Coping with Grief | Kay Trotter

By Appointment : Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm & Saturday 8am to Noon
  Contact : (214) 499-0396

All Posts Tagged: Coping with Grief

Coping with Grief at Christmas through Play

“I miss my sissy”

I have to share this photo and story from another play therapies friend of mine!

Molly wrote me telling me this story: A friend of mine lost her, then 16-year-old, daughter in a car accident one year ago. As the family is dealing with the pain of the loss at the holidays – this photo was taken today (Dec 23, 2013).

It is my friends older daughter who is 19, found in the home playing with their old toys (which the two were known to do often together.) I love this photo – it speaks VOLUMES to the power of play – at the angel the picture was taken, you can’t tell this is a 19-year-old young lady, but rather – I can see the child in her coming out, trying to feel connected to her lost sister as a way to cope with missing her at the Holidays.

In her words, she shared “I miss my sissy and this was the only way to feel more with her.”

Dr Kay Trotter Kaleidoscope Counseling

Through play a child communicates emotions & feelings

I would love to hear your stores on how you cope with grieve during the Christmas Holiday.

Please leave me your comment as this is the first Christmas with out my mom (Sue Sudekum 1932-2013) and I miss her very much. In fact I find that this Christmas I cry a lot and at the lease little thing too. As painful as this time is, it does bring my mom closer to me as I have been thinning and talking to her often.

Death and Grief Resources

Dealing with grief during the holidays

An encouraging word – for those who grief at Christmas 

Dr John Irvine helping children deal with grief at Christmas

More of Dr Kay’s blogs on Grief:

Grief and Loss

How to Comfort a Friend After a Death

Guiding Teens Through Loss

Invisible Wounds of Deeply Hurting Children

Read More

Along My Journey…Grieving

Grief is an interesting process, one that I understand but, then again, don’t. Grief seems to take on a life of its own and, for each person, this journey is uniquely their own. For me, the death of my mom this past spring is still too raw and I have not ventured into those turbulent waters. However, my sister, Ann, who lived with our mom, has taken a different route on her journey.

Along My Journey

by Ann Sudekum
Ann and mom February 2013

Ann and mom February 2013

One thing that has helped me with my grieving process has been writing in a journal, which releases a lot of anxiety and pain and anger. Not just with the loss of my mother, but also with the loss of other dreams and desires.

Much of what I have written is for my eyes only, but sometimes I think my words could be of value to others. So, today, I offer a recent “stream of consciousness” in what could be considered a poem.

 


Along My Journey

Along my journey I have walked into many caves and the darkness frightened me and made me cry out for help.

Along my journey I have received love and kindness from many angels here on earth. These angels are the living, breathing human beings in my life who hold me up and encourage me.

Along my journey I have felt like I had dragons to slay; big, mean dragons. But, slay them I did and, when I did, I loudly whispered amen.

Along my journey I have received an overwhelming sense of peace from many angels in heaven. These angels are the people I speak to at night and who visit me in my dreams.

Along my journey I have encountered a hungry tiger and I fed him with my guilt. But the hope inside me helped me redeem myself.

Along my journey I have wandered astray and wearily asked God for help to guide me back home and He has taken my hand and walked beside me.


536672_10200831568021978_937239642_nAs someone who likes variety in their life, Ann Sudekum is a writer, a personal chef, and an all-around marketing consultant. She owns two companies: Ann’s Custom Cuisine and Sudekum Solutions and spends most of her time in front of the stove or in the front of the computer (usually while sitting outside on her patio). In her free time, she enjoys walking her Collie, Seamus, planning her next party or reading a mystery novel.

Read More

How to Comfort a Friend After a Death

My daughter called me this morning and said her friend’s mother died at midnight and then one of her teacher friends died at 2 a.m. Aside from her own grief, my daughter wanted to know how she could comfort her friend as well as comfort her fellow teachers.

