HOW TO COPE WITH LOSING A PET OF OUR BELOVED FRIEND

It is a given that we live a lot longer than our pets that we care for, cuddle and nurture and so much more with them that , it stands to reason that we will, at some time or another will have to come face to face with losing one. Whether you know it’s coming or it’s unexpected of the actual time to say our goodbyes to our fur-babies, it is a sad and emotional time. Fortunately, there are many ways to cope with the loss.

Method 1 – Before Your Pet’s Death

  1. Accept your pet’s fate.

At some point, we all will need to come to terms with the mortality of our beloved pets. Even, if the Vet gave a certain diagnosis of the animal’s health and how long it is expected to live for – we definitely need to be
ready for that. Preparation is key. There are very few animals that, like pets, have the expected lifespan of humans.
If your pet is ill or is a “senior” pet, it’s a good time to talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s continued quality of life of what you can do for it to get comfortable and free from any pain.

2. Talk with your vet.

When talking with your vet, ask if and how much pain your pet is experiencing.
Gather every information that you’ll need based on what your pet is facing.
Knowing this will help you make the right decision for your pet, and knowing that you make the best choices for your pet helps you better cope with the loss of a pet.Consider the animal’s quality of life.
Ask yourself a few questions before you make the final decision if you do decide to let your pet go. Is (s)he in pain? Can the pain or illness be treated medically, and still offer your pet a good quality life?
Does (s)he have a good appetite? Is your pet happy?

Finally, give thought to whether medical treatment is financially viable for you.
For most of us, finances do need to be a consideration, albeit a very unpleasant one.
Based on the vet’s assessment and your own judgment, make the decision, with your pet’s happiness in mind.
If you’re not sure, consider getting a second opinion from another vet.

3. Take pictures of your pet.

You will want something to remember it by. Even if (s)he looks sick and miserable, it is very important to take photos and videos, as bittersweet as it may feel. In the future, you may wish to boast about what a wonderful pet you had, and you may want to show people what he or she looked like. Collect anything else you want to remember him/her by. This includes a favorite toy, a blanket, or a decorative element from a tank or cage. Consider taking a clipping of your pet’s hair. You can also dip your pet’s paw in a small bit of paint and place it on a piece of paper that you can later display after the pet has died.

4. Continue to spend time with your pet.

Despite, it’s quality of life it is reassuring for your pet to know that you’re there with them until you let go. Let your pet know how much you love him or her, and cherish every moment. They will know that you’re still with them. Animals can sense people auras and what their nature is like from when you first got them to when you’re about to let them go. As that happens, your bond and friendship with your pet grows. Pet your special one in all its favorite places, and above all else make sure s/he is comfortable. Talk and maybe even sing. Do things that your pet has always enjoyed, when still able, like letting curling up on your lap for hours at a time, giving plenty of time to roam in the yard, and eating yummy little treats. If there was ever a time to spoil your pet, this is it. Discuss your pet’s diet with your vet. If your pet is at an advanced age, a change in diet may make your pet happier on many levels – offering a diversity of foods and/or foods that are easier to eat or digest (and help prevent weight loss). At the same time, respect your pet’s wishes; if (s)he wants to be left alone, don’t violate your pet’s comfort. Let your pet have his or her way

5. Consider staying with your pet during euthanasia. (MORE LATER ON THIS)

I know many people won’t want to come to terms to put the animal down.
Yet, it has clearly shown that when you’re with the animal after it’s put down, they’re at peace to know that you’re with them. It is usually a painless and peaceful process for your pet, but most importantly you will be with your beloved pet in its last moments, helping to ease its way along. Remind the vet to give an anesthetizing agent so that your pet goes to sleep BEFORE the actual injection occurs that ends his/her life.
Holding and petting your animal can give you as much comfort as it gives your pet, and though it’s a sad experience, it’s one that will help you to feel you did all you could for your pet in this world.

6. Make arrangements as to what you will do with his earthly remains.

When preparing for the loss of a pet, you also need to prepare for all the practicalities that follow. They are an absolute nightmare if you’re unprepared – and may add to your grief and stress at the time. You want to ensure you’ve taken care of all arrangements beforehand. You may wish to bury it in your yard with or without a grave marker.
You can also have it buried in a cemetery or cremated.Or you can ask for their ashes once they’ve been cremated and then do a proper ceremony of letting go.

7. Give family and friends a chance to say goodbye.

Before your beloved pet leaves your home forever, let the people who’ve enjoyed his/her presence know that it’s not going to be around for much longer.
You’ve been given a chance to say goodbye, and so should they. Assuming your pet feels comfortable with people, getting attention from various sources will
make you and your pet feel more loved.

Method 2 – After Your Pet’s Death

1 Allow yourself to cry.

Bottling up your emotions is not good for you, and you will feel sad forever.
Forget all that nonsense that you’re not supposed to mourn an animal as much as you would a person. There was a bond that you cherished, and no matter the nature of the bond, it is missed.

2. Tell your friends about the loss.
You might send out a mass e-mail, but not to everyone in your address book.
Send it to those who know you well, and care about you. You will receive many responses that let you know others loved and appreciated your pet and will validate your feelings.

3. Remember your pet.
Don’t pretend you never had one. Even though it makes you sad, it is best to remember and cherish the memories, not ignore them. It may hurt at first, but it’s the only path to closure, and it’s the only way you’ll ever be able to remember fondly your time with your pet. This is a good time to make a scrapbook or post photos on your blog or homepage. Include pictures, stories, and notes about your pet.
Read “The Rainbow Bridge” poem online. It will make you feel better about your loss. Create some form of legacy for your pet when they’re gone to be remembered by.

4. Get on with your life.

Although losing a pet is very sad, it is no reason to shut yourself up in your house or go into depression. Your pet has always felt comfortable in your comfort, and the sooner you get back on track, the sooner you’ll be yourself again.

5. Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter.

While emotionally, you may not be prepared to welcome another pet into your home right away, the act of helping to care for a homeless pet,
a pet in desperate need of a caring human, may help with your grieving and sadness.

6. Do something in memory of your pet.
Plant a tree, donate to a shelter or college of veterinary medicine.

There is so much more you can do while coping after losing your fur-baby as it is quite similar to how it works with when losing a person that you’ve loved and cared about. The question is do you wish to get another pet after losing your first one that passed?

There are many wonderful reasons to once again share your life with a companion animal, but the decision of when to do so is a very personal one. It may be tempting to rush out and fill the void left by your pet’s death by immediately getting another pet. In most cases, it’s best to mourn the old pet first, and wait until you’re emotionally ready to open your heart and your home to a new animal. You may want to start by volunteering at a shelter or rescue group. Spending time caring for pets in need is not only great for the animals, but can help you decide if you’re ready to own a new pet.

Some retired seniors living alone may find it hardest to adjust to life without a pet. If taking care of an animal provided you with a sense of purpose and self-worth as well as companionship, you may want to consider getting another pet at an earlier stage. Of course, seniors also need to consider their own health and life expectancy when deciding on a new pet. Again, volunteering to help pets in need can be a good way to decide if you’re ready to become a pet owner again.

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UNDERSTANDING THE STAGES OF GRIEF

Everyone experiences grief differently. Many people who lose a friend or loved one experience several stages of grief as they deal with a loss. Psychologists who work with people as they grieve have noticed the ways that people cope with the loss.
There are some commonalities including distinct stages such as denial, anger, and depression. There are a few more to name, but what you may not know is that these stages aren’t about the grief of someone dying, but rather something extremely different. There is now more to it than the five that we hear about of the stages of grief which I’ll
explain in a minute.

Types of Loss

Most people associate the word ‘grief’ with the sadness that surrounds the death of a loved one. Yet people can experience grief after many other losses, including a breakup, losing a job or a home, having a part of the body like an arm or leg removed, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, or having to drop out of college.

The Grief Process

People go through a number of stages when they lose a loved one.
You may experience them in any order and any number of times. You may feel sad
at the beginning, move on to anger, and then return to feeling sad. The crucial thing to remember is to take your time to grieve. Allow yourself to do it in own unique way. Never let anyone tell you how to grieve or for how long. It’s up to you! Accept any help if it is given to you while you’re grieving.

What You Probably Don’t Know About Grief

Many people think that the stages of grief are about the loss of a loved one.
However, they are actually related to people who are dying, rather than a personal loss.
Dr. Kübler-Ross is credited with developing the stages of grief, but most people don’t realize that what she created was for people with terminal illness. She wrote a book called On Death and Dying. In this book, Dr. Kübler-Ross writes about the stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Dr. Kübler-Ross interviews terminally ill patients and discusses how impending death affects a person. She writes about how the patient, their family, and loved ones cope with the loss.

She did not develop the stages to describe the stages of loss people go through when some dies, however, they are about what terminally ill people experience. The stage includes – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. After some time, people adopted these phases to apply to their personal loss, and they seem to fit well. Below you will find the stages of grief as a terminally ill person experiences them. They are also applicable to losing a loved one.
*Just as a quick note that not everyone will go through these stages of all of these. Some miss a few stages while grieving. This will only be for some people not all.

Kubler Ross Stages of Grief
Dr Elizabeth Dr. Kübler-Ross , a Swiss psychiatrist, introduced the concept of the five stages of grief in 1969. What are the five stages of grief? According to Dr. Kübler-Ross’ model, there are several stages of grief. Through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance people process their loss, whether that’s a terminally ill patient or a person coping with losing a loved one. She was also interested in the way people communicate their grief to others through their words, emotions, and behavior.

Denial

When you’re in denial about the loss, you try to convince yourself or others that the event hasn’t happened or isn’t permanent. You know the facts, of course. If your spouse has died, you might accept that it happened but then believe for a time that his death means nothing to you. If your parents have divorced, you might try to get them back together even after they’ve moved on to other relationships.Following a job loss, you might go back to work thinking they didn’t really mean it when they fired you.

Anger

Anger is a typical reaction to loss, and it’s one of the Dr. Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief.
You may be angry with the person who left you, or you may feel angry with yourself.
You might express the anger by shouting at people through sarcasm,
or by showing irritation at everything from significant letdowns to minor problems. This stage can also happen at any time, even after you go through a period of acceptance.
The benefit of the grief stages is that they help you deal with the loss and move on.
Anger can energize you to do just that.

Bargaining

At some point, you may find yourself bargaining, trying to get back what you lost.
This part of the stages of grief and the higher power help the person cope with the loss.
People often promise their God that they will live a better life if only they can take back what they lost. A child may promise to pick up their toys and stop arguing with their siblings if their parents will get back together. Bargaining is a stage that sometimes brings up uncomfortable discussions that go nowhere.

Depression

Next in the five stages of grief is depression. The depression can present with any of the symptoms of clinical depression. You may feel sad and cry often. You might notice changes in your appetite or sleep patterns. You might have unexplained aches and pains. This stage can be too painful in a breakup in a relationship and in the death of a loved one. If you’re moving through these stages of grief, divorce can seem like the end of your life, so it’s natural to become depressed. It is a situational depression that may soon pass naturally as you move toward acceptance.

Acceptance

The last of the Dr. Kübler-Ross stages of grief is acceptance. You understand what you lost and recognize how important that thing or person was to you. You no longer feel angry about it, and you’re finished with bargaining to get it back. You’re ready to start rebuilding your life without it.

Complete acceptance brings complete peace, but often, this stage is never complete. Instead, you might feel sad during death anniversaries or angry when you feel current circumstances would work out so much better if you just had that thing or person with you now. When you accept the loss fully, you’ll understand the stages of grief better.

The Seven Stages of Grief
Dr. Kübler-Ross refined her model to include seven stages of loss. The 7 stages of grief model is a more in-depth analysis of the components of the grief process. These seven stages include shock, denial,anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. Kubler-Ross added the two steps as an extension of the grief cycle. In the shock phase, you feel paralyzed and emotionless. In the testing stage, you try to find realistic solutions for coping with the loss and rebuilding your life.

Other Variations

There have been different grief models over the years. In addition to the 5-stage and 7-stage models, you may hear about the four stages of grief and the six stages of grief. John Bowlby, a British psychologist, studied the stages of grief and loss long before Dr. Kübler-Ross presented her five stages of grief. His work was with children with attachment issues. One of these, of course,is grief. Bowlby’s four stages of grief are: 1) shock and numbness, 2) yearning and searching, 3) despair and disorganization, 4) reorganization and recovery.

The six stages of grief s merely an extension of Kubler-Ross’ original 5-stage process.
The only difference is that the shock stage starts before denial. What are the stages of grief then? That is a question only you can answer. The stages of grief you go through might be different from the ones someone else experiences.

Getting Stuck

Sometimes, the grief process doesn’t go well. The bereaved may become stuck in one stage of grief, unwilling or unable to move through the process. In a worst-case scenario, the person can continue to be angry, sad, or even in denial for the rest of their life. When this happens, they usually need to talk to a grief counselor before they can move out of that stage of grief. Otherwise, the intense pain might continue over the course of many years. Also, they may miss opportunities to build a new life that can bring them happiness in the here and now.

Help When You’re Grieving

Grief counseling helps people who are overwhelmed after a loss. If they are stuck in one stage of grief, this type of counseling can help move them towards recovery. The counselor assists and guides you as you talk about the loss, identify your feelings, and separate from and learn to live without the person you lost.

Along the way, they will help you understand the stages of grief. They will support
you by providing information about grief in general as you go through the process.
They help you identify and hone the coping skills you’re already using. If the method
you’re trying to use for coping isn’t working out, the grief counselor can help you identify that problem and introduce you to coping skills that work better.

