Ridding Your Life of Baggage

This is by far my favorite time of year. You can feel the chill in the air, see the beauty of the leaves changing color and witness God‘s magic. As the leaves fall from the comfort of the trees, new leaves will be reborn next spring. This is the perfect time to take a look at your own life — which areas need to be buried and reborn with a fresh perspective. Are there aspects of yourself that you would rather move away from? Are there parts of your life that you would like to create a clean slate? What part of your life would you dream of comparing to the falling of the leaves? You would be able to let go of everything draining and consuming in your life and replace it with fresh, full-of-life energy. Why not let go of all tasks, people and responsibilities that deplete you, and replace them with those things that fill you up and bring you joy. You can, once again, wait until next year, next week, or next month, to get started, or you can begin today. As fall comes and goes every year, you, too, can take advantage once a year of ridding your life of toxic baggage and replacing it with what excites you and fulfills you.

Steps to take action:

1. Let it go

Which parts of your life are taxing and all-consuming? Divide your life into sections if it makes it easier; career, family, relationships, etc…What can you let go of?  If something in your life creates more negativity and stress than feel-good energy, you might want to consider letting it go.

  1. Your priorities

What do you value above all else in your life? Family…career…health and well-being? Make a list from the most important to the least important. How is your time currently being spent? Is your time going toward activities and responsibilities that are not high on your priority list? Maybe it is time to take a closer look at where you are putting your energy. Over-extending yourself, due to not prioritizing, only depletes you of the energy you need for the things that fulfill you. Do not be afraid to ask others for help, so you don’t take on more than you can handle. Over-extending yourself affects you and everyone in your life, in a negative way.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have what you need to take care of others.

  1. Have fun!

When making changes in your life, it can become all-consuming. It is important to create “fun” time or “me” time amidst all the craziness. Schedule it in like any other appointment or commitment. You need time to relax and wind down. Make this a priority this week. This time is crucial in rejuvenating yourself to continue forward.

 

5 Ways to Let Go of Past Hurts

The only way you can accept new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new?

1. Make the decision to let it go.

Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt.

Making the decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person (after you finish step 2 below).

2. Express your pain — and your responsibility.

Express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it’s directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, or writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person). Get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what — specifically — your hurt is about.

We don’t live in a world of black and whites, even when sometimes it feels like we do. While you may not have had the same amount of responsibility for the hurt you experienced, there may have been a part of the hurt that you are also partially responsible for. What could you have done differently next time? Are you an active participant in your own life, or simply a hopeless victim? Will you let your pain become your identity? Or are you someone deeper and more complex than that??

3. Stop being the victim and blaming others.

Being the victim feels good — it’s like being on the winning team of you against the world. But guess what? The world largely doesn’t care, so you need to get over yourself. Yes, you’re special. Yes, your feelings matter. But don’t confuse with “your feelings matter” to “your feelings should override all else, and nothing else matters.” Your feelings are just one part of this large thing we call life, which is all interwoven and complex. And messy.

In every moment, you have that choice — to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions, or to start feeling good. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who hurt you — in the past — have such power, right here, right now?

No amount of rumination of analyses have ever fixed a relationship problem. Never. Not in the entirety of the world’s history. So why choose to engage in so much thought and devote so much energy to a person who you feel has wronged you?

4. Focus on the present — the here and now — and joy.

Now it’s time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist — you — is forever the victim of this other person’s horrible actions. You can’t undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life.

When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment. And then bring yourself gently back into the present moment. Some people find it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It’s alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing _______________.”

Remember, if we crowd our brains — and lives — with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.

5. Forgive them — and yourself.

We may not have to forget another person’s bad behaviors, but virtually everybody deserves our forgiveness. Sometimes we get stuck in our pain and our stubbornness, we can’t even imagine forgiveness. But forgiveness isn’t saying, “I agree with what you did.” Instead, it’s saying, “I don’t agree with what you did, but I forgive you anyway.”

Forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I’m a good person. You’re a good person. You did something that hurt me. But I want to move forward in my life and welcome joy back into it. I can’t do that fully until I let this go.”

Forgiveness is a way of tangibly letting something go. It’s also a way of empathizing with the other person, and trying to see things from their point of view.

