Childhood grief is a topic that we do not hear much about. We do not hear it on the news, we do not talk about it in family gatherings, and we certainly do not talk about it in school or even religious spaces; however, we should. When I first shared the statistics shown in the graphic with colleagues and friends outside of the “grief therapist world,” they were shocked. They had no idea that the stats were so high, and they were astonished they had never heard them before. Let’s take a look at some of them.
I find the first and third statistics the most stunning: one out of five children will experience the loss of a loved one before they reach high school and one out of fifteen children will lose a parent before they reach the age of eighteen. When looking at these two facts, I think about how unprepared we are as parents, family members, teachers, and even mental health professionals to help these children when they need us the most.
The second statistic is just as shocking: eighty-seven percent of teachers have noticed that their grieving students have had difficulty concentrating after the loss. These children are missing formative and life-changing information during their school day because they are not able to focus due to their extensive outside worries. What do they worry about? They worry that someone else they love is going to die. They worry about whether they will die. They worry that it was their fault their loved one died. If the breadwinner of their family was the one who died, they worry about where the rent check or their next meal is coming from. If they have younger siblings, they worry that they have to be more of a parent than a sibling. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Would you be able to concentrate with all of these things going on?
So, how do we help them? Our first job is to listen. Children need to be seen, heard, and understood, just like the rest of us. Listen to their worries, their fears, their big sad feelings. Let them know that you care about them and all of their thoughts. If they need some additional assistance, or you need additional care, seek the help of a therapist or support group. Research shows that kids feel safest talking about their grief when they are in a place where they know they are not being judged and where people are going to understand where they are coming from. When I was a child, after my dad died, I personally felt safest when I was at my peer grief support group. It was one of the only places, if not the only place, I would actually talk about my dad. I knew that the people listening truly cared about what I was saying and understood what I was talking about. Similar to my experience, the other kids in the group were also having trouble in school, with friends, or talking to their parents.
I encourage families, friends, and loved ones to talk about the child’s person who died. They were a significant part of the child’s life and he or she will want to talk about that person. They do not want them to simply disappear. Some things you can do are set aside a place in your home for your loved one or set aside some time during special holidays, or even during the regular week, so that your child knows that they can talk about their grief while having your undivided attention.
If you need further help with your own grief or help navigating a child’s grief, I am always available to help you along your journey. You can contact our office for an appointment or schedule a speaking event for your organization, school, or workplace to talk about how to help others along their grief journey.
In previous articles, we have explored what Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is and how it works. In this article, we are going to explore the what a typical EMDR session looks like and the course of treatment when EMDR is being used in therapy.
There are eight phases of EMDR therapy that will take place over multiple sessions depending on the client and the issue(s) being targeted. The first phase consists of history-taking session(s). The client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing. These include distressing memories and current situations that cause emotional distress. Other targets may include related incidents in the past. Emphasis is placed on the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations. The therapist assesses the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan.
During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress so they can manage their feelings between sessions. The therapist may teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques. Since EMDR produces rapid change, it is important for the client to have a means of maintains equilibrium during and between sessions while adapting to their newfound feelings.
Phases three through six are active work phases. A disturbing target thought is identified and processed. These involve the client identifying three things:
1. The vivid visual image related to the memory,
2. A negative belief about self,
3. Related emotions and body sensations.
In addition, the client identifies a positive belief for future use in the session. The therapist helps the client rate the positive belief, as well as, the intensity of the negative emotions. After this, the client is instructed to focus on the disturbing visual image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously engaging in EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation. These sets may include eye movements, taps, or tones. The type and length of these sets is different for each client. At this point, the EMDR client is instructed to just notice whatever they spontaneously experience.
When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, (s)he is asked to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session. At this time, the client may adjust the positive belief if necessary, and then focus on it during the next set of distressing events.
The seventh phase is closure, where the client keeps a log during the week. The purpose of the log is to document any memory-related material that may arise. It serves to remind the client to use the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two of treatment.
