burnout

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking The Stress Cycle

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

“The problem is not that we aren’t trying. The problem isn’t even that we don’t know how. The problem is the world has turned “wellness” into yet another goal everyone “should” strive for, but only people with time and money and nannies and yachts and Oprah’s phone number can actually achieve.”

Sometimes a book comes along at the exact right time in your life. Sometimes, that’s a book you probably should have read three degrees ago. This book is exactly that for me. It provided a brand-new way of looking at stress in my life by separating stress from stressors. They write:

Dealing with your stress is a separate process from dealing with the things that cause your stress. To deal with your stress, you have to complete the cycle…Stressors are what activate the stress response in your body. They can be anything you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, or imagine could do you harm. There are external stressors: work, money, family, time, cultural norms and expectations, experiences of discrimination, and so on. And there are less tangible, internal stressors: self-criticism, body image, identity, memories, and The Future. In different ways and to different degrees, all of these things may be interpreted by your body as potential threats.”

A failure to go through and resolve the stress cycle can result in burnout, which was “first coined as a technical term by Herbert Freudenberger in 1975. ‘Burnout’ was defined by three components: 1. emotional exhaustion—the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long; 2. depersonalization—the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and 3. decreased sense of accomplishment—an unconquerable sense of futility: feeling that nothing you do makes any difference.”

If we’ve known about burnout for so long, how is it that we’re just now figuring out how to fix it?

This is not quite a rhetorical question. The answer is: Because it’s hard. If everyone knew how to combat burnout, we would all be doing it! (And the monetized “experience of self-care” that’s sold by the capitalist machine will go away, but that’s for another time…) Part of the problem is that we’ve been looking at stress the wrong way. “The good news is that stress is not the problem. The problem is that the strategies that deal with stressors have almost no relationship to the strategies that deal with the physiological reactions our bodies have to those stressors. To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.”

To get un-stuck, the Nagoskis’ write, we must move. Run, dance, kickbox, tense and release muscles, and, most importantly, breathe. The book has other great tips, as well as a way to plan out all of the options you have for completing the stress cycle.

So the real question is: How are you completing the stress cycle today?

family estrangement

Things We Don’t Talk About: Family Estrangement & Cutoff

Content note: This post contains mention of childhood abuse and trauma. Please exercise discretion if this is something that may be triggering or upsetting.

This is part of a continuing series of “Things we don’t talk about,” also known as “Why people are in therapy” and “the elephant in the room.” While many therapists work with people who are estranged from family members. Not as many will acknowledge that there are times and events that make it appropriate to limit or even cut off contact with a family member. With more frequency, I am discussing and hearing about adult children who have experienced this with a parent. More often than not, the estrangement comes after years of verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. I often find myself asking the critical question: If you were not related to this person, would you continue to have a relationship with them?

I’m very lucky to have the parents that I have. I would still be friends with them even if I wasn’t related to them. Their parenting wasn’t perfect (no one’s is!). But they learned from their mistakes and tried to repair any tears that happened in our relationship over the years. They set appropriate limits with me and my sister, held us accountable when we broke rules, and raised us with the knowledge that we were loved and cared for.

It is appropriate to set boundaries.

Remember, boundaries are not for the other person! They are for the person setting the boundary, in order to draw the line and set a healthy limit on what is (and isn’t) acceptable. Sometimes cutting off contact is the healthiest thing to do. However, there’s a narrative in our culture that says that children should always love and be connected to their parents. When some of my clients have shared with friends that they don’t speak to their parent(s), they hear the old saying: Blood is thicker than water.

That phrase is often used to force someone to continue a relationship that not only isn’t healthy, but is actively harmful. But that’s not the whole saying. The whole saying is: The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Translation: the promises you make to people are more vital than a biological tie. With the help of a supportive therapist, you can start to learn your appropriate boundaries and work on setting them. When people violate those boundaries, they’re showing you who their covenant is with—and it’s not you.

out of the darkness

Out of the Darkness

Hank Buckwalter, his wife, Chelsea, and Rommie and I participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk this past weekend at Waterfront Park.

It can be emotionally overwhelming to be in a gathering of people that are celebrating the lives and passing of their loved ones. I listened as the “Honor Beads” were given to the family members and friends of those who had taken their lives. They celebrated these beautiful humans that saw only one solution to the pain they were experiencing.

