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Keep on Keeping On

We live in a quick fix society. You are hungry and you want food now? No problem, there are a billion fast food places that will serve you up a full "meal" in under 2 minutes! You need info and you need it now? Just pull out your smart phone connected to the World Wide Web and you'll have any info you need at the touch of a button, in seconds! You need something to wear and hate your current wardrobe? No problem, ...

Don't Wait!

I see so many clients who have waited so long to start dealing with their heart wounds or relational conflicts. By the time they come to counseling patterns are deeply ingrained, relationships are on the verge of tearing apart, and hearts are badly broken. We wait to get help for so many reasons. Perhaps it's because we are ashamed to need help or scared of reaching out. Maybe we wait because we don't know if therapy will help or if it'll make things worse. Whatever the case, I encourage you to go ahead and reach out now. Waiting will most likely not make things any better. There is no shame in reaching out for help. When we are sick, we see a doctor. When our heart or relationship is broken, we see a therapist. Read about therapy, do some research; you'll find it's not as daunting as you might think! Call or email around to various therapists; find one that seems to fit your personality or values. Set up a few initial meetings after you've narrowed down your selection of counselors. Choose wisely! Counseling is a great thing. Don't wait!

Grace during Grief

Often times when I'm counseling clients walking through grief the topic of grace comes up. Grief is a difficult season and we often forget to ease up on ourselves, our schedules and expectations. Grief takes emotional effort, mental energy, physical energy and spiritual focus; we can't function at the level we were functioning before we started grieving...

What's the goal?

I work with many clients who are going through some really difficult trials as they walk through the counseling process: grief, loss, anxiety & panic, depression, relational struggles. When I'm working with a client who is a believer in Christ we often discuss their desired end goal. We all want the trials to go away, the pain to end, the struggle to cease. But often that is not the Lord's primary goal for us. He wants us to know Him more, to showcase His glory more, to make Him known more. And sometimes that is done best by allowing the struggle or the pain to be present. Not that He wants us to hurt or takes pleasure in that; He doesn't, He grieves with us. But I'm not sure His primary goal for us is a pain-free life. I think He desires intimacy with us more than a trial-free life. And often we can experience deep, deep intimacy with Him walking through a trial, not at the end of it. It's often in the midst of the trial or grief or struggle that we can meet the Lord so closely and experience Him in a way we haven't before. Are we willing to go through the struggle, through our trials, through the grief with a different goal? What would happen if we set the goal of knowing the Lord more, experiencing deeper intimacy with Him rather than the pain going away, the sadness ending or the struggle ceasing? What would daily life look like then?

Grief...a long process

Grief is a long process. It is not something to be dealt with in a few short months or solved in a mere 6 sessions of counseling. Even years after a significant loss, you may still find yourself at times moved with emotion or tears thinking about your lost loved one. I hear many clients in grief counseling ask questions like, "how long will I feel this sad?", "how long will I grieve?", or "should I still be feeling this upset?". Grief does not work on a time table. It looks different for every person and every loss. Loss and sadness will linger and perhaps for quite some time after a significant loss. Anger and confusion may linger as well. It is difficult to feel the emotions and the void for so long; we want the pain to go away, or at least to lessen. And over time it does, but we often want to rush that process and experience the lessening of pain now. Grief says not yet. The process of grieving and healing is important and it's also important to allow our grief to have it's own time frame. It is healthy to experience it each day as it is, validating the grieving emotions and going forward with the day. It's important to maintain a daily routine and not to wallow too long in the grieving emotions but it's also important to experience the pain and to express the grief. The less we rush ourselves through the process of grieving and the less we pressure ourselves to "get over" the loss, the more we will experience healing as we grieve. Settle in for the process. Know it will take time and fight the urge to define how long that time may take. Allow yourself to feel your grief each day, as many times a day as you need, and then shift back to what you were doing in your day. If you find that in your grief you feel stuck or unable to shift from grieving to your daily tasks, engaging in some grief counseling might be helpful for you. 

In the midst of fresh grief...

