with no shades of gray, few options, and no possibilities of compromise. This rigidity in thinking, which can lead to a serious derailing of response flexibility, is also known as neural cement.
- Inability to disconfirm: We are so rigid in our opinions that no new information can change them.
You may recognize similar patterns in your thinking.
Exercise: Identifying Thought Processes That Derail Resilience
- Review the list above. Identify any of these patterns you recognize as operational in you or in people you know, without attaching any shame or blame. For now, simply acknowledge any patterns you identify that you might want to rewire later.
- Pick one pattern relevant to you that you’re willing to investigate; it need not be the one that is most difficult for you.
- Track this pattern in your thinking for a week. Notice when this pattern is operating in your thinking; notice when it’s not.
Becoming aware of your common patterns of perceiving and responding, and acknowledging them in your conscious awareness, is essential if you want to rewire them. Steadying your awareness with more and more difficult objects of awareness is reflective resilience.
Mental constructs can be very stable and long-lasting, more like the climate you live in than the weather that changes from day to day. Emotions that might flit through your awareness in a matter of minutes or half a day (weather) can settle into a longer-lasting mood (climate). The moods we deem negative — depression, discouragement, despair — are the ones we’re more likely to notice and want to shift than the lighter-hearted moods of joy or contentment.
As human beings, we adopt roles, preferences, priorities, and goals that filter our perceptions and shape our responses over long periods of time. We prioritize family over work, or work over family, based on deeply held values and convictions. We construct entire philosophies of living, belief systems, and identities that filter our perceptions and response to reality. Formulating values to live by is part of resilience: they are part of a moral compass that guides our life choices. But locking ourselves into values that cannot be changed in response to new experiences is not resilient.
At this stage of new conditioning, you’re simply training your awareness to realize that any thought is a product of the processes of your brain, and thus any thought can change. Entire patterns of thought, no matter how complex, can change. Roles, preference, priorities, and even entire belief systems can change over time — and they do.
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Linda Graham, MFT, is the author of Resilience and also Bouncing Back, the winner of a 2013 Books for a Better Life Award. She is an experienced psychotherapist who integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her international trainings on resilience and well-being. Visit her online at www.lindagraham-mft.net.
Excerpted from the book Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster. Copyright ©2018 by Linda Graham. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.
Years ago, when my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), my life changed. I went from being a mother to also taking on the additional roles of advocate and mediator. In order to help my son get the help he needed and the services he was entitled to in school, I had to learn everything I could about the educational system, the healthcare system, and the law. It is a challenge, yet it is essential in order to work with teachers, administrators, doctors, and therapists as part of a team. I learned a lot, thanks in large part to an organization called CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders. This is a national, non-profit organization with local, volunteer-run chapters. Our local chapter held monthly meetings, which allowed parents to keep up with the various issues and changes. Most importantly, the meetings provided a forum for parents to network with each other and share experiences and resources.
We got over all the hurdles, and managed to get through the system despite the complexities. My son is in college now, and he has the tools to advocate for himself. But there are new kids coming up, and new parents who are starting from scratch to figure all of this out. Luckily, CHADD is still on it, providing us with the ongoing information we need to help our kids.
Following is an e-mail I received from CHADD regarding the current Healthcare Reform Legislation. I am happy to share it with you, and hoping that it will encourage all of us to look at the many children and families who will benefit from healthcare reform. To those of us working so diligently to take care of our children, this is most welcome, and long overdue.
“House of Representatives Passes
Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Legislation
Many Provisions Will Benefit
Children and Adults with AD/HD and Related Disorders
On Saturday, November 7, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive healthcare reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) by a vote of 220-215. It is expected that the full Senate will debate and vote on its version of the bill in the coming weeks, which will then be followed by the House and Senate having its leaders meet in a conference to reconcile differences and produce a final piece of legislation that can be sent to the President.
CHADD, through its membership in the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Campaign for Mental Health Reform, and the Mental Health Liaison Group has sent letters to members of Congress in support of the bill. CHADD’s views on and support for healthcare reform legislation can be viewed on the Healthcare Reform 2009 webpage and CHADD’s Leadership Blog. CHADD has no position on many of the provisions contained in the legislation. The three primary disability coalitions CHADD participates in, believe there are significant key provisions warranting support of the legislation.
A few key provisions in the final House bill that will benefit children and adults with AD/HD and related disorders include:
* Requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, and mandating that most employers provide insurance to their employees, but also providing substantial federal subsidies to make coverage as affordable as possible;
* Providing coverage of critical services for people with disabilities in the new Health Insurance Exchange’s essential benefits package including behavioral health treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services in compliance with the Wellstone-Domenici parity law, rehabilitation and habilitation services, equipment and supplies for children under 21 years of age;
* Inclusion of “disability” as a category for purposes of health disparities;
* Inclusion of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a new national long term services insurance program to help adults with severe functional impairments to remain independent, employed, and a part of their communities; and
* Not allowing individual or group health insurance policies to establish lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of benefits and the elimination of discrimination based on health status or a pre-existing condition.