I lost a friend of 47 years this year to suicide. He was in a lot of pain. At his memorial service, an acquaintance commented, “I can’t believe Jeff took his own life.” I forgive him for his insensitivity. As much as I miss Jeff, our laughs, our High School pranks, our wonderful conversations on his deck near Hikes Point, I understand why he took his own life. He was in pain.

I struggle with the legality and morality of suicide.  Having said that, I will do everything in my clinical and personal power to prevent others from taking their own lives.

People need hope and when they lose hope

 they see very few solutions to their problems.

I wrote a blog a year ago about hope. Here is what I said:

People come to therapy because they have feelings of hopelessness. As a young therapist, I was inspired by Moltmann’s admonition, to be an instrument of hope. At the very heart of therapy is the goal of helping people find hope, because without it they cannot live. I believe that hopeful people inspire hopefulness in others. A hopeful therapist has many tools and strategies for helping people, but most important they inspire hopefulness. I believe they infect people with their hopefulness. They engage in a Therapy of Hope.

If you have thoughts of suicide, even fleeting thoughts, contact a therapist. We have included the suicide hotline number on our website. Call it and make an appointment. In Kentucky, all therapists are required to take a workshop every three years on suicide prevention. Make the call.

After the walk this past Saturday, Hank and Chelsea, and Rommie and I went to First Watch and had breakfast together. We reverently celebrated life.

Ten Things Therapists Wish People Knew About Therapy

1. We don’t talk about you to anyone else.

Whether you see a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Licensed Professional Counselor, or a Licensed Psychologist, we are all held to a high standard of confidentiality by our respective professional organizations. If we were to talk about you to anyone outside the “cone of silence” (meaning outside the supervisor-supervisee relationship), we could be brought up on professional charges and have our licenses stripped by our state boards.

2. We’re not going to ‘fix your kid.’

One of the hardest things about working with children and adolescents, from a therapist point of view, is that parents must realize that change has to happen to the entire family system. The analogy is a little crass, but here it goes: Fixing just one family member, whether parent or child, is like washing just one piece of laundry, and then being surprised when it smells bad after being tossed back in with unwashed laundry.

3. We’re not going to arbitrate your arguments (or tell your partner that they’re wrong and you’re right).

When doing couples therapy, I make it very clear that I’m not on one partner or the other’s side. I’m on the side of your relationship, until you tell me otherwise. (Then we’re working on a new goal.) I’ve often told couples that they can argue at home—therapy is a place for them to learn how to do things differently.

4. There are times when therapy isn’t appropriate.

If there is domestic violence between the couple or ongoing abuse in the family, it isn’t appropriate to provide therapy services to the unit. (It is possible, however, for individuals in those situations to receive therapy services.)

5. Therapists go to therapy.

Some training programs actually require therapists-in-training to see their own therapist. As a rule, therapists of all varieties view mental health checkups as being just as vital as physical health checkups, if not more so. With the things that we see and hear, if we didn’t engage in appropriate mental health self-care, most would leave the profession within a few years.

6. We’re affected by your stories, even when we don’t show it.

As a helping professional, I wouldn’t still be in the business if I didn’t genuinely care about people’s well-being. I’ve cried with some clients, and I’ve cried after some clients have left. Some of the stories that I’ve heard of unimaginable heartbreak and horrific abuse have also included some of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit. It’s this balance that keeps me doing the work.

7. Therapy is hard.

If you’re “doing therapy” to its fullest potential, therapy (and your therapist) will challenge you, make you uncomfortable, and stretch you toward a life worth living. If you believe that therapy is a passive experience, or that all the work of therapy happens in the therapy room (not outside in your real life), you are probably going to be disappointed in the results you see.

8. Not all therapists are the same.

Much of the research about the effectiveness of therapy is now showing that it’s not necessarily the background, credentials, methodology, or training of a therapist that makes the difference—it’s the connection between the therapist and the client. It’s hard to be vulnerable and make progress with someone you don’t feel safe with, or that you don’t feel understands you in a pivotal way. That being said, just because you didn’t make the progress you wanted with one therapist doesn’t mean that therapy isn’t for you—it means that you may just not have found the therapist for you.

