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Archive for the ‘Grief and Loss’ Category

How to Forgive

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

In my business it’s pretty common to hear “I forgave her but I’m never going to forget,” or, “I’m a [insert religion of choice] and so I HAVE to forgive him/her.” My favorite, “Forgive your brother right now!” is one I heard a lot growing up.

When an offense occurs in a relationship the ‘Receiver’ (the one who was offended or impacted by the thing) will probably expect an apology from the ‘Actor’ (the one who did the thing). If the ‘Actor’ has read my blog on what makes a good apology, then he will know how to be more than just an apologizer. He will be a Rebuilder/Amends-Maker. A Rebuilder not only apologizes, he makes a conscious, visible effort to change. If he has not read my blog, then he may resort to justifying his actions, blaming situations outside of himself, blaming the Receiver, or minimizing the impact of his actions by saying things like, “I’ve been getting a lot better at quitting this behavior,” or, “I only hit you once this time!” or “If we had sex more often I wouldn’t cheat!”

This blog is about forgiveness. Forgiving the apologizer who tries to be a Rebuilder or Amends-Maker. Forgiving an Actor who justifies, minimizes, blames the receiver, or never apologizes in the first place. Yes, this blog is about how to forgive anyone easily. Because here’s the thing: Forgiveness isn’t a process or an event.


When you get stung by a bee, you get angry and hurt and you may even kill the bee. In retrospect, you may say to yourself something like, “I hope I never get stung again,” and “well that’s what bees do.” From that day forward you may run away from bees, swat bees, or spray bees with insecticide (please don’t do that, bees are endangered), but you will never say “I wonder if I should keep that bee as a pet,” or “I think I’ll start a beehive in the middle of my kitchen.” Why? Because you learned that a bee sting hurts and distance from a bee keeps you both safe, comfortable, and alive.

This is acceptance. This is forgiveness.

Forgiveness/AWAKENING begins by recognizing the nature of the person who offended you, then choosing to draw near or create distance, and validating the feelings that follow.


Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Too many of us don’t believe our friends, family, and lovers when they show us who they are the first time. When they cheat on the relationship, assault us physically and emotionally, betray us again and again, we choose to believe our own rose-colored glasses that tell us who we wish they would be. We feel anger rise up in us and we attack or retreat in the battle with the offender, but we refuse to let ourselves see them for who they are trying so desperately to show us they are.

So we go back. And we fight. And we run away. And we come back.

Recognizing the humanity in the offender is one of the deepest forms of love and respect we can offer. Recognizing that the offender will only change when he/she is ready and ending the battle to change him or her is life-changing. Letting go of ‘what could be’ and ‘what I want’ and surrendering to the free-fall of what is, can be terrifying. But it is in that moment of surrender, that we can choose.

Draw near or create distance

We can choose to draw near the offender. We can ask them to come to counseling. We can offer resources like rehab or residential treatment. We can let them know we are in this with them as long as there is positive movement toward relationship goals.

Or we can choose to distance from the offender. We can realize that we have been stung too many times. We can decide our health and comfort and safety are important too and seek to save ourselves. And finally, we can decide to let our offender remain who they choose to be without interference from us.

Validate the feelings that follow

If our offender chooses to unite with us and work on the relationship with a third party and become a rebuilder then we will validate our feelings of joy because we may yet get to experience intimacy. We will validate feelings of anger because after all, why didn’t they change before now? We will validate feelings of fear because what if they go back to their old ways? And finally, we will validate feelings of anxiousness as we watch our offender become someone who is open and healed, someone we’ve never met before.

If our offender chooses to sting again, then we will validate our grief. Shock, anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance, will all need their turn in our consciousness. If we try to run back and put the beehive back in our kitchen, then our reliable offender will be sure to sting again and again. They will do this to remind us they are not a chunk of clay to be molded into the next comfort object; that they are who they are and they will change on their terms. So eventually, as our AWAKENING progresses, we will move through the stages of grief and understand that our offender has been trying to show us who they are for a long, long time.

Forgiveness is the moment when we AWAKEN to who our offender is and not who we wish they would be. When we save ourselves and allow the grief free reign over our consciousness and our decisions.

The bee, after all, is not bad. She is only a bee.


The Life Cycle: from Birth to Funerals

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Life cycle events between birth and death are specific to families and cultures. What happens on the first day of school? What do families do to celebrate weddings or graduations? These are good questions to ask as you observe the rituals that are an integral part of your life and perhaps take the opportunity to create meaningful ones that your family will cherish.

