Just because I can carve a mean turkey at Thanksgiving…

…doesn’t mean that I can do surgery (paraphrase of a quote from the brilliant Dr. William Worden)

What is the significance of finding a specialist? First of all, I want to thank a few people for inspiring this blog post – obviously, Dr. Worden for a wonderfully illustrative analogy, and also the Cancer Wellness Group that I am honored to facilitate at Gilda’s Club for discussing this topic frequently. The consensus seems to be that while a generalist may be great, when the going gets really tough, the specialists who focus all of their time and energy on being the most educated and up to date for a very focused area of expertise have an advantage in knowing the most detailed current information as opposed to a moderate amount about many different things. Specializing as a grief and loss therapist allows me this advantage. I am an active member of ADEC (Association of Death Education and Counseling) and also keep current on information concerning loss of health, particularly due to cancer. Loss has a broader reach of course. I do work with people who have losses of self esteem, employment, and other difficult changes in their lives. However, when someone comes to me seeking therapy for a specific issue that is outside of the scope of my focus, I make a referral. People have to be their own advocates, they have to evaluate if their needs are being met or if they need to seek services from a specialist. In order to be able to assess this, people must be aware of the existence of specialists within a particular field. My specialty as a grief and loss therapist is a culmination of my experience from my clients, my active participation in focused organizations, and my continued and never ending education from other professionals as well as from the individuals I work with, to whom I am eternally grateful.


"What was I saying?"

Difficulties in concentration during times of loss can be incredibly difficult for some people to manage. People experiencing any type of loss may have this concern - bereavement, loss of health due to chronic or terminal illness, loss of employment, loss of a relationship to name a few. Difficulty in concentration often results in forgetfulness. While forgetting your keys, or appointment times, or people’s names may, to some, seem trivial, for a person who is emotionally distraught and already sensitive to strain and stress, seemingly trivial things very quickly add up. Many people who I work with are distressed by their inability to remember to take care of the things they so easily used to take care of. The negativity that can generate from this causes some people to not want to engage in social or work settings out of fear that people will think that they are not coping well. There is much more to coping than this. However, people want their lives as predictable as possible during a time when control is often out the window. The most important thing to remember is that you must be patient. Time is a factor here. So are learning new skills or bringing back skills that worked in the past. If you have come to a point where it is understood that you are not remembering things well, take steps to make life easier. This does not signify weakness, in fact, it is quite the opposite. A person capable of utilizing their resources and skills is someone with great strength. So what does this mean? Buy a calendar and a note pad or use electronic versions of both. Write down dates, times, appointments, to do lists, and make sticky notes of everything that is important for you to remember. Have a list by the front door of things to check before leaving the house – is the coffee pot off, did I take my cell phone, remember to lock the front door. In your notepad or in a note taking app, make a list of important or new people, where you met them, what they look like. By taking some extra time to put information down on paper, you will save time and frustration caused by forgetfulness and a lack of concentration. Be kind to yourself and try to make life as simple as possible because grieving loss, no matter what type of loss, is hard work.


Test Your Self Guided Imagery Skills

It is an incredible experience to be taken on a journey by someone with a slow melodic soothing voice, to experience guided imagery and meditation, but you can also practice guided imagery on your own. When you are having a particularly tense or stressful moment, try this self guided imagery as a template (or you can create anything your imagination allows) and please feel free to leave feedback about your experience in the comment section below this blog post.

Get into a comfortable position on a chair, bed, floor, outside, wherever really as long as you're not driving a car. Close your eyes and concentrate on being mindful of your self and your body. Slowly focus on relaxing every part of your body - begin with your feet, then ankles, then calves, and so on until you reach the face (spend a good bit of time focusing on relaxing each part seperately - chin, mouth, tongue, cheeks, eyes, brow, etc), and finally to the top of your head. When you feel fully relaxed and sort of in a half sleep type of state, allow your mind to be a solid colored canvas (black, white, orange, pink, any color at all). Then imagine seeing your hands lift up in front of you. In one hand is a lemon. Take your time noticing the color, the texture - is it bumpy, is it smooth. Then slowly visualize your other hand begin to twist the lemon in half (ah! our lemon is pre-cut!). Notice the smell, the mist of juice as it pulls apart. Go slowly and allow yourself to fully enjoy this lemon. Then take your lemon halves and walk outside. Plant your lemon halves in the ground (whatever type of ground that may be - grass, dirt, sand, any type of ground that you imagine) and watch as a small plant springs from the ground. This plant may stay small or it may grow to be a tree. Enjoy some time seeing what you have created. After spending some time in the company of your creation and when you feel you are ready, begin to slowly wiggle your toes and your fingers. Then move your arms and legs, stretch really well, and open your eyes. How do you feel?


Rotary Weston Article

Thank you Rotary Weston for a well written article and for allowing me to speak with your members about helping a grieving friend. Click here to view article



Thank You

I was asked yesterday - Why do you do this work? Doesn’t it make you sad? People ask these questions often, but my answer remains the same – I am so grateful for the work that I do. I am privileged to share in people’s lives, to be trusted with their stories, and to walk beside them as they find the change they seek in their lives. Yes, there are stories that are shared with me that are sad, but ultimately, I have the honor of not only watching the very same people find new meaning for their lives, but to also learn and grow from them myself. I am reminded of how precious life is everyday, to cherish my family and friends because life is very short and sometimes unfair. Every individual person is the expert of their own situation and of their own lives. I suggest possibilities for achieving what they hope to achieve, but it is the person who must choose the path best suited for them. I am thankful that this work chose me and that I enjoy helping people learn how best to help themselves. So thank you to all of the people I have had the honor of working with and to those I will work with in the future. I am appreciative for every one of you and the lessons and skills you have taught me.

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