Her question made me realize it’s often hard for people to know what to say or do when someone they care about is grieving. You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making the person feel even worse. While you can’t take away the pain of the loss, you can provide much-needed comfort and support. There are many ways to help a grieving friend, starting with letting them know you care.

Understanding the Grieving Process

The death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. Your grieving friend will struggle with many intense and frightening emotions, including depression, anger and guilt. Often, they feel isolated and alone in their grief and having someone to lean on can help them through the grieving process.

Don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to them. Now, more than ever, your support is needed. You might not know exactly what to say or what to do, but that’s okay. You don’t need to have answers or give advice. The most important thing you can do for your friend is to simply be there. Your support and caring presence will help them cope with the pain and begin to heal.

Listen With Compassion

Almost everyone worries about what to say to people who are grieving. But knowing how to listen is much more important. While you may think you should avoid talking about the death or mentioning the deceased person, your friend actually needs to feel that their loss is acknowledged, it’s not too terrible to talk about, and their loved one won’t be forgotten.


Accept and acknowledge all feelings. Let your friend know that it’s okay to cry in front of you, to get angry, or to break down. Don’t try to reason with them over how they should or shouldn’t feel. Your friend should feel free to express their feelings, without fear of judgment, argument, or criticism.While you should never try to force someone to open up, it’s important to let your friend know they have permission to talk about the loss. Talk candidly about the person who died and don’t steer away from the subject if the deceased’s name comes up. When it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions – without being nosy – that invite your friend to openly express his or her feelings. Try simply asking, “Do you feel like talking?”

  • Be willing to sit in silence. Don’t press if your friend doesn’t feel like talking. You can offer comfort and support with your silent presence. If you can’t think of something to say, just offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.
  • Let your friend talk about how their loved one died. People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in minute detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens.
  • Offer comfort and reassurance without minimizing the loss. Tell your friend that what they’re feeling is okay. If you’ve gone through a similar loss, share your own experience if you think it would help. However, don’t give unsolicited advice, claim to “know” what your friend is feeling, or compare your grief to theirs.
Comments to avoid when comforting your friend
  • “I know how you feel.” One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your friend to tell you how he or she feels.
  • “It’s part of God’s plan.” This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, “What plan? Nobody told me about any plan.”
  • “Look at what you have to be thankful for.” Your friend knows they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.
  • “He’s in a better place now.” Your friend may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
  • “This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.” Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means “forgetting” their loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
  • Statements that begin with “You should” or “You will.” These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about. . .” or “You might. . .”

Offer Practical Assistance

It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden, or be too depressed to reach out. You can make it easier for them by making specific suggestions – such as, “I’m going to the market this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I’ve made beef stew for dinner. When can I come by and bring you some?”

Consistency is very helpful and , if you can manage it, being there for as long as it takes. This helps your friend look forward to your attentiveness without having to make the additional effort of asking again and again. You can also convey an open invitation by saying, “Let me know what I can do,” which may make your grieving friend feel more comfortable about asking for help. But keep in mind that your friend may not have the energy or motivation to call you when they need something, so it’s better if you take the initiative to check in.

Take the Initiative

There are many practical ways you can help your grieving friend, including offers to:

  • Shop for groceries or run errands
  • Drop off a casserole or other type of food
  • Help with funeral arrangements
  • Stay in their home to take phone calls and receive guests
  • Help with insurance forms or bills
  • Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry
  • Watch their children or pick them up from school
  • Drive them wherever they need to go
  • Look after their pets
  • Go with them to a support group meeting
  • Accompany them on a walk
  • Take them to lunch or a movie
  • Share an enjoyable activity (take a walk, play a game, do a puzzle, make an art project)

Provide Ongoing Support

Grieving continues long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person. But in general, grief lasts much longer than most people expect. Your bereaved friend may need your support for months or even years.

