I open my blog with a story of how I arrived at grief and loss counseling.
My journey through grief and recovery began when my wife was diagnosed with ALS, an incurable, debilitating, and fatal disease. Everything changed for us. I went from husband to caregiver and Teri went from family caregiver to patient. We felt a deep sense of loss.
We lost our stability, peace, and privacy. Our house became “Grand Central Station,” with weekly doctor visits and all manner of tests. Even our happy house of 20 years became a challenge, lacking handicap accessibility.
Our life was changing and we felt powerless to stop it. At first she needed a cane, then a walker, and finally a wheelchair, all within the first four months. We reached out and began attending monthly ALS support groups. There, a patient told us that ALS stands for ”always losing something” -- I agreed -- not just for the patient, but for everyone involved in this journey.
The first year was filled with grief for the loss of many things. The hardest thing I had ever done was to tell my children their mother was going to die. I will never forget the look in their eyes. Surprisingly our relationships with extended family and friends changed. Individuals I expected to be there for us became distant, unable to cope with our situation, while others, unexpectedly, stepped in with incredible support. For Teri and me that first year was miserable. As a couple we were frustrated and angry. Publicly we appeared to be coping well. Alone, the tears poured out.
With the help of counseling and support groups, we improved our coping skills and regained a measure of control over our lives. We realized that quality of life was most important to us and resolved to make the most of it. We made some tough medical decisions and shifted our focus to caring for each other and sharing our experience with others.
I learned the hard way and eventually with the help of others. Today, I pass on what I learned about grief to help you move beyond loss to experience joy and happiness.
Broadly defined, grief is the loss of anything to which we are emotionally attached. When I began counseling, my focus was death and dying because that's what I understood. As I worked with others, I realized grief touched them in many ways. To help them, I trained on techniques for marriage and family, trauma, childhood development, working with couples. The more I learned, it always circled back to some form of grief or loss. Indeed, grief and loss is frequently a factor in counseling. We are always trying to return to the perception of normal.
Some changes are by choice like getting married or moving to a new house. Adjusting to involuntary changes is harder. Grief gets shoved into a small corner when in truth it can shade many of our experiences, from the simple to the complex.
Here are a few examples that can cause grief and unresolved emotional pain.
Any big change in our lives can have some grief of what we wanted or thought about where your life was headed. Life is about change and when change happens you have loss. In that way grief and loss is part of life.
The Problem of Grief
What is the impact? Grief can be expressed physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. The symptoms of grief are varied and might include frequent crying, difficulty sleeping or feeling detached from others. Depression is a typical response that can adversely impact your health, relationships, and career. Feelings of anger and frustration can result from not getting the support you need from friends and relatives. Denial can lead to intense sorrow and anger. Untreated grief numbs your feelings, takes the joy and happiness out of life.
Support from friends may be too much or too little, even if well intended. Some friends become distant while others repeatedly ask the same questions, reminding us of our unresolved grief without resolving it.
You can't hold your feelings inside. If your symptoms of grief persist, treatment can help. You are not alone.
Counseling is an effective treatment for grief, reducing the symptoms and helps you reintegrate with your friends and experience joy again.
The techniques I use are highly personalized because everyone’s needs are different. I evaluate each client and develop a personal connection to know your unique needs. The treatment plan is customized for you.
I am a man in a field dominated by women. Men are frequently perceived as uncaring and lack compassion. I enjoy the chance to change my client’s minds. Establishing that emotional connection, a sense of caring, improves outcomes.
You can't make progress without being in a safe place. Compassion is an essential part of how I work and I use active listening to engage my clients in a safe space. I don't force anyone down a path that makes them uncomfortable. Everyone deals with grief differently. My goal is to help those who are overwhelmed, and their lives disrupted, to bring hope and joy to living again.
All these things can be helped if you take the first step and seek professional help. As a grief and loss counselor, people ask how I can be around so much sadness and depression. I tell them what an incredible experience it is to watch someone transcend grief and feel happiness joy and laughter.
I am here to guide you to a better place in your life, out of the darkness into the light, from despair to hope.
Scott F. Olds, Therapist
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