Real Men DON’T GRIEVE, OR DO THEY?

Men are the forgotten grievers!

A woman in tears, openly expressing her pain, wanting to connect with a male partner whose impermeable stoicism has left her feeling alone. A man, his heart breaking on the inside, confused amidst a world shattered by loss, locking his pain behind a wall of silence, unsure how to express vulnerability or to receive support.

Is there really a difference in the way men grieve and respond to loss? After doing some research it’s safe to say that I’ve known plenty of men who fit the stereotype: emotionally controlled, disinclined to talk about matters of the heart, as apt to seek out solitude as connection focusing on action rather than talk.

Men grieve far more than we show or discuss. One of the biggest reasons for the misunderstandings on this subject is that we don’t talk about it, and we do a rather poor job of listening when women try to share their own grief or prod us to talk about ours.

We almost never cry in front of other men. If we feel that a woman is “safe,” we may cry with her. But most of our tears are shed when we are alone, perhaps while driving our vehicles. In all too many cases, our hot tears become a deep-freeze of anger or rage. Most very angry men are very sad men.

But these were the surface responses of men whose inward experiences were far more nuanced, changeable, and multidimensional than stereotypes can capture or assess.
The real picture was more complex.

Still, it can be helpful to bear in mind, without being rigidly attached to, the perspectives of researchers and clinicians convinced such differences are real. This perspective suggests that, as a group, men tend to be less expressive of their feelings—with the possible exception of anger—and that this disinclination to disclose or process emotions may actually intensify during times of stress and vulnerability.

So it is with grieving. When a cherished pet is critically ill or has died, men and women will not experience or express their reactions in the same way. Failure to understand and accept our different ways of grieving can result in hurt feelings and conflict between partners and among family members during a very difficult time. There are big decisions to be made – whether to proceed with expensive diagnostic procedures or treatments, choices about euthanasia, options for care of the pet’s body after death. There are goodbyes to be said and there is grief work to be done. Behaviors can be misinterpreted;
needs may be misunderstood; expectations may not be met.

Male grief has certain characteristics that are important for us to know. Otherwise we may assume that, when faced with the crisis of losing a beloved companion animal, real men don’t grieve.

Like everyone else in our Western culture, men are saddled with certain stereotypes.
Real men are supposed to be tough, confident, rational and in control, not only of themselves but of situations as well. Real men don’t cry, aren’t afraid of anything and wouldn’t be caught dead asking for directions, let alone for help. Real men know exactly
what to do in a crisis, and they’re strong enough to support the rest of the family, too. Add to these stereotypes the assumption that, if a man doesn’t express thoughts and feelings of grief the same way a woman does (by crying or by openly sharing with others, for example),
then he must not be grieving at all. If the grief doesn’t show, it must not be there!

Scientific studies indicate clear differences between the male and female brain, not only in how it is structured, but in how it is used as well. We know that the left side of the brain houses language skills, while the right side controls spatial problem-solving skills. That the connective tissue between the two sides (the corpus collosum) tends to be thinner in males than in females may explain why a man tends to use one side of his brain at a time,
while a woman uses both – and why a man is less able to verbalize what he is feeling. Other studies indicate that from puberty a male produces less of the tear-producing hormone prolactin, leaving him physiologically less able to cry.

So do real men grieve when they lose a beloved companion animal? Most certainly they do– but they may do so in an instrumental rather than an intuitive way.

In general, men tend to put their feelings into action, experiencing their grief physically rather than emotionally. They deal with their loss by focusing on goal-oriented activities which activate thinking, doing and acting. Rather than endlessly talking about or crying over his lost pet, for example, a man may throw himself into time-limited tasks such as digging the animal’s grave, constructing a burial box, carving a memorial marker, planting a memorial garden, or writing a poem or a eulogy. Such activities give a man not only a sense of potency and accomplishment as he enters his grief, but also a means of escaping it when the task is done.

If a man relates the details of his loss to his closest male friends, it’s likely to be around activities like hunting, fishing, sporting events and card games.

Although a man may let himself cry in his grief over losing his pet, he is more likely to do it alone, in secret or in the dark.

Regardless of the differences, the pressures of grief are still present for both men and women, and the tasks of mourning are the same: to confront, endure and work through the emotional effects of the pet’s death so the loss can be dealt with successfully. Grief must be expressed and released in order to be resolved, and men need encouragement to identify
and release emotions, to talk about and share their thoughts, and to accept help and support from others.

Research

There is evidence that men are more likely than women to remain silent or grieve in isolation, engage in action-oriented forms of grief expression, or lose themselves in distractions such as work or throwing themselves into a new relationship. Research suggests that men appear to be more susceptible to developing a reliance on alcohol or engaging in risk-taking behaviors following a loss and are more likely than women to commit suicide following the death of a spouse. Some studies suggest that men are more likely to use the strategies of avoidance, intellectualization, and minimization when grieving and, although research is inconsistent on the point, they may have a greater tendency to somaticize emotional and psychological pain

Grieving men may be at greater risk of death when compared with men of the same age who are not grieving. Some believe this may reflect the impact of internalized
stress or the effects of poor self-care. Others suggest that men tend to have smaller social networks than women and more difficulty asking for and accepting support,
making them less likely to receive, and more likely to reject, encouragement to prioritize one’s health .

Theories about purported gender patterns among those who are grieving tend to focus on biology, socialization, or a combination of the two. Biological hypotheses range from the impact of testosterone and the nervous system to concepts drawn from evolutionary psychology (such as speculation on the biological basis of role differentiation).

Psychologist Judith Stillion, PhD, CT, articulates one of the earlier arguments on behalf of the importance of socialization. During childhood, boys and girls receive different messages that profoundly impact the ways they grieve, she says. Boys, she believes, receive four fundamental messages about what it means to be a man and what constitutes proper male behavior. She refers to the first as “the stiff upper lip syndrome,” in which boys are taught that men must be strong and stoical in the face of difficulty and are discouraged from expressing vulnerability and encouraged to accept pain without complaint. The second is that a man must be in control at all times, self-reliant and able to handle any situation without asking for help. She calls this the”powerful loner stereotype.” The third message is that a man must protect and keep safe those who are important to him and never trouble them with his own struggles or concerns. The last is that a man must be ever ready to overcome any challenge without fear.

“I don’t need to talk to anyone as I can cope on my own!”

Doka and Martin suggest that men and women express their grief along a continuum of styles ranging from those that they call intuitive, centering on the expression
of affect, to those they call instrumental,which find expression physically and cognitively. Although they are careful to contextualize gender within a matrix of other variables—underscoring that no two people or groups will ever grieve exactly alike and that most prefer some blending of these styles—in general men seem to feel more comfortable with a style more heavily weighted toward the instrumental end.

Cultural Messages

Though we may hope boys in the rising generation of men are no longer receiving such rigid injunctions, many males continue to receive such messages as adults, even when grieving. I’ve worked with many men who report that when they’ve attempted to talk about their feelings or shed tears they have felt rebuffed or gotten the message, subtly or overtly, to “be strong,” “don’t cry,” “suck it up,” or “don’t make others feel uncomfortable.” Such experiences not only close down opportunities for connection and authentic support but also can undermine trust and reinforce stereotyped patterns and defenses tending toward isolation.

Cultural expectations about what constitutes healthy grieving hold that to heal, one has to speak about, process, and “work through” one’s thoughts and feelings by sharing them. Ideally this allows the bereaved to adapt to the world in the absence of their loved one while maximizing social support networks and reinvesting in other relationships and meaningful activities. Those who grieve silently rather than talking about their feelings may be labeled as excessively withdrawn, clinically depressed, or uncommunicative. Men who prize stoicism as an expression of independence or dignity, or as a way of not putting their burdens on others may be considered to be in in denial or out of touch. Men who engage in action-oriented expressions of grief, such as physical activity or private rituals away from the eyes of others, or who attempt to cope through distraction, positive thinking, planning for the future, or intellectualization may be accused of running away from their grief.

Though any of the above tendencies when taken to extremes or excessively relied upon can lead to complications, there is nothing inherently wrong or unhealthy about any of them. In fact, these tendencies may simply be a part of a style of grieving that social worker Tom Golden, LCSW, (2010) refers to as “the masculine side of healing.”

By this he means that there may be a style of grieving and healing that men gravitate to more readily than women. In his book Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, he puts it as follows: “The masculine side of healing is not as accepted a mode of healing as the more traditional verbal and emotional expressions. It tends to be quieter and less visible, less connected with the past and more with the future, [and] less connected with passivity and more aligned with action. As a consequence, I have noticed repeatedly that people who use a predominance of this masculine side of healing are suspected
even by mental health professionals of ‘not really healing.'”

By thinking in terms of a style of healing in which men may feel more at home, we can better assess and appreciate the potentially useful aspects of this style in the larger context of one’s bereavement journey, rather than dismissing it as dysfunctional.

So is the inward experience of grief really different for men and women? Or is the pain simply more likely to find expression along gender lines? Maybe the
difference is not so much in the experience of grief itself but in how the pain of grief is absorbed, processed, and expressed, or what we typically call mourning.

Unquestionably, many men have inherited the messages described by Stillion—the powerful loner guarding emotion behind a wall of strength, unwilling to be vulnerable,
uncomfortable asking for support. But this response may be reflexive and potentially self-protective when one is feeling unsafe or overwhelmed. When the value of
such responses are affirmed and the boundaries they set respected, and when the language of action, silent gestures, personal codes of honor, are decoded and affirmed,
men often become more forthcoming about things which they had been struggling to carry alone.

If we mistakenly view a surface style as indicative of an unwillingness to connect or process on a deeper level, or if we discount this style as invalid, insisting that those for whom it is helpful are not doing the work of bereavement, we will miss opportunities to go beneath the surface and offer support. If we accept and respect what may be a masculine or instrumental style of healing, we can avoid the trap of stereotyped expectations and build trust by not dismissing these strategies or attempting to force ourselves beyond one’s defenses.

It must be remembered, of course, that this style, although it can become an avenue into healing, may also lead to serious complications, causing men to suppress or feel shame about normal thoughts, feelings, and difficulties which often attend grief, and potentially creating distrust when it comes to asking for or accepting support. It can also lead to isolation, relational conflict, undisclosed anxiety, depression, or a reliance on dangerous forms of escapism such as drinking or extreme risk-taking, possibly leading to premature death.

It’s also worth remembering that there are plenty of men who gravitate toward an intuitive style of mourning and many women who prefer one that tends toward the instrumental. And that these preferences may be more fluid than fixed, changing with the context, level of trust, and so on.

When the subject of gender differentials in grieving comes up among social workers, the conversations can get pretty lively. Some argue that, although we need to be careful not to overgeneralize, there are clear differences in style between men and women. Others may agree that it’s wise to be aware of ways gender socialization can impact one’s sense of self but distrust such generalizations because they can dull one’s sensitivity to nuance, subjectivity, and changeability when it comes to processing and healing from any significant loss.

The good news is most hospice and bereavement social workers are flexible and inclusive when it comes to these matters, incorporating multiple dimensions of experience and expression into their work, going beyond the traditional verbal explorations that have typified grief bereavement counseling in the past. They understand the need to take the time necessary to establish trust and safety. They respect a client’s defenses
and are sensitive to the ways these may be affected by gender. And most respect the potential value of solitude and of more action-oriented strategies for
coping and healing, whether these strategies are preferred by a man or a woman.

ADVICE

To better understand men who are grieving, it’s helpful to recognize that:

Our own gender biases may influence how we “read” another gender’s grieving.

Although men and women grieve differently, neither way is inappropriate. It is not helpful to take sides, supporting one way of grieving over another.The way we grieve is as individual as we are: some men grieve in traditionally “feminine” ways and some women grieve in traditionally “masculine” ways. What looks like inappropriate behavior may be a man’s way of avoiding feelings or displaying emotions publicly. A man should not be judged for how he is grieving. If a man seems more angry than sad at the death of his pet, he may just be angry at the situation – and anger may be the only way he knows to express his grief.
It’s useful in such cases not to take the man’s anger personally, or to react defensively against it.

Some men turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to numb the pain of loss, or to lower their inhibitions so they can let loose their emotions.
They need to know that, because alcohol is a depressant, it will only add to the sadness they’re already feeling.

“One more drink and then I can get my work done for the day!”

Men are less likely to seek the support of others (either individually or in a group) in order to express (think, talk, cry, or write about) their feelings, especially if they don’t feel respected, or if they find certain aspects of grief to be embarrassing. A man needs encouragement to share his reactions and emotions, to explore what his pet’s death means to him, and to acknowledge how the loss affects his life.

Men often appear to be further along in the grieving process than they actually are. Even if a man appears to be all right, it is unwise to make assumptions about what he is feeling. When in doubt, ask!


HELPING A CHILD TO GRIEVE AFTER A LOSS OR DEATH

NEVER rush a child while they’re grieving, let them grieve and do what they can to release these emotions that they’re feeling. Just be patient and ready when they need to talk.

Remember, in my last post that I mentioned about that children don’t grieve after a loss or death? Well, that’s not a hundred percent, true. It’s quite the opposite.

Children and teenagers express their grief in a variety of ways. Some may be sad and verbalize the loss like many adults. Depending on their ages, however, they may show sadness only sometimes and for short periods. Children may complain of physical discomfort, such as stomachaches or headaches. Or they may express anxiety or distress about other challenges, such as school or sports.