When you first find out about a loss, your world is turned upside down; you enter into some degree of shock. Things seem blurry and you may feel numb. The loss itself may seem surreal. These are all normal reactions to loss, especially unexpected loss. During this time it's important to take care of the everyday routine things in life: eating healthy meals at normal times, attempting to get your normal amount of sleep, etc. This will help your body and your heart begin to process the difficult loss. It's also important to surround yourself with people who love you and will take time to care for you, people who will take things off your plate and take care of them for you. You may need some time alone also and that is OK as well. It's healthy for you to ask directly for what you need - be it to be surrounded by loved ones or to have time alone. However, isolating yourself isn't healthy during this time. Take one hour at a time and one day at a time. If you already have an established relationship with a therapist, this can be an important time to step back into counseling so they can walk you through the initial grieving. This is a very difficult time but doing these important steps at the beginning of a difficult loss will put you on a path of healthy grieving.

Giving Back at the Holidays

Christmas can be both an exciting time of year and a difficult one. All the decorations, music and festivities can be great when things are going well for you. But when relationships are difficult, when you've experienced loss or when you are depressed, holidays can be very hard. If you are experiencing a recent loss, consider reading this short article or reading some previous blogs that reference grief. If you find yourself feeling sad or depressed, here's a short article on depression and here are some blog posts about depression. Whether the holidays are an exciting time or a difficult time for you, giving back can be a powerful, wonderful thing! I encourage you to take a look at these Raleigh organizations and find a way you can use your time or your resources to give of yourself! Doing this can reduce stress, decrease anxiety, improve mood and give meaning to your grief and loss. There are so many in need and so many small but meaningful ways you can help someone else. The Salvation Army, the Raleigh Rescue Mission, the Women's Center of Wake County, InterAct of Wake County, SAFEchild, and the United Way are just a few local organizations that have a multitude of ways you can help someone this holiday season. Take some time this week and find a way to give back. Schedule time to follow through. See if it doesn't improve your mood and lighten your load! If you are having difficulty this holiday season with sadness, depression, anxiety, grief or loss, consider giving the gift of counseling to yourself! Allowing someone to walk through your difficult time with you can be such a gift. Happy Holidays!

Letting Ourselves Grieve

I work with a lot of clients who are grieving. They come to counseling overwhelmed and often times haven't really even started grieving yet. They have lost fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and friends. They have lost sons, daughters, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, homes, jobs and dreams. Grief is a tough, complicated beast. It hits us out of nowhere and can knock us down in a split second. It comes in waves and never fully goes away. People experiencing grief often try to compartmentalize it, lock it away or save it for "later". Grief does not typically comply with these requests and rules. Grief invades, takes over and settles in when we least expect it and when we'd rather it not. Healthy grieving includes giving ourselves permission to grieve. It may not be pretty, it may not go according to our schedule or wishes but it's needed and healthy to walk with grief when it pops up. Clients tell me about the many ways they shove their grief aside, stuff it back down and hide it away. These reactions are normal; we typically do what we can to avoid pain. But it's healthier to find ways to incorporate the grief into daily life whenever it decides to show up. I'm not saying you have to take the rest of the day off work if grief shows up mid-morning (though maybe that's not a bad idea and maybe you need that- that's OK). It's important to find ways to honor the feelings, acknowledge the grief and then ease back into the task at hand. Perhaps that looks like taking a 5 minute walk outside thinking about the loss, the pain and the grief. Maybe it looks like sending an email to a friend or loved one about the pain and sadness you are experiencing. It might look like writing yourself a brief note about the memories, thoughts or feelings that grief has brought up and then scheduling a time later that day to come back to those and pay special attention to them. The key is to allow yourself to pay attention to the feelings, thoughts and memories that are there when they arrive; feel them, think them, remember them, even if it's only briefly. You can limit how much time you stay in that place but giving yourself time to grieve in that moment is an important part of healthy grieving. Counseling can help you learn ways to grieve as well as uncover patterns and reasons for pushing the grieve aside. I hope we can all work towards letting ourselves grieve.