Lastly, phase eight consists of reviewing the progress made thus far. Therapist and client will go over the EMDR treatment processes, all related historical events, current incidents that elicit distress, and future events that will require different responses. Clients generally leave this session feeling empowered and accomplished, reporting a resolution of previous distressed and resumed functioning.
EMDR has a broad base of published case studies and controlled research that supports it as an empirically validated treatment. The research shows substantial and sustained reduction in symptoms in most patients. Studies include 3, 5, 15, and 18 month reviews with patients reporting sustained symptom reduction.
Now you know what EMDR is and how it works. In the next few blogs I will discuss what specific things EMDR can treat.
Written by: Bryna Talamantez
On November 1st and 2nd every year, people of Mexican heritage celebrate Dia de los Muertos, translating to Day of the Dead. These two days are full of bright colors, parades, parties, face paint, and happiness to honor and remember loved ones who have died. It is traditional for there to be an ofrenda, or altar, complete with pictures of their loved ones, their loved one’s favorite foods, water, candles, and marigold flowers. These altars welcome the spirits of their loved ones back to the living for those two days. This time of celebration has been most recently depicted in the Disney’s 2017 movie, Coco.
Rooted in Aztec culture, this day is dedicated to honoring loved ones, who have gone to the land of the dead, has been around for centuries. Mourning the dead was considered disrespectful in the context of death being a natural part of life. The Aztec, Toltec, and other pre-Hispanic cultures wanted to continue to keep the dead alive in spirit and part of the community, which developed into what is now known as Dia de los Muertos.
With the Day of the Dead being a prominent part of Mexican culture, it is baffling to think about how much the dead are removed from our lives and forgotten in Western culture. Yes, there are monuments to influential Presidents and parks and schools named after important figures in the community, but what about everyone else? In Western society, encouragement to keep moving and move on results in the lost opportunity to create lasting and continuing relationships with loved ones after they are no longer physically living with us.
Honoring our loved ones can be done across any culture. The beauty of our own thoughts and beliefs is that we can create our own rituals and create our own memorials to help continue to honor our loved ones. This can be done in many ways. You can make your own ofrenda, either around November or all year. You can have a designated shelf or space in your house to have pictures of your loved one with special items like a baseball glove or dance shoes. You can also choose to journal to your loved one as if they were right next to you talking where you share with them about your day or a certain situation that’s going on in your life. You can hold a walk or run in their memory to raise money for a special cause or scholarship fund. You can do a bubble release on their birthday or continue to bake them a cake for their big day. There are so many ways in which we can keep our loved ones alive and connected with us after death.
If you want to talk more about your loved one, your grief feelings after a loss, or how you may want to connect with loved ones already in the land of the dead, call us at Curis Functional Health and we can offer you the space to help you remember your loved ones.
Some people may find it difficult to distinguish when to seek help for their depression. They may go to their general practitioner and be asked questions like “In the past two weeks have you been feeling hopeless?” They may be surprised to find out their doctor labeled them as suicidal and referred them to a therapist for more treatment. “I never said I wanted to kill myself, I just said I felt hopeless sometimes, but I don’t want to go out and kill myself!”.
As a clinician, when I hear my clients saying they feel hopeless, or they would be okay if they didn’t wake up in the morning, I know that they are all serious statements. That is why when you go into a doctor’s office, they ask if you have been feeling hopeless. It’s important to answer the questions honestly, because it is a matter of life and death. Getting the right treatment, from the right professionals can actually save your life.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living. For more information on depression you can visit http://www.mayoclinic.org
What is suicidal ideation?
Simply put, suicidal ideations are suicidal thoughts, they can be classified as active are passive.
What are passive suicidal thoughts?
Passive suicidal thoughts are thoughts of wanting to die or not wanting to be alive. If the thoughts are passive, there is not a plan. Passive suicide thoughts include thoughts include thoughts of extreme hopelessness, wanting to go to sleep and not wake up in the morning, not wanting to stop something bad from happening to you if it were to happen on its own, and things of that nature.
What are active suicidal thoughts?
Active suicidal thoughts are when the passive thoughts have moved from hopelessness into planning out ways to hurt yourself. Examples of this may be doing reckless things in hopes that it might cause you to die, trying to commit suicide, or writing a suicide note.