Loss is more intense when the child had a close relationship with the person who died, such as a parent or sibling. However, this is not always obvious from a child’s reactions. A child’s grief may seem to come and go. And a child may rarely verbally express his or her grief. This is normal. Your child may also re-experience the intensity of the loss as he or she grows up. This may occur more often during certain milestones in life, such as starting school or going on a first date. Even into adulthood, important events such as graduating from college or getting married may trigger renewed grief.

Age has a large influence on childhood grief and how children understand and react to the death of a family member, friend, pet, or close adult.  It is good to know where a child is likely to fall developmentally.  This will help you to better understand how they view the loss and will help you to make age appropriate choices about language and interventions.

Of course age won’t help you to predict exactly how a child will react, other factors will have an impact as well.  Maturity, past experiences, education level, socio-economic status, what part of the world you live in, and access to support resources are merely a few of the many factors that influence us all.

Understanding how children and teens view death

It is helpful to know how children understand death at different stages of development. It varies by age and often changes as a child develops emotionally and socially. Other factors also influence children’s reactions. These can include personality, previous experiences with death, and support from family members. Keep in mind that children do not move abruptly from one stage of development to the next. And features from each stage may overlap.

It is advised that with children of any age or background you should do the following:

  1. Acknowledge their presence, their importance, their opinions, thoughts, and feelings.
  2. Be patient and open minded.  Allow them to grieve in their own way.
  3. Be available – Sit with the child, listen to them, and answer their questions.
  4. Reassure them the circumstances that led to the death were extreme and it is unlikely other adults in their lives will die any time soon (unless this is untrue).
  5. Let them know that a range of different emotions are normal.
  6. Validate their feelings and do not minimize them.
  7. Check in with other adults involved in their life – teachers, school counselors, coaches.Explain death using real words such as “died” rather than confusing phrases such as “gone to sleep.” You can say that death means the person’s body has stopped working or that the person can no longer breathe, talk, move, eat, or any of the things he or she could do when alive.
  8. Share your family’s religious or spiritual beliefs about death.
  9. Encourage your child to ask questions, and try to answer them honestly and directly. If you do not know the answer to a question, help find the answer.
  10. Use books, drawings, or role-play games to help a younger child understand death.
  11. Make sure your child understands that he or she is not to blame for the death and that the person who died is not coming back.
  12. Provide lots of affection and reassure your child often that he or she will continue to be loved and cared for.
  13. Encourage your child to talk about his or her emotions. Suggest other ways to express feelings, such as writing in a journal or drawing a picture.
  14. Without overwhelming your child, share your grief with him or her. Expressing your emotions can encourage your son or daughter to share his or her own emotions.
  15. Help your child understand that normal grief involves a range of emotions, including anger, guilt, and frustration. Explain that his or her emotions and reactions may be very different from those of adults.
  16. Reassure your child that it is normal for the pain of grief to come and go over time. Explain that they cannot always predict when they will feel sad.
  17. If your child is older, encourage him or her to talk with an adult outside the family, such as a teacher or a clergy member. You can also consider an age-specific support group.
  18. Keep routines and caregivers as consistent as possible, and continue setting limits on behavior. Care, consistency, and continuity help children feel safe.
  19. Encourage spending time with friends and engaging in other age-appropriate activities.Reassure your child that it is never disloyal to the person who died to feel happy and to have fun.

Addressing daily routine and role changes

The death of a parent or other close family member can directly affect a child’s day-to-day life. Family routines and roles change, such as a surviving parent having to return to work and spend less time at home. These changes are an added disruption and may add to a child’s distress. Even young children will benefit from extra preparation, conversations, and support around these transitions.

Although the death of a family member with cancer is painful, it may also lessen some of a child’s stress. For example, the death of a sibling might mean that a parent is not dividing time between a sick child at the hospital and another child at home. It is normal to have strong, mixed feelings, including some relief, when a family member’s suffering is over after a long or difficult illness. Help your child realize that these feelings are normal and that he or she should not feel guilty for having them.

Honoring and remembering the person who died

Children as young as age 3 understand the concept of saying goodbye. They should be allowed to choose how they say goodbye to a loved one.

  • Give preschool-age and older children the choice of attending memorial services. But do not force them to attend if they do not want to.
  • Some children may want to attend a memorial service but not a viewing or burial.
  • Allow older children and teenagers to help plan memorials if they want.
  • Talk with children about what will happen at a service ahead of time. Consider visiting the church or cemetery.
  • Ask a trusted adult to help take care of young children at a service or to go home with a child who decides he or she wants to leave early.
Give time and patience when the child is ready to talk to you about the loved one that you loss together. Never feel bad at bringing up some of the things that you remembered about your loss.

I have put together a list of typical grief responses by age.  Again, every child is different and we can’t quantify all the unique and individual qualities of your child in this list.  If your child reacts in a way that concerns you then it might be a good idea to talk things over with an expert like a pediatrician, school counselor, or child psychologist.

Infants (birth to 2 years)

  • Have no understanding of death.
  • Are aware of separation and will grieve the absence of a parent or caregiver.
  • May react to the absence of a parent or caregiver with increased crying, decreased responsiveness, and changes in eating or sleeping.
  • May keep looking or asking for a missing parent or caregiver and wait for him or her to return.
  • Are most affected by the sadness of surviving parent(s) and caregivers.

Preschool-age children (3 to 6 years)

  • Are curious about death and believe it is temporary or reversible.
  • May see death as something like sleeping. In other words, the person is dead but only in a limited way and may continue to breathe or eat after death.
  • Often feel guilty and believe that they are responsible for the death of a loved one, perhaps because they were “bad” or wished the person would “go away.”
  • May think that they can make the person who died come back if they are good enough.
  • May worry about who will take care of them and about being left behind.
  • Are very affected by the sadness of surviving family members.
  • Cannot put their feelings into words and instead react to loss through behaviors such as irritability, aggression, physical symptoms, difficulty sleeping, or regression (such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking).

School-age children (6 to 12 years)

  • Understand that death is final.
  • May think of death as a person or a spirit, like a ghost, angel, or a skeleton.
  • By age 10, understand that death happens to everyone and cannot be avoided.
  • Are often interested in the specific details of death and what happens to the body after death.
  • May experience a range of emotions including guilt, anger, shame, anxiety, sadness, and worry about their own death.
  • Struggle to talk about their feelings. Their feelings may come out through behaviors such as school avoidance, poor performance in school, aggression, physical symptoms, withdrawal from friends, and regression.
  • May worry about who will take care of them, and will likely experience feelings of insecurity, clinginess, and abandonment.
  • May worry that they are to blame for the death.

Teenagers (13 to 18 years)

  • Have an adult understanding of the concept of death but do not have the experiences, coping skills, or behavior of an adult.
  • May act out in anger at family members or show impulsive or reckless behaviors, such as substance use, fighting in school, and sexual promiscuity.
  • May experience a wide range of emotions but not know how to handle them or not feel comfortable talking about them.
  • May question their faith or their understanding of the world.
  • May not be receptive to support from adult family members because of their need to be independent and separate from parents.
  • May cope by spending more time with friends or by withdrawing from the family to be alone.

To end this, help your child understand that the person who died lives on in his or her memory. Parents who are terminally ill sometimes leave letters, videos, or photographs to help children remember how much they were loved. Children can also compile pictures and other special items to create their own memory. For younger children, most of their knowledge of the person who died will come from memories of other family members. Talk about the person often, and remind children of how much the deceased person loved them. Over time, children can understand that they would not be who they are without the influence of the special person who died.

64 Myths about Grief that needs to just STOP

Stop! Do you know what you’re saying and doing right now, isn’t the right way of handling the situation for others that are grieving for their loved ones?
This is just a bit of a shorter version to the reading you’re reading right now. Feel free to view this as well to gain a better understanding.

Grief myths . . . they sure as hell drive me crazy. And, I am sure that it would drive you crazy too when you hear/read them somewhere, whether it is on the Internet or just from others around us.

“Why did you say this in the first place?” Have you heard of think before you speak? Nope, I see that you’ve clearly haven’t!

There are just so many of them, they come out in so many ways, and they make our grief so much more difficult.  Friends and family have unrealistic expectations about what or how our grief will or should look like because of these myths.  Heck, truth to be told that sometimes WE have our own unrealistic expectations because of these myths.  So today we are setting out to dispel about 64 myths about grief yet there are more that you may have heard once and for all!

Disclaimer: what makes many of the things on this list myths is that they are not universally true.  This does not mean they are never true.  This is a very very important distinction, so keep it in mind as you read/watch the video that will come live soon on my channel. Also, there are some common themes with these myths so, where applicable, I have clustered the myths by themes in different categories if it made sense to do so.

Okay, as Eleanor would say, let’s dive in!

1. Grief has an endpoint.

Sorry friends, grief is going to be with us forever. It’s a part of us and after all we are still humans.  This isn’t a bad thing, though! Don’t get me wrong!  It just means that when we lose something or someone we loved deeply, that loss will be with us in some way forever.  Grief may feel different or become more manageable to many of us, but it will always be there and that’s okay.  Too bad people often make us feel like we should have reached the “end” of our grief.

2. Once you are done grieving, life  will return to “normal”.

All the things you’ve heard about getting over grief, going back to normal, and moving on – they are misrepresentations of what it means to love someone or something like your pet who has died. I’m sorry, I know us as human-people that does appreciate things like closure and resolution, but this isn’t how grief works. 

This isn’t to say that “recovery” doesn’t have a place in grief – it’s simply ‘what’ ‘how’ ‘when’ we’re recovering from that needs to be redefined. To “recover” means to return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength, and as many would attest, when someone very significant dies, we never return to a pre-loss “normal”. The loss, the person who died, our grief – they all get integrated into our lives and they profoundly change how we live and experience the world.

What will, hopefully, return to a general baseline is the level of intense emotion, stress, and distress that a person experiences in the weeks and months following their loss.  So perhaps we recover from the intense distress of grief, but we don’t recover from the grief itself. 

3. There is a consistent and predictable timeline for grief.

My questions to ask you all is this while you’re reading and watching my video when it comes to light is this:

  • How long does it take to fall in love?
  • How many seconds pass before a parent loves their newborn child?
  • How many arguments and rivalries can the bonds of sibling-hood withstand?
  • How many heart-to-hearts and late-night phone calls before you know a friend is true?

These are silly questions, aren’t they that I am asking to you? They’re like most riddles with no answer. There’s no scale to measure love or to quantify the bonds of friendship and family.It reminds me of one of my favorite lullabies, appropriately titled ‘The Riddle’. It’s a really simple song that my mother used to sing when I was young. It goes…

I gave my love a cherry that had no stone.
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone.
I told my love a story that had no end
I gave my love a baby, with no cryin’.

How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
Whoever heard a story that never ends?
How can there be a baby with no cryin’?

Well a cherry when it’s bloomin’, it has no stone.
A chicken when it’s pippen’, it has no bone.
And the story of ‘I love you’ will never end.
A baby when it’s sleeping, there’s no cryin’.

“The story of I love you will never end”; what a beautiful lyric. What a true lyric.Love, connection and caring, these are things that live on; they don’t just end….you know it…I know it…it’s just common sense, people. So why then do we often hear this questions like these?

“How long does grief last? When will it end? When will I be over it?”

If grief is the result of losing someone we love and care for, then there’s no logic that can be applied or formula that can be used in determining how long it will last. If you don’t believe me, just give it a try.

So feelings of grief will diminish, but not disappear. Grief is infinitas which means ‘being without finish’. Grief doesn’t end, but with time it should look different; hopefully more peaceful, connected, and positive. Here are a few small indicators you might be making progress in your grief. I find it important to note, you can take steps forward, yet still grieve your loved one. Just because you return to work, date, or decide to have a child does not mean you won’t continue to grieve the person you lost. The capacity you have to be happy, enjoy life, and love others exists in addition to the love you feel for your deceased loved ones. Because love…love is asininity.

  • You start to feel just a little more ‘normal’
  • You have more good days than bad
  • You experience an increase in energy and motivation
  • You remember memories fondly as opposed to experiencing them as grief triggers
  • You can constructively think about the loss of your loved one and the impact it’s had on your life
  • Your sleep patterns return to normal
  • You experience feelings of optimism about the future
  • Improvement in performance at work
  • You’re able to focus on personal health and wellbeing
  • You feel ready to date again, have more children, and/or make new friends.
  • Your relationships feel more functional and healthy
  • You feel as though you are ‘rejoining the human race’
  • You feel ready to get out of the house
  • You experience an increase in desire for emotional and physical intimacy

4. The first year of grieving is the worst.
5. Time heals all wounds.

Time does NOT heal all wounds. A more apt saying here is “IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TIME THAT HEALS.” Like any other aspect of life, mourning is an active, working process, not a passive one.

6. You recover from grief like you recover from a cold, it gets a little better every day until it completely goes away.
Nope, not true either.  There are going to be times that we will have our ups and downs, good days and bad days, good months and bad months.  No matter how much we wish it was, grief isn’t a straight line and the end point isn’t “all better”.

7.  If you are still talking about your loved one after ____ years it means you’re “stuck”.
8. If you still display photos of your loved one after ____ years it means you’re “stuck”.
This one here is controversial and may have many differences of opinions on this myth yet when I have been thinking is it coincidence or some form of trend to keep and/or display photos of your loved ones after passing?

I’m sure this has been a non-issue for many of you, but for others it’s not quite so straightforward. It just makes me immensely sad to think of some widow or widower stuffing photos into a box because someone made them feel that leaving photos up is wrong, abnormal, or an indication that they are stuck in their grief.

There are reasons why people hold on to photos and there are reasons why people don’t. Here are a few, but not all, of those reasons.