And forgiving yourself may be an important part of this step as well, as sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. While we indeed may have had some part to play in the hurt (see step 2), there’s no reason you need to keep beating yourself up over it. If you can’t forgive yourself, how will you be able to live in future peace and happiness?

7 Steps to Making Your Relationship Last

What makes love last a lifetime? Affection?  Sure. Mutual trust and respect? Absolutely!  But a great marriage is not just about what you have. It’s about what you do to make a relationship stronger, safer, more caring and committed. Here’s how to make your “forever” fantastic.

Marriage is a home, a refuge against the outside storms. And like any house, it requires a strong, lasting foundation. To build one, every couple needs to take certain steps that turn the two of you into not just you and me but we. You may not move through all the steps in order, and you may circle back to complete certain steps again (and again and again). But if you make it through them all, you’ll be well on your way toward creating a marriage that will be your shelter as long as you both shall live.

Step 1: Find a shared dream for your life together.

It’s easy to get caught up in the small stuff of married life: What’s for dinner tonight? Whose turn is it to clean the litter box? Did you pay the electric bill? But the best partners never lose sight of the fact that they’re working together to achieve the same big dreams. They have a shared vision, saying things like, ‘We want to plan to buy a house, we want to take a vacation to such-and-such a place, we like to do X, we think we want to start a family at Y time.

This kind of dream-sharing starts early. “Couples love to tell the story of how they met,” points out Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. As you write and rewrite your love story (“our hardest challenge was X, our dream for retirement is Y”), you continually remind yourselves and each other that you’re a team with shared values and goals. And, when you share a dream, you’re a heck of a lot more likely to make that dream come true.

Step 2: Ignite (and reignite) a sexual connection.

In any good relationship, sex is much more than just a physical act. It’s crucial for the health of your emotional connection, too. It’s something only the two of you share.  It makes you both feel warm and loved.  It draws you back together when you’re drifting apart. And….it’s so much fun!

Striking up those sparks when you first meet is easy. The hard part is nurturing a strong, steady flame. When you’ve got a mortgage, a potbelly, and a decade or two of togetherness under your belts, it can be hard to muster up the fire you felt when you first got together. That’s when it’s even more important to protect your sex life and make it a priority. You have to keep working at creating fascination and seduction for each other or your sex life will become dull.

As the years go by, you’ll keep revisiting and reimagining the passion you have for each other. And if you keep at it, you’ll have a sex life that rises above your marriage’s lack of newness, the stresses of family and work, the physical changes that come with aging. Now that’s something worth holding on to.

Step 3: Choose each other as your first family.

For years, you were primarily a member of one family……..the one in which you grew up. Then, you got married, and, suddenly, you became the foundation of a new family….one in which husband and wife are the A-team. It can be tough to shift your identity like this, but it’s also an important part of building your self-image as a duo (and maybe, eventually, as three or four or…).

It’s important to learn to talk to each other when there are issues to resolve……not talk about each other to someone else in the family.  It’s about becoming a team in working things out or dealing with issues relating to the behavior of another family member.

Whatever your challenges —- an overprotective mom, an overly critical father-in-law……..you have to outline together the boundaries between you and all of the families connected to you.  Not only will you feel stronger as a united front, but when you stick to your shared rules, all that family baggage will weigh on you a lot less.

Step 4: Learn how to fight right.

“Fighting is the big problem every couple has to deal with. That’s because fights will always come up, so every couple needs to learn how to fight without tearing each other apart.

Fighting right doesn’t just mean not throwing things…….it means staying focused on the issue at hand and respecting each other’s perspective. Couples who fight right also find ways to defuse the tension……often with humor.  “Whenever one of us wants the other to listen, we mime hitting the TV remote, a thumb pressing down on an invisible mute button,” says Nancy, 52, an event producer in San Francisco. “It cracks us up, in part, because it must look insane to others.” Even if you fight a lot, when you can find a way to turn fights toward the positive — with a smile, a quick apology, an expression of appreciation for the other person — the storm blows away fast, and that’s what matters.

Step 5: Find a balance between time for two and time for you.

When it comes to togetherness, every couple has its own unique sweet spot. “There are couples that are never apart and there are couples that see each other only on weekends. With the right balance, neither partner feels slighted or smothered. You have enough non-shared experiences to fire you up and help you maintain a sense of yourself outside the relationship….…as well as giving you something to talk about at the dinner table. But, you also have enough time together to feel your connection as a strong tie rather than as a loose thread.