CHADD continues to actively monitor developments in healthcare reform. Updated information on the legislation, CHADD’s 13 principles for healthcare reform, children’s mental health coalition’s five principles for healthcare reform and CHADD’s work with other partner coalitions can be viewed on CHADD’s website: http://www.chadd.org “
Water is something that many of us take for granted. It is a necessity, and it is readily available to us. We turn on the faucet and there it is, clean, safe, drinkable. We shower in it, water our gardens with it, and wash our clothes with it. But for many people around the world, clean water is a luxury they can only dream about.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 884 million people are without adequate drinking water, and 2.5 billion people are without adequate water for sanitation. Waterborne diseases are the leading cause of death for children under age five. Every 15 seconds, a child dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation. Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from waterborne diseases. The World Bank says that 88 percent of all diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.
How did we get in this situation? The world’s population tripled in the 20th century, and the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold. The population is expected to increase another 40-50% in the next fifty years, and this will have an inevitable impact on the environment. Water resources are stressed. There is less water available for agriculture as well, which means that our food supply is threatened, which contributes to the hunger crisis. And the water crisis and the climate crisis are closely related, one affects the other.
Fortunately, there are some amazing organizations doing something about this. Water.org, co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, focuses on water and sanitation. One way they are helping is providing loans to individuals and families so that they can use the money to connect their homes to a water source. When people don’t have to spend their time walking long distances for clean water, they have more time to work and earn money for their families. And the children are more likely to go to school, which means they’ll be able to have a better future. The microfinancing loans are paid back very quickly. has another program in place where a $25 donation will give one person clean water for life. For a $100 donation you can help an entire family. The money goes towards community organizing, hygiene education, geological surveys, project costs, and maintenance.
also has several amazing downloadable lesson plans for schools and teachers to coincide with World Water Day, an annual event March 22. The site also lists several ways that kids can get involved in helping to find solutions to the water problem.
Guy Laliberte, the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, has created a wonderful video to explain the water crisis, and what we can do to help. It’s definitely worth a visit to his website onedrop.org and it’s free.
I live in Southern California and we’re currently experiencing a drought. Of course this is nothing compared to what is going on in Africa and Asia, but knowing what we do about the importance of water to our own survival, it is difficult to fathom how we could still be building and maintaining so many wasteful private swimming pools, golf courses, and elaborate decorative fountains. Excess is out, people! Downsize, conserve, simplify. We need to stop thinking like consumers and start thinking like citizens. We need to watch out for each other, and future generations. There are lots of things we can do, and most of them we know about already, we just have to be mindful and take action. When my washing machine conked out after years of wear, I purchased a front-loading washer that uses 14 gallons of water per load, compared with my older top-loading washer that used 40 gallons of water per load. That adds up to a big difference in water savings over the life of this one appliance. When we moved into our home four years ago we replaced all the original 1970’s era toilets with new ones that use a lot less water. If you still have an old toilet and can’t replace it just yet, you can install devices that reduce the amount of water that is used. Here are some other things we all can do to help conserve water and protect the quality of the water we do have:
- Rather than flushing unused or expired medications down the drain and into the public water system, return them to the pharmacy to be disposed of properly.
- Use both sides of a sheet of paper. Save a tree and you also save water.
- Use environmentally-friendly hygiene and cleaning products. Think about the chemicals that are going down the drain and into the water system.
- Carry your own reusable water container rather than buying bottled water.
- Eat at least one vegetarian meal a week. For the most impact, consider going vegetarian. If everyone in the U.S. are vegetarian just one day, we would save 100 billion gallons of water.
- Take shorter showers, and install low-flow showerheads. Every minute you shorten your shower by saves about 5 gallons of water.
- Turn off the water while shaving, brushing teeth, or washing your face.
- Make sure that your home is leak-free. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. It the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak somewhere.
- Operate the dishwasher and washing machine only when they are fully loaded.
- Compost instead of using the kitchen sink disposal when you can.
- Insulate water pipes. You’ll get hot water faster and also avoid wasting water while it heats up.
- Plant smart. Xeriscape landscaping is a great way to design, install and maintain your plants and irrigation system so that you save time, money and water
- Water your lawn only during the early morning hours when the temperatures and wind speed are the lowest to prevent water loss from evaporation.
- Sweep, don’t hose down walkways and driveways.
- Raise the lawn mower blad to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture more efficiently.
