February 2021

Two years since I lost my wife; Hope Edelman on “The AfterGrief”; Carrying our loved ones forward; Getting back more than what you lost.

In SAVVY, the history of grief shaped our thinking that grief should be a process to be completed and from which we move on.  Hope Edelman challenges those concepts of grief and speaks of understanding grieving as a lifelong process.

In SKILLS, a couple of tips on how to move forward with grief as a lifelong process.

In SOUL, I share about work, love and play and how you really can get back MORE than what you lost.

savvy

It is two years since the sudden death of my wife.  So it is a fitting time to revisit the topic of grief, especially when over 500,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, leaving 10 times as many grieving.

In the December 22, 2020 edition of the news program Here & Now there was a ten minute segment from Minute 27:44 – 37:30 on Understand Grieving As A Lifelong Process with the Hope Edelman, the author of “The AfterGrief”.

I have summarized highlights of that radio segment.

Tip 1

Here is the history behind the idea that grief ends and is a process that should be completed

Freud

  • Freud contributed to the idea that grief ends in a 1917 paper “Mourning and Melancholia”.  
  • He said grief comes to a successful completion and you have to detach from the one you lost.  
  • He later realized after the deaths of his daughter at age 36 and then his grandson, that the acute state of grief will pass. But one never gets fully over the loss as it morphs and changes and perpetuates the love for the one we lost.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

  • Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying”, explored the experience of dying through interviews with terminally ill patients. She described Five Stages of Dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (DABDA)
  • “Kübler-Ross originally saw these stages as reflecting how people cope with illness and dying,” observed grief researcher Kenneth J. Doka, “not as reflections of how people grieve.” 
  • Kübler-Ross later noted that the stages are not a linear and a predictable progression and that she regretted writing them in a way that was misunderstood.
  • She never intended for grief to be a series of siloed emotions. (Stage Theory)

Tip 2

There are just two stages of grief

Hope Edelman sees two stages of grief: “the one where you feel really bad” and the “one where you start feeling better”, which extends for the rest of your life. 

Grief isn’t something we get over but rather where we find new and different ways to carry our loved one forward with us. This is what she wrote about as “The AfterGrief”.

Types of grief:

1. “Grief spike” (sneak attacks) – a song comes on the radio that reminds you of loved one and you miss them like at first. It is a sudden gut punch, which Edelman calls: 

  • Old grief” is a response in the present to a loss in the past that may last a few minutes or hours.

2. “New old grief” is when we experience an old loss in a new way. It may be a one time event e.g., a wedding; becoming a new parent; a graduation – we long for the lost loved ones advice or comfort.

  • Another one is when you pass the age of your lost parent e.g., mother died at 42 and now you are 42.

skills

Unexpressed grief shows up as hypertension, anger, physical and mental symptoms, depression etc.

Tip 1

Try “free-writing” to express anything you have been holding in but want to let out

  • Write down whatever is on your mind – free writing – set a time like 5 minutes and write something you’ve been holding in and want to let out; share it with a compassionate other who won’t say “aren’t you over it yet?!”.

Tip 2

Grief is not completed. Rather, find new ways to carry our loved ones forward with us

The next wave after Stage Theory (5 stages of DABDA) was the Relational Theory of Grief:

  • Trying to complete stages of grief and let go of your attachment to a loved one who has died was causing more pain than comfort. 
  • What we naturally yearn to do is find new ways to stay connected to our loved ones as we move forward in the physical world. e.g., telling stories about them; continuing a tradition they participated in, even if you do this in an abbreviated form e.g., if there was a special restaurant you always enjoyed together once a month, you could get dessert there to remember them.
  • My daughter and granddaughters stayed connected by opening a photo frame of their mother/grandmother each morning and say “Good morning, MeeMee” (their version of “grandma”); or when my daughter glides into an easy parking space, she jokes, “thanks Mum”.
  • I go to a special part of the beach where we spread some of her ashes and meditate briefly and say “Hi, Marcia”; or stand at my tie rack and say “Help me out here with choosing a tie that matches”.

soul

On the morning of the two-year anniversary of the loss of my wife of 46 years, this image and message popped up in my Instagram.