Your togetherness needs will also change over time, so you’ll have to shift your balance accordingly. “My husband and I spend a lot of time together, but it’s almost all family time,” says Katie, 40, a mom of two in San Leandro, CA. “We realized a few months ago that we hadn’t had a conversation that didn’t involve the kids or our to-do lists in ages, so we committed to a weekly date. We were so happy just to go to the movies and hold hands, something we hadn’t done in ages. It felt like we were dating again!”

Step 6: Build a best friendship.

Think about the things that make your closest friendships irreplaceable: the trust that comes with true intimacy, the willingness to be vulnerable, the confidence that the friendship can withstand some conflict. Don’t those sound like good things to have in your marriage, too?

Happy couples are each other’s haven. They can count on the other person to listen and try to meet their needs.  When you’re true friends, you acknowledge and respect what the other person is…….you don’t try to control or change him/her. This creates a sense of safety and security when you’re together —- you know you’re valued for who you are and you see the value in your partner.”

Then, when you’ve been with someone awhile, you almost become a mind-reader. You have a shared history and inside jokes. Your guy knows what you’ll find funny, you forward him links to articles you know he’ll enjoy, and best of all, you two can make eye contact at a given moment and say volumes without opening your mouths. And, is there anything more pleasurable than sitting in companionable silence, absorbed in your respective newspaper reading, sipping coffee, occasionally reading something out loud, but mostly just spending time idly, happily together, communing without needing to speak?

Step 7: Face down a major challenge together.

You’re sailing along through life, and suddenly you hit a huge bump…….a serious illness, unemployment, the loss of a home, or a death in the family. How do you cope?

The truth is, you never know how strong your relationship is until it’s tested. All too often, the stress of a crisis can pull a couple apart. But, the good news is, when you do make it through in one piece, you might just find yourselves tighter than ever.

“What didn’t happen to us?” asks Daryl, 28, a preschool teacher in Harrisburg, PA. “My husband lost his job and took a minimum-wage job he was way overqualified for just to make ends meet. He was offered a better job in a mountain town outside San Diego, so we moved. Then, during the California wildfires several years ago, our house burned down and we lost everything. We were living in a one-room, converted garage with no running water and a newborn baby. But, we found that this chaos somehow brought us even closer together. We took turns losing it. We really kept each other sane.”

Marriage is no roll in the hay. It is tough, real work. But, the reward, the edifice you build together that will shelter you through years of tough times, is more than worth the effort. The small, friendly home you build, decorated with your shared history and stories, filled with color and laughter — will be the warmest and safest retreat you can imagine.

What to Do When your Partner Won’t Go to Couples Therapy

It can feel frustrating and hopeless when your partner won’t even give couples therapy a thought or a try. Maybe you have tried to address the issues in the relationship, read some books, talked to friends, fought over and over, and have decided that it’s time to give couples therapy a try. But, you are met with resistance when it comes to getting your partner to go.

You can’t make someone do something that they will not do. Even if you give ultimatums, your partner is likely to feel forced and not really be open to the experience. The best tactic is to tap into the very thing that’s keeping him or her from wanting to come.

There are a variety of reasons for not wanting to go to couples therapy. Your partner might be experiencing many different fears, but here are some of the common ones:

  • Being afraid that the therapist will blame them for the relationship problems, or that the two of you will gang up on them.
  • Honestly believing that YOU are the one that needs help, and internally blaming you for what’s going wrong in the relationship.
  • Being worried that counseling is going to literally be a painful experience.
  • Thinking that there are no issues in the relationship, and that couples therapy isn’t necessary.

One Tactic to Address all of These Concerns

Going to couples therapy takes courage, and anything that takes courage naturally comes with discomfort. But, here’s one tactic to put a dent in all of those barriers that your partner is experiencing.  Discuss what you will get out of therapy, how it will help you become a better spouse, and why you need your partner’s participation in that.