- Mulch to retain moisture and also control weeds that compete with plants for water.
- To wash your car, use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
- Spread the word about the world water situation, and set an example for your friends and family.
January is National Mentoring Month. Being a mentor can mean different things to different people. When I was growing up, my parents were divorced and my mother worked full time. My dad moved away, and my mom was stressed out and tired when she was home. Luckily we had Diana. Diana was our real estate agent when we had to sell the family home and move. She and my mother became friends, and Diana ended up moving in with us. It was a blessing in many ways. It helped my mother pay the bills, gave her someone to talk to, and it gave my sister and brother and me an additional adult in our lives.
At the time we thought of Diana as our friend. She introduced us to tacos, and hot fudge sundaes. She stayed up with us until midnight on New Year’s Eve. She made sure that our birthdays were celebrated in a grand fashion. Even after Diana moved out into her own place, she was always there for us, just a phone call away. We could talk to Diana about anything, and know that she never judged us. One of my favorite memories is when she took my sister and me to the beach and we made Clam Chowder from scratch and went bike riding. Diana helped us feel normal, and brought light and joy to our lives when we desperately needed it.
Diana has always been a member of our family, kind of like the hip Aunt you always look forward to visit. And now that I’m involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, I can see that Diana was also our mentor.
It is evident how much having a mentor can mean to a child, no matter what circumstances that child is in. All it takes is one adult to show support, encouragement, or concern to absolutely affect a positive change in how that child views himself and the world. I knew this going into the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. What I didn’t know, and soon learned, was how much the experience would change me.
I’m a parent, so I know what it means to love a child. I know what it means to want the best for this person, to put his needs before your own, and to make this person your priority without hesitation. I have a child with special needs, so I know about the obstacles, and the heartache. I thought I was fully prepared and well equipped to handle all of the emotions and challenges that come with mentoring a child. But every day I learn something new. And every day my heart is opened more, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to expand my awareness because this girl is in my life.
What makes Big Brothers Big Sisters unique is that it is a one-on-one mentoring program. There are local chapters all over the country, so that many different geographical areas are served. When an adult volunteers to be a mentor, there is an interview, and a background screening process. Then the “match” part can begin. The adults, the “Bigs,” and the children, the “Littles,” fill out a questionnaire that reflects their interests, needs, and wants in a mentor relationship. From there a match specialist pairs up two that are compatible, and a match meeting is set. At the match meeting, the two meet for the first time, and get to know each other. The parent, foster parent, or guardian also gets to participate, and if all parties are agreed, the match is made.
The minimum time requirement is four hours a week. This can be accomplished in one visit or several visits, depending on how the match wants to work it. There is a lot of flexibility to the program. Low cost or no cost activities are encouraged. Time together is what is emphasized, as that is what the kids need more than anything. Some adults express that they worry that they don’t have enough to give, that they will have a hard time finding interesting things to do each visit to keep the child interested. But once they spend a few weeks just hanging out, they discover the beauty and simplicity of the relationship itself, and know that time together is the most valuable gift there is.
Adults who enter the program are required to commit one year to it. It takes a few weeks, or even months, for the relationship to really gel. Many times the kids have trouble trusting, and it takes time for them to bond to a new person in their life. The year goes by quickly, and if at the end of the year, for any reason, the adult needs to dissolve the match, they can. But most matches last much longer, even a lifetime. Children ages six through eighteen can be matched with a mentor, and they can stay in the program until they are twenty-one years old.
My Little Sister is sixteen years old now. I’ve known her for almost a year. I can’t imagine my life without her. We have a lot of fun together, going to plays and movies, cooking, and discovering different parts of the city. But the best times are when we just hang out and talk.
People come into our lives for a reason. We learn more from our relationships than we do from anything else. Diana came into my life when I was a child, and she’s still an important part of my life today. She’s family to me, and I love her. And now my Little Sister is an important part of my life, too, and I love her. I hope that I am helping her as much as Diana helped me, and that she will mentor someone when she has the opportunity. Relationships are the heartbeat of this world, and Big Brothers Big Sisters brings people together to make the world a better place.
Introductory video, Big Brothers Big Sisters Ventura County:
Ask anyone and you’ll get the same answer: What’s the most important thing in life? Love! We want to be in love, and we want that love to last. So how do we go about finding that one person to share our lives with? And how do we live happily ever after with that person once we find him or her?
There are many ways of looking at our compatibility with other people – such as the Mars/Venus theories, and the Love Signs system based on astrology, among others. But long before any of these formulas were even a twinkle in the cosmos, philosophers and scientists in Ancient India devised a system of health care called “Ayurveda” – or “the science of life.” Within this holistic system lies everything we need to know about love.