Things to look out for in loved ones:
Social isolation, giving away their favorite belongings, reckless behavior, making financial plans, verbal warnings such as “you’ll miss me when I’m gone”, looking for means to commit suicide with.
What do I do if I find myself having suicidal thoughts?
If you find yourself in a situation where you are feeling hopeless or you are identifying with any of the behaviors or thoughts mentioned in this article, there is no need to be ashamed, there is help for you. Contact your mental health provider today if you do not have one please contact us and we will set you up with the appropriate therapist for your needs.
If you are currently having serious thoughts of harming yourself or have a plan to harm yourself or commit suicide, you need to get help right now.
If you are in the U.S. you can call 911 or The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
Written by: Jeanette Belew
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based approach to treating singular and chronic traumatic events. While the underlying neuroscientific mechanism as to exactly how EMDR works remains unknown, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes "frozen in time," and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR appears to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Clients often report that normal information processing, which was previously inhibited, resumes. So, following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. They still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
In an EMDR session, the clinician and client together determine which memory to target first. The client is asked to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and while undergoing bilateral stimulation, alternating left-right stimulation of the body’s sensory system. Some methods of bilateral stimulation are left-right eye tracking following the therapist’s hand and or a light bar, headphones that play an auditory noise that alternates between the left and right ear, or tappers held in the client’s hands that alternately vibrate between the left and right side. The client’s preference determines the method of bilateral stimulation used.
While processing the target memory using bilateral stimulation, internal associations to arise and the client can begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. It is postulated that the sensory system stimulation triggers body’s procedural memory, aka, the memory of doing, which is much more accurate and detailed than just recalling. While, at the same time, the bilateral (left right) component encourages the brain to integrate the experience by forcing both sides of the brain to work together to process the feelings. It is believed that this allows for more rapid and lasting results.
In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.
There you have it, in a nut shell: bilateral stimulation used to target a negative belief system with the goal of desensitizing it and creating a new more positive belief system all done by your brain, not the therapist. Crazy right? Sounds too good to be true? Wrong, there are years’ worth of empirical research to support the process. Now that you know how EMDR basically works, the next blog will review what a typical EMDR session looks like.
Written by: Dr. Amanda Murray
It’s no secret that during pregnancy your body is completely transformed from the inside out. From ever-fluctuating hormone levels to postural changes, your body is constantly adapting to keep up with the advancing pregnancy.
How can you help your body respond positively to all of the change that comes with growing another human being? One highly recommended way is through prenatal chiropractic care. Prenatal chiropractic care can not only alleviate aches and pains often found in the lower back, hips, and pelvis during pregnancy, but it can also be of great value for you and your baby’s nervous system.
“How can you help your body respond positively to all of the change that comes with growing another human being?”
How does it work?
I take a proactive approach with my prenatal patients and begin by checking their pelvis and lower back for misalignments. Correcting misalignments of the spine allows your nervous system to communicate optimally with your , so that it can function at its highest potential. Moreover, an aligned pelvis is able to open freely during the birthing process which helps decrease pain during delivery. I am certified in the Webster Technique, which is a specific adjusting technique designed for pregnant women that works to correct misalignments of the pelvis. Many birth care providers are seeking Webster certified chiropractors because of their ability to facilitate an easier and safer delivery for mother and baby.
As a prenatal chiropractor, I also address the soft tissue structures that are attached to the pelvis. This includes the round ligaments, which are the ligaments attached to the tailbone and muscles. I use Active Release Technique (ART) to eliminate any issues, such as adhesions and scar tissue, which can cause pain, increased labor time, a painful delivery, asymmetry in the pelvis, and birth canal narrowing.
Physiotherapy before, during, and after your pregnancy is beneficial both for you and your baby. During each stage of your pregnancy, I will fully assess your biomechanics and create a specific physiotherapy plan.
“Correcting misalignments of your spine allows for your nervous system to communicate optimally with the body, so your nervous system can function at its highest potential.”
How will prenatal chiropractic care affect my baby?
