Tag Archives: grief

A Cornerstone of Hope – Building Beyond Our National Grief

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

This week in America we mourn the loss of yet more people, teenagers this time, due to mass violence. We are in grief as a nation, not only because of the school shooting in Florida. There is a heightening atmosphere of fear, anger, and anxiety across our communities.

We grieve the loss of peace.

There are countries who have known little of the comforts and calm we have been privileged to experience.  There are people groups within our borders who could argue that those blessings bypassed them.  Regardless the source of emotional pain,  humanity tends to be more the same than different.  Grief affects us all.

Education helps us in our grief, seriously!

1) Understanding the characteristics of grief helps us to know we are not alone in our feelings.   Five “stages” of grief, even though they do not necessarily occur in order and often intermingle, have been identified*.

1 – Denial   2 – Anger  3 – Bargaining        4 – Depression   5 – Acceptance.

 It makes sense to recognize how a nation struggles with grief.  Millions of individuals are in varying stages of our collective grief.  This is one reason we have people questioning the reaction of others in light of tragedy. How dare “they” pretend nothing matters? Why are so many citizens angry?  For some, ‘thoughts and prayers’ may be attempts to  bargain with God, while depression and suicide rates skyrocket.

2) Discovering guidance is a relief.  Thank God for the internet when it is used to enhance life! There are reputable sources of information about surviving terrible grief. Since I speak only English, these links lead to English-speaking sites.   

Coping with Loss: Bereavement and Grief 

Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Healing from Trauma and Moving On  

Self-Care Checklist for Dealing With PTSD Trauma Triggers 

Coping With Large Scale Tragedies      

3) Finding local specialists is more personal.  Perhaps most of the time we only need someone to listen, a chance to vent and to exchange sympathies.  In these cases, friends and family, church leaders, and even internet chat rooms may suffice. However, all too often we underestimate powerful emotions. Sitting with a person trained in grief and trauma can be the difference between overcoming and being overcome. 

A few of the best resources for finding professionals or support groups in your area: 

GriefShare  

Association for Death Education and Counseling

Cruse Bereavement Care (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

A local organization near where I live is  Cornerstone of Hope (Northeast Ohio).  They specialize in walking people and families through the grieving process.  Adult Support includes  Young Adults;  General Loss ;  Perinatal/Infant Loss;  Lost a Loved one to Murder;  Lost a Loved one to Suicide;  Lost a Loved one to Accidental Overdose;  TAPS  (A group for those who have lost a loved one serving in the military). They have help for teens, children, and families as well. 

With a search on the internet, or by reaching out to one of sources above, you too may find the help you need for coping in a changing world. 

God is still God, yes He is!

A final word: The God of the BIble, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is still everywhere and his love is still unfailing. He too is grieved by the pain that sin and evil causes.  I invite you to get to know him and the peace he offers to those who believe.  Jesus is the cornerstone of hope. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Philippians 4:6

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*Based on the Grief Cycle model first published in On Death & Dying, Elisabeth KüblerRoss, 1969.

 

To Survivors of Suicide Loss: Let There Be Peace this Thanksgiving

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Patty was angry. Her sister had ended her life two years earlier, and left Patty in turmoil. Why had she done it? She knew she could have reached out to Patty and their other siblings.  She did not have to die.

Pastor Jones barely mentioned the past, uttering in generalities the story of his friend’s suicide thirty years earlier.  He was a fellow pastor who had called Jones and talked about feeling depressed.  Then he was gone. It did not require a doctorate to diagnose the guilt Pastor Jones carried on his face.  

These are only two of dozens of survivors of suicide loss I have met. They approach me, most often to tell what happened. They are not asking for advice or platitudes. Their tales are rarely welcomed in polite company, and they see in me someone willing to listen without judgment.

In every story there is one running theme: the question why.

Why suicide? Why did I not stop them? Why did they not ask for help? Why did I not listen? Why. Why. Why.

A Different Perspective

Sometimes I fear my story of surviving major depression and attempted suicide will only serve as a morbid reminder of pain for those who have lost someone to suicide. However, that has not proven true. Instead, as far as I have observed, my story helps those left behind with a perspective they may wish they could hear from their deceased loved one. 

For me, suicide seemed the only option after months of struggle with depression. If we wanted, we could blame me: I did not reach out for professional help until late in the process.  We could blame professionals: I was under their care when the suicide attempt occurred. We could blame the support person I reached out to who did not respond well. 

We would be wrong. There is no one directly to blame.* Suicide and suicide attempts result from mixed-up minds and torn-up emotions.

The person on the edge of a suicide attempt is not thinking about all the pain their death will bring to loved ones. Rather, they are thinking everyone will be better off.  They are not necessarily selfish, but unable to see beyond the suffering that is the only reality they comprehend.  They have not generally lost their faith.  Irrationality is due to a mental problem,  not reasonable cognitive choices. 

As supports, we only know what we know. There is no shame in not understanding how to help someone who may have reached out.  We are only human. There is no guilt to carry for being fallible. If we could change the past,  would we? Yes.  It is not too late to make peace with that.   