Ayurveda explains the nature of everything in the universe. It is a compelling way of looking at all of life, the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Ayurveda “types” people according to both their physical features and personality traits. Ayurveda tells us how we “tick,” and how we relate to the rest of the world, including the other people in it!
Once we understand the basics of Ayurveda, we see that we can get along with anyone. There are no “bad” matches! So whether you want to end the squabbling with your mate, you’re having a hard time with your boss, or your boyfriend just can’t commit, with this system of Ancient Indian Love Matches, you’ll find ways to make the relationship work.
It is impossible to go through this life alone. We all have relationships, people in our lives to interact with. The purpose of those relationships is to help us learn and grow. And more than that, the purpose of any relationship is to help us learn more about ourselves and who we really are.
When we understand who we are, and why we are here, everything seems to fall into place. We’re happier, more content, and we feel our connection to the universe. We attract like-minded people into our lives and our relationships become stronger.
As important as our relationships are to us, how much time and effort do we really put into them? So often we go about living our lives and expect that another person either fits into that picture or doesn’t. But we each have needs, and temperaments, and ideas about how we like things to be. When we better understand ourselves, and each other, we can focus on what is important, and what makes a relationship work.
When I first learned about Ayurveda, I was impressed with how simple and clear it made everything to me. The whole system just makes sense, and you can apply it to anything in your life! I’ve read lots of books about Ayurveda, and even more books on relationships, but I’ve never come across one book that applied this age-old system to our very modern-day relationships. So I decided to work it out myself, and that is how my book, “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love” came about.
Because Ayurveda sees people as three different mind/body types, or “doshas,” there are basically nine different “Love Matches” (3 x 3). Of course in reality there are an infinite number of combinations, because no two people are exactly alike in any particular way, but we’re keeping the numbers manageable here! Once you find out your particular dosha (free online quiz at www.whatsyourdosha.com), and the dosha of the person with whom you are in relationship, then you can look up the chapter that corresponds to the two of you. Here you’ll find clues as to how you interact with each other, your communication styles (physical and emotional as well), instinctual preferences with regards to food, travel, lifestyle and work among others. This system shows us how we can please each other and ourselves at the same time. It shows us how we can live in harmony with those around us by recognizing a person’s natural qualities and bringing more love into the world
If you are looking to understand or strengthen a relationship with someone other than your mate – say, a colleague or friend or child – it will help you with that, too. And because we all have a unique relationship with our environment, there are principles called “Vastu” we can use. Through our use of space and color, we can create an environment where we feel inspired and blissful.
Love is an amazing phenomenon, and the reason that all of us are here. It’s worth our study, our attention. Why are we attracted to the people we are attracted to? Why is that we feel as if we “can’t help” who we fall in love with? What is the chemistry that draws us to certain people?
We may never figure ourselves out. Or maybe we already have. Maybe the ancient texts are right and all the answers we will ever need are available to us now… we just need to keep learning and growing until we finally “get it.”
One thing’s for sure, finding love and connection is one of the most important – and pleasurable – things we come here to do. My hope is that Ayurveda, with its ancient Indian secrets for keeping love burning bright, will not only help you in your process of self-discovery but enable you to find and nourish the love matches of your dreams.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. It is heartbreaking to think that suicide is that pervasive of a problem in our society to warrant such a week. And yet it is. Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year. There are twice as many deaths from suicide as there are from HIV/AIDS. It is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year old Americans. And there are more than 800,000 attempted suicides every year.
Those are the statistics.
And then there are the stories.
Perhaps the worst thing about suicide is the pain that it causes to those left behind. These people are known as the survivors. And telling our stories can help us to heal from the trauma of this experience.
When Gia Allemand, the reality television star, took her own life last month, the topic of suicide became a part of a national discussion. Gia’s distraught mother spoke with Dr. Phil about her feelings, which echo that of many survivors.
Sometimes there are warning signs. And then sometimes the incident seems to come from out of nowhere. That’s how it was when I found out that my friend Ophir had died. I remember getting a phone call from our mutual friend Curt. He was in a state of disbelief as he had just gotten the news. It took a few phone calls to figure out exactly what had happened. Ophir had committed suicide.
I knew Ophir as an extremely talented and creative composer. We worked together on several music projects. We had a close friendship, and a great respect for each other. Ophir helped me bring my songs to life. When Ophir had a hernia operation, I had him stay at my home while he recovered.
I was aware that Ophir used drugs. I spoke with him about it many times, offering him alternatives and suggestions for a more healthy way of life. But he did not want to hear it. He did not want to talk about it. He always functioned perfectly well when we were working, and he assured me that he did not have a problem. When I heard that Ophir had died, I assumed it was an accidental overdose. But there was no accident about Ophir’s death. He planned it. He put a rifle in his mouth and shot himself.