When your pelvis is out of alignment during pregnancy, the ligaments connected to the sacrum and uterus is affected. Pelvic misalignment causes tension, or tone, in the tendons, resulting in a distorted uterus and decreased space within the uterus. This directly affects your baby, who now has less room to move while in your uterus. A chiropractic adjustment can realign your pelvis and release the tension in your ligaments, allowing your baby to move freely within the uterus and assume the best possible position. During delivery, your baby descends into the birth canal. When the tension in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments has been released and your pelvis aligned, the birth canal is able to open more freely, creating an easier and safer birth for you and your baby.
“Pelvic misalignment causes more tension, or tone, in the tendons, resulting in a distorted uterus and decreased space within the uterus.”
What can chiropractic care help with during pregnancy?
Studies show that chiropractic care during pregnancy increases comfort in the third trimester and reduces the need for pain medication during pregnancy and delivery. Chiropractic care can also help with:
Written By: Kimberly Hansley
Going back to school, or starting school for the first time, can be an overwhelming time for children. They will have new teachers, new schedules, and new classmates. Many questions or worries may arise. What if my new teacher doesn’t like me? What if I don’t have any friends? What if I have to sit by someone I don’t like? What if the work is too hard? As parents, we don’t always know exactly how to respond in tough situations like these.
Here are a five tips to help alleviate any back to school fear and anxiety that your child may be facing.
Talk About It. Normalize It. Don’t Minimize It.
Everyone feels anxious at times. Telling your child “don’t worry about” can often make the child feel invalidated. Try listening and telling your child that you understand that school can make him/her anxious. Talk through the different scenarios that are worrying your child and also different strategies to help your child get through the day.
Get On A Schedule
It’s hard adjusting to school after having the summer off. To make the transition easier, begin to get on the new schedule prior to school starting. Begin transitioning your morning and bedtime routines a few weeks before school starts, and try to stick with it on the weekends. This way, the adjustment isn’t as difficult when school begins.
Make Sure Your Child Is Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for healthy brain functioning. It’s common for both kids and parents to feel restless the night before the first day of school. This is where having an established bedtime routine will help ensure your child is getting the rest they need. Making sure your child is getting enough sleep is key in managing nerves and anxiety.
Don’t Give In
Sometimes parents give in and don’t make their children do things that make them uncomfortable. Instead of giving in, encourage your child. Remind them that they will make it through the day and you will be there for them at the end of it. That evening, let them know how proud you are of them for facing their fears and completing the school day. Reward systems can be a great way to help your child accomplish their goals.
Model How To Handle Anxiety
The best way to help your children manage anxiety is by modeling it yourself. If your children see you handling with your own anxiety in a positive way and using the strategies you’ve talked about, they will be more likely to do the same.
Bob crosses his arms and pushes away from his wife, who fights tears and grits her teeth. “This is going to ruin our marriage,” she declares. By the end of session, she is curling into him, while he soothes her tears. There is a renewed sense of connection and safety between them. How does the couples therapist get such a dramatic and uplifting result in the course of just 100 minutes?
Our Department Head and PACT Ambassador, Debra Campbell, LMFT, was recently published in The PACT Institute Blog. Her article, titled “Techniques to Help Distressed Couples Slow Down and Reconnect,” deals with how she, and other PACT trained therapists, “granularize” or slow couples down during therapy sessions, forcing them to not experience the same old hurts and argument, but a different, new one.
The Psychobiological Approach to Couples Counseling uses physical proximity, facial expression, and body language to uncover true underlying emotions. Couples sit face to face, eye to eye in session and are in each other’s care. This draws the couple back from historical memories and into the present, allowing the couple to experience disagreements differently and achieve win-win solutions. .
These techniques create a space, or frankly no space, where the couple is “forced to address the reality in front of them,” not reliving an old fight, but instead tackling the one right in front of them in a unifying manner.
Read the entire article here
Written by: Jeanette Belew
For clients feeling stuck in their issues, struggling to change or make progress, EMDR is a great option. Founded in 1987, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy technique that clients have found effective at working through emotional distress experiences and their often lifetime consequences. One of the most attractive aspects is how quickly client experience results with EMDR.
Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy, people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
EMDR therapy involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future. Focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events. Also, it is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions.
EMDR can be used to treat a variety of mental health issues, such as PTSD, phobias, panic, pain, weight loss issues, as well as increase performance and coping skills.
If this short introduction to EMDR has peaked your interest to learn more, please stay tuned for upcoming blogs that will discuss how EMDR actually works, the different mental health issues that EMDR can treat, what an actual session might look like, and does it really work.
If you just can’t wait for the upcoming blogs, please reach out to me to set up an appointment to discuss individually if this amazing therapy would be beneficial to you. Take the necessary steps to improve your life today.
June rolls around and, ready or not, here comes high school graduation. The day has finally arrived, and all your hard work has paid off. Grabbing your diploma and preparing to shift your tassel to the left, you can hear the echoes of your family screaming your name. While they are unquestionably the loudest family in the auditorium, you’re struck with a painful silence ringing in your ears…someone is missing. Reality strikes in this first moment of stillness in a long time; your dad is dead. He died when you were nine.
While this is not the first milestone that he has missed since his death, nearly a decade ago, it undeniably seems to be the hardest. A faint smile creeps across your face as you see your mom, clapping unceasingly and screaming your name. She is the rock that has been there to serve as both parents for the last 9 years. You smile as tears stream down her face, tears of joy undoubtedly mixed with sorrow, knowing she feels the same kind of pain that is aching in your chest. You both miss him, but on a day supposed to be filled with celebration and happiness, you feel like you can’t talk about him.
Time starts to move again, just as it always does. There you are, crossing the stage with your heavy head held high and a forced, but believable, smile on your face. Your stomach does back flips, and your heart feels like it is shattering inside of your chest. This is a feeling you would never wish on anyone, not even your worst enemy. Your grief is a journey that never ends.
Teenage grief is not just a phase. When children or teenagers experience the loss of a loved one, they relive the death over and over again. At each developmental stage and life event, they will process their grief in new ways. They will continue to gain new layers of understanding the death and its impact on not only their life, but the lives of those around them. Their grief story is ever changing.
Teenagers are at a complex stage in their life and will always process their grief differently than children or adults. They tend to rely on their friends more than their family and feel connected to others their age who have also experienced loss. Many teens feel a complete loss of control, trying to regain it by either picking up extra responsibilities or engaging in risky behaviors.
During such a difficult time, how can we help teens who are grieving? One way is to use Alan Wolfelt’s philosophy on “companioning” where those who are grieving can teach us about their grief as we sit with them and listen without judgement (Wolfelt, 2012). It is important to reassure teens that they still have their basic needs met, are being taken care of and are safe. Always be patient with them, as they are struggling with grieving in addition to all the other stressors that come with being a teenager.
If you are currently helping a teen work through their grief, do not hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources locally and nationally, including my services at Curis Functional Health. I specialize in working with children, teens, adults, and families who have experienced the death of loved ones. I have experienced several impactful losses at different ages and developmental stages in my life. I feel that what I can provide in session is true empathy and compassion for my clients while also having hope for them and their future. I have volunteered and been a part of several of the organizations on my reference list. I am constantly seeking new information and trainings to better serve my clients. I am a passionate speaker on child grief, particularly in raising awareness of its prevalence.
Local Grief Support Groups:
Journey of Hope- A grief support group for children, teens, and their families who have experienced the loss of a loved one. They have support groups in Plano, Frisco, and will be expanding to Dallas in late 2019.
The Warm Place- A support group for children and their families serving the Fort Worth area. https://www.thewarmplace.org/ways-to-give/
The Dougy Center- A national center for grief and loss for children and their families located in Portland. They provide wonderful resources for those helping bereaved children and teens. https://www.dougy.org
National Alliance of Grieving Children- An organization that raises awareness of childhood grief. They provide wonderful resources and training.
Actively Moving Forward- A peer led grief support system that helps young adults in or out of college who have experienced the loss of a loved one.
To learn more about Alan Wolfelt’s Companioning Philosophy: https://www.centerforloss.com/grief/like-help-someone-grieving/