9. Most therapists aren’t pro or anti-medication.

I view medication and therapy a lot like buying a house. The house is therapy, but medication is the funding. Can you get an adequate house with so-so funding? Sure. But could you get your dream house with access to all the funding you need? Similarly, you can have Scrooge McDuck piles of money, but if you can’t find the right house, it’s not going to get you anywhere.

10. Change is possible.

The philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesos asserted that “Change is the only constant in life.” Without change, we as individuals and as a species would cease to exist. No matter how overwhelming your problems feel, change is possible!

Five Steps to Recharging Your Professional and Personal Lives

A guest blog by Life & Career Coach Julie Morris

We all want success in our professional lives, but we need the right balance to avoid burning out. That may mean spending more time with loved ones or pulling back from commitments. By making adjustments, you can give yourself solid foundations to keep on thriving.

Recognize Your Stressors

One of the first steps to a healthier relationship with work is knowing your stressors and having techniques to manage them. Take a moment to think about your stress levels and how you react to specific triggers, like having an upset stomach or becoming irritable. Are you weighed down by financial issues, or have you taken on extra responsibilities to impress or support colleagues? Is there tension with someone, or do you feel like you have few opportunities for “you time”? Consider writing a journal to help you identify triggers, and process what you are facing. By being aware of stressors, you can prepare the way forward to dealing with them.

Allow Yourself Breaks

Do you find yourself still working at home, answering emails, or taking on a backlog of household chores? It adds up, and that can not only impact your career but cause stress and exhaust your whole being. So, make home your sanctuary, somewhere you can relax and do things that bring you joy. This might involve bingeing a favorite show or spending time on creative pursuits. To help your efforts, consider delegating chores to others, like hiring an interior cleaning service. After all, in Louisville, it will set you back by only $119 to 231 on average, yet the benefits could ultimately be priceless. Use these services as an opportunity to let yourself have moments to yourself without feeling guilty. Remember, you are still productive, but to truly thrive, you need to recuperate and recover.

Get Sleep

The benefits of being well-rested are plentiful, from improving focus and memory to strengthening physical health and making you less susceptible to conditions like depression. As a start to improving slumber, try to stick to a regular pattern, including weekends and days off, as this can help you get ready for sleep. Your internal clock can also benefit from keeping your bedroom dark and cool. If you are still restless, check your mattress and pillows to see if they need replacing; you can find a comfortable new mattress for as little as $200. While getting enough sleep is easier said than done, the effort is worthwhile.

Invest in Relationships

Whether at home or work, relationships are important to your well-being and overall success in life. Unfortunately, a busy workload can eat into our time with loved ones, but we can counter this by planning ahead and setting specific dates. This not only lets you adapt your schedule to meet your personal needs, but having something set in stone can also ensure that nothing gets in the way. When it comes to work, don’t hesitate to reach out to colleagues, especially if you feel overwhelmed, and always show a willingness to listen and support them. Likewise, be open with others, and remind yourself that you too deserve support.

Balance Your Schedule

Without a balanced schedule, your well-being cannot improve. You need a routine that works for you, and this may involve cutting back on responsibilities that add to your strain. To aid this, prioritize your personal and work commitments, but be objective with your daily activities. You may be volunteering for an organization or doing overtime to help someone else, but adding to your workload does you no good. This may sound daunting, particularly if you have to say “no” to others, but by maximizing your time, you can boost your focus and energy for all your goals.

You deserve a flourishing professional career and a personal space where you can be happy and thrive. Give yourself a break, get the rest you need, and build a supportive network. With a coordinated strategy, you can re-energize yourself and enjoy success.

Julie Morris

Life and Career Coach 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

What the Organizational Experts Get Wrong

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” “It’s All Too Much,” and “Outer Order, Inner Calm” have been a frequent topic in many circles as of late, especially with the demands for a season two of the Netflix version of Marie Kondo’s empire. All of these books have value, but each takes a slightly different approach to de-cluttering and organization. And all miss some things that may run deeper than just “stuff.”

We all live with a little clutter—it seems to accumulate around us without us even knowing, despite Peter Walsh’s assertion that people don’t “accidentally” accumulate things. As anyone who has moved after living someplace for a significant period of time knows, stuff has a way of accumulating.