Like most people do in this situation, I started asking myself all kinds of questions. What could I have done to prevent this? Why didn’t I see this was coming? What was so terrible that he had to do this? I felt awful, not only for myself, but for his family, everyone who loved him.
Suicide is such a violent act. It is terribly hurtful to everyone left behind with so many unanswerable questions. I don’t know what brought Ophir to his decision. I do know and recognize that although our relationship has changed, he is still very much a part of my life. I have the songs we wrote together on my websites. He taught me so much about music and the creative process. When certain songs come on the radio I am reminded of him, and his amazing energy, sweet smile, and sly sense of humor. His words still influence me. His music still moves me.
I know that the agreement that Ophir and I had was complete even before his death. There was no unfinished business between us. We learned from each other, both creatively and personally. At his funeral I met many others who felt the same way.
This was the second time that I had been affected by suicide. When I was around 11 years old, shortly after my parents’ divorce, my mother’s brother took his own life. He was a Vietnam veteran, and he became hooked on drugs while he was in the war. When he got home, he couldn’t handle normal life after seeing everything he saw in combat. His drug problem got worse, he would have hallucinations and he overdosed to escape the pain.
I saw how this shattered my mother and grandmother. He also left behind a wife and baby daughter. It was tragic. As a child I could sense how awful this was for everyone. And now as an adult I can see how my uncle’s life mattered. Even in the short time he was with us, he brought joy to his mother, and love to his family. He struggled with life, and he chose to die. But while he was here he lived, and he had the opportunities and experiences that allowed him to learn and grow. He may not have made the best choices, but they were his choices. In situations like this you have to get past the blame, and the guilt, and know that there is nothing you could have done to change the outcome. For whatever reason, this person took his own life. It is not rational, or logical, or right. But it is irreversible. And we learned by going through all of this together as a family.
Chaim Nissel, Psy.D., is the Director of Yeshiva University’s Counseling Center in New York City, and an expert with the American Association of Suicidology. He has this to say about coping with the loss of a loved one from suicide:
The death of a loved one by suicide has all the trappings of conventional grief plus a host of other intense, difficult and confusing emotions. These include feelings of guilt and responsibility, anger and blame and often a disconnect with the individual who killed himself. When we lose a loved one to cancer or AIDS, we accept the reality, feel the loss, grieve, yet we don’t blame ourselves. Following a suicide, it is hard to accept the reality that the individual chose death. We feel responsible and wonder, ‘If I had only… he’d be alive today.’ We would rather blame ourselves because it is difficult to place the responsibility where it belongs, on the individual who killed himself.
One who experiences the death of a loved one to suicide is fittingly called a ‘survivor.’ They must now learn to cope and survive their loss. Most survivors experience anger, guilt and emotional turmoil. There is often anger at the deceased for taking their own life, it is seen as selfish, because their pain ends, but the survivor’s pain begins. Guilt over what they could have and should have done to prevent it (although if the loved one wanted to die, they would have despite your interventions). We like to think that we can control events, but when another person is in such emotional pain that they want to die, the choice to kill themselves remains their choice, despite everything that you can and did offer them.
There is still tremendous stigma and shame associated with suicide and when the fact that one died by suicide is hidden or denied, it becomes so much more difficult to come to terms with it. When we try to ‘cover’ or pretend the death was accidental, it takes its toll on the survivors and will impact them the rest of their lives.
To help us find closure, Dr. Nissel has this advice:
— Talk about it! Find supportive people in your life who you can share your feelings with.
— Focus on the person’s life and the good memories you have of the person. Know that you will never truly know why he killed himself.
— Recognize that the person’s pain is over, now it’s time to start healing your own pain.
— Have answers prepared for when people ask questions. This will help reduce your anxiety and emotional reactions. You can say “he took his own life,” or, “died by suicide,” or, even “he suffered a long illness.” It someone is persistent, blaming or insensitive, you can say “it is too difficult to talk about right now,” and end the conversation.
— Know that you are not responsible for your loved one’s death, in any way. Only the individual who killed himself is responsible.
— Know that the likelihood is that the person was in such pain, for so long and now the suffering is over. 90 percent of those that die by suicide suffered from some form of mental illness, most commonly an affective disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder.
— Seek resources such as professional counseling, support groups and books.
— Being exposed to a suicide makes you somewhat more susceptible to suicidal thinking. If you are having thoughts of killing yourself, get help immediately by contacting a local psychologist or psychiatrist. If you feel you may act on these suicidal impulses, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) helps survivors of suicide. Actress Michelle Ray Smith, who played “Ava” on the daytime drama Guiding Light, talked about her father’s suicide in an interview with Soap Opera Digest magazine a few years back. She said that participating in AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness” event, an overnight 20-mile walk, helped her connect with people who had been through the same thing. “For the first time since he died — it’s been three years in September — I feel at peace.” Talking with people, sharing our stories, is one way that we can help each other to heal.