Why People Hold on to Photos:

For children and/or other family members…like brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters. When someone dies, his or her branch on the family tree doesn’t just fall off. That person is still a part of the family and hiding reminders of them, even if you would prefer to do so, can make other family members feel like their loved one’s memory is being erased.

Because you’re still a family: I have 5 brothers and sisters and, as I’ve said in past posts, we all still consider our mother to be a part of our family. She exists in memory and she continues to influence our family to this day. Whether her photo hangs on the wall has no bearing on her prominence in our family; but memories and moments involving her are an important part of our history. So why shouldn’t they exist in our homes?

Photos also give future generations a chance to connect with their deceased ancestors and family history. How else would you know you have your great grandmother’s nose or see aunt Carol smiling with her prized roses? Anyway, what was the point of taking photographs of these people if you didn’t plan on looking at them later on down the road?

Nostalgia and Memories: This is the most common-sense reason and why many people take pictures in the first place. Photos preserve memories like pre-school graduations, birthday parties, kids posing happily with artistic creations, weddings, etc. You know these moments are fleeting and in time our brain will no longer be able to remember them with the same vivid imagery, so you take photos.

Photos can make you smile, laugh, cry and remember. If you don’t believe me just ask Kodak, Canon, Shutterfly, Instagram, Facebook or Apple. Mankind’s penchant for taking and sharing images is stronger than ever.

Photos are tangible: One of the most difficult things about losing someone is the feeling that their memory is fading. Their smell, voice, and the feeling of their embrace – you wish for them to appear in a dream just so you can remember these things again. Photos are an accurate and literal reminder of your loved one.

They like photos: Dude, some people just really like photos. Put an avid camera clicker together with someone who really likes their family and what do you get? You get photo album after photo album of family members and friends. Accept it.

An appreciation for history: Some people just really care about history. My older brother, for example, is a history buff. He will leave no stone unturned in archiving our family history. It’s pretty cool and I’m certain our family’s next generation will appreciate his efforts; but seldom does a letter, film negative, or VHS recording that goes unturned in his pursuit.

In honor and remembrance: Many people prominently display photos of deceased individuals to honor them. I have wasted an irrational amount of time walking down the halls of Johns Hopkins Hospital looking at dead doctor after dead doctor. Why are they all hanging there? To honor and give them their place of prominence in an institution they helped to create and grow.

Portrait paintings of the rich, powerful, important and influential have been commissioned for countless microcosms throughout history. Walk the hall of any government building, club, or business and you will see this is true. In the same vein, it should come as no surprise that someone might see the family portrait as a way of honoring and paying tribute to individuals they love and adore.

Why People Don’t Have or Display Photos:

Photographs are a grief trigger or are too hard to look At: As we’ve established, many people find looking at photos of their deceased loved one to be very difficult. They may not choose to get rid of photos, but they might choose to put them away for a while. Sometimes people will continue to display photos even though it’s hard because they feel putting them away is disrespectful or means they are forgetting.

I think it’s probably incorrect to look at the act of putting photos away as a signal someone is ‘moving on’. Part of grieving well is learning to integrate the deceased loved one’s memory and being able to look at photos of deceased loved ones and feel happy or positive emotion is often a signal someone is doing better.

Grievers should feel okay about putting away photographs if they need to, this in no way means you are forgetting. Just because you put their photo away doesn’t mean the photos are gone forever. Though they may be too hard to look at right now, there will hopefully come a day when you can look at them and also remember fond memories.

Important Note: If you have children in the home, I would consider this more carefully. Consistency and connection are important for children and they may not understand the complicationed emotions and actions of adults. Please e-mail us if you want more clarification on this topic.

Photos are a grief trigger for others: Although you may be okay with photos, others in your house may not be. Together you may decide to put away photos away or you may arrive at some other compromise.

There aren’t any: Sadly some people don’t actually have any photos of their loved one. This is often the case with the death of a young child or baby, when someone has been distant or estranged, if the family photos were lost or destroyed, or if the person was just generally camera shy.

To avoid judgment or having to explain: Some may worry that others will judge their coping; some grievers may feel internal and/or external pressure to put the photos away, and some people may put photos away to avoid having to answer questions from visitors who didn’t know their loved one.

Bad memories: Not everyone has a past full of happy moments and fond memories. Old photos may be a reminder of a past they would just as soon forget.

Photos make them feel stuck: For some it may feel difficult to move forward when reminders of the past are everywhere. For this reason they may choose to put a few or all of the photos away.

9. If you haven’t gotten rid of your loved one’s belongings after ____years it means you’re “stuck”.

10.  If you still cry when you think/talk about your loved one after ____ years it means you’re “stuck”.

11. Women grieve more than men.

We all are usually pretty hesitant to even hint at categorizing, labeling or classifying grief. There are so many different grief responses that can and should be considered as ‘normal’ and no two people will have the exact same feelings and experiences after a death, not even those from the same family, region, religion, or culture. All that being said, however, there’s merit in examining how those with similar traits typically view and interact with the world, as long as we do it with taking it as a grain of salt.

We don’t always think of gender as complicated because we sometimes confuse it with ‘sex’, which refers to our biological makeup and determines what box we check at the DMV.  Gender is not actually a matter of fact, as psychologist Dr. Stephanie Shields of Pennsylvania State University notes, “…Gender is something that one practices (in nearly every sense of the word), rather than only what one inflexibly is.” Societies, cultures, and even families have differing views on what it means to be prototypical male or female and it is rare that real-life individuals ever fit perfectly into these molds.

Today, while I am writing this to you as you’re reading this I would like to share where the similarities and differences might lie. In conceptualizing grief and gender, I want us all to always remember these things exist on a continuum.

Although men are often thought of as “less emotional,” I think it’s important to quickly discredit the notion that men don’t feel the same intense grief emotions as women. Prominent grief researcher, Kenneth Doka, and his colleague Terry Martin have already served up a heaping bowlful of food for thought on this topic in their book Grieving Beyond Gender.  In this book, they outline different grieving styles which they associate with being characteristically “masculine” or “feminine”, although they note that these styles exist on a continuum and that gender is merely a contributing factor.

In general, our culture has come to expect people to grieve in an emotional way, which is characteristically more female but this isn’t always the case. Men may just grieve in a different way to females. It’s easy to put things like tears and sadness into the context of grief and when we see them we say, “Ah yes, this person is grieving appropriately”. Doka and Martin associate this type of grieving with the intuitive grieving style.  
Intuitive grief is experienced mainly in terms of feelings and emotions – “I felt sad” or “I felt angry” – and the grief response is usually focused on exploring and expressing these emotions – “I cried all night” or “I got so mad I couldn’t think.”

Intuitive

However, not everyone likes to get up close and personal with their feelings. So although people may experience the same type of emotions, some people might feel and express them differently. Doka and Martin associate this type of grieving with the instrumental grieving style. Instrumental grief is experienced in more physical and cognitive ways – “I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened” or “I felt like I couldn’t breathe.” The instrumental grief response is expressed in physical, cognitive or behavioral ways and looks more like ‘doing’ or ‘taking action’.

Although instrumental grievers might not see a direct correlation between their feelings and their response, if asked what they “did” in response to their loss as opposed to what they “felt,” they might say things like they spoke about the person a lot, created a lasting memorial, immediately found ways to further their loved one’s legacy, or they got involved in charity or activism in their loved one’s memory.  This type of grief expression can be a bit more difficult for outsiders to discern so others might worry the person isn’t dealing with their emotions when in reality they are just dealing with them differently.

instrumental

Doka and Martin are in no way saying this is how men grieve and this is how women grieve.  Remember that continuum we mentioned?  Well, these theorists say that most of us fall somewhere along the continuum between intuitive and instrumental grief and have what they call a blended experience.  People who fall on this continuum borrow coping tools from both ends of the spectrum.

blended

Now, when it comes to gender there are a lot of societal, cultural, and personal expectations telling us how we should feel and react; men should be strong and stoic and women should be emotional and sensitive.  These assumptions are really unhelpful because a lot of the time they don’t fit, yet we might feel ashamed, guilty, or weak for not feeling or acting our part.

According to Martin and Doka, dissonant grief emerges when the way someone’s grief is naturally experienced and expressed clashes with what they think is expected and acceptable. Confusion, shame, and repression can emerge when someone who is typically “strong” or unemotional becomes overwhelmed by emotion or someone who expects to be flooded with feelings finds that they aren’t.

Martin and Doka represent just one perspective on how gender-related characteristics can impact grief, but I think their theory encourages us to consider the ways in which gender can influence grief while being mindful that there is immense variability in what gender actually means on an individual level. It is important as people who are grieving or as friends, family and support workers, to be open to a range of grief responses regardless of our expectations.

12. Men don’t want to talk about their grief.

Yes, they are also wanting to talk about their grief as that is just an understatement if we weren’t to have the males to talk about how they’re feeling. They’ll be dealing with grief in a different way yet there is still ways we can help them to grieve.
We know that there’s going to be a lot of people that wish to help us in anyway possible.
Grieving is an intensely personal journey. There may be stages but they don’t often come in order or stay in a neat line. They leap around in surprising and unpredictable ways. Friends want to help, to say the right things but often end up feeling they can’t get it right. Our responses and needs are different in the first mind-numbing days and months. Here are a few tips on how to be a good friend to somebody in the early fog and pain of grief.
Yes, they are also wanting to talk about their grief as that is just an understatement if we weren’t to have the males to talk about how they’re feeling. They’ll be dealing with grief in a different way yet there is still ways we can help them to grieve.
We know that there’s going to be a lot of people that wish to help us in anyway possible.
Here are somethings that you may be able to do to help with them to grieve as well as also this goes for us females too.

Ask: Do ask what they need and follow their request. If they say they need to be alone for a while, that’s what they need.

Food is love: Do speak with food. Even if the grieving are not eating, they have guests who will. And at some point they will eat a bit and how lovely to have a line-up of frozen meals and other necessities during the days and weeks of numbness that follow.

Send help: Do contact other friends and religious or community organizations close to the family that might create a regular list of people who bring over food, who help write thank-you notes, who offer to do errands or grocery shop or organize bills. Life stops entirely for grievers in those early weeks and months but, alas, it does not stop for the world. Help them navigate through the bleak upcoming weeks and months in practical ways.

Listen well: Do read their emotional signals. If you come by and she just wants a hug and cannot speak, don’t push to her speak. Just sit with her. Don’t grill her with questions to fill the awkward, aching silence. Be still. Be there.

Pain and the Brain: Do respect her boundaries. If she starts remembering something about her loved one and speaks it, then shuts down immediately from overwhelming pain, NEVER push or tell her “It’s important that you talk about him and remember him.” Her brain can only process this sensory overload in its own time and pace. Don’t make her feel guilty that somehow she’s doing it wrong.

Think of them first: Do not launch into your own grief story unless you sense that told gently, sensitively, it will offer something worth hearing. You may have to wait months or years for it to be useful to your friend. Remember, this is about your friend’s needs and story, not yours.

Grief’s Maid of Honor: Do not get sucked into some weird high school competition about who’s staying at her house, who she’s calling back, who she’s letting take the kids out. Different friends offer different strengths. Let her decide which ones to take from you and don’t let your own insecurities get in the way.

Suicide Alert: Do push if you feel they’re sinking into a dangerous abyss of isolation and depression. If she doesn’t return your calls and you are close friends, go over there and knock until he/she lets you in. If you had a good relationship before this loss, and she knew and trusted you before this, lean on that. If she’s not talking to anybody and nobody has seen or heard from her, get in there.

Building a foundation: Do ask if he/she would like you to help set up a foundation or fund or scholarship in the loved one’s name because people will want to contribute in some way and for some, writing a check is the way they feel most comfortable helping. If someone dies young, setting up a scholarship or fund in their name can feel comforting to the family. Or you can ask people to donate, in lieu of flowers, to a charity chosen by the family.

No giving up: Do not give up on him/ her. Do not call three times, e-mail four times and assume, well, he/she’ll call when she’s ready. There’s a balance you must strike between respecting her boundaries and abandoning a friend in desperate need. Use your instincts to figure it out.

Note: I did a video of what to say and do and what not to say and do to a grieved one which you can see here:
* What to say and do when someone dies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSYgAxSkIdE

Men are known to be the forgetful mourners while grieving for their loss.

13. You can only grieve a death.

14. You can’t grieve something you never had.

Regardless of the scenario, the loss of hopes and dreams can be incredibly hard to accept and cope with. These losses aren’t just felt at one time in a person’s life; true to grief-form, they pop up as milestones, reminders, birthdays, important events, regrets, and emptiness forever. I think the magnitude of this can be hard to recognize when looking at it from the outside in and I think those who experience the losses are often surprised by how hard “acceptance” is.

When we care deeply about something, it can be difficult to know when to let go. Sometimes our hopes are all we have to keep us getting out of bed in the morning. People always like to say things like, “It’s never too late to follow your dreams” and many times this is true. When there’s a chance to see your dreams through or there is still joy in the journey, by all means, keep going. But, here is the gist because this one can sound a little confusing: we grieve things we never had all the time.  If I always thought I would have children, then learn I can’t get pregnant, that is a loss I will grieve.  If I always imagined my future would look a certain way and it doesn’t, I grieve what I imagined it would be.  You get the idea.

The reality is, though, that some dreams will eventually be impossible and when our hopes for the future are truly futile, we have choices to make. We could hold on tight and keep carrying our hopes and dreams forward, but such a heavy and hollow load limits our capacity to find other more fulfilling alternatives. We could drop everything and walk around angry and bitter, but this distracts us from finding joy in the things we do have and leaves our arms empty. Or finally, we could find ways to grieve our losses and someday, if we’re lucky, we’ll gain enough peace and acceptance to embrace our option B.