In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo takes the approach of thanking our items for their service before relinquishing them, whether they are sent to a resale shop where they can have a new life with a new owner, or sent to recycling, where they can become a new thing, or (least preferably) to the trash, where they can complete their life cycle and return to the earth. However, Peter Walsh writes, “Start with the stuff (as most people are inclined to do when they try to conquer their clutter) and you are pretty much guaranteed failure. Start with the vision you have for the life you want and you have taken the first real step to long-term and remarkable change.”

But what happens when you find yourself completely overwhelmed by the task before you? Hoarding disorder, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, is closely related to anxiety disorders. People who engage in hoarding feel tremendous distress at the idea of getting rid of their things, and may react with anger, sadness, or shutting down when a family member (even a well-meaning one!) attempts to “help” by ridding them of their possessions. (One of my favorite television shows, “Call the Midwife,” had a recent episode in which an elderly woman refused to leave her stuff, even though she was in need of medical care. Her backstory was that she had endured tremendous deprivation during the first World War, then subsequently as a Suffragist in Holloway prison.)

Often, hoarding begins as a symptom of trauma. It is not unusual for therapists who specialize in hoarding disorder to see clients with tremendous trauma who begin accumulating “stuff” as a way to, quite literally, wall themselves off from the scary, outside world. Unfortunately, this accumulated trauma and accumulated stuff have a way of getting between people and disrupting relationships. “Stuff” can cause people to not invite friends or family into their home, can be a contributing factor to separation and divorce, to say nothing of the stress it causes for individuals engaging in it.

If you have a loved one struggling with mental illness, your first thought may not be to seek out therapy for yourself. But a qualified mental health professional may be able to help you deal with the challenges of a loved one’s illness—reach out!

The Illusion of Instagram

Virginia Woolf wrote, “It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality.” So it is with envy of what other people have—or, in the case of social media, what we perceive other people to have. What’s exhibited on Instagram does not always reflect real life, but it’s easy for us all, adults and teens included, to forget that fact.

Whether we realize it or not, we all curate our social media presentations more than the average art exhibition. We present a certain image to the world, whether that’s of “fun loving, free spirit” with festival pics, the “perfect mom” with beautiful family pictures and “candid” shots of kids doing adorable things, or the “happy couple” with hundreds of pictures of canoodling and gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes.

What’s not shown is all the work that goes in to making these lives: the hours spent at work to afford the concert tickets, the organization of family pictures and begging, pleading, and arguing with family members to get them in to the “perfect” outfits, or the work in therapy that it took to get to a place where the couple could comfortably reach out and connect with each other.

What’s also not shown is the illusion of it all. A good friend of mine from a while back had a beautiful Facebook page, filled with pictures of her family, trips she was taking with her husband, and joyful messages of hope and inspiration. Behind the scenes, however, it was a different story: Her marriage was falling apart, she was overwhelmed as a mother, she lost her job, and had returned to destructive habits she’d battled for years. Just because something looks good, doesn’t mean it’s worth envying.

So what do we do with this knowledge? As a social worker, I’m of two minds. One is that we all could be more honest about our struggles. Instead of pretending that everything is perfect when it’s not, connect with people (in real life!) who might be able to make a difference in improving things. The other is that we sometimes need to exercise the option of turning away from our devices to help us with our envy of what (we think) other people have.

Autism Symptoms in Adults

By now, you may have read about the increase in prevalence of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Though ASDs originate in childhood, and are most frequently diagnosed in people under eight years old, there has been an increase in adults seeking out mental health services for difficulties consistent with an autism diagnosis.

Since ASD is diagnosed in three main areas, I will focus on how the areas of social-emotional skills, communication, and relationships can appear as symptoms of autism in someone who isn’t diagnosed with autism as a child.