  • Continue your support over the long haul. Stay in touch with your friend and periodically check in, drop by, or send texts, e-mails and cards. Your support is more valuable than ever once the funeral is over, the other mourners are gone, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off.
  • Don’t make assumptions based on outward appearances. Your grieving friend may look fine on the outside, while inside he or she is suffering. Avoid saying things like “You are so strong” or “You look so well.” This puts pressure on the person to keep up appearances and to hide his or her true feelings.
  • The pain may never fully heal. Be sensitive to the fact that life may never feel the same. You don’t “get over” the death of a loved one. Your friend may learn to accept the loss and the pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away.
  • Offer extra support on special days. Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard for your grieving friend. Holidays, family milestones, birthdays, and anniversaries often reawaken grief. Be sensitive on these occasions. Let the bereaved person know that you’re there for whatever he or she needs.

Watch for Warning Signs

It’s common for a grieving person to feel depressed, confused, disconnected from others, or like they’re going crazy. But if your friend’s symptoms don’t gradually start to fade – or they get worse with time – this may be a sign that normal grief has evolved into a more serious problem, such as clinical depression.

If you observe any of the following warning signs after the initial grieving period (especially if it’s been over two months since the death), encourage your friend to seek professional help.

  • Difficulty functioning in daily life
  • Extreme focus on the death
  • Excessive bitterness, anger, or guilt
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Hallucinations
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Constant feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about dying or suicide*

It can be tricky to bring up your concerns your friend. You don’t want to perceived as invasive. Instead of telling them what to do, try stating your own feelings: “I am troubled by the fact that you aren’t sleeping. Perhaps you should look into getting help?

*If a grieving friend talks about suicide, get professional help right away. In a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.

Things to remember about grief. . .

  • There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional roller coaster, with unpredictable highs, lows and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently, so avoid telling your friend what they “should” be feeling or doing.
  • Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair and fear are common. Your grieving friend may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. They need reassurance that what they’re feeling is normal. Don’t judge them or take their grief reactions personally.
  • There is no set timetable for grieving. For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter. Don’t pressure your friend to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long. This can actually slow their healing.

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group you can contact her at: 214-499-0396, Kay@KayTrotter.com or visit her web site www.KayTrotter.com

Read More

How to Guide Teens Through Loss and Grief

Max Schwolert

I recently had the honor of talking to an intimate group of parents who where at a loss as to how to help their children cope with the loss of a friend, 17-year-old Max Schwolert, who died from complications of the flu during a holiday vacation. Those who knew Max, and those who never had the pleasure of meeting a Schwolert, had many questions. Only one being: “How can I help my child through this?”

As a parent or support person, you have the opportunity to gently guide your teenager in living with the loss, as I do not know one ever truly “gets over it.”

A loss of a friendship can be hard on a teenager, just as it can be on adults. It is important to validate your teen’s feelings of loss. In validating those feelings, you make it easier for him or her to share their stories about the friendship, the memories of happy and sad times. Bereaved children and teenagers will need ongoing attention, reassurance and support. It is not unusual for grief to resurface later on, even well after the death. This can happen as they move through different life milestones, and develop as individuals.

As a parent or support person, you have the opportunity to gently guide your teenager in living with the loss, as I do not know one ever truly “gets over it.” Many teenagers feel guilty because their friend died; yet they have a chance at life and graduation, and romance, and experiences, and even new friendships.

One thing that is very important for parents to know is: When your children are grieving and crying, your job is not to fix them. It is natural to want to make their crying stop, but this desire really is more about your pain because it hurts you to see your children cry. But, your job is not to make their pain go away, but to walk hand-in-hand with your child so they can learn to work through this pain. In other words, you have to honor your child’s feelings and allow them to have them so they can learn to process and express a range of emotions, and react in appropriate ways in emotional situations.

Parents also need to realize that, in your intention to fix them, you send the message that you don’t see them, and they therefore do not feel heard by you—this “not being seen and heard by you” can lead to a fight. This is because you have failed to understand your child’s real point and their thoughts or feelings underlying that point. I recommend you quit trying to fix your children and start communicating that you believe in them.