Anger, grief, confusion… these are natural after the death of a loved one to suicide.  Our loss is legitimate. We hurt. We want to blame someone, to find a reason for the senseless. Often, with nowhere else to look, we blame ourselves.

Allow yourself to feel, and hear this from someone who has been to the end.  The answer to why will never come, at least not in the way you want it to. Your loved one did not even know why. At least 90% of people who die by suicide do so because of impaired judgment and impulsivity. If they left a note, those “reasons” were constructed from confusion. 

Often, the holidays stir up memories of loss. Gratitude might come harder. This Thanksgiving, let yourself rest. Resign blame and be at peace. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 28:7

 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

*********Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*In the case of someone “driving” a person to suicide, extreme circumstances, such as Michelle Carter who urged her boyfriend to kill himself,  would be called murder. This post is written to the vast majority of survivors of suicide loss who cared directly or indirectly for the life of the one who died. 

Grief is a Mimic Octopus (Just Ask Prince Harry)

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries  

Grief is a strange animal.  We have an idea what it looks like, yet when it comes around it morphs into something indescribable.

It is often rude, appearing at awkward and unexpected times, demanding our immediate attention. Or, as in Prince Harry’s experience, it gives us the silent treatment, disallowing any recognition and repair of the hidden damage it causes.

In an HBO documentary, Princes Harry and William talk about their mom, Princess Diana. Since her death in 1997, Harry, who was 12 at the time, has grieved very little. He acknowledges he has to face it and let it out. 

It may surprise you as it did me, to learn that Diana’s sons had not sat down and talked deeply about her with each other until the making of the documentary. How strange, we may think. Yet no two people’s grief looks the same. It is often camouflaged and evasive like a mimic octopus.  Conversation helps.

Grief over my mother’s death in 2002 was slow, and different from anything I thought it might be. I cried a little, then dreamed about her almost every night for four years. Grieving began twelve years later after the past had been fully discussed with my aunt, therapists, and God. By facing the whole truth of our mother-daughter relationship,  freedom to mourn evolved. I wish my brother was not estranged so we could discuss things too.

In contrast, grief came quicker when my dad passed away at Christmas 2015, probably because conversations about him were simultaneous with those of my mom.  I saw my brother for likely the last time at dad’s funeral; there have been no gripping emotions as of yet. On the other hand, two valued supports disappeared from my life in the last year, bringing on a deeper, more immediate sorrow.  

In each case, grieving brought (and is bringing) healing. Oh yes, sadness and sentimentality still exist. It is in freedom from chains to the past that I find peace.  It is also hugely comforting to know my parents are with Jesus, the Redeemer who salvaged their suffering and changed it to pure joy in his eternal presence.

Grief. Good grief! It is a strange animal, showing up in its own way and time. 

Today’s Helpful Word

God’s promise about eternity for those who accept Jesus as Savior and Lord – Revelation 21:4

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”                

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

shadow picture by MIMWICKET, hymn picture by BA1969, both from rgbstock.com

 

How to Fix Your Bah Humbug When Life is Not Easy

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

oqd61peGrieving, lonely, angry, anxious, and otherwise dreading that family get-together? Here is the good news. We are not victims; we have control because we have options.

Yes, we do! We have opportunity to choose what we value and who we want to be.

Think about it, and possibly write your values. What is important to you? Then write what kind of person you want to be.

Example:

I value honesty. I want to be an open and transparent person.

I value calm. I want to be an even-tempered person.

The list can be as long as you like. What do you want?

We can struggle, sometimes very hard, against pain brought into our lives at the will of others. Maybe you lost yourself long time ago. Remembering your values might take some time. That’s ok, go for it anyway.

Waves of grief can strike us during the holidays when we least expect it. A conversation yesterday changed my demeanor from smiles to sobs. It’s not a character flaw to feel sad over loss! Denial is not the answer. What do you value? What kind of person do you want to be?

Maybe this season you question if you have enough stamina to go on. Pain, physical or emotional, may be due to terrible relationships, stressful jobs, or that all-time king of suffering – loneliness. It is always your choice how to respond. What kind of person do you want to be?

We may find we lack the know-how, or the strength to finish a list like this alone. Perhaps the concept of being the kind of person you want is a bit mind-boggling. That’s ok, too. I’ve been there. Support groups and therapists tend to be safe; church groups, good friends, and teachers may have insights into who you are that you have missed.

It is always our choice to seek support or not. We can decide to pursue antidotes to the status quo and Bah Humbug thinking. It is in our power, regardless of our feelings, to live on purpose and believe for hope.

I decided yesterday to fight what I’ve experienced as an annual holiday emotional torture. I did this for the first time two years ago, and it changed everything for me. Spontaneous invitations went out to a few friends, new and old, for a game night between Christmas and New Years Day. I do not know yet who can come, but the point is I am pursuing my values. I love treating people! The kind of person I want to be focuses on honoring God  by loving other people. It sure beats feeling depressed.

To all, I wish and pray for a happy holiday season. May you live by your values, and experience peace in striving to be who you want. Maybe your greatest blessing will be admitting you cannot do this by yourself.