Regardless of the scenario, the loss of hopes and dreams can be incredibly hard to accept and cope with. These losses aren’t just felt at one time in a person’s life; true to grief-form, they pop up as milestones, reminders, birthdays, important events, regrets, and emptiness forever. I think the magnitude of this can be hard to recognize when looking at it from the outside in and I think those who experience the losses are often surprised by how hard “acceptance” is.

15. Your friends and family will always be the best support.

16.  Someone who experienced the same type of loss will definitely be supportive and understand what you’re going through.

Eeek, this one gets people into trouble A LOT.  This isn’t true, either. As everyone will grieve for their losses in different ways and just because we may have loss someone that’s important doesn’t mean it’ll be the same. Just because someone also lost a child, a spouse, a parent, a pet, whatever, it doesn’t mean your experiences will be the same.  Heck, they may not even be similar.  Sometimes people with similar losses end up being your best support, sometimes it is someone with a totally different kind of loss who you connect with.  You just never know.

17.  Grief follows a similar path and timeline for everyone.

I can think of a few things that’s more scary and unknown in life than coping with the death of a loved one.  If only there existed a map outlining the ‘typical’ experience of grief, we might know what is normal and the steps one should take to heal.  Of course, such a guide can never exist because grief is a reflection of the individual, their relationship with the person who died, the circumstances of the death, coping skills, and many other factors.

Although many of those who’ve come into contact with grief understand it’s variability, they still might set out in search of definitive answers and quick solutions.

  • How long will I feel this way? 
  • What is the best way for me to cope? 
  • Which grief theory is correct?  
  • What should I say to my grieving friend? 
  • I lost my husband and my friend lost her mother; whose grief should be more intense? 
  • Should I leave my grieving friend alone or continue to check in? 

The answer to each of these questions is either “I don’t know” or “that depends.”  Individual grief is unprecedented; it’s so personal that it looks different on everyone.  Sure we have theories, commonalities, and general truths to guide us, but these things can only help us to guess – not know.

Most of us have little experience with grief and so when a death occurs we have limited knowledge about how to proceed. Grievers want to feel better and those who love the griever want to help them in their hour of need. Naturally, all impacted by the death want to find solutions and want the comfort of knowing these decisions, judgements, and interventions are accurate and effective. After all, grief is a high-stakes situation; tensions are high, emotions are raw, and nerves are razor thin.  One wrong move and an emotional landslide may come tumbling down on everyone.

The trouble is, in the presence of stress and the absence of clarity we often rely on things like…

  • Emotion: My friend is in a lot of pain; quick think of something to take her pain away.
  • First Hand Learning:  I don’t know what will help my sister, but I know what helped me.
  • Vicarious Learning:  My friend thought a support group was very helpful to her when her husband died, maybe I should go to a support group.
  • Comparisons:  My brother isn’t struggling as much as I am, is there something wrong with me?
  • Categorizations:  I heard that people feel regret after a loved one dies from suicide, I wonder why I don’t feel the same.

These cognitive shortcuts make sense in many scenarios, and at times they are helpful with grief. Living in the unknown can be scary and paralyzing; of course we want to make sense of the senseless and put our trust in whatever clues seem to offer the quickest path away from ambiguity.  Sometimes these clues can lead us in the right direction, but many times they do not and this is especially true when we are talking about something as complex as individual grief.

It’s easy to get caught up in the search for black and white answers; we figure they have to exist because, after all, everyone experiences grief at some point.  As something so inherent to the human experience, how could grief be beyond comprehension? But to quote William Shakespeare, “Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” Only when you are in the midst of grief do you understand, shortcuts do not exist and the only definitive answers you will find are the ones you arrive at yourself.  

Across the board, we need to figure out how to better tolerate the ambiguity and uncertainty of grief.  We need to have a healthy respect for its complexity and recognize that, although a few general and basic truths exist, on an individual basis much cannot be prescribed or predicted.  Above all, we need to stop looking for answers and focus our attention on understanding.

We may not have all the answers, but we do what we can.

18.  If you aren’t crying, then you aren’t grieving.

Some of us aren’t criers, get over.  It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with us.

19.  If you aren’t following “The 5 Stages of Grief” it is a problem.

MANY people don’t follow the 5 stages.  If they do, it is often not in order, they may skip steps, repeat steps, you get the idea.  This is just one theory about grief among many theories – you aren’t grieving wrong if your grief doesn’t fit in this box.

18.  If you aren’t crying, then you aren’t grieving.
Some of us aren’t criers, get over.  It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with us.

19.  If you aren’t following “The 5 Stages of Grief” it is a problem.

MANY people don’t follow the 5 stages.  If they do, it is often not in order, they may skip steps, repeat steps, you get the idea.  This is just one theory about grief among many theories – you aren’t grieving wrong if your grief doesn’t fit in this box.

20.  The only grief theory is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages because everyone knows it’s accurate.

21.  Grieving is a problem.

Nope, it is a natural reaction to loss.  We all, sadly, go through it.  Just because something is painful doesn’t mean we should avoid or ignore it.

22. The goal of grief is to “move on”.

23. The goal of grief is to “get over it”.

24. The goal of grief is to “find closure”.

Ah, the myth of closure, moving on, and getting over it.  Didn’t I mention from the get go that there is no endpoint?  We never tie up our grief with a nice little bow and move on.   That just isn’t how it works.  What we do is learn to carry it with us in meaningful and healthy ways.  We use it to continue a connection with the person we loved, while moving forward.

25. Certain types of loss are inherently “better” or “worse” than other types of loss.

Our experience with the aftermath of a death, the ‘grief’, is a culmination of who and what we lost and our individual ability to cope with this.  Our tolerance for pain differs and we all feel varying shades of hurt.  Loneliness, absence, regret, need, longing, guilt, stress, lack of support – how much of this do you live with and how much can you tolerate?

Even within a family, the same loss will affect individuals differently.  It would be useless to compare my grief to a mother, father, sister, brother, friend or anyone for that matter; as their worldview is different, their support system is different, and their feelings towards death and dying are not the same.  I live with a lot of regrets, does he/she? 

Grief is the loss of something we love and at its core, it is complex, complicated, and sneaky.  Its depth, its trajectory, and its timing are often unpredictable and surprising. We are limited in our ability to truly understand another’s grief because most of us have yet to fully understand our own. What we do have in common, is the experience of a broken heart and the wisdom to feel compassion for others facing similar pain

26. Young children don’t grieve
Age has a large influence on childhood grief and how children understand and react to the death of a family member, friend, pet, or close adult.  It is good to know where a child is likely to fall developmentally.  This will help you to better understand how they view the loss and will help you to make age appropriate choices about language and interventions.

Of course age won’t help you to predict exactly how a child will react, other factors will have an impact as well.  Maturity, past experiences, education level, socio-economic status, what part of the world you live in, and access to support resources are merely a few of the many factors that influence us all.

It is advised that with children of any age or background you should do the following:

  1. Acknowledge their presence, their importance, their opinions, thoughts, and feelings.
  2. Be patient and open minded.  Allow them to grieve in their own way.
  3. Be available – Sit with the child, listen to them, and answer their questions.
  4. Reassure them the circumstances that led to the death were extreme and it is unlikely other adults in their lives will die any time soon (unless this is untrue).
  5. Let them know that a range of different emotions are normal.
  6. Validate their feelings and do not minimize them.
  7. Check in with other adults involved in their life – teachers, school counselors, coaches.

I have put together a list of typical grief responses by age.  Again, every child is different and we can’t quantify all the unique and individual qualities of your child in this list.  If your child reacts in a way that concerns you then it might be a good idea to talk things over with an expert like a pediatrician, school counselor, or child psychologist.

Typical Grief Reactions by Age:

o-1:

* They have no ability to conceptualize death

* Their memory capacity for specific relationships is undeveloped.  Unless the person who died was a close caregiver, they may  have very little response.

* They may be aware that something is different or missing.

1-2:

* They do not understand the finality of death

* They are concrete thinkers.  It may feel callous to explain death in a straightforward way, but metaphors and euphemisms will be confusing.  Provide simple and clear explanations.

* If they are old enough to ask, they may inquire where the person is or when they will be back.

* They probably won’t understand there are factors beyond our control and won’t understand why the person chose to leave, particularly if the person who died was an adult.  Make sure to explain that death and leaving were not things their loved one chose.

*  They are not too young to sense the stress and emotion felt by grownups in their lives.

*  Sticking to their normal routine may provide a sense of security, normalcy, and comfort.

*  Give them attention and provide them with reassurance.

Signs of Distress may include increased irritability and crying, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and/or withdrawing.  If these or any other behaviors concern you, you may want to discuss them with their pediatrician or seek outside counseling from a child psychologist.

2-4:

*  They still don’t understand the finality of death and still might see it as abandonment.

*  They see death as reversible or not permanent.  Dead people are simply sick or asleep and can get better or wake up.

*  They may ask the same questions over and over; be patient and stick with the same straightforward explanation.

*  They may not have the words to explain how they are feeling.  You are likely to see expressions of grief through behavior and  through play with toys and/or drawing.

*  They may experience separation anxiety.  When you must leave the child, it might be helpful to prepare them in advance that you will be leaving and provide them with reassurance about when you will return.

*  They may feel the person’s absence in an intense way one moment and be back to happily playing the next.

*  They will be aware of changes in patterns and routine.  Provide them with a lot of reassurance, nurturing, and consistency.

Signs of Distress may include regressive behaviors in the areas of sleep, potty training, and/or eating.  They may become clingy.  They may appear irritable, confused or suffer from nightmares.  If these or any other behaviors concern you, you may want to discuss them with their pediatrician or seek outside counseling from a child psychologist.

4-9:

*  They are starting to develop the ability to feel guilt.  Guilt can be confusing for them and they may feel guilty for odd things.

*  “Magical Thinking” is seen around 4 years old.  This is when children believe their thoughts and wishes can cause things to happen.  For this reason children may irrationally feel responsible for the death because of thoughts or wishes they had prior to the death.  (Example:  I’m responsible for the death because I told my mom I hated her and wished she would go away).

*  They may be interested in the process of dying and ask ‘how’ or ‘why’ things have happened.  Their questioning may be repetitive.

*  They have begun to understand that death is not reversible or temporary, but still may believe that death only happens to some people and will not happen to them.

*  Death is often personified as things like ghosts and monsters.

*  They lack the words to express their emotions.  They may have strong feelings of grief and loss but can’t express this in appropriate ways.  They may express feelings through anger and frustration.

*  Symbolic play using drawings and stories can be helpful.

*  They may need permission and encouragement to grieve.  Encourage expression of feelings through talk, play, or physical outlets.

Signs of Distress may include regression, nightmares, sleep disturbances, and/or changes in eating.  They may engage in violent play.  They may try to take on the role of the deceased.  If these or any other behaviors concern you, you may want to discuss them with the school counselor or pediatrician or seek outside counseling from a child psychologist.

9-12:

*  They understand the finality of death and that everyone eventually dies, however they still may engage in denial that it will happen to them (don’t we all?)

*  They are curious about the physical aspects of death – what does the body look like?  what does it feel like? etc.  Provide straightforward explanations.

*  They know how to express their feelings and emotions, but they may choose not to.  Encourage them to express the range of feelings they are having.

*  They may be concerned with how others are reacting to the death.  What is the right way to react?  How should they react?

*  Involve them. Allow them to give input and make choices regarding funerals, memorials, belongings, etc.

Signs of Distress may include having problems at school, withdrawing from friends, acting out, disturbances in sleeping and eating, an overwhelming concern with the body, and/or role confusion. If these or any other behaviors concern you, you may want to discuss them with the school counselor or pediatrician or seek outside counseling from a child psychologist.

12-20(ish). 

*  They are capable of having a more adult perspective of death.

*  Involve them. Allow them to give input and make choices regarding funerals, memorials, belongings, etc.

*  They are able to think abstractly about death and related concepts such as afterlife.

*  They may try to make sense of things, philosophize, and/or search for meaning.

*  Their mourning may be more traditional – extreme sadness, anger, denial.  Even though they are capable of expressing grief they may chose not to.

*  They may work to give the appearance they are coping well when they are not.

*  They may feel forced to act as a consoler and comforter for younger children or adults.

*  Be available, listen, and encourage them to talk about it.  Do not attempt to minimize what they are feeling.

*  Set a good example by speaking about your own feelings surrounding the death (without putting them in the role of the comforter).

*  They may be more willing to talk about grief with people outside of the family.  Grief camps and support groups may be helpful.

*  They may act out or engage in dangerous behavior such as risk taking, drugs, alcohol, etc.

Signs of Distress may include having problems at school, depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, rule breaking, role confusion, and/or acting out.  If these or any other behaviors concern you, you may want to discuss them with the school counselor or pediatrician or seek outside counseling from a psychologist.

27. Children should not attend funerals.
This is not true. We know that they’re allowed to be at funerals so that they can deal with what they need to do for themselves.

Parents and family members are often full of hesitations.  What if the child is too young to understand? What if the funeral is traumatic or distressing for the child?  What if it is upsetting for the child to see adults cry?  What if other people at the service will think it is inappropriate that a child is there?