Grieving with Hope

In my counseling work I see many clients struggling with grief. They struggle often because of the unhelpful ideas they have or others have given them about grief; our society impacts these unhelpful ideas as well. We hear ideas like "Grieving should be over after the one year anniversary of the lost loved one.", "Once you have dealt with your grief, it shouldn't come up again.", "After a year, you shouldn't get upset about losing your loved one anymore.". There are many other myths about grieving that are unhelpful to those who are bereaved. However, the truth is that grief is a normal reaction to loss and death, each person's experience of grief is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Every loss is different and the grieving process is influenced by a multitude of issues. Grief never ends; we will always miss our loved one who has died and the pain of grief will always be around in some manner at times. Death may end a life, but it doesn't end a relationship. We can learn how to maintain a relationship with the loved one we have lost; though their physical body is no longer present with us, the love and connection that we share remains. For those who claim Christ and believe in His salvation for eternal life, we have a strong hope to cling to in our grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We do not have to grieve without hope, for we know what waits past death: eternity! Yes we will grieve and be saddened by our loss; this was someone we loved deeply and miss dearly. But we can grieve in light of the hope that we have and that puts our pain in a different perspective. There are days where the hope is hard to cling to and that is normal. However, if we will remind ourselves of Truth, we can experience joy even in our pain. If grieving with hope is difficult to do and the hope seems difficult to attain, consider Christian Counseling for the grief you are experiencing. It can be a powerful healing experience for you in your loss and pain.

Grief stops for no man

Our society tells us that grief is something we should "get over" or that after a while we should "move on". But this makes no sense to someone who is deeply grieving. And actually, it's just not true. We do not ever "get over" someone we love and shared a relationship with- be it family, a significant other, a child or a friend. We never "move on" from these losses. Yes, we can move forward; we can get back to doing regular life things. But we do not let those relationships go completely, at least I hope you are not because you do not have to. It is appropriate to "move on" from the intense grieving period where crying is a regular occurrence, going to work isn't happening and eating and sleeping are difficult. It's important that you can get to a place where you can complete daily activities such as sleeping, eating, self care and working or going to school. But emotionally grief will resurface often. And it has no timeline, unlike what society tells us. Most people would say that after a year, you should be "over it". But if you have lost a child, a brother, a spouse- is that realistic? I think not! Grief research would agree with me. It is important for grievers to reengage in society - socialize, work, take care of yourself, invest in others. But there is no timeline for grief. It is completely normal if after a year, or after 3 years, or more something reminds you of the one who died and you have a moment to cry and grieve for them. There will be days that you miss them so much you actually ache and that doesn't just happen within the first year. One of the biggest things I work with clients who are engaging in grief counseling is to remove the expectations and time lines they place on themselves that they should be "over it" or "better" than they are. That does nothing to heal the hurts or soothe the loss. It can actually counteract the healing process. Time lines and expectations based on false information or based on our society's view of grief are lies and allowing them to dictate your grief is unhealthy. Take your time to grieve; after all the relationship you had with the one you lost is unique. Grief counseling can help you sort through the pain, wounds and loss you have experienced. But there's no time lines there either! 

Grief- It always comes back around...

Grief is a lifelong process. We often think of grief as being something we "get over", "move on from" or "deal with". But grief is more accurately a process that is lifelong. Now it doesn't always look the same or feel the same, but grief always comes back around. We've all likely heard of the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. No one has to go through all 5 stages and they are not walked through chronologically or in some linear fashion. Grief is messy and it looks different for everyone because we are all unique and all experience loss in a unique way. Certain holidays, anniversary dates or circumstances may trigger memories and the grief reappears. Items, songs, people can trigger one's grief to resurface. When I'm counseling with an individual or a couple, we always discuss life losses. The losses in our lives affect us, affect our relationships, and it's important to honor them. It's important to remind ourselves that grief is not a one time thing, not something we experience for one year following a loss and then never again. Grief always comes back around and that is normal. The healthy thing to do is to feel it and process it, honor the loss in some way, honor the relationship we had and have with the one we lost. Counseling can be a powerful tool in the healing process of grief. We never fully "get over" our losses but we can heal and learn to incorporate the losses into our lives in healthy ways. If you're feeling particularly stuck with a loss, life change or transition, I encourage you to seek counseling; learning to grieve and allowing yourself permission to do it can be a powerful tool for healing!