I’m not saying that you are to blame for the relationship problems. But, the fact is that every couple has two members, and every relationship problem has two players. Your contribution to your relationship issues may be as simple as how you respond to your partner’s poor relationship behavior. This still involves you. Tell your partner that you want to go to couples therapy so that you can find tools to use that will help you improve as a spouse. Talk about how much the marriage means to you and how willing you are to do whatever it takes to make it better. And make sure your partner hears how important their help is in doing this.

This is not about taking responsibility for your partner’s behavior, or blaming yourself, especially if you are in an abusive relationship or taking on too much responsibility for changing everything in the relationship. But, in my experience, many people don’t tell their partner how they, themselves, are willing to change. They focus on what their partner needs to change, and engage in unhelpful tactics such as arguing, begging, distancing, and giving ultimatums. Doing something different, such as expressing the reasons you personally want to improve with the help of a couples therapist could be a fresh take.

If your partner is worried that they will be blamed or that you and the couples therapist will gang up on them, this helps to show them that you are approaching this with some level of personal accountability. You aren’t merely looking for a referee or someone to help you convince your partner that they are to blame. The fact is, that a good couples therapist does not play the blame game, and would rather have you both ganging up on the problems rather than on each other. But, your spouse might just need to get into the first session to be able to see that this fear is, well, just a fear.

If your partner really does think that you are to blame, then they might be more open to giving therapy a try if they think that you are open to looking at what role you do play in the relationship issues. This isn’t setting you up to take responsibility for everything. As I mentioned before, a good therapist doesn’t do that. But, if it gets your partner to consider coming to therapy, you can both work on taking responsibility for your own contributions to the patterns once you’re there.

If your partner is worried that it will literally be a painful experience, alleviating some of their other fears could go a long way toward helping them cope with their avoidance of dealing with issues. Couples therapy isn’t easy, but neither is anything that is so important. Being a good spouse and parent, advancing your career, creating a healthy lifestyle and taking care of yourself – none of these are easy.

And last of all, if your partner doesn’t think that there is anything in the relationship that could benefit from couples therapy, perhaps mentioning what you want to get out of it for yourself would be something that your partner would be willing to hear.

This is, by no means, a list of ways to create a more positive and inviting story around couples therapy, but it’s one that can be very effective. The truth is, that a couples therapist is going to help both of you do your best to create the kind of relationship that you want, and taking the first step in thinking about that will go a long way toward avoiding attempts to blame and forcing a reluctant partner into couples therapy.

And, if all else fails, getting therapy for yourself can greatly improve your relationship. Most relationship issues can be explored and approached in different ways, even by just one person. A couples therapist can help you discover ways to improve your marriage even when your partner won’t go to couples therapy. If you are interested in exploring how couples therapy or individual relationship counseling can help, please contact me at 720-291-5707. It could change your relationship with yourself or with someone else forever!

12 Steps to Relieving Stress

 Life could be a lot more manageable if we were to relieve as much stress in our lives as possible.  Allowing stress to take over can result in the inability to concentrate or focus, the inability to think clearly and make good decisions, destructive mood swings, and health conditions that can eventually lead to death. It’s important to take care of YOU so you are able to take care of others and take control over your life. And, if there are major issues that are holding you back from leading a happy life, counseling can be very beneficial. Here are some helpful ways to manage or eliminate stress.

  1. Breathe. Practice long, deep breathing filling your diaphragm with air. “Breathe in calm (through your nose), breathe out tension (through your mouth).” Practice daily.
  2. Be still and quiet, or pray. Learn how to quiet your mind at least once a day.
  3. Exercise. Exercise increases endorphins in our brains for a lot of positive benefits. It is recommended to exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes for the most benefit.
  4. Laugh. Incorporate laughter into your life on a regular basis. It’s impossible to be stressed and laughing at the same time.
  5. Stop. Turn off the negative “stink’n think’n.” Turn all negative thoughts into positive ones.
  6. Affirm. Use positive affirmations to affirm what you want in your life.
  7. Gratitude. Identify what you are grateful for each day.
  8. Balance. Set healthy boundaries with family, friends, colleagues, or other situations in your life.
  9. Splurge. Do things to take care of yourself. Get a massage, a manicure, take a hot bubble bath, etc.
  10. Prioritize. Make a list of your projects and create a realistic time frame for each.
  11. Sleep. Sleep is crucial in managing your stress. Women require no less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
  12. Play. Find fun activities to participate in that bring you joy!