When it comes to funerals and children, the first question always seems to be if a child “old enough” to attend.  How young is too young to go to a funeral?   I can’t answer this question for you, because in reality it is the wrong question to ask. Age has nothing to do with her a child should attend a funeral.  Really, it doesn’t.  There is no such thing as “too young” as long as the appropriate steps are taken and you are thoughtful about your child is and what will work for them.  Attending funerals, even for children of a young age, can be helpful and positive as long as handled appropriately.  I have no doubt the reason my early memories of funerals are positive is because my parents followed so many of the recommended guidance for preparing kids for funerals (whether they knew it or not).  So the better question is, what are the steps you should go through when considering your child attending a funeral?

Leave it up to the child.  It is important children are given the option to attend or not, and it is important their decision is respected.  If told they cannot attend without giving them a choice, children may feel abandoned or resentful.  If a child doesn’t want to go and is forced this can be distressing and traumatic.  Encourage your child to attend, let them know they are welcome and will be supported, but don’t push them.

Tell your child exactly what to expect.  Now, obviously this will need to start with a conversation about death.  If you are looking for tips on talking to kids about death you can see Eleanor’s post on the influence of age on understanding, as well as tips on language to use and not to use in talking to kids about death (aka stay away from euphemisms!).  Once you have had this conversation, it is important you explain to them what a funeral is all about.  Why do we have a funeral?  Who will be there?  How long will it last?  What will they do?  What will other people do?  Be specific – what is a casket or an urn, what is a burial, why will there be flowers, etc etc.

Help them prepare for what they will see.  Describe what the funeral home will look like, the casket, and the person who died (if it will be an open casket).  Many funeral homes now have photos online of their building and facilities, which you may be able to show a child in advance to help them know where they are going.  Also, some funeral homes offer family time before ‘the public’ is allowed to arrive, which can be a good time to bring the child without the chaos of other guests.

Assign a buddy.  Pick a family member or family friend who will take responsibility for being with buddied-up with the child.  They can be there to answer questions, provide support, and take the child out for a break or home if they decide they are ready to leave.  If you are going to be busy talking to people or busy it is important to be realistic that you may not be the best buddy for your child at the visitation or service.

Involve the child in the service.  Ask if they may want to write or draw something to place in the casket or display at the service, help choose flowers, an urn, or casket for the service, help pick photos for a slideshow or to display at the funeral home.  Depending on the age of the child, they may even wish to share some words at the service.

Let them know about emotions they may see or feel.  Kids will see adults being emotional and crying.  AND THAT’S OKAY.  Though adults are often fearful of this, thinking they need to be strong in front of their children, the reality is that kids seeing these emotions can be a good thing.  It lets kids know that it is okay to feel and express difficult emotions.  If they know you are sad, it may make it easier for them to talk about their sadness.  Just make sure they know this is something they will see and understand why people will be sad.

Warn them they may get mixed messages.  Adults say all sorts of things to kids about death and at a funeral they may hear many messages from many different people.  From using all those euphemisms (grandma is sleeping or grandma is in a ‘better place’) to hearing messages to ‘be brave’ mixed with other messages that it is ‘okay to cry’, kids may feel confused.  Explain why different adults may tell them different things, and reinforce what you want them to remember (what death is, that it is ok to cry, that nothing is their fault, they will be safe and protected, etc)

Respect their decision if they don’t attend.  Some children may feel strongly that they don’t wish to attend.  If that is the case, don’t force them.  Ask them if there is anything they would like to do on their own to say goodbye.  If it is a close family member, consider creating an audio or video recording of the service so the child can watch it later if they regret not attending.  You may also consider journaling about the funeral afterwards, while it is still fresh in your mind, so you can read it or talk about it with your child later.

28. Children are resilient, you don’t need to worry about them.

The good news, children certainly can be very resilient.  They myth?  That is doesn’t take effort, work, or support.  I once heard someone (I wish I could remember who . . . leave a comment if you know the source of this!) compare resiliency in children to children’s ability to learn a language.  It is much easier for children to learn languages than adults, but this does not mean they will learn a language if we don’t teach, coach and support them.  I have always liked this analogy.  Research shows us that childhood trauma can impact us through adulthood in countless ways, psychological and physical.  We need to give children the appropriate time, attention and tools to cultivate that resiliency. 

29.  Not having a funeral will hinder your ability to grieve or “find closure”.
There are many other ways that you can do if you don’t attend to a funeral.

If you are seeking alternatives to a funeral that may help meet some of the needs that are found in a tradition funeral, or if you are planning a memorial and trying to think a bit outside the box, today’s post is the post for you.  Today we will be sharing some alternatives to a funeral, large and small, and we are asking you to chime in by leaving a comment if you have other ideas.

1)  Create a shrine in your house.  Okay, the word shrine probably makes this seem creepy.  We aren’t talking about a creepy shrine here, just a simple area in your house that has photos, objects, and anything else meaningful that reminds you of your loved one.  The process of putting this together can be meaningful and symbolic.  It is something you can do by yourself, or together with family and friends.  Set aside a specific time to do this.  Especially with children, this is a great opportunity to share memories and say goodbyes.  They may wish to draw pictures, write a letter, or make other artistic items to add to the shrine.

2)  Hold a birthday or anniversary memorial.  You may have skipped a funeral, but this doesn’t mean you can never have a memorial.  If you are feeling a lack of resolution, pick another meaningful day in the coming months to have a memorial.  This could be anything from a memorial dinner to a formal memorial service – decide what works for you.  A memorial can actually allow an opportunity for more family and friends to attend, as there can be more notice given than for a funeral.

3)  Create a personal ceremony at the gravesite.  People have different feelings about visiting the gravesite, some people visit daily or weekly, and others never visit a grave.  There is no right or wrong – it just happens that some find the gravesite a comforting place, somewhere they are close to their loved one, and others do not.  If you are someone who does visit the grave, there are many meaningful rituals that can bring comfort.  In the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead, thousands of people flock to the graves of their family members to clean and decorate the graves.  Though this may not be part of your cultural tradition, it can be a meaningful and comforting ritual to adopt.  Pick a day – it could be a meaningful day or any old day, and plan something meaningful at the gravesite.  You may wish to invite others and turn this into a time of cleaning, decorating, sharing stories, and saying goodbye.

4)  Spread the ashes.  Not every family chooses to spread their loved one’s ashes, but if this is right for your family it can be a nice alternative to a traditional funeral.  From going to a single meaningful location, planning a boat trip to spread the ashes at sea, or taking ashes to multiple locations to spread, this can be a meaningful time and space to say goodbyes.  This can be done alone or with a group of family or friends.  You may even wish to spread the ashes somewhere your loved one always wanted to go, but was never able (think Martin Sheen in The Way)

5)  Create a new tradition.  The process of creating a tradition can alone be meaningful.  It may be a tradition of volunteering in memory of your loved one, visiting somewhere meaningful to your loved one,  creating an annual family dinner in your loved one’s honor, or anything else that seems right for you.  Creating this tradition can be a way to grieve together, if you choose to involve others, or a way to thoughtfully say goodbye and remember your loved one every year.

6) Skip the church and the funeral home.  If you are considering your options and you are put off by the idea of a traditional mass and a stuffy funeral home, because it just doesn’t seem to fit who your loved one was, start thinking outside the box!  You can hold a service anywhere.  Really! Anywhere!  Your house, their house, the beach, a park, a restaurant, a community center, a Moose Lodge, a bar, an art gallery, on a boat, in a box, with a fox . . .okay, you get the idea.   You don’t have to have one officiant and a eulogy.  You can open the floor to everyone to share their stories, memories, music, art, or anything else they wish to share.  Find some inspiration in the full Beyond Goodbye video.  We shared the trailer on Monday, but you can view the whole video here.  It is truly amazing.  Okay, and because I love it so much, here is the trailer again.

7) Plant a tree.  Okay, it doesn’t have to be a tree, but create something out in nature that symbolizes your loved one – it could be a tree, a garden, a bench, or anything else that makes sense for you.  This can create a meaningful space for you to remember and feel close to your loved one, and a small ceremony is totally appropriate when the tree is planted, bench is placed, etc.  You may even want to get a little plaque or stone marker to place at the site.

8) Create a memorial book.  One thing that often saddens people if there is no funeral is that they were not able to share stories or hear the impact their loved one had on others lives.  Unlike just a scrapbook or memory box (which you also may want to make!), a memorial book is created when multiple people all create a page in the book.  They can fill the page with memories, stories, things that person taught them, messages for the family, or whatever else they want to share.  This can be a hand made book, or you can purchase one

30.  You grieve less when you know in advance someone is going to die.

Anticipatory Grief: the nitty gritty

Here is the thing about grief – though we think of it as something that happens after a death, it often begins long before death arrives.  It can start as soon as we become aware that death is a likelihood.   Once death is on the horizon, even just as a possibility, it is natural that we begin to grieve.

Though this is different than the grief that follows a death, anticipatory grief can carry many of the symptoms of regular grief – sadness, anger, isolation, forgetfulness, and depression.  These complicated emotions are often coupled with the exhaustion that comes with being a caregiver  or the stress of being left alone when someone goes to war or is battling addiction.  We are aware of the looming death and accepting it will come, which can bring an overwhelming anxiety and dread.  More than that, in advance of a death we grieve the loss of person’s abilities and independence, their loss of cognition, a loss of hope, loss of future dreams, loss of stability and security, loss of their identity and our own, and countless other losses.  This grief is not just about accepting the future death, but of the many losses already occurring as an illness progresses.

When we know a death is imminent our bodies are often in a state of hyper-alertness – we panic whenever the phone rings, an ambulance must be called, or when our loved one deteriorates.  This can become mentally and physically exhausting.  The same is true of watching a loved one suffer, which is almost always part of a prolonged illness.  Caring for them as they suffer takes an emotional toll on us.  These things (and others) can contribute to a sense of relief when the death eventually comes, and a guilt that can come with that relief.   These feelings are common and totally normal when someone has experienced an anticipated death.   And yet we feel guilty for this relief, thinking it diminishes our love for the person.   It doesn’t, of course, but this relief can be a confusing feeling.  We sometimes need to consciously remind ourselves that the relief does not change the deep love we had for the person, rather it is a natural reaction to the illness.

There have been numerous studies showing that anticipatory grief can reduce the symptoms of grief after a death but, as always with grief, there are no rules.  There will be times that anticipatory grief may reduce the intensity of grief following a loss, then there are many times that the grief following a death is not impacted at all.  For a great review of the research on anticipatory grief (and understanding of why much of the data conflicts), see this article by Reynolds and Botha.  What is important to keep in mind is that if you are grieving with less intensity or for shorter duration than other losses because of the  anticipatory grief you experienced before the death, that is totally normal! On the flip side, if you do not feel your grief is diminished despite it being an anticipated death, that is totally normal too!  Convenient, eh?  There is no formula for how an anticipated loss will impact us because we all grieve differently.

Things to Remember When Dealing with Anticipatory Grief

  1. Accept that anticipatory grief is normal.  You are normal and feeling grief before a death is normal.  You are allowed to feel this type of grief.   Seriously.  This is a common phenomenon that has been documented for nearly a century.  You are not alone!
  2. Acknowledge your losses.  People may say annoying things like, “at least your mom is still here” that minimize what you are experiencing.  Allow yourself to acknowledge that, though the person hasn’t died, you are grieving.  Consider journaling, artphotography, or other creative outlets to express the emotions around things like acceptance of the impending death, loss of hope, loss of the person you once knew, loss of the future you imagined, etc.  Explore mindfulness  as a way of being present and aware of the many emotions your are coping with.
  3. Connect with others.  Anticipatory grief is common among caregivers, but unfortunately when all your time is consumed with caregiving you may feel totally alone and isolated.  Seek out caregiver support groups, either in your area or online, so you can connect with others who understand the challenges you are facing, including anticipatory grief.  
  4. Remember that anticipatory grief doesn’t mean you are giving up.  As long as you are there for support, you are not giving up on a family member or friend.  There comes a time where we often accept that an illness is terminal and that recovery is no longer a possibility.  Though it is a reality, there can be a feeling of guilt that comes with that acceptance.  Focus on what you are doing – still supporting, caring, loving, creating meaningful time together, etc.  You are shifting your energy from hope for recovery to hope for meaningful, comfortable time together.
  5. Reflect on the remaining time.  Consider how you and your loved one will want to spend that time together.  Though what we want may not always be possible, do your best to spend your remaining time together in a way you and your loved one find meaningful.  If your loved one is open to it, you may want to discuss practical matters, like advance directives and funeral arrangements to ensure that you are able to honor their wishes (rather than being stuck having to guess what they would have wanted).
  6. Communicate.  Just like we all grieve differently, anticipatory grief is different for everyone.  Expect that everyone in your family may be experiencing and coping with anticipatory grief in different ways.  Keeping the lines of communication open can help everyone better understand one another.  If you are planning for the remaining time to be meaningful and comfortable, make sure to include all the important family members and friends in those discussions.
  7. Take care of yourself.  I know, vague and way easier said than done!!  But it is true.  Check out our posts on self-care (for normal people)yoga, and meditation for some ideas of ways to take care of yourself.  Remember the old cliché, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.
  8. Take advantage of your support system.  Caregiving and anticipatory grief can be a long road.  Do an assessment of your support systems so you know which people may be able to help you out (and who you may want to avoid!).  We have a great support system superlative journaling activity to help you out with your assessment here.
  9. Say yes to counseling!  I know, there are still some of you out there who may think counseling is just for wackadoos.  I am here to tell you that is just not true!  Counseling is helpful for normal, everyday people who just need a place to process complicated emotions and have some you-time.  So just say yes to counseling if you are feeling overwhelmed with the feelings of anticipatory grief.  You can check out our post on finding a counselor here.
  10. Relief is normal.  In the case of anticipated loses there can be months, years, and even decades of caregiving that can be overwhelming and exhausting (though adjectives don’t even seem like enough!).  When someone dies there can be a sense of relief that is completely normal, but that can also create feelings of guilt.  Remember that feeling relief after an anticipated death does not mean you loved the person any less.  It is a normal reaction after a stressful and overwhelming time in your life.
  11. Don’t assume.  Just because your loss was an anticipated loss, do not assume this will either speed up or slow down your grief after the death.  We have said it before and we will say it again: we all grieve differently.

