Let’s Talk

Letting Go Issues

Q. Could you please share some more about separation issues you talked about in your back-to-school column?

A. Let’s Talk! Letting go is a challenge for most parents and children, whether it’s off to kindergarten or college! It’s completely in the normal range to need to process the emotions surfacing.

It is “good” grief to process the changes and losses taking place by naming, tagging, or titling your thoughts/feelings as best you can, then put them in list form on paper – and then reframe those thoughts/feelings. By way of review, to reframe means to contrast or compare each item on your list with “what’s true.” You can either use your own sense of what is really true (what’s really happening) or you can go before your heavenly Father and ask Him to show you the deeper truths beneath your sorrow. Knowing truth and staying there sets us free. If you are helping a small child process this tearing away, it might sound like this: “I know you are sad to not be home today, but the truth is, you are very loved and my love will go with you (send a photo or note in the backpack, etc). Keep thinking about how proud we are of you.”

I gave you my example in the last column of my outside-the-normal-range of sorrow when my son went to college. It was God who opened wide my understanding that my loss was on many levels and not just my son leaving. It was the end of my parenting role as it once was, and even though I said I had let go of my son – I hadn’t! Oops. But much grace came, and I asked God to teach me what a more lateral, healthy relationship looked like and how to parent in this new stage. He was faithful. This led to healthier relationships (less needy and more letting go) for me in my family and beyond to other relationships. My daughter was leaving for college the following year, so I certainly needed to learn this. We’ll talk next time about some codependency issues that are often present during these changes. Being close is good, but enmeshment and needy-ness is not so healthy.

Let me close with a verse about our needs and where they are to be met, so we’re not trying to get those needs met with just people. This truth makes it easier to let go!

Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Live Like We Are Dying

The phone call. The knock on the door. Some unexpected bad news just never arrives gracefully. In an instant we learn that a loved one is terribly ill, injured, or already dead. One second we are zipping along with our daily routines; the next second life jerks us into shock, disbelief, and grief.

A young woman with a rope engaged in the sports of rock climbing on the rock.This happened to me afresh almost two weeks ago when I received an early morning call that a long-time friend and former coworker had died. An undetected medical condition turned his normally upbeat self on a dime and his wife called to tell me he passed. What??!!! Fine on Monday. Dead on Thursday.

Almost all of us can relate to receiving unexpected news of a loved one’s death. Some of us hunker down in denial. Some of us spill out our frayed emotions. Others of us swirl in a combination of numbness and outward angst. As mental health professionals advise, grief can tumble and toss us about with varied responses, all fluctuating throughout our days.

One thing I’ve learned over the years about sudden loss and grief is to give myself space and grace. None of us feel the exact same emotions in the exact same way at the exact same time. While grief is a shared response to loss, it’s also an individual journey.

I’ll never forget driving across the northern Kansas flatlands returning from one of my last trips to visit my failing dad in Nebraska. Tim McGraw’s hit “Live Like You Were Dying” came on the radio and I was both belting out the lyrics and bawling. “How’s it hit ya, when you get that kind of news. Man what ya do. And he says, ‘I went sky divin’, I went rocky mountain climbin’,…And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,’ and he said ‘someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dyin’.’”

The unexpected phone calls and knocks on the door are a part of living on this planet. So do we tense in anxiousness over the likelihood of losing someone? How do we prepare ourselves? I venture that we live each day as it comes with appreciation for those we love. We look for the little everyday things to savor, the unexpected joys that make us smile. We choose not to focus on the some day, but focus on the right now. We live like we are dying.

What do you think helps us to focus on living the right now? What are ways we can live today like we are dying?

Brave and Resilient Tip #110: Focus not on the some day but on living the right now.

“Not In A Good Place” Because of Loss

Q. I am not in a good place. I have had just too many losses. Could you please help me?

A. Let’s Talk! One loss often connects with other unresolved losses we have and they do multiply in our hearts and heads. Any loss is important to process, whether it is a dog’s death, a divorce, a lost dream, loss of health, loss of career, or the death of someone important to you. Loss hurts so much, though there is comfort ahead. Let’s talk about recovery from loss.

A huge beginning of recovery is to not minimize the loss. Thankfully, no one has said to me, “Millie was just a dog,” as I am still blubbering from her death two weeks ago. Thankfully also, no one has said “time will heal,” which is a myth. If one processes the grief OVER time, healing takes place; but time doesn’t take care of grief singlehandedly. A great example of that truth is from the Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman. They explain that if an automobile tire goes flat, it will still be flat in two years. But, if some measure of treatment over time is added (like air!) — there is recovery. The authors ask the readers, “Is there anything you wish that could have been better, different, or more?” This is an excellent question to process to get below the surface of the loss.

As you might suspect, I am huge on knowing what our internal messages are and reframing those messages to get us unstuck and moving in a healthy direction. I am not suggesting we camp out on fluffy ground. I continue to maintain that truth is what liberates. Some truth that I have fixed my mind on the last few days is that my Shepherd knows all about my loss; He says that as His sheep, I shall not want; and that He will not leave me comfortless. That is my focus. I am changing channels. I am still weeping but see myself mending. That is the start of recovery.

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 23:1 “[Because] The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want [remain in want or loss] . . . .”

John 14:18 “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Let’s Talk

Good Grief

Q. Would you please share some ways I can be okay during a period of grief?

A. Let’s Talk! Grief swells and recedes like ocean waves in the seasons of our lives, but we don’t really get the closure we need until we name and calculate our losses and changes.

Grief is so emotional that we sometimes don’t remember to get help cognitively, but therein is our help. When we can mentally process the depth of each loss and the many changes brought as a result, our heaviness of heart is validated in a very special way.

Many have said after listing all of the losses and changes after the death of a loved one, “I had no idea how one death could bring so much loss.” Others have said they never dreamed there were so many losses and changes from a divorce, the death of a pet, or even a move to another home.

We tend to minimize losses, so we can “feel” better—but we lose closure in doing that. We also tend to silence those grieving because we don’t want them to hurt. But what is the message we are giving? I think the message sounds like, “Don’t feel.” This is NOT a healthy message for any of us.

Over this past year we sure have talked a lot about stuffing feelings, and how unhealthy this is. Today we need to choose to not stuff our grief. Being a visual learner, I find it helpful to list all of my losses and changes that I am swimming in. The sheer listing of the items brings some real Aha revelations, as well as validation.

It is a good thing to be brave, but brave doesn’t mean stuffing our grief. Brave is taking our grief and handling it with care as we take inventory and process all the losses and changes our heart is experiencing.

Write us your thoughts on your ways through grief.

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 22:24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.”

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. . . .”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.