 

“To Love Oneself is the Beginning of a Lifelong Romance.” 

Some have deemed National Boost Your Self-Esteem month as a “weird and unusual” celebration, but, we see it as an excuse to self-reflect and build confidence.  The National Association for Self-Esteem (NASE) defines self-esteem as “The experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness.”  A healthy or high self-esteem will not only allow you to live a happier life, but it will also strengthen your ability to handle challenges, build your tolerance, motivate you to take risks, and encourage a life of love.  When participating in self-refection and understanding your own self-esteem, it is important to note that we often see ourselves through the eyes of others, thus, our self-esteem can be built upon or broken down by our surroundings.  Charles Taylor author of Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity and Multiculturalism writes, “We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others (our parents, for instance) and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live.”  Before taking the steps to boost your self-esteem, we encourage you to take a look at the people in and around your life that may be influencing the image of yourself that is being reflected.  Don’t look at this task as a profound, life-transitioning challenge.  Just a few simple changes can make a difference and can help you live a life of hope, harmony, and happiness with a healthy self-esteem at the core.  A few tips:

  • Surround yourself with positive people that will reflect beauty back to you
  • Be positive, even when it seems like a challenge (it takes less muscle in your face to smile than frown)
  • Journal about your daily activities and thoughts – highlight the positive and explore where the negative stems
  • Do an activity that you are good at
  • Celebrate the little things – a productive day at work or getting all the laundry done deserves a celebration every once in awhile
  • Question your negativity or doubt – remember we are sometimes wrong
  • Stop thinking about yourself – do something for someone else
  • Relax – turn off and just breathe
  • Lighten up – Don’t be so hard on yourself!

 

5 Proven Strategies for Releasing Negative Thoughts

Whether by virtue of our self-imposed stress, propensity for self-blame or the scarcity mentality that keeps us from connecting with our gratitude, negative thinking can be a significant obstacle to our personal development and emotional well-being. Escaping the thrall of our negative thoughts is not simply a matter of putting a brave face on things. Positivity doesn’t just happen — it’s created and as we are the architects of our own reality, that creation is in our hands.

The initial challenge here is to get past the evolutionary and social obstacles that foster our anxiety and fear. The thinking that keeps us rattling around this prison of negativity, however, is the same thinking that can foster our freedom.

The first of several practices for getting past our negative thoughts is to simply not believe what we think. If we identify, or over-identify, with our thoughts, they start having us, rather than us having them. Holding fast to a particular negative belief or belief system, we not only limit ourselves, but mire ourselves in that negativity. For example, should we operate with a poverty mentality, we paralyze ourselves into thinking we will never have enough. Taking a moment to recognize what we do have and then acting to further cultivate that breaks us out of this cycle of negativity. Knowledge is in the thinking; wisdom is in the doing.

It can also serve us to question our reality. When confronted with a negative thought we can take time to ask ourselves three things: “Is it reasonable? Is it rational? Is it reliable?”

Establishing the reasonableness of a thought helps us get some perspective. There is such a thing as a reasonable level of anxiety. When that anxiety blooms into a full-fledged panic simply because we don’t know what’s going to happen, then we’ve likely stepped outside the bounds of that reasonableness.

Next, we need to establish if our thinking is rational. If, for example, we are struggling to make ends meet every month, but the bills are still getting paid, it’s probably not rational to be sitting up for the better part of the night fretting over losing the house or having the car repossessed. If, however, we find ourselves in a place where the bills really aren’t getting paid and our concerns are reasonable, we need to point our rational response at what comes next, rather than creating more internal conflict by fretting over something we may not be able to control.

Finally, we can explore if the thought is reliable. Has it happened before with any degree of consistency? If the answer is no, then it’s quite likely we’re making up a story, rather than responding to a potential.

Another helpful means for sorting out our negative thinking is unpacking our feelings. When our psychophysiological response to a situation passes through the filter of our worldview — our subjective assumptions, expectations and ideas about the way the world works — we experience a conscious feeling. The quality of that feeling is determined by what we are thinking about the situation. For example, if two people are standing at the top of a roller coaster one may be feeling excited, while the other is feeling fearful. Both are experiencing a relatively similar physiological response, but for one that translates into a feeling of anticipation, while for the other it translates into a feeling of apprehension. The difference between the two is how each person is thinking about the experience before them.

