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Licensed Psychologist

How Long Does Grief Last?

From a Therapist.com Article Whether it’s for work or the rest of life, I like to make a plan and have a schedule. But no matter how hard we try, certain things just aren’t meant to happen in an orderly fashion. One of those things is grief. Logically speaking, the loss I suffered shouldn’t have been that devastating. My grandpa Roger was 92 years old when he passed away in 2020. He lived a very long, full life, and for most of that time he was healthy and happy.  But when he passed away, my grief at losing him was compounded by my grief over the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a spiral that took a long time to pull out of. As I struggled to recover from the loss, I found myself asking the same questions I’m sure many others have. These might sound familiar to you, too.

Shouldn’t I be past this stage of grief by now?

Whenever we lose someone, the stages of grief inevitably come up. Comments like, “It’s okay that you’re angry, it’s a stage you have to go through,” or “Of course it doesn’t feel real, you’re in denial,” seem to crop up left and right from friends, concerned acquaintances, and other mourners.  The concept of the five stages of grief was created in 1969 by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying.” Since then, they’ve become a refrain that most people can recite from memory. As Kübler-Ross defines them, these stages are:
  • Denial: The reality of the loss has not sunk in, and you struggle to process the magnitude of what’s happened. You may find yourself saying things like “There must be some kind of mistake.” 
  • Anger: The pain of loss combines with feelings of helplessness, leading to frustration and anger. Anger can serve as an emotional buffer; when you’re feeling angry, it draws focus away from your pain.
  • Bargaining: During this stage, you try to ease suffering by striking a deal, often with some higher power. It can also involve ruminating on past experiences with a loved one that can’t be changed. For instance, you may think, “If only I’d insisted they go to the doctor earlier, we might have caught the illness in time to save them.”
  • Depression: When the loss becomes real to you, it can feel overwhelming. During the depression stage, you experience the pain of loss acutely and fixate on everything that will now be missing from your life. You may feel helpless, sorrowful, and generally low. 
  • Acceptance: Acceptance isn’t synonymous with “moving on.” Instead, it means you’ve embraced your new reality. You can begin to imagine the future and what this new version of your life will look like.
Kübler-Ross’s colleague David Kessler, a world-renowned grief expert, introduced a sixth stage of grief in 2019:
  • Finding meaning: Kessler defines this stage as the time after a loss in which you can move forward and live in a way that honors your loved one’s memory. You’re able to look back on memories of them with more love and gratitude than pain.
Click to read the full article

7 Behaviors You Should Never Tolerate in Relationships

From a Psychology Today Article We may give people we love free passes sometimes, but there are some behaviors you might not want to accept in any relationship. Toxic relationship behaviors aren’t just about arguing or jealousy. They can also include more subtle actions that affect the way you see yourself and the world. Identifying which relationship dynamics harm your mental health can help you make decisions and protect yourself.

Signs you’re in a toxic relationship

How to tell if your relationship is toxic starts with awareness. What’s considered toxic in a relationship may depend on many factors, including your culture, how you were raised, and how these behaviors affect you. Some signs that your relationship may be toxic include:
  • not feeling safe
  • being emotionally and financially dependent on your partner
  • feeling unhappy
  • walking on eggshells around your partner
  • doubting yourself
  • not being able to say or do things you wish you could
Click to read the full article

