Category Archives: family

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce

Separation/ divorce is a period of great life upheaval and emotional turmoil. It’s heartbreaking to watch loved ones suffer through it, and it can be stressful trying to figure out how you can help, and what you should or should not say or do. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. The best way to help your loved ones is actually pretty simple: it all boils down to empathy.

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce:

1.) Realize You Don’t  Have To Choose A Side:

It takes two people to make a relationship, and it also takes two people to cause a relationship to end.  Whatever the story may appear to be from the outside looking in, chances are the reality is much different. You truly never know, nor do you need to. The details of everything really aren’t your business. Being a supportive friend is your business though. If you loved both spouses before their split, it’s okay to love them both after. Losing a husband/ wife is painful enough, they really don’t need, or deserve to lose their friends too.

2.) Let It Be All About Them:

When experiencing great life upheaval and loss, what a person needs more than anything else is to be heard. To tell their story to a fully engrossed, empathetic, nonjudgemental listener. A listener who keeps the story focused on their friend, without constant interruption, or interjections of anecdotes of their own relationship troubles. This can be tough to do, but if you are able to do it, you will be giving your loved one a rare gift indeed.

3.) Try Not To Take Their Distance Personally:

If your loved one withdraws during their time of separation and loss, please try not to take it personally. Perhaps seeing you would cause them too many emotions they aren’t ready to face just yet.  Perhaps most of the time spent with you in the past was with their spouse, and the memories are still too raw and painful. Whatever the reason, if your loved one seems to be avoiding you, they probably are doing it to protect themselves during an extremely vulnerable time.  They still love you. They still think of you often. They still need you, and they will come around in time, I promise. Please just be patient and give them that time.

4.) Remember Every Situation Is Unique:

When confiding in someone, nothing is worse than being met with a “been there, done that” sort of attitude. Yes, hearts have been breaking since humans first walked the earth. Yes, separation/divorce has happened millions of times before, maybe even to you. This is the first time it is happening to your loved one though. Every headache, every heartache is very unique to them.  Please be sure to dignify their experience, to honour their feelings, rather than diminish them by reminding them how common their situation is. Your loved one is aware they are not the only person to ever go through this. Reminding them is unnecessary, and sure doesn’t make them hurt any less. Please honour their feelings. Treat their suffering as something as individual as they are, rather than with stereotypes and generalizations.

5.) Remember They Are Mourning A Loss As Real As Death:

Experiencing separation/divorce is very similar to experiencing a death. It’s death of day to day life as you know it. It’s death of a future you had planned and taken comfort in. It’s loss of arms that held you, a partner you thought would be there unconditionally. It’s loss of materials, family members, time with children, family traditions and inside jokes. Years of once pleasant memories become torturous. A social status you took pride and comfort in vanishes, and is replaced with potential judgement and loneliness.  Despite separation / divorce being a choice, it’s still a huge loss that causes very real grief. The fact that it’s a choice can also make it even harder, when feelings of guilt and self doubt creep in.  Help your loved one by acknowledging how huge heir suffering is. What they are going through is a really big deal.  As serious as death is. Remind them of this, and offer your sympathy often.

6.) Offer Advice Only When It’s Requested:

If your loved one is looking for advice during their separation/ divorce, they will ask for it. Even then, it’s very likely they won’t do what you say, unless deep down they have already made the decision to do it on their own anyway. Giving unsolicited advice (unless of course, you feel their safety is at risk) to your loved one during a time of such turmoil is likely to make them feel misunderstood and disrespected. Instead, you can encourage them when you think they are doing the right thing, and be there to offer a hug when they realize they have made (very importantly, their own) mistakes, which will teach them far deeper life lessons than following your advice ever could.

7.) Give An Abundance Of Encouragement and Praise:

It’s very easy for those going through separation/ divorce to feel like they have failed somehow. Remind your loved one that the real failure would have been to continue on living life feeling miserable, resentful and hopeless. To admit something just can’t work any more, and resolve to make extremely difficult changes in the hope of long term happiness is very brave. To face the emotional and financial consequences of separation, and dive all alone  into a new life that is completely unknown takes guts. Never stop reminding your loved one of this. They have not failed. They have taken control of the one life they get to live on this earth. They are carving a new path. Praise and encourage your loved one every step of the way. Be their greatest fan. Most importantly