For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.
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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Each of us experiences some kind of loss in this lifetime. People come and go from our lives, whether by choice or circumstance. How we cope with these events affects how we move forward, how we see the world, and how we feel about our lives.
I’m not the only person to have been through a divorce. When my first marriage ended after 17 years, I thought I handled it well. It was an amicable parting, and we maintained a friendly relationship. But then a few years later my sister’s husband died unexpectedly. My grief brought up new emotions, and I felt sad and angry and hurt as I relived the divorce in my mind. I realized through this experience that although I had moved on, I hadn’t really gotten over it; I didn’t have closure. I saw the parallels between my sister’s loss and my own, and I actively sought to come up with a formula through which we could both alleviate our pain.
Relationships take many forms: marriage, friendships, family, co-workers, classmates, lovers. Whenever two people have some kind of a connection, a relationship is established. Our energy goes into these connections, our emotions, our hopes, our human vulnerabilities. A relationship is an organism itself, and it can have a life cycle. But since relationship is a spiritual organism, it doesn’t die. It merely changes shape. The relationships we build with the people we encounter continue in spirit, in memories, and in lessons learned.
We are invested in our relationships with other people. We spend our time, and emotions, developing a kind of bond with a person. We give of ourselves, through our love, our friendship, our concern, and our efforts.
When we are faced with what seems to be the “end” of a relationship, we may feel loss, grief, anger or pain. We might even feel relief, or freedom. We may question the purpose for this change, whether it is abrupt or expected, and the necessity of it. The change may or may not be our choice, or our desire, but something we must learn to live with. The uneasiness may nag at us for years as we struggle to understand. How do we get that “closure” that our hearts and minds so desperately seek so that we can move forward with our lives?
We need to shift our perspective a little bit when it comes to relationships. In our human form, we see the illusion of death, and the ending of relationships. But what really takes place is a transformation. As we learn and grow through our relationships, our relationships evolve. We can use this evolution as an opportunity for continued growth, and for personal transformation. The pains that we feel are growing pains. However a relationship changes, whether it is a loss from physical death, a divorce, a move away, a growing up, or a falling out, we can not only survive, but thrive, knowing that everything, always, is exactly the way it is meant to be.
A Natural Law works whether we are aware of it or not. It is a principle of nature that is in effect at all times, without favoritism. Gravity is a natural law. It works the same for everyone, at all times. By being aware of gravity, we can move about more freely, with less risk of pain from falling down.
The Law of Relationship is two-fold. It says:
1) We are all connected.
2) We are here to help each other.
We are all connected in one way or another. We feel the same emotions; we share the same experiences. We are brothers and sisters on this planet. This connection bonds us, and gives us a relationship with each other. A mother in any part the world, can relate to another mother she has never seen because she knows what it means, and how it feels, to be a mother. We are all born the same way, and have to learn how to walk and talk and find our way in the world. We face challenges and heartache, no matter where we live, or how we live. Our connection cannot be broken.
With our challenges and experiences we learn and grow. Our relationships bring us many challenges and experiences, and through our relationships we learn and grow. This is how we help each other. We may not even know that we are doing it, but just by being in a person’s life, in some small way, we are contributing to the learning process, as they are contributing to ours. Our actions affect other people in ways we can’t even imagine. Even in times when we feel hurt by someone, that is an opportunity for us to learn and grow. We might not realize it in the moment, but in some strange and miraculous way, we are helping each other by going through this experience together.
Closure is different than grief. Grieving is looking back; closure is about looking ahead. We want to let go and move on. This is what closure gives us. We may have gone through the grieving process and still not have the closure we seek. The law of relationship helps us to maneuver our way through the five set process of closure: Recognition, Acceptance, Understanding, Integration, and Gratitude. When we reach a feeling of gratitude, we know we’ve come full circle to experience closure.
Closure is actually the perfect word for it. It’s more than neatly tying up loose ends. Think about life as a series of events and relationships, all linked together in some sort of artistic way, like a beautiful piece of jewelry. We can’t wear a necklace or a bracelet if the chain is just left dangling. The jewelry maker finishes off the piece by adding a clasp, one loop that kind of ties together the beginning and the end, the start and the finish, so that what we are left with is one strong continuous chain. Our closure is that clasp. Closure helps it all make sense. It turns something seemingly broken into something useful, purposeful, and lovely.
Lissa Coffey is the author of CLOSURE and the Law of Relationship: Endings as New Beginnings.