Unpacking our feelings can lead us back to the source of our experience and, once we identify what we’re thinking about that experience, we can ask a very simple question: “Why?” What is it about roller coasters that make me fearful or excited? What is it about the envelopes with the little windows or the phone ringing that makes me anxious? Once we find the source, we can label it and then, release it because in identifying the thought, we now control it. It no longer controls us.

An additional technique for releasing negative thinking is to ask ourselves, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?” This kind of extreme perspective serves as a foil, giving us a more realistic view of what’s actually in front of us. Scripting a scenario that plays to our greatest anxieties, fears and negativities allow us a certain relativism that can take the charge out of our experience, making it more manageable.

Once we’ve employed these various techniques for shepherding our thoughts, we need to find a means for keeping them corralled. Journaling prompts us to slow down and develop a more balanced sensibility around our larger picture, engaging all of our faculties and senses in organizing our thoughts. Exercise releases endorphins, calming and centering us, which allows us to think more clearly and with greater acuity. Praying (asking God to change our thoughts) is a highly-effective way to release the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

Whichever of these techniques we may choose, our primary focus is on creating a shift of mind that takes us out of our negative headspace and into one that is more positive, or, at least, balanced. We create our experience by virtue of how we are thinking about a particular situation, good, bad or indifferent. What’s important to bear in mind is that if we can think ourselves in, we can always think ourselves out.

An A-to-Z Guide to Achieving Your Dreams

As a therapist/life coach, people often ask me, “What are the success principles you see that work?” Obviously, there are many. The following list is a start:

  • Avoid negative sources, people, things, and habits
  • Believe in yourself
  • Consider things from every angle
  • Don’t give up and don’t give in
  • Enjoy life today; yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come
  • Family and friends are hidden treasures; seek them and enjoy their riches
  • Give more than you planned to give
  • Hang onto your dreams
  • Ignore those who try to discourage you
  • Just do it!
  • Keep on trying, no matter how hard it seems; it will get better
  • Love yourself first and foremost
  • Make it happen
  • Never lie, cheat, or steal; always strike a fair deal
  • Open your eyes and see things as they really are
  • Perfect practice makes perfect
  • Quitters never win and winners never quit
  • Read, study, and learn about everything important in your life
  • Stop procrastinating
  • Take control of your own destiny
  • Understand yourself in order to better understand others
  • Visualize it
  • Want it more than anything
  • Accelerate your efforts
  • You are unique, nothing can replace you
  • Zero in on your target and go for it!!

 

When Grieving a Sudden Loss

There are always two parties to a death…………….the person who dies and the survivors who are bereaved…and in the apportionment of suffering, the survivor takes the brunt. Any loss of a loved one is tragic and painful, but when death occurs from a sudden, unexpected cause such as an accident, natural disaster, suicide or murder, the reactions of the survivors in coping with their grief are more intense and varied than they may be following a death that occurs after a prolonged illness. An unexpected loss brings with it factors that do not normally exist when death is anticipated. Not only must the survivors cope with feelings of grief, but they often have to cope with intrusion into their mourning by the media or with the vagaries and slowness of the criminal justice system. Other factors adding to the burden of an unexpected death are the lack of an opportunity to say goodbye or to plan for the financial future of the family left behind.

No Time to Prepare

Regardless of the cause, a sudden death deprives the survivors of “anticipatory grief.” This is the grief that begins when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness. It helps prepare the survivor for the coming loss and reduces the intensity of the psychological reaction to the eventual death.

Violent Death

The mind has trouble comprehending sudden, violent death. Deaths involving violence or mutilation are particularly traumatic because of the frightening feelings—ranging from terror to anxiety to powerlessness—which they engender in the survivors. Often the violence of the act resulting in death arouses strong feelings of hostility in the mourner, causing severe internal conflict leading to guilt, shame or depression.

Suicide

Family members of someone who has committed suicide also face special burdens. Many family survivors of suicide have higher levels of guilt, shame and anger than do survivors of sudden loss from other causes. Persons grieving a loss through suicide are often left with questions, such as why their loved ones killed themselves, and what, if anything, they might have done to prevent the suicide. These questions are often unanswerable and can prolong the process of grieving and coming to grips with the loss.