Social-Emotional Skills

For people with “high-functioning autism” (a term I don’t really like, as it doesn’t really provide all that much information to the individual client or to professionals to indicate where the problems might be), social interactions become more complex as we get older. Behaviors that are acceptable in small children that are not as acceptable in adults include:

  • Inappropriate sharing of information. I remember when my friend’s daughter stood up in a group of adults and announced, “I have new panties!” while lifting her dress over her head. While this is not all that socially acceptable (even in small children), we give preschoolers a little leeway, because they’re still learning the social rules. However, if you find yourself in a meeting about how you shouldn’t discuss your intestinal complaints with your co-workers, it might be an indication that you are having trouble distinguishing what’s appropriate based on the setting.
  • Difficulty regulating emotion. One of the tasks we have to learn as we go out into the wider world is to manage our own emotions. If you find you are having extreme difficulties managing your emotions, or that you’re experiencing emotional extremes that interfere with your life, it might be time to talk to a therapist.

Communication

When I meet with an adult who thinks they might have a missed autism diagnosis, I ask about their development. Often adults who could be diagnosed with autism will have had significant delays in speech, or will have had past interventions in speech therapy. This is a good time to talk about how communication isn’t just what we say to others (the talking part), but it’s also how we take in what others say. This may lead to:

  • Struggling to communicate. Adults who have a missed autism diagnosis will often report that when they are in intensely emotional situations, they cannot communicate. This on its own does not indicate autism, but if any heightened emotional situation, positive or negative, leaves you struggling to make your needs, wants, and preferences known, it could be indicative of an autism diagnosis.
  • Not being able to “read a room.” It’s fairly typical for children to over-estimate an adult or peer’s interest in their preferred topic, whether it’s Pokemon or sharks. However, if you often find people staring at you blankly, or walking away from you while you’re talking, you may be dealing with some social communication impairments. Therapy can assist you with learning the “cheat codes” to knowing when someone is interested in what you’re talking about, knowing how long to talk about something, and learning the give-and-take of a conversation.

Relationships

For many adults on the spectrum, they didn’t realize that their brains were wired a bit differently until they entered into relationships with others. Note that there is a significant difference between “can’t” and “won’t.” There are individuals for whom romantic or sexual relationships are not a priority, or not even desired, and that’s okay. But if someone wants to have romantic and/or sexual relationships with others, but has difficulty making connections, (outside of the typical “being a human is difficult and messy sometimes”) they may benefit from seeing a therapist who specializes in working with adults with ASD. Some challenges in relationships for people on the spectrum include:

  • Difficulty interpreting the actions, thoughts, or feelings of others. As we age, our actions, thoughts, and feelings become more complex. Depending on the setting, someone’s actions may not match their feelings, and unfortunately what people say doesn’t always match what they do. Dealing with this dialectic can be very difficult for people with ASD and can make other parts of the work day more challenging.
  • Difficulties with sensory input. For many people on the spectrum, typical physical interactions with others or their environment can be filled with landmines. It’s not unusual for an adult on the spectrum to have adverse responses to specific sounds or textures, require high levels of sensory input, to be touch-aversive to certain areas of the body (the face is very common), or to have an apparent indifference to pain or temperature extremes. Having an explanation and open communication with a partner can make the difference in the success of a relationship.

But why now?

You may wonder what would lead to an adult having a missed diagnosis. The best way for me to describe how features of autism can become more apparent as we age is by using an internet metaphor. Our brains have a certain bandwidth. Everything we do takes up some of that bandwidth. If we have 100 megabits per second in our processing speed, and processing sensory input (visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory) takes up 30% of your bandwidth (for example), you only have 70% left to work with. That 70% now has to deal with:

  • Work (the actual work, organizing your work, prioritizing, etc.)
  • Social interactions (talking to your supervisors and co-workers about work, engaging in polite chitchat, navigating any office politics or difficult situations)
  • Executive functioning (impulse control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, task initiation, and organization)
  • Fine and gross motor skills

And all the other things our brains do without us even being aware of it! As all of those tasks become more challenging, the bandwidth gets narrower to the point where something has to give. This is often where those difficulties with social-emotional skills, communication, and relationships come in.

Why get a diagnosis?

Receiving a diagnosis of any psychological or neurological disorder can be overwhelming, but it can also be an enormous relief. A great book for adults with attention deficit is entitled “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?” The same could be said for adults receiving an autism diagnosis. Having the explanation for years of experiences can be affirming. It can also mean access to the right kind of help, and that can make all the difference.