31. You grieve less when the person who died is older and “lived a long life”.

32. Your grief is easier when someone was suffering, because you are relieved they aren’t suffering anymore.

33. When someone dies by suicide it is their own fault or they were “selfish”.

34. When someone has a miscarriage, it was likely brought on by not taking care of themselves, stress, taking birth control, lifting something heavy, or some other ridiculous myth.

35. People don’t grieve after a miscarriage in the same way they grieve other deaths.

36. If something helped another grieving person, it will help you.

37. If something helped you while you were grieving, it will be helpful to most other people who are grieving.

38. Keeping a journal always helps.

39. Going to therapy or a support group is always helpful.

40. Art therapy always help, music therapy always help, etc.

41. You can get a prescription that will help your grief.

Nope, but wouldn’t that be nice if there was a magic pill to cure our grief?  Now, it is true that grief can exacerbate other underlying mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.  Those are things that absolutely can be treated with medication.  It is important if you are struggling to see a professional.

42.  Once you get through all the “firsts” (first anniversary, birthday, holiday season) they will get easier and easier.

43. Grieving and mourning are the same thing.
These two words mean different in terms of defining them and they are as follows:

Grieving dictionary.com defines grieve as: verb (used without object), grieved, griev·ing.

to feel grief or great sorrow:She has grieved over his death for nearly three years.

verb (used with object), grieved, griev·ing.

to distress mentally; cause to feel grief or sorrow:It grieves me to see you so unhappy.Archaic. to oppress or wrong.

Mourning dictionary.com defines this as:

noun

  1. the act of a person who mourns; sorrowing or lamentation.
  2. the conventional manifestation of sorrow for a person’s death, especially by the wearing of black clothes or a black armband, the hanging of flags at half-mast, etc.
  3. the outward symbols of such sorrow, as black garments.
  4. the period or interval during which a person grieves or formally expresses grief, as by wearing black garments.

adjective

of, relating to, or used in mourning.

44. Just because someone looks okay when they are grieving it means they feel okay.

45. When you lose a spouse, if you haven’t started dating after _____ years it means you’re stuck.

46. After losing a spouse you need to start dating in order to “move on”.

47. After the death of a child, having another child lessens your grief.

48.  Being reminded that your loved one “wouldn’t want you to be sad” is helpful.

49. The best thing you can do is say something comforting, positive, or optimistic to a griever.

50. Grief is the same as sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, sadness is part of grief, but grief and sadness are not the same thing.  Grief is so much more than sadness, for so many reasons.

51. Grief is the same as depression.

Grief and depression share similar symptoms, but each is a distinct experience, and making the distinction is important for several reasons. With depression, getting a diagnosis and seeking treatment can be literally life-saving. At the same time, experiencing grief due to a significant loss is not only normal but can ultimately be very healing.

Clinical Perspectives

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition(DSM-V) removed a “bereavement exclusion” from the diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD). In the DSM-IV, the “bereavement exclusion” stated that someone who was in the first few weeks after the death of a loved one should not be diagnosed with MDD. However, the DSM-V recognizes that while grief and MDD are distinct, they can also coexist, and grief can sometimes trigger a major depressive episode, just as other stressful experiences can.

Studies have shown that the extreme stress associated with grief can also trigger medical illnesses—such as heart disease, cancer, and the common cold—as well as psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.

Comparisons

Giving this overlap, there are times when it may be tricky to distinguish between grief and depression. A better understanding of their similarities and differences can help.

Similarities

Grief has several symptoms in common with the symptoms of major depressive disorder, including:

  • Intense sadness
  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss

Grief can also develop into complicated grief, which, unlike uncomplicated grief, does not seem to dissipate with time and can look a lot like depression. Symptoms of complicated or chronic grief may include:

  • Intense sadness
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty accepting that whatever caused the grief really occurred
  • Excessive focus on the episode of grief or avoidance of it altogether

In extreme cases, someone with complicated grief may engage in self-destructive behaviors or even contemplate or attempt suicide. It is likely due to these symptoms that the DSM no longer includes the bereavement exclusion from the diagnosis of major depression.

Differences

Where grief and depression differ is that grief tends to decrease over time and occurs in waves that are triggered by thoughts or reminders of its cause. In other words, the person may feel relatively better while in certain situations, such as when friends and family are around to support them. But triggers, like a deceased loved one’s birthday or going to a wedding after having finalized a divorce, could cause the feelings to resurface more strongly. Depression, on the other hand, tends to be more persistent and pervasive. An exception to this would be atypical depression, in which positive events can bring about an improvement in mood. A person with atypical depression, however, tends to exhibit symptoms that are the opposite of those commonly experienced with grief, such as sleeping excessively, eating more, and gaining weight. Other clues that point to a major depressive disorder instead of grief include:

  • Feelings of guilt not related to what prompted the grief
  • Thoughts of suicide—although, in grief, there can be thoughts of “joining” the deceased
  • Morbid preoccupation with worthlessness (grief does not usually erode self-confidence)
  • Sluggishness or hesitant and confused speech
  • Prolonged and marked difficulty in carrying out the activities of day-to-day living
  • Hallucinations and delusions; however, some people experiencing grief may have the sensation of seeing or hearing things


The diathesis-stress model is a widely accepted psychological theory (remember, theories are just one way of looking at something) that attempts to explain why some people develop certain disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and major depression. This model is complex and nuanced and a full explanation is well beyond the scope of this article, but even a basic understanding helps us to conceptualize why someone might struggle after experiencing the death of a loved one in a way they’ve never struggled before.

Additionally, the diathesis-stress model helps to explain why some people develop disorders when others do not.  For example, it explains why 10 people could experience a traumatic situation where they are under the same stress, feel the same level of fear, and witness the same horrors; yet only two people go on to develop PTSD, 1 person develops depression and the other 7 people are, to varying degrees, able to cope with and integrate the experience.

Basically, the model asserts that some people have a genetic predisposition to develop disorders like depression, anxiety and PTSD.  Even though we all may  have some level of vulnerability to certain disorders, having this genetic trait makes you more vulnerable than others.  It does not guarantee that you will develop a disorder, but it puts you at risk especially when combined with other environmental influences.

By environmental influences, we mean factors such as early life experiences, social support, and exposure to other stressors.  Some environmental influences can have a protective effect, these are things such as having a strong social network of support, high self-esteem, and early life experiences that foster a sense of control, security, predictability, and the ability to cope with emotional pain.  Having a good amount of these experiences might safeguard someone with a genetic vulnerability from developing a psychological disorder.

On the other hand, some circumstances can have an opposite negative effect, such as having limited social support, low self-esteem, life experiences that create the sense that events are out of one’s control, unpredictable, and which foster avoidance.  Having one or more of these types of experiences might come together to create a second psychological vulnerability for developing psychological disorder (i.e. it makes things worse).

Despite having genetic and psychological vulnerabilities, a person still might not develop depression, anxiety or PTSD unless something happens to trigger it.  This is where the ‘stress’ in the diathesis-stress model comes in.  Stressors might include a whole slew of experiences, but most relevant to our conversation is – you guessed it – the death of a loved one or other significant loss.  This might explain why those who never had major depression, debilitating anxiety, or even substance use disorder before the death of a loved one might all of a sudden find themselves unable to get out of bed, obsessively worrying, panicking, or in the throws of addiction afterwards.

As I said earlier, sometimes it’s hard to see where grief ends and a true disorder begins. In fact, there is even a popular school of thought that says grief sometimes is a disorder in and of itself.   What the diathesis-stress model helps us to understand is that sometimes the events surrounding the death of a loved one could lead to both grief and psychological disorders such as PTSD, depression or anxiety disorders simultaneously.

It’s important to remember, grief can result in normal responses that feel completely foreign and distressing to the person who’s experiencing them.  What feels abnormal to you, may just be the result of the intense emotions and stress associated with the death of someone you love.  That being said if you’re experiencing emotions, behaviors, and thoughts which are distressing and limit your ability to engage in your daily function for a prolonged amount of time, it never hurts to talk to a mental health professional (again, preferably a licensed clinician with training in grief and bereavement).

52. Grief is a single emotion.

53. Once someone dies, you can no longer have a relationship with them.

54.  When someone dies you will always feel their presence if you are attuned to it.

55.  If you have faith in God it will lessen your grief.

56. Grief is, ultimately, always a transformative and positive experience that will eventually make you a better person.

Okay, this one is not me being a negative Nancy.  Sometimes grief really is positive and transformative and we can reflect on all the ways it has made us a better person.  That is a wonderful and amazing thing when it happens.    That said, not everyone finds or embraces transformation in grief.

57. You cannot grieve someone who is still alive.

58. People like faith leaders, teachers, doctors and counselors all have training in grief and understand what you’re going through.

Ahhh how we wish this were true.  Sadly, many professions listed above require NO formal training in grief!  None.  Zero. Zip.  Doctors?  Nope, not required. Counselors?  Unless they are specializing in grief, usually not required for them either.  Scary, we know!

59.  If you avoid grief and keep a stiff upper lip, it will eventually go away.

60.  If a widow or widower has photographs of their late husband or wife up around the house it means they aren’t ready to get involved in a new relationship.

61.  When kids are involved, it’s important to stay strong and focus all your attention on their grief.

62.  God never gives us more than we can handle

63.  After a death, you will always feel a rush of strong emotions.  

64.  Eventually you will stop noticing and/or being affected by grief triggers.

Alright, I did my best to shoehorn a lot of the common myths in this list, but we all know we missed some.  
Also: I did a video based on own thoughts about myths and misconceptions of grief and loss along with some pet peeves. I chosen only 5 get you all started and you can watch it here:

Time to debunk some of these myths and misconceptions along with the pet peeves! Are you ready?

Leave a comment below to keep the list going with your contributions! 


[Collab] Introducing Diamond from DiamondInTheRough (Spina Bifida)

Today, as a special guest to talk about her condition is Diamond from DiamondInTheRough which you can see her channel by visiting here: https://www.youtube.com/user/DiamondT…. I would like to thank her for coming onto my channel and that she will be talking more about her condition of Spina Bifida to us today. If you like this video, be sure to let me know if you’re interested in collabing with me to raise awareness and educate others about your condition. #collab #introducingdiamondintherough #spinabifida #spinabifidaawareness

Employment Issues & Struggles that Autistic Adults Faces

As we know that there are many times that when it comes to applying for jobs that it can be really difficult for not just us autistic adults after finishing our schooling. This can happen to anyone that has any struggles as am sure that neurotypicals do too. Am I right?

Over 80% of autistic adults are unemployed. And, there is only a small percentage of us working full-time or part-time, casual or other job types that you can think of. You maybe questioning to yourselves, why is this?
There are several reasons why we autistic adults struggle with jobs. The lack of education, lack of awareness and acceptance on autism makes it difficult in our everyday life. Many of us autistics see the world in black and white, sometimes we misread body language and other perspectives. It’s like people are speaking a foreign language that we don’t know. The way others teach us is not how we learn, and it’s very difficult to thrive, learn and to grow in a world we don’t fully understand. Most of us struggle with adulting. Let’s be real. You want to know the truth, I know I sure as hell do. A few people in my life has come in to child shame me for it all the time. They should know to not forever shame me and guilt me over traits I have tied to a disorder that I never wanted in the first place. Instead of listening to me and trying to understand my perspective, many of them brushes it off as real lame ‘excuses.’ Everyone pulls the “excuse card”, or as some may call it a “jail free” card because they don’t want to understand or see what our world is like in our eyes.

Let me tell you something that it’s not that we cannot do the job or even want to do the job or some form specific task to do in the first place, hell no far from it. I know a non-aspie will say ‘well if anyone can’t do the job, of course, they will be fired.’ In fact, we are more than qualified or even skilled for the job. It’s just a matter of fact, our differences aren’t accepted by the neurotypicals and that we have to be doing it to a set standard or some form of expectations from the world of the NeuroTypicals. Most of us autistics when that happens will then try to blend in or mask our feelings and thoughts, just to fit in and blend in to society. The workforce that we are working for is running on neurotypical standards and we are not like the neurotypicals. We are far from it! As I said that we are wired differently and that we work on a different operating system to the neurotypicals. Yes, we are all different and unique. We all have gifts and talents to share with the world yet it’s up to us how we should go about it and how we should be treated also can come into affect.
Some of the key points made will vary from person to person who is autistic or not. Not all autistics will be the same when they have their personal struggles with these but some do to an extent. How we handle our everyday struggles is truly up to us though in the long run based on the choices that we make at the end of the day- good or bad as it will bring consequences to it.

There are several reasons why job hunting is a challenge for autistics and for many others. But, before I go on here I want to make it clear that this is all about how the autistics feel through the way of trying to work in a neurotypical world of expectations, rules and their norms. There is no set reason why we struggle with job searches, landing a job and keeping it. I am just pointing out the most common reasons. If you want, you can comment on your struggles with employment that I did not talk about on this blog. The issues from some personal responses from autistics that are as follows from a survey that was made:

Below are some other reasons to some employment issues that autistics faces and struggles with and they are as follows:
  1. The Application Process!
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If you are looking for a job, the first step in the process is you have to apply. You cannot just walk in and ask for a job like the movies. Hell, would it be great if we could be able to have the courage to still do this today to meet and greet with the employer?