When your child is crying or upset and you don’t know what to do, stop and take a moment to reflect what you are seeing in your child. For example you could say, “You’re really angry. You want this to be over because this is really bothering you.” This will let your child know they are being heard and touched.

It’s also good to ask your children, “What do you need from me now?” Then, if your child just needs you to listen, they can say, “I just need you to listen.” Or if your child wants you to take some action, then they are able to tell you what action to take. This helps them feel like they have some control because death makes all of us feel out of control.

The bottom line is: Don’t fix your children. Instead help them learn how to feel and appropriately express their feelings. As parents, we can teach and guide our children to handle their emotions in ways that validates their feelings, while fostering healthy interactions with the world. In fact, emotional regulation is essential for children’s overall wellbeing.

Remember you’re the most important person to them as their parent and they just want you to walk with them on this journey.

On the flip side, it’s also okay for parents to cry and grieve in front of their children. While you may think you need to hide your pain from them, crying actually allows you to honor yourself and to feel your feelings. It’s okay to feel your pain because we all have to go through the struggle before we can come out on the other side.

The Struggle to Become a Butterfly 

There is a well-known story about a man who tried to help a butterfly out of its cocoon by slitting the cocoon open. The butterfly that emerged had small, unformed wings, and died soon after. What the man didn’t realize is the butterfly needed the struggle out of the cocoon to force the fluid into its wings; to stretch and open them so that the butterfly could fly. By trying to shortcut the process, the man had instead doomed the creature.

I use this story to illustrate that, while it’s hard to watch someone you love struggle, sometimes we need to learn to wait and let the process unfold on its own.

Remember: WITHOUT THE STRUGGLE, THERE ARE NOT WINGS!

If God allowed us to go through life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We would never be able to fly.

How To Help Your Teens

  • Be honest and let them know what’s happening
  • Be willing to listen, and available to talk about whatever they need to talk about
  • Acknowledge the emotions they may be feeling—fear, sadness, anger
  • It can be helpful for parents, or other adults, to share their own feelings regarding the loss
  • Frequently reassure them they are safe, who is caring for them, and which adults they can trust to ask for further support
  • Keep routines and normal activities going as much as possible
  • Talk to them about grief – what it is, that it’s normal, that everyone is different
  • Avoid expectations of adult behavior – allow them to be the age and stage they are and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings – give them ideas of things they could try, such as doing physical activities, writing, singing, listening to music, talking with friends, reading etc.
  • Allow questions and provide honest answers
  • Comfort them with hugs, cuddles, holding their hand, and by encouraging them
  • Speak calmly and gently to them – and be calm around them
  • Talk about death together; answer any questions they may have
  • Let them help in planning the funeral or something to remember the loss

IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE WHEN YOUR TEENAGER IS STRUGGLING WITH THE LOSS MORE THAN WHAT IS NORMAL.

Recognizing the symptoms is one way of helping your teenager deal with the loss such as: 

  • Teenagers can experience symptoms of depression and have angry outbursts.
  • They can also be at the opposite end of the spectrum by showing a lack of emotions and feeling numb.
  • There can be problems in school with failing grades or delinquent behaviors.
  • Further symptoms showing difficulty processing the loss might include personality changes, self-destructive behaviors (drinking, drugs, etc.), withdrawal and isolation, or even suicidal thoughts.

While this is not an all-inclusive list of symptoms, it does give you an idea of how hard the loss of an important relationship can be on a teenager. If you are concerned about any extreme reactions, or if you think the young person may have become depressed, contact your doctor or other trained adviser, such as a counselor, senior staff member from their school, social worker, community or youth worker or a local family support agency.

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group you can contact her at: 214-499-0396, Kay@KayTrotter.com or visit her web site www.KayTrotter.com

Read More