Guest Post By Ralph Masengill
Want to be very successful? Here is a simple secret few take advantage of in their personal or business life. You will be a true winner only if you are:
1. Willing to take a calculated risk and endorse positive change on a regular basis.
2. Learning how change affects our emotions and our feelings.
Let’s take a short journey together.
What we are talking about is understanding the risk of change. Why is it so important that we know about and understand change? We humans, and there are no exceptions, are constantly involved in change. Change never stops. It is always constantly going on in us and around us. The truly successful men and women of the world have a good understanding of change and how you can manipulate change to your advantage. You cannot stop it, but you can control most change. You can always control the emotions that change causes in all of us.
Are you in a personal or business rut? In a rut, you have no control where that rut will take you. You have lost your freedom to act. To not change is to lose control of your future. To be in a rut is losing your freedom to control your life, business or both. Laurence J. Peter states that “A rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.” He is talking about life without understanding the importance of the affects that change has on all humans.
Mark Twain put it his way “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.” Many good people refuse to accept the risk and uncertainty that change always brings with it. They stay in a self-imposed rut. They force themselves to live in a stagnant prison of their own making. They have part of it right. There can be some security in a prison. I would name that prison Opportunity Lost. When it comes to change we really only have two choices. One is to embrace change with gusto. The second is to stay in a rut by refusing to admit that all change is constant, live in denial and because they made a bad choice end up losing their freedom to act. The solution is to simply agree to devote time and effort to understanding change and how it makes us feel.
Someone said, “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain”. I believe the happiest and most successful people do not necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have. Choose Change. It is the path to true happiness and business success.
You and I are always undergoing continuous change intended or not. The exciting truth is the more we know about change, both positive and negative change, the more we can profit from change. If you want a more enjoyable and profitable personal and business life, you must have a solid understanding of what change is and how it makes us and the people we deal with feel. In other words, understanding change and how it makes all people feel will put you in a winning position in your life and your business.
If that is true and it is, what is change and how does it affect all of us on a continuous basis? After 40 years of study and research here is my definition of change:
All men and women regard all change both good and bad change with a feeling of loss (examples would be remorse or that pit of the stomach feeling) and that feeling of loss always creates some form of anger, anxiety or fear.
Understanding how change works can change your life for the better and give you a solid advantage. That is a guarantee. Here are some amazing facts about continuous change.
1. Most of us will not change until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing.
2. You and I often prefer the security of known misery, to the supposed misery of unfamiliar insecurity.
3. Change is consistent, intended or not.
Number one on the list above was true for me in a big way. Until I learned how to handle continuous change and the feelings change had on my personality nothing seemed to get better. I seemed to be stuck in a continuous rut. Understanding continuous change turned my humdrum life around. Understanding change is not hard but you must work at it on a regular basis. Understanding change can be the one thing that can put you in the winner’s circle often. It did just that for me.
What do others say about change?
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol
“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” Carol Burnett
“Change your thoughts and you change your world”, Norman Vincent Peale
“Nothing endures but change.” Heraclitus (540BC – 480BC)
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending if you are willing to change.” Maria Robinson
On the Oprah Winfrey Show I heard an interview where Oprah was sharing with a guest about a dream she had where the children in her dream were asking her, “What can you teach me?” She said what she learned from that was, to look at every event in her life from that perspective. Then I realized as she was sharing, that is exactly what has made the difference in my own life in dealing with change. Now I welcome it knowing it leads to a greater understanding of my purpose on this planet. Dealing with both positive and negative change is a learning process that allows you and I to know what kind of emotions (feelings) continuous change will cause.
No one really likes dealing with change, no one. However we all like the results of positive change. We are never in pain because of change, only our resistance to change can cause us pain. Once you stop resisting what happens in your life and accept it the sooner you have the opportunity to feel less stress and set your business and your life up for even more success. For me it was one of those amazing “ah ha” moments where you are never the same after that. To truly be successful in any undertaking you must embrace positive change and the pain the resistance brings willingly and often.
We all take risk every day when we embrace positive change. Do we take a calculated risk or do we sometimes just roll the dice and just hope for the best? The former is not acting on opportunity; it is acting out of ignorance. I admit that in my younger days, I did more rolling of the dice than I want to talk about and I had to pay the price. I paid the price by losing time, money and happiness many times out of my own ignorance about change. One time I almost lost my business. All of us can and should learn from our mistakes. Mistakes can be a teacher. However, it is a very expensive and painful way to learn.
Charles Tremper puts it this way: “The first step in the calculated risk process is to acknowledge the reality of the risk. Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.” Executing a plan will involve change. Being willing to change is always a calculated risk that should be encouraged. For one thing it is where most business and personal success comes from in today’s world.