“Natural” Causes

Heart attacks and strokes are major causes of death in this country, and these deaths are often sudden and unexpected. The sudden loss of a loved one, even from these “natural” causes, can be as unexpected and devastating to the survivors as the death of a loved one from a murder or an accident.

Emotional Challenges

What most, if not all, survivors of sudden loss have in common are a series of emotional challenges, including:

  • Disruption of family functioning
  • Redefining of responsibilities and roles within the family
  • Challenges to the survivors’ belief systems
  • Financial change
  • Public intrusion into private anguish
  • Lack of opportunity to say goodbye and resolve other “unfinished” business with the deceased
  • Hurt—often inadvertent—caused by the well-intended words and actions of other family members and friends.

The Six Rs

There are six mourning processes that survivors of any loss must go through in order to achieve a “healthy accommodation” of the loss.  Survivors of sudden loss often have a more difficult time with one or more of the processes, which are identified as “the six Rs.”

These processes are:

1. Recognize the loss. Acknowledge that the loss has occurred and understand it.
2. React to the separation. Survivors should allow themselves to experience the pain and give expression to their feelings of loss.
3. Recollect and re-experience the deceased and the relationship. However, the recollections should be realistic, both good and not so good.
4. Relinquish the old attachments of the deceased. This involves the attachments of the deceased, not the survivors’ attachment to or feelings for the deceased. For example, just because the deceased’s clothes have been donated to charity doesn’t mean that all memories have been disposed of as well.
5. Readjust to move adaptively into the new world. Survivors need to adopt new ways of continuing on with their lives while not forgetting their old ones. Survivors never fully detach their feelings for the deceased and that grieving should not be looked upon as a means of letting go of the person who has died.
6. Reinvest. Survivors need to re-establish close personal feelings with the living.

There Is No “Right” Way to Grieve

Survivors need to be patient with themselves. Mourning is an individual process that should be done at the survivor’s pace, and not be dictated by friends or family.  There is no “cookie cutter” approach to the grieving process.

Grief is “an uneven process” with no timeline. The circumstances of the loss, as well as anniversary dates of the loss, are significant for the survivors and should be acknowledged.

Grievers need opportunities to share their memories and grief. They are not best left alone and they do need support. Don’t tell survivors to take their mind off the loss or to keep busy.

Becoming Active Again

Survivors of sudden loss should not dwell on the negativity of the event, but rather turn their response to the loss into a positive, active experience. She suggests that a survivor grieving over the loss of a loved one from an accident, campaign for tougher safety regulations. The family of a murder victim could campaign for victim’s rights. And a survivor could positively respond to a sudden loss caused by illness by becoming active in the fight against the disease.

Believe that the loved one’s death was not in vain.  Something positive will come from it. No one experiences or copes with a loss in the same way, but when the loss is sudden and violent, the emotional and behavioral characteristics are intensified. It is this intensity that must be focused upon so that normal reactions to the psychological trauma of sudden loss do not become the foundation of a dysfunctional lifestyle for the survivors.

Live life from here on out, the way that the person you lost, would want you to.  That will bring honor to that person.

 

 

22 POSITIVE HABITS OF HAPPY PEOPLE

 What’s the secret to being happy? You can learn how to do it, just as you can learn any other skill. Those who are happy tend to follow a certain set of habits that create peace in their lives. If you learn to apply these habits in your own life, there’s a good chance you’ll be happy, too.

1. Let Go of Grudges

Forgiving is necessary for your own happiness, as holding a grudge means you’re also holding onto resentment, anger, hurt and other negative emotions that are standing in the way of your own happiness. Letting go of a grudge frees you from negativity and allows more space for positive emotions to fill in.

2. Treat Everyone with Kindness

Kindness is not only contagious…..it’s also proven to make you happier. When you’re kind to others, your brain produces feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin, and you’re able to build strong relationships with others, fostering positive feelings all around.

3. Regard Your Problems as Challenges

Change your internal dialogue so that anytime you have a “problem,” you view it as a challenge or a new opportunity to change your life for the better. Eliminate the word “problem” from your mind entirely.

4. Express Gratitude for What You Have

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. The best way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you’re grateful for each day. Doing so has been linked to happier moods, greater optimism and even better physical health.

