Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Depression Seminar Session 7

Overcoming Loss And Life's Disappointments - "How Can You Mend A
Broken Heart?" -The Bee Gee's

It's hard to ever think that a broken heart will be mended. The pain is so intense, the memories don't seem to fade quickly enough. But in this session we learned some really great things about grief, what to expect and how to move on and be healthy afterwards. Warning: No one said it would be easy.

Take a look at what critical loss looks like--it doesn't just mean the death of a loved one. It could also be loss of a home, loss of a job, loss of a loved one by estrangement, divorce, loss of a body part (as in amputation) or even loss of social status.

With any one of these situations and any number of others, a grieving process is appropriate and expected. Some events may be more traumatic than others but all must be acknowledged in order to heal properly. Just as with physical wounds, the mind needs time to heal. If someone were to receive a physical wound, appropriate treatment is essential. If the treatment is inadequate or belated, complications arise and the risk of the wound not healing properly or even fatality occurring is greatly magnified. Some wounds are so severe that one never regains full physical function. I'm sad to say that just today, in the headlines, actress Natasha Richardson has died because of a brain injury that occurred from a seemingly minor skiing accident. I'm sure her family is wishing that they had taken every precaution and had not turned away paramedics. It's just one of those hard calls, but experts say that if she had gotten appropriate and timely care, her death could have been avoided. And so it is with mental or spiritual wounds. We need to seek and obtain the healing balm so that these can be healed once and for all and not leave painful residue.

There are ways we talk to ourselves and during the experience of loss we need to make sure we self-speak in healing ways and not like these distorted views--"I will never again be happy." "This kind of unfair thing always happens to me." "My world has ended because I lost him." Acknowledge the loss in ways like this--"I will miss the companionship that she has given me and I feel extreme loss." "I have lost a very important part of my life." "This is painful and it sucks." There are some subtle but important differences in the two groups of expressions of grief. Can you pick up on them? Good!

There are 3 Stages of Grief
1) Shock and Disbelief - This lasts for a few minutes up to a few days.
2) Developing Awareness - This lasts for 3 - 12 months. Symptoms are inability to concentrate, preoccupation - always going back to thinking about the event, anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, digestive problems, fatigue, anger, guilt and depression is common. Although this stage can be longer in duration, the grieving individual should feel increasingly better month by month.

3) Resolution - Anywhere from 3 - 12 months after loss. This is when you gradually take charge of your loss and resolve to live your life despite of the loss.

We were referred to a study of a group of 40 men who had experienced a death of a spouse and whose immune systems were already compromised before the loss. They were asked to reflect on the meaning of the loss. The groups divided naturally into 3 categories. Group 1 only emphasized the negative aspects of the loss. Group 2 accepted the fact of the loss and just moved on with their lives. Group 3 found a new respect for life and made new commitments to improve their own lives. It was found, upon examination, that both Groups 1 and 2 experienced a decline in their immune systems and overall health while Group 3 showed both an improved immune system and long-term survival rate. So from this we can infer that there are healthier and worse ways to go through loss.

Healthy grieving does not come naturally to most people. So one can almost view it as a series of tasks to go through when progressing through the stages of grieving. What experts have found is that indeed, time does not always heal wounds. But working through them over time can.

The Tasks of Mourning

1. Accept the reality of the loss - We do this by having funerals, memorials and talking about the person and reminiscing about them.

2. Work through the Pain - Don't avoid the pain. Acknowledge the hurt and loss and then make sure that you take care of yourself. For 15 minutes a day for about 4 or 5 days, write about the loss and what you are experiencing, feeling and remembering. Get rest, sunlight, proper nutrition, and plenty of social support. It has been shown that poor social support is more closely related to depression than torture during wartime. Maintain spiritual ties to develop patience in suffering. Cling to hopeful beliefs and faith and know that loss was never meant to be.

3. Identify the functions that the loss provided and try to replace them or adjust to them.

4. Emotionally Relocate the Loss - Put the loss to rest in your mind. Put it away and know that it will never that same space again but it can be relocated. For example, Grandma's not here anymore, but she now is in heaven and is happy and I'm happy for her.

5. Reflect and Grow from the loss. Think about what may have been learned from that hard
experience and how it has changed you for the better. Romans 8:28. Discuss with someone ways to grow from the loss. Remember that sharing with someone is good. "Don't go into your mind alone, it is a dangerous place," especially during the grieving process.

Grief is always complicated by severe Depression. In addition to the above symptoms the severely depressed person feels worthlessness, has greatly impaired functioning, and goes beyond 18 months bereavement.

If you are not now experiencing a loss, why not help someone through who is experiencing a loss? Share your love with them and help them to find their way. It will come back to you when you need it!

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