Starting with the birth of a baby, common birth rituals in some cultures to have baby showers, baptisms, christenings, etc. Some families insist the new child be named after a father, mother, grandparent, etc. While many couples consider it a family honor or tradition to carry on this naming process other couples pick trendy names for their children. The birth of the child can be looked upon as a private affair, or in some cultures, a family reunion. When we had our first child, only my husband and I were at the hospital, but in the adjoining room, a young woman of a different culture had at least 20 people with her.

Going all the way to the other end of the life cycle to funeral traditions we see how cultures deal with grief and death. Some cultures have expectations of stoicism while others do not hesitate to wail out loud. When my husband served in Vietnam, he took several pictures of Vietnamese funerals. In these pictures, all participants wore white or bright colors, and the body was placed on a wagon with bright objects on top of it. In the Jewish faith, the bodies are not viewed for long periods of time. In Jewish funerals the body is buried quickly.

There are as many differences of expressing birth and death, joy and grief, within cultures as there are between cultures. Examine your own family traditions and rituals and if you decide they are lacking, create a new one of your very own.

Compassion Fatigue: Seeking a Caregiver Support Group and PTSD Support

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

What does a caregiver have in common with a soldier, firefighter, and doctor? Compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue (CF) stems from the daily sustained amount of compassion and energy required when caring for an individual with special needs or a chronic health condition.

Symptoms of CF can be similar to the signs of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and may erupt as caregivers begin to absorb pain from the individuals they are caring for. Mental health symptoms such as anger, fatigue, depression, anxiety, loss of joy, and hopelessness are common. This is detrimental to both parties and ultimately deteriorates the quality of care being provided. Ultimately the caregivers may need the same kind of PTSD support.

We know self-care benefits caregivers but many times caregivers neglect their health and ignore the early warning signs of CF. As they push themselves to maintain the strength to forever care for their loved one, a superhuman mentality prevails and self care takes a backseat. This may lead not only to the symptoms of CF but also relationships issues.

As the mother of a young child with special needs, I know first-hand self care is critical in maintaining longevity as a caretaker. The first step is awareness. If you are uninformed about CF you may not understand the behaviors you must change and the ramifications if you do not. The second step is to re-train your thoughts about self-care. It is not selfish to refuel yourself as you care for your child. Think about the flight attendant telling you to put your oxygen mask on first – if you are not OK you cannot help your child.

The third step is to retrain your behavior as you retrain your thoughts. Simply stated one must exercise, connect with other grown-ups, talk, cry, journal, meditate, dance, eat healthy, sing, take a warm bath, pick flowers, doodle, pray, and most importantly, laugh out loud. A caregiver support group may be a good outlet for sharing your experience with others. If you find you are doing these things and not gaining any pleasure or benefit, talking with a professional can help.

Stages of Grief and Loss Counseling Techniques: Ritual in the Grief Cycle

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Researchers (Holmes and Rahe, 1967 ) have studied grief cycle processes and assigned stress levels to items. Loss of a spouse and loss of a child are the highest stress levels. Others that we may not often think about are losses that occur with moving, changing schools, financial issues, and health problems.

We cannot generalize about the grief cycle or expect everyone to process through stages of grief and loss in the same way. For example, loss of a spouse is rated the highest for causing stress, but consider it from different perspectives. A spouse who dies suddenly may cause more of a loss than the spouse who has been ill for some time. There is no road map for grief, and each loss must be examined aside from any others. Couples may experience the same loss, but they may grieve very differently. When one spouse does not understand the grieving process of the other, marital problems can surface.  Different grief and loss counseling techniques are often utilized by therapists to be sensitive to the varying needs of couples going through the grief cycle together.

Grief and loss counseling techniques for couples and families can often find a unifying strength in rituals. Rituals are such an important part of our lives. We often take them for granted and do not even realize that we have rituals, or recognize how they impact our lives. This is also true of rituals surrounding death. Every culture approaches death differently, and every family within those cultures may have its own way of experiencing death. We can make statements and generalize to cultures and groups and how they deal with death and how they ritualistically process stages of grief and loss, but we know many divert from the expectations.

An example of a ritualistic approach to addressing stages of grief and loss is the NAMES Project. The NAMES Project began as a way to affirm the life of every man, woman, and child who had died of AIDS. It was a healing grief cycle ritual where people added squares to a quilt, each square representing a person who had died.

Dr. Judy DeTrude is licensed in Texas as a Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and is an Authorized Supervisor for each of the licenses.


Holmes and Rahe ( August,1967). Social readjustment rating scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11(2).

Walsh, F. and McGoldrick, M. (2004). Living beyond loss: Death in the family.W.W. Norton & Company: N.Y.

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