What Our Animals Teach Us

My dog, Oliver, will be two on March 20th. (And, yes, he will be having a party, but he’s a party all by himself, every day. In the words of Miss Piggy, he’s “a solo Mardi Gras!”) We’ve had him since he was 2 months old, and I’ve learned a lot about myself, my “parenting” style, my husband and his “parenting” style, as well as our relationship as we’ve trained and loved our Ollie. We also have a black cat named Elphaba (after the Gregory MacGuire book-turned-musical version of the Wicked Witch of the West, from the “Wizard of Oz”), who is turning 8 in June, which is basically like parenting a very angry, very small elderly person.

I’ve learned a lot from Ollie and Elphie by watching their approach to life:

  • Live with enthusiasm.

    One of the things I admire about Ollie the most is that he is SO. EXCITED. ABOUT. EVERYTHING. His favorites are people, treats, toys, and playing outside, although not necessarily in that order. When he likes something, he enjoys it with his whole body. I admire this, because too often I see people (especially teenagers) holding back from enjoying things because of what others will think. As RuPaul Charles and my momma have said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” It breaks my heart when I see someone hold back from enjoying something wholeheartedly out of fear of judgement.

  • Hold your boundaries.

    Since Elphaba was 6 when Ollie joined the family, she has had a period of adjustment. At first, if he came anywhere near her, she would run away. Now, they have reached a truce, in a fashion. She will allow him to sniff her, and to lick her no more than two times. If he doesn’t respect her boundaries, she hisses at him and runs to her hiding places.

  • Try new things.

    Ollie eats more fruits and vegetables than the average human. When he hasn’t tried something before, he will inspect it, sniff it, lick it, take it in his mouth, and walk to his “spot,” where he will complete a further inspection. If he doesn’t like it after the inspection (see: oranges), he will leave it. More often, however, he enjoys it and comes back for more (see: pineapple, frozen pumpkin puree, frozen apples, frozen pears, and his favorite—bananas).

  • Show people you love them.

    Both Ollie and Elphie show us that they love us in their own ways. Ollie brings us toys when we come home from work, licks us whenever we will allow it, and wants to be near us as he takes his naps. Elphie brings us toys (usually late at night), conquers flies that make their way into the house, and gives the most excellent lap cuddles.

  • Never underestimate the power of a nap.

    Oliver and Elphaba are both excellent at taking naps. It doesn’t matter where they are—they will always get their required sleep, which seems to be about 18 hours a day for Ollie, and around 20 for Elphie. Someone once told me that taking a nap is the human equivalent of “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” When in doubt, take a nap.

Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197

Grief and Grieving

Grief is a peculiar thing in some cultures. In the United States, the majority (white, Protestant) culture struggles with grief. We expect grief to be contained in practice, time, and scope. When people spend “too long” in their grief, we pathologize them. The criteria proposed for Persistent Complex Bereavement are culturally bound, but we know that the majority culture already pathologizes any culture outside what it considers to be the norm.

  • Intense and persistent yearning for the deceased (How are we defining this? Is it not typical or to be expected that we miss our loved ones?)
  • Frequent preoccupation with the deceased (What’s defined as preoccupation? Is talking to the deceased daily through prayer a preoccupation? What about visiting the grave site? What about ofrendas?)

The wisest thing someone said to me about grief was that the thing that makes grief so hard to deal with (for the non-grieving) is the idea that grief must have a time limit. This is especially true when someone experiences miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. People, often well-meaning, good people, often respond poorly to the news of the death of a child. When someone is grieving, it’s okay to tell them that you don’t know what to say, but that you are there for them. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable, but if your feelings about how someone “should” be grieving gets in the way of you being a good friend/sibling/therapist/coworker, step out of the way and allow that person to connect with someone who is able to set aside their own preconceptions about rituals of death and mourning and allow people the space to have theirs–even if (maybe especially if) the relationship between the griever and the deceased was difficult, strained, or even estranged.

NOTE: I came across an article some time ago that proposes that “autistic grief is not like neurotypical grief.” While I love that this person shared their experience of grieving, it’s important to recall that old saying: If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. And, whether typical or atypical, as long as the mourning is not physically harmful to the individual or people around them, everyone needs to have their own path through mourning.

Grief is a symptom of relationships, not pathology. If humans weren’t relational creatures, 1) we wouldn’t have survived as long as we have; and 2) we would be immune from grief.

Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197