A red poinsettia in the Christmas seasonToday’s Helpful Word

Luke 6:45

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

Here, Have a Peace, Friend. We Can Share

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

cherry-chocolate-birthday-cakeThere was cake. This morning, a small crowd acknowledged our friend’s birthday. People with cake told those without, “It’s delicious! Here, have a piece!”  We have no trouble sharing cake, even if we are tempted to tuck some away for later.

I had a good, long, frustration-ignited and exhaustion-fueled cry a few weeks ago. Life pushed hard this summer. What is exciting is that I did not go under mental health-wise despite some challenges in that area. There was a time that kind of stability seemed out of reach. Now that I’ve tasted it, I want to share.

Here, have a peace, friend.

Know your risk. Mental health is not, contrary to what some might wish, a guarantee. Mental illness is not, as the stigma goes, “losing one’s marbles.” At least 1 in 5 people in any given year struggle with the dysfunction that often accompanies a triggered, underlying mental illness. Left untreated, these diseases of the brain tend to become worse.

Know how to find help. In a suicidal crisis, call 9.1.1 or go to your emergency room. For medical care, see a psychiatrist, a doctor who specializes in brain function. He or she will prescribe medication. To learn how to manage your disease and for counseling, see a psychologist or other licensed therapist.  To avoid feeling alone in your struggle, join a support group through NAMI* or another organization.

Know there is hope. Millions of people with mental illness are enjoying more normal and satisfactory lives due to receiving treatment. Mood swings, irrational thoughts, phobias, a sense of being out of control, a sense of worthlessness, or despair are, believe it or not, manageable. There is a way out. Seek professional treatment, stop self-medicating, do not beat yourself up for feeling “abnormal”, and pursue the hope that is yours for the taking.

Know God loves you. When we doubt this, I think it is generally because we feel flawed in some way, and incapable of deserving God’s attention. The voice of Truth, Jesus, teaches grace, mercy, and unfailing love as character traits of our heavenly Father. Sin separates us from him, yes, and he made a way around that because he loves us anyway. Knowing God’s love begins with believing Jesus is his one and only Son, that Jesus took punishment in our place, and that by dying and rising from the dead, Jesus became our Savior.

The peace I know despite discomfort, sadness, grief, heartbreak, stress, and depression, is that I have a foundation for mental stability. Understanding my illness and how to manage it are key to healthy functioning. Reaching out for appropriate help keeps me well. Because I have experienced loss of hope and watched it return, I understand hopelessness is temporary. All of this prevents utter despair.

Knowing God loves me changes my worldview, releases me from the past, and frees me from fear for the future. Because his love is constant, I am never alone and cannot question my worth.

This is delicious!

Here, have a peace friend, we can share.

handsToday’s Helpful Word

Psalm 34:8 NIV

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is one who takes refuge in him.”

-King David

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*National Alliance For Mental Illness (NAMI) is a grassroots support and education organization which exists to combat stigma and hopelessness. You can learn more at http://www.NAMI.org

Loss. Holidays. A Story of Celebration

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness       (c)2012 Nancy Virden

making a snow angelThey say when one is staring down his or her own death, the past flashes by like a fast-forwarded movie. Loss also can bring silent movies back to the darkened theater of the mind.

Her home was empty.  She sat with ever-present memories to keep herself company, and to wish for happy ones. Try as she could, pleasant remembrances were elusive, and minute after minute she saw the faces of those who were no longer here.

Pains ran through her body accompanying sobs from she knew not where. Pressing in around her, and especially near her shoulders, was an anguished heaviness she could not describe. In her middle stirred fear.

How will she go on to tomorrow without them? Yet she had endured so many such days already. There was nothing like Christmas to bring the hurt to the surface, and to get the old film reels turning. Some loved-ones had passed away. Others had walked out of her life, deserting her to recollections that were growing harder to retrieve.  A few people had been gone for decades.

How will she go on without them?

Outside, children played in the snow. She watched one bright-eyed boy in particular as he flopped himself down with ease onto his back and started gliding his arms and legs wide then back to his body. An angel. She was certain he was an angelic child, sweet to raise.  He had lucky parents.

Sigh. She thought, I wish I had a little boy like that.

Her mind roamed to her family tree. Grandparents, great-grandparents, and all the great-greats took her back to the 1500s where her genealogy research had ended. Then it hit her. All of these people she wondered about, each of the ones for whom she longed, every one had something in common.

They were gone. Gone! Their lives were part of her past, and if she could say, “I have a past,” it meant she was here now.

It may seem trite to others, nevertheless was an epiphany for this woman. People who had been here had their chance at life. Some had made decisions that blessed her, and others caused her harm. What now?

She had decisions to make, the most foundational of which was who did she want to be? Did she want to remain the lonely, depressed, woman who sat alone during the holiday season? If she wanted to be a different kind of person, one who celebrated her own chance at life, what step could she take today toward becoming that person?

Activity outside her window had not stopped.  Donning her coat and best snowman-building gloves, she walked outside to meet her next door neighbors.

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NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.