“You’re going to get back MORE than what you lost…”

If you wish to track my grief process, in the February 2019 edition of Tips and Topics, I announced “I lost my wife February 23, 2019”. In the SOUL section of the May 2019 edition, I gave an update on my grieving process; and in the August 2019 edition, the whole edition was the SOUL of all the family’s grief, loss, and moving forward. At the one year anniversary of our loss, I wrote about how as a family she didn’t leave us, but rather had “freed us forward”.

“You’re going to get back MORE than what you lost…” got me thinking and it has been true in work, love and play:

Work

COVID has forced me to cut back and get off the travel and training treadmill….. something I have wanted to do anyway. Now that I only need to budget for one person not two, I can work less and keep more resources to use in love and play.

Love

With a long-term marriage, children and grandchildren, the room of love was pretty full.  While I lost an important person in that room of love, there has now been space to meet more people with whom to explore relationship in depth. Not only can I hold in my heart the history of a full relationship in long term marriage, but I can now have the fun and fascination of fashioning a new primary partnership.  

Play

I had always been taught and conditioned to “get your work done first and then you can play.” With less need to work now and more reasons to love and play, I am experiencing more joy as I get my playtime in first, then do some work.  After my morning meditation practice, I have fun playing the New York Times (NYT) Spelling Bee – Make as many words as you can out of the 7 letters they renew each day. You can play a short time for free on the NYT’s app.  But then you are hooked to pay the annual subscription as the free game is limited in time and the scope of games offered.

So do you really get back MORE than what you lost?  I have…if you make room for it.

January 2021

Can terminology reduce stigma in opioid addiction? Different terminology for different stigma goals; Facing up to saving and losing face. FaceTime needed.

In SAVVY, a new study researched what terminology would reduce stigma in the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.

In SKILLS, the choice of terminology may depend on the purpose of communication. Use medical terminology to decrease blame for addiction.  Use non-medical terminology to increase confidence that the person can recover and is not dangerous.

In SOUL, it is not about “losing face” or “saving face” over the Presidential election results.  It’s about “facing up” to “face our problems” and use some “FaceTime” to listen to each other.

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December 2020

Conflict, compromise, compassion; Better Arguments; Grieving a lost sister

In SAVVY, apply the three Cs to your family relationships, your clients and patients, or to your friends and neighborhood as well as bridging the political divide and the ongoing rancor.

In SKILLS, I highlight the dimensions and principles of the Better Arguments Project, a group with an initiative to heal America in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

In SOUL, two sisters’ relationship is severed prompted by the political divide and who voted for the “other side”. How about your family and friends?  Are you grieving over a fractured relationship?

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November 2020

Braver Angels and coming together after the election; marriage counseling techniques to bridge the political divide; CHEMMites.

Welcome to the November edition of Tips and Topics.  For readers in the USA, may you have a safe, joyful and meaningful Thanksgiving whether you are together with your loved ones in person or online.

In SAVVY, I just learnt about a group called Braver Angels, an initiative to heal America in the aftermath of the 2020 election. I connect you to them in hopes you may be interested.

In SKILLS, I summarize techniques and tips based on marriage counseling skills that Braver Angels has found effective in bridging political gaps.  These skills apply across all conflicts to improve understanding and empathy.

In SOUL, I share WhatsApp texts with my longtime childhood friends in Australia when they asked me about the Presidential election.

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October 2020

Addiction – Disease? Willful misconduct? Harm Reduction?; How to be a child.

Welcome to the October edition of Tips and Topics.

In SAVVY, I answer two follow-up questions arising from last month’s edition. The first asks how addiction is compared to other health issues. The second asks about a Harm Reduction approach to addiction versus a “medical model”.