Unrealistic Expectations for the Holidays

Remember Sisyphus, the legendary rock roller from Greek mythology. He was forever doomed to push the boulder up the mountain only to have it roll back. Again, and again and again. There is a rock many people push. It’s the rock of unrealistic expectations. Especially the expectations we place on others. And especially expectations around the holidays. Many of you hope your partner will give you the perfect gift, or that your adult siblings will refrain from teasing you at the holiday table. You hope your Uncle Al will stay sober through the evening, and that your parents or grandparents will offer some unconditional acceptance. You believe this is not too much to hope for. But alas, just like Sisyphus, you never get the rock of expectations to the mountain top. Even if you could get it to the top, it wouldn’t stay there. However, this year CAN be different for you.  It takes a little mental judo while you shift your focus. As you prepare for the holidays, expect nothing will be different this year. Remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot get your family to conform to your hopes. Your family members simply do what they do and will likely continue their distressing and disturbing habits. They're pushing their own rocks. In fact, you may do annoying things that your family members wish you would quit. If they wish to change, they will do it on their time and in their own way. The same is true for your families! Instead, think of 4 things you feel grateful about and burn them into your memory. You should know them so well that if I called at 3:00 AM you would be able to recite them without difficulty. When you begin to feel distressed because your family is not doing your bidding, you should start recalling your gratitude list. Your focus will change and your feelings will follow. It will work because our brains can only consciously focus on one thing at a time. It can shift rapidly back and forth between many different things. But it focuses on only one thing at a time. This mental trick has a lot of applications in life, but for now, you can practice it at holiday gatherings. Sisyphus didn’t have the benefit of neuroscience learnings. But we do. You can stop pushing that expectation boulder up the mountain, while shifting your focus. You might even be able to enjoy what used to drive you crazy. Have a wonderful holiday!

11 First Date Red Flags

From a Psychology Today Article First dates bring up conflicted feelings for a lot of people. There may be nerves, excitement, or even a feeling of dread. Part of what can make the dating process disappointing is that you want a relationship but you end up spending a lot of time with people who ultimately are not compatible with you and don’t want the same things. It’s tough to continue putting yourself out there when you feel like you’re not getting the results you want. This is part of the dating process. However, the more quickly you can determine whether someone is not the right fit, the more quickly you can make room for the right person. The less draining the process is for you, the more fun you will have with it. Although you can’t necessarily determine where a relationship will lead right off the bat, these are some initial red flags that can help you weed out those who are clearly not suitable for you on the first date: Click here to read the full article

Mentally Healthy, Resilient People Do These Things

From a Psychology Today Article May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As I thought about what to write to promote mental health and resilience, there was no shortage of topics to consider: We are living in turbulent times with a great deal of uncertainty about our personal futures and the future of the world around us. So I decided to write something that would encourage people to take care of themselves and to think about what mental health looks like for them. After all, we struggle with different challenges depending on our circumstances, our relationships, and our desires. We are all fighting different battles at different times in our lives. However, there are ways we can take care of our mental health that we share in common. Doing these things will help you stay focused on staying mentally healthy, strong, and resilient. Click here to read the full article

I'm So Sorry: The Power of a Heartfelt Apology

From the January issue of the North Shore Towers Courier. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is one of the most quoted movie lines of all times... Does love truly mean never having to say you’re sorry? Are apologies superfluous in loving relationships? Is the phrase based on the assumption that people who love each other never disappoint each other? Or, on the supposition that where love exists there is no judgement? Or, on the notion that forgiveness is automatic in loving relationships? Such premises can survive only in imaginary romantic narratives. In reality, the opposite is true: Love means having to say you’re sorry (at least occasionally) when your words or actions hurt someone you love. ...The essence of an apology is conveying to a wronged party that the offender reflected on what had happened, comprehends the wronged person’s hurt, and regrets his or her offense. An apology requires an attempt to put oneself in the other person’s shoes and mobilize empathy, regardless of whether or not the apologizer agrees with the wronged person’s reaction. ...There are apology-challenged individuals who are reluctant to offer apologies, regardless of the seriousness of their wrongdoing. In fact, research indicates that, often, the ones who commit the more serious transgressions are also the ones less likely to feel regret and less likely to make amends. Read the full article Nurit Israeli's Facebook Page