Many successful people have something to say about risk taking. Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is the right direction.” Author and lecturer Earl Nightingale stated, “You can measure opportunity with the same yardstick that measures the risk involved. They go together.” I believe it is clear that all positive change requires calculated risk taking. Do your homework and success can be yours.
Is the opposite of risk, security? Some say it is. I believe those people are in error. Here is what Helen Keller had to say about security. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Former President Eisenhower said, “One can find outright security only in a prison. In order to be absolutely secure you must give up your individual freedoms.” Dennis Waitley in one of this lectures said, “Life is inherently risky. To become the success you want to be there is only one big risk you should avoid at all cost. That is the risk of doing nothing.” I personally believe total security is a myth. Understanding how change makes all of us feel makes the task less stressful and more fulfilling.
Without calculated risk and positive change there would be no United States of America and no free enterprise system. Our free enterprise system is based on planned change that requires risk that then creates an opportunity that can lead to a solid reward. Risk and change are things we should get up with gladly every morning. In order to succeed beyond even our most daring dreams we must be willing to accept calculated risk and change as a way of life.
We have all seen or read about a business that does well in a certain market while their competitor offering the same product or service flounders. Ms. Wilcox with her short poem tells us why. She nails it in two sentences. Please take a moment right now and re-read her poem.
First make sure you know how the market “winds” are blowing and then and only then set your business “sails” accordingly using positive change and taking the calculated risk that is always part of the package. Do that correctly and you can, with assurance reach your destination of enhanced sales and profit and/or a better life. You can then taste sweet success.
The first step is to know the direction of the market “winds”. Get this wrong and all your other efforts do not matter. Over the years I have been amazed how little time and money many spend on effective market research. Hunches do have their place in the business “sea”, but this first step is not one of them. Solid accurate market research is the capstone of any good business arch. You must react to the market. You must change in order to win. Get the market “winds” right and make the correct changes and you will take home the profit trophy.
Change is something you must do on a regular basis if you want to be successful in life or business. Resistance to change has always been a part of the human psyche. We must work hard not to resist positive change even though it is not our nature. The solution is simple but not easy. Learn all you can about change and how it makes us all feel and be willing to take a calculated risk. Knowing what to expect when you need to change will help you be all that you want be in this world. Work hard to see positive change as a friend and do not resist this widely misunderstood process. Positive change is just that, a positive. Embrace it and you have a great opportunity to succeed in your personal and business life above your present goals and dreams. Understanding change is well worth the effort required.
I have heard that fashion often reflects the mood of the times. When we are optimistic as a society, hemlines tend to go up. When we feel gloomy, we see more dark gray hues. So it really is no surprise that the fashion trend of the moment seems to be the “distressed” look.
I’ve seen this everywhere. Jeans have manufactured holes in them, strategically placed rips and sanded down seams. Shirts are wrinkled on purpose, just enough to give that worn-for-a-long-time feel to them. Gone are the starched collars and in is a more “easy” fit. Our new shoes are to be worn not only without socks, but also with the laces conspicuously missing.
Our clothes are mirroring our distress. We’ve got a monstrous unemployment rate, and a seemingly endless war or two going on at the same time. We are dealing with natural disasters all over the globe, and an oil spill with repercussions that reach far into the future. The economy basically, well, is there any better word than “sucks” right now? And on top of all this, there’s the whole Tiger letdown, Jesse cheating on our beloved Sandra, and the Gores’ divorce! Yes, “distress” is putting it mildly.
The fact that we have chosen to wear the distressed look tells me that as bad as things are, we have hope. We know we can get through this. These are the kinds of clothes we wear when we’re ready to get down to the business at hand. Those paint splattered khakis? They say: “I can handle anything!” That faded denim shirt? It says: “Put me to work!”
Volunteerism is at its highest level since 1992. We may be pinching pennies, but we were able to scrape up $1.3 million dollars in just two hours when Larry King went on the air to raise money to help clean up the Gulf. This is definitely a “can do” society. We are keenly aware that things are bad, and we’re making a concerted effort to do what we can to make things better.
We are banding together more. Those “six-degrees of separation” have all but disappeared with social networking. Alyssa Milano personally tweets the importance of the mosquito net in helping to combat malaria and with just a few clicks we are sending a net to the cause. Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete have raised awareness and inspired us to take action on behalf of families struggling with autism. Philanthropy has gone viral!
So, yes, with all the events that are happening seemingly at the same time, we’re distressed. But maybe in this state we finally have our priorities straight. Maybe we are starting to understand what is important to us. Our style is changing, and evolving. I see the current trend as a statement that “fashion” as we know it doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that we take care of the issues at hand, and that we take care of ourselves and each other.