In SKILLS, I have excerpted learning points and comments from several readers who responded to the dialogue about “After a patient is discharged… is there a period of time that patients should have to wait before being readmitted to the clinic?”

In SOUL, I reflect on how children are focused on fun, joy, laughter and full self expression. Then we adults gradually suppress that spontaneity only to devote time, money and energy in personal development workshops to rediscover and reawaken that “inner child”.

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September 2020

Stump the Shrink and how long to ban readmission for a discharged patient; indoor plants make me happy and healthy

In SAVVY, SKILLS and STUMP THE SHRINK, follow my thinking process as I ponder how to respond to a nurse practitioner’s question about how long should a program make a discharged client wait before readmitting them – 30 days, a year or what?

In SOUL, I discovered that plants and nature are good for us in almost every way you can think about. My indoor plants are not only fun to see grow and develop, but they are good for my health.

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August 2020

The ASAM Criteria – Tips on assessment and treatment; 18 months since I lost my wife and Ricky Gervais’ “After Life”

In SAVVY and SKILLS, assessment and treatment tips for the six assessment dimensions of the ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) Criteria.

In SOUL, it is 18 months since I lost my wife. Ricky Gervais’ Netflix series “After Life” got me thinking about grief and a host of other related human interests (and it entertained).

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July 2020

What to do about COVID-19 uncertainty, anxiety and “caution fatigue”; Roman poet, Ovid’s advice

Welcome to the July edition of Tips and Topics.

In SAVVY, Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project: Happier at Home and Better than Before” gives tips on what to do about all the uncertainty we are experiencing with COVID-19.

In SKILLS, Jamie Ducharme, Staff Writer at Time Magazine, summarizes tips for fighting “caution fatigue” from Jacqueline Gollan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

In SOUL, Gretchen Rubin gives one last piece of advice on how to handle the uncertainty and anxiety over COVID-19 and quotes Ovid: “Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim. (Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.)”

June 2020

“Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” experiment; Iowa Dept. of Corrections training; if you aren’t black..; being present; James Taylor’s song

Welcome to the June edition of Tips and Topics. This edition is focused on an important, game-changing time in USA history.

In SAVVY, I share an experiment from 1970 that changed the attitudes of 3rd graders. The Iowa Dept. of Corrections had a training that was equally illuminating. It’s worth taking 53 minutes of your time to watch. I also highlight three areas of life that black people experience that I have never thought of; and I bet you haven’t either if you are a white person.

In SKILLS, three of my colleagues and friends share their thoughts on what to do and where to start as we rethink race relations; re-imagine policing practices; and search our own attitudes and actions.

In SOUL, I share where I am beginning to commit to change.  Also listen to a classic song from the 1949 musical, South Pacific, refreshed and re-recorded by James Taylor.

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May 2020

“Quarantine fatigue”; fear and Law of Attraction; use it or lose it.

Welcome to the May edition of Tips and Topics. We’re not ready to move on from COVID-19 yet, as much as it would be wonderful to get back to “business as usual”.

In SAVVY, the focus is on “quarantine fatigue”. The HIV epidemic has lessons that can help shape where we go with COVID-19.

In SKILLS, fear attracts more fear.  Daily stress and worry plagues a majority of Americans (60%). Shifting our focus away from what pulls us down, can help us get through COVID-19.  But don’t forget to wash your hands.

In SOUL, the blinds in my lakeview room reminded me to use it or lose it.

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April 2020

Bill Gates on pandemics; smiles and songs; how I read the news now

In SAVVY, Bill Gates’s 8 minutes TED talk could have saved thousands of lives and trillions of dollars if we had listened to him. As we think of opening the USA up again, will we listen now? 

In SKILLS, SMILES, SONGS I share some of my favorite coronavirus related humor and music. 

In SOUL AND SHARING SOLUTIONS, I pass by news items that leave me angry and less empathetic. Is there anyone out there wanting to come together to find solutions to our shared common challenges?

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March 2020

March Problem Gambling Awareness Month; Language of Recovery; No need to panic

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