5. Dream Big

Go ahead and dream big, as you’ll be more likely to accomplish your goals. Rather than limiting yourself, when you dream big you’re opening your mind to a more optimistic, positive state where you have the power to achieve virtually anything you desire.

6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

If the issue you’re mad about will be irrelevant, a year, a month, a week or even a day from now, why sweat it? Happy people know how to let life’s daily irritations roll off their back.

7. Speak Well of Others

It may be tempting to gather around the office water cooler to get and give the daily gossip, but talking negatively about others is like taking a bath in negative emotions; your body soaks them up. Instead, make it a point to only say positive, nice words about other people, and you’ll help foster more positive thinking in your own life as well.

8. Avoid Making Excuses

It’s easy to blame others for your life’s failures, but doing so means you’re unlikely to rise past them. Happy people take responsibility for their mistakes and missteps, then use the failure as an opportunity to change for the better.

9. Live in the Present

Allow yourself to be immersed in whatever it is you’re doing right now, and take time to really be in the present moment. Avoid replaying past negative events in your head or worrying about the future; just savor what’s going on in your life now.

10. Wake Up At the Same Time Every Morning

Getting up at the same time every day (preferably an early time) is deceptively simple. Doing so will help regulate your circadian rhythm so you’ll have an easier time waking and likely feel more energized. Plus, the habit of rising early every day is one shared by many successful people, as it enhances your productivity and focus.

11. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Your life is unique, so don’t measure your own worth by comparing yourself to those around you. Even regarding yourself as better than your peers is detrimental to your happiness, as you’re fostering judgmental feelings and an unhealthy sense of superiority. Measure your own success based on your progress alone, not that of others.

12. Surround Yourself with Positive People

The saying “misery loves company” is entirely true. That’s why you need to choose friends who are optimistic and happy themselves, as you will be surrounded with positive energy.

13. Realize That You Don’t Need Others’ Approval

It’s important to follow your own dreams and desires without letting naysayers stand in your way. It’s fine to seek others’ opinions, but happy people stay true to their own hearts and don’t get bogged down with the need for outside approval.

14. Take Time to Listen

Listening helps you soak in the wisdom of others and allows you to quiet your own mind at the same time. Intense listening can help you feel content while helping you gain different perspectives.

15. Nurture Social Relationships

Positive social relationships are a key to happiness, so be sure you make time to visit with friends, family and your significant other.

16. Meditate (Using prayer or clearing your mind and visualizing yourself in a calm, relaxed environment or situation, then pay attention to what your body is feeling)

Meditation helps you keep your mind focused, calms your nerves and supports inner peace. Research shows it can even lead to physical changes in your brain that make you happier.

17. Eat Well

What you eat directly impacts your mood and energy levels in both the short and long term. Whereas eating right can prime your body and brain to be in a focused, happy state, eating processed junk foods will leave you sluggish and prone to chronic disease. My nutrition plan is an excellent tool to help you choose the best foods for both physical and emotional wellness.

18. Exercise

Exercise boosts levels of health-promoting brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress and also relieve some symptoms of depression. Rather than viewing exercise as a medical tool to lose weight, prevent disease, and live longer – all benefits that occur in the future – try viewing exercise as a daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and feel happier.

19. Live Minimally

Clutter has a way of sucking the energy right out of you and replacing it with feelings of chaos. Clutter is an often-unrecognized source of stress that prompts feelings of anxiety, frustration, distraction and even guilt, so give your home and office a clutter makeover, purging it of the excess papers, files, knick knacks and other “stuff” that not only takes up space in your physical environment, but also in your mind.

20. Be Honest

Every time you lie, your stress levels are likely to increase and your self-esteem will crumble just a little bit more. And, if others find out you’re a liar, it will damage your personal and professional relationships. Telling the truth, on the other hand, boosts your mental health and allows others to build trust in you.

21. Establish Personal Control

Avoid letting other people dictate the way you live. Instead, establish personal control in your life that allows you to fulfill your own goals and dreams, as well as a great sense of personal self-worth.

22. Accept What Cannot Be Changed

Everything in your life is not going to be perfect, and that’s perfectly all right. Happy people learn to accept injustices and setbacks in their life that they cannot change, and instead put their energy on changing what they can control for the better.