Application screening is the first struggle for autistic adults. Most applications have a questionnaire where it gives you a scenario and you have to pick the best answer. I believe also when it comes down to the application screening process with the questionnaires that they give you that it’s not always accurate. I shared more about this in one of my videos which you can watch here titled Job Hunting with Disabilities: https://www.youtube.com/watch v=VQkxNIwJABo&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=9

Yet, let met share a bit more to how I feel about this. You see, an autistic person or just anyone may misunderstand as to how the assessment will determine if they’re right for the job. For example, it avoids picking X too often. The applicant may not know how to answer the questions or know what the question is asking. They will not even consider you if you do not pass the questionnaire. I applied for a job a few years ago to work at a gym to clean their equipment and doing database and with their application when I applied had the questionnaire. With this questionnaire, when I applied had a series of questions to answer about who you are as a person like your traits, your personality and so on and forth. It even said I had to pass to be considered for the job. I did not know how to answer most of the questions, I did not pass the assessment, therefore, they did not want me. I felt that I was being way too open about myself and I felt that how can the database with these questionnaires determine that this is the right person for the job. If that’s the case, I can’t get hired at places that do assessments on their applications. More than likely most stores do these sort of tests. Remember, neurotypicals don’t have the issues that we have.

Another video I wish to add in here is when I shared about a topic called: AS & Employment//Personality Profiles/ Are they Keeping us from Interviews or Jobs?
Th e link to this is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBqEysDm-O4&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=11

I have watched a video on YouTube a series called “Employable Me” where it featured someone on the autism spectrum who struggled on an assessment they need to take to be considered for the job, they did not pass because of a question they could not understand. It feels like most jobs are made for the neurotypicals and not us.
One thing that was a huge issue for me is all applications ask for your work history. The person may not know what to put down if they have never had a job. I just didn’t know what to put on the work history. Yes, some parts of my CV has got some spaces in between many years of which I haven’t worked for a time and that there is a lot of reasons to why this is which I will not disclose here. Most applications require you to have references, however, the applicant may not have any friends to put down. The person may not have anyone reliable that they can put as a reference. The job will call whoever you put down so the applicant can’t just put down anyone or make someone up and add a random number. You have to tell them you’re adding them for a reference. If they’re busy, they may not be free if the job calls them.

Be sure when it comes to job seeking when you have a disability, know your rights, know the laws and be sure to know what is at stake when applying. Be prepared for anything that may happen!

Some of the other videos that you can watch on my channel as series is based on why you should think about hiring an autistic and they are as follows:
* Why should you (the employer) hire someone with Autism and the Benefits – the link to this is:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXygQhWbbpU&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=37
* HIRING AUTISTICS in WORKPLACE/TIME FOR A CHANGE – the link to this is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8knIej9mUk&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=47

2. Resume Screening 
I have recently been following some autism pages and one page posted a graphic about discrimination against us in the workplace. There are other issues that were discussed in my video called “Aspergers & Employment- Common Issues at Work” which you can watch here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZJ1WTV8vxE&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=49

The graphics mention how gaps in employment or if the person had several jobs that were only held for a short time can cast bad judgment on us. Gaps in employment probably refer to the person’s struggle with finding a job maybe after quitting a job that didn’t work out. The several jobs refer to how we struggle to hold down a job and is fired after X amount of time. Most likely if the interviewer/manager sees the person had 10 jobs but only had them for a month or less, this makes the interviewer think the person wasn’t fit for the jobs. That person is qualified to the tee for the job. They were fired because their differences weren’t accepted or for other reasons. For instance, my mom refuses to accept that I need a time frame and direct instructions to better understand when I need to be ready or how something needs to be done. If you just say ‘get up early,’ that tells me nothing. How early? 7am? 8am? 9am?  As autistics need more information given to us so that we can be able to do the job for you and get ready for our day. As this comes into the territory for us to have a schedule in place as well as you communicating to us the right way. Some autistics will say it how it is.

3. The environment

I’ve mentioned that the setting of the job can play a big role in our ability to perform the job. People with Autism Spectrum Disorders have many different types of sensory issues. These can vary from person to person, however. Some are sensitive to light, cold, hot, unwanted physical contact, etc. If the jobs have a lot of people, it’s possible these sensory issues will be a problem. Take some supermarkets or retail stores or restaurants , it’s just too busy and fast-paced for me to work at yet I am willing to try and give a go if given the chance to work in one of these places. I know that there will be too many people, too many things happening to be able to focus on the job. It would be possible for me to focus on a job and there is a kid screaming around me as I am sure that with the skills or experience that I have that I can cope or deal with it and that I have the patience to do so. Not all of us can afford noise-canceling headphones. I feel some autism pages should have a giveaway for noise-canceling headphones or if the aspie has a YouTube channel/ blog, the page should give them the headphones for free in exchange for a review/mentioning the headphones. In my opinion, retails jobs or any job dealing with the public is not for some of us autistics not all. This is just my 2 cents. Everyone is different.  Jobs that care about efficiency I feel is not for us. We do struggle on the job for not being fast enough for the employers. 

4. Workplace Bullying

There are many different types and or forms of bullying and it can happen anywhere. Yet, this illustration is showing you that this young girl is getting bullied on a cellphone with the peers behind her.

Due to our social differences as an autistic, we are usually the targets for bullying along with many other people with different conditions. In fact, we have issues with bullying in school by kids and adults. I got bullied for being different and I just need an alternative method. I would get called names by the neurotypicals for not understanding their language. When if you explained it in a different text, I would have had that light bulb over the head moment. Kids I had never seen before hated me all of a sudden. I wasn’t given a chance at all because these kids listened to what people told them about me.

We can be bullied to quitting the job. Employers can even harass us. Someone posted in a group that their boss made a snarky mark about their autism. They could not quit because they had no other way to pay their bills. No-one, I mean NO ONE should have to be treated badly so they can live. This is why I strongly suggest you create a savings account and put money away to have for back up. This is why I am all for self-employment for autistic adults. Self-employment for anyone really. No one should have to damage their mental health or health all together for a job that doesn’t give a rats hat about them. If you were to drop dead right now, they’d replace you in a week max. 

Some links that you can watch based on workplace bullying series are as follows:
* Autism & Employment series- Workplace Bullying – Basics of Bullying Part 1 – the link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C66VquU6cmo&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=55
* Autism & Employment- Workplace Bullying- Why me? Office Gossip Part 2 – link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA_hKv-axqg&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=56
*Autism & Employment/Tips on dealing with Workplace Bullying- link is:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqBFREN7og8

5. Lack of Communication or being misunderstood

Listening and hearing are two different things when it comes to our communication techniques.
As we know that poor communication can lead to bigger problems wherever we are, if it is at work or even at school. One could be our different communication styles and techniques that we are using on a day to day basis.

When it comes to us autistics, you have to add more context to us when giving commands or explaining something. For instance ‘Ben, needs the tape’ will not cut it. I saw another graphic on Facebook that explains if you just leave one-liners with no context it may seem like a passive statement more than a request. For instance, my mom mentioned helping my uncle in the flea market. She did not provide context, so I just saw it as a train or thought. If I didn’t have anxiety with crowds, helping my uncle at the flea market would be something I could do. She was actually suggesting it and I thought it was just a random thought. If you do not provide context like ‘please take out the garbage in a minute’ we will not think it’s important. Everyone is different, remember that. This can be extremely problematic if the boss were to give us a task but not provide those extra details. Say the boss says ‘Joe needs help in the so and so department,’ if the boss does not say now, at 3 o’clock, etc the employee will not think Joe needs help right away and the boss gets mad that the employee did not help Joe when the boss asked. Is it really a wise idea to put someone prone to hurting themselves or think about hurting themselves when they get yelled at putting them on a job where it’s highly possible is a good idea? This is the icing on the cake as to why I cannot handle the stress and hassle of a job. If we are not fast enough they yell at us which just adds fuel to the fire.

6. Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination can occur at any time of the day and for a lot of reasons and that they are based on our race, gender, sexuality and more. Yet, we need to know what to do when this happens to us.

Closed-minded employers can also make the persons stay at the job short, or stop them in their tracks. The aspie tells their employer about their autism to request the accommodations that they need to function. In most cases, the aspie is fired upon revealing their autism. It does sound like a personal attack because the worker has autism. In other cases, the person is harassed and they quit as a result. I was on Reddit and a person posted that they were fired for being autistic. I feel it’s more of their autism habits being read the wrong way, being found annoying by other workers and the boss fires the employee due to too many complaints/reports. When someone says they were fired for being X, they are probably saying the traits tied to their disorder was seen the wrong way.
Not only autistic people have this problem. People with certain disorders I saw an article where a Chrone’s patient who worked for Amazon got fired because of his illness. This was due to his frequent restroom trips. This is just to show when people say they lost their job due to their disorder, they were punished for traits caused by the disorder that they can not control.

7. Not working fast enough

As we know that no matter what conditions we have that sometimes we work better with no pressure or time constraints yet sometimes some of us do have that struggle to keep up with the demands at work. I believe that we should be able to still work in the environment that we are in as I believe that in some jobs we should be able to take our time and feel that we autistics especially if we take our time and are absorbed in our work we can get the work done more efficiently. The employee not being fast enough for the employer can also make keeping the job hard for many people. Which is why we need jobs where people with Autism Spectrum Disorders can go at their own pace without being bashed for ‘moving too slow.’ Most jobs care more about efficiency than quality. Which is a messed up system. Customers can also complain about you not moving fast enough. That rules out fast-food for us (or me at least) since you need to be quick. Hence what it’s called FAST food. Some of us can handle fast-food, some can’t. I feel jobs that care about efficiency are not for some of us. I feel jobs that care about quality are for us. me personally, I rather someone take 2 hours to clean my room and it’s neat than for them to rush and do it in 20 minutes and it’s just as messy as when the person started. Not everyone thinks like that.

8. Can’t get passed the interview stage

Waiting game is on for us all to see who will get the job we applied for!
Time for some questions to answer during the interview.

For many of us not just autistics will find this as a struggle to try and get to an interview after applying for their dream job. Why do we struggle with interviews? We all get nervous and anxious when we do go through this stage of employment. Some of us autistics will get read wrong due to us being anxious, not knowing what to say and so on.
Well, there are several reasons why. The person can take the questions too literally. The question ‘tell me about yourself’ could be the reason why we struggle with the interview. This question most likely is, to sum up, your previous employment or how you feel you fit the job. The person will think the tell me about yourself question is, to sum up, some facts about them like where they’re from. When a friend wants you to tell them about yourself, they want to know some interesting things about you. We take things literally, therefore, we may answer the questions too literally.. It takes us a bit to process and understand your question. If the interviewer sees the person taking too long to answer the questions, this can count against them. Sometimes anxiety gets to the person and it causes them to mess up the interview. Sometimes an unexpected question can pop up and the person does not know how to answer it. The interviewer will not know the interviewee has autism, therefore the interviewee’s behavior will likely be read as they are not interested in the job. I know this is rich coming from someone who has never had a job due to autism, you have to think about how your behavior can be read. We lack the skills to know how someone may read our body language, voice tone, etc. Of course, if the person is not aware of how their body language, voice tone, etc is being read, this can complicate things.

Some of the other responses to why autistics find it a struggle for interviews are based on some of the autistics that responded by a survey being asked:

A video you can watch based on this is called Job Seeking and Interviews and the link to this is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abaNnGKYZG8&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=10 and another video to consider is called: Aspergers & Employment/Shall I disclose my Aspergers?
the link to this one is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugEtwC9iZRU&list=PLD1nCoeovTZ4qAdWVBrLu9BOZrJAnwoG_&index=50

9. Can’t keep a job down


Why is it that we autistics can’t keep a job?  It’s NOT because we can’t do the job, it’s because our differences are not accepted. It’s because of the employers’ or co-workers’ attitude towards us. The boss’s method of learning the job is too difficult for you to understand. You need to see someone do the action to better understand the job, depending on the job. However, there may not always be an option to have someone demonstrate the job for you to understand. You may need more clarity on the tasks you are given. We need a time-frame when giving a request, otherwise, we will think it’s not important. The boss does not do this when he/she gives you your assignment(s). The person does not do the job the way the boss wanted to and the boss gets mad. You’re reprimanded for taking too long to understand the job, it’s not your fault you need a different method or take longer on some things than everyone else. Or you’re yelled at for not doing the job the way the boss wanted you to do it due to missing details as to how the job needed to be done.

Again, some responses to some parts of the survey attached here to show the responses from the autistics.

End result, here is that the reason to why they can’t hold a job down or keep a job is due to having an autistic burnout or meltdown.

End note: I have mentioned a few solutions to these with giving you all some tips that may come handy if you are working with an autistic. We need to work together and be patient and allow us to show you what we can do with our talents and more. I am asking you to help us. Some of us struggle to find or hold down jobs. Think about how happy we will be that you decided to make it work for us when no one else did. For example: think about it for a second, solo/small game developers don’t have the tools that larger companies have, especially when it comes to promotion. Simply hiring someone to write articles promoting your game can really help you. Think about it, solo/small game developers don’t have the tools that larger companies have, especially when it comes to promotion. Simply hiring someone to write articles promoting your game can really help you.
So, what I am asking you all is to help us. Some of us struggle to find or hold down jobs. Think about how happy we will be that you decided to make it work for us when no one else did.