7 Tips for Getting Through Difficult Conversations

Originally published at Psychology Today Have you ever felt anxious about an upcoming talk - one whose outcome you can’t predict? One that makes you feel edgy or jittery all day, unable to focus on other things? Maybe you were planning to talk through something difficult with someone important - perhaps the status of your relationship, your reaction to a betrayal, or your apology for breaking a promise. You have to tell a parent that you won’t be able to visit when they want you to. You need to ask your partner to change the way they’ve been treating you. Or maybe it’s much more mundane: Your child got into a fight at school and you need to talk to them, to help them understand what went wrong. No matter what the purpose of the upcoming Big Talk, some things don’t change, and some communication strategies can almost always help. Here are seven basic ideas, elaborated where possible, about how to keep your difficult conversations open, clear, directed, and productive. Read the full article at PsychCentral

All About Stonewalling and Gaslighting

Originally published at Psychology Today Gaslighting and stonewalling are two behaviors that can be damaging to relationships, but can be countered with boundaries. The truth is, you or your loved one may very well care about your relationship — and a lot. However, without the proper conflict resolution skills, we can become overwhelmed with emotion. If you don’t know what to do or say in a conflict, you might turn to tactics like stonewalling or gaslighting to cope. Knowing what these behaviors look like can help you work to counter them or set boundaries when you see them in others.

Defining the terms

Stonewalling and gaslighting are two behaviors that may:
  • be defense mechanisms
  • signal interpersonal aggression
  • be ineffective ways of coping
  • be a form of manipulation
They can be just one or several of these things at once.

What is stonewalling?

According to the work of relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman, stonewalling is one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” This is a metaphor for communication styles that are damaging to relationships. Read the full article at PsychCentral

Two Powerful Techniques to Lower Anxiety

Originally published at Psychology Today Anxiety is miserable. And most people reach for a pill or push it away to reduce it. But if we think of anxiety as a signal or as the tip of an iceberg, we can take steps to more permanently ease it. Anxiety tells us deep biological programs called core emotions have been triggered out of conscious awareness. These core emotions are designed by evolution to be felt and expressed. When we push them away, we feel anxiety. Learning about core emotions and how they work in the mind and body is the most important thing we can do to change anxiety. Tools like the Change Triangle guide us to name our core emotions. Emotional conflicts can be more effectively dealt with when we can identify and work with the underlying divergent emotional experiences. What follows is an explanation of two techniques I teach my psychotherapy clients and participants in the Emotions Education 101 class I teach:

Technique #1: Identify both sides of your conflict and speak them in your mind with an "and" instead of a "but." For examples:

I love you AND right now I’m so angry at you that I feel like I hate you. I feel sad AND happy. I am depressed and I know I am lucky in many ways. I am lonely AND I prefer to be alone. Summary: Name and validate when you have anxiety, look for any underlying conflicts, validate each side of the conflict with an "and" instead of a "but." Notice how that feels. Click here to read the full article

5 Ways to Be Your Own Best Friend

Originally published at Psychology Today There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Our best friends take us how we are and love us through it all. And in return, we talk out our problems and often speak from a place of truly wanting the best for each other. This is something most of us have in common: We are capable of good advice for our best friends. This advice might sound like, “You deserve better,” or “Apply for the job; the worst they could say is no.” It might even be as simple as, “Let it go.” So, have you ever noticed that it’s harder to speak so lovingly to yourself? The trouble comes from the negative slant the brain favors. It may seem messed up, but often by being negative your brain is trying to help you. Say you are applying for a job, your brain is actually trying to protect you from feeling disappointment by saying, “Why bother? They won’t hire you.” You don’t apply so you won’t feel sad about not getting the job. Of course, the unfortunate side effect is you end up feeling crappy anyway and lose out on new opportunities. In this example, what would your best friend say? They might remind you of how qualified you are for the job, how much the company would miss out on by not hiring you, and if you don’t get it another job will be lucky to have you. Sounds better! How come it’s so easy to say that to someone else? Well, we wouldn’t have very many friends if we talked to them the way we talk to ourselves. Instead, we learned to be supportive, caring, and encouraging in order to maintain meaningful relationships. Here are five ways to develop positive self-talk and treat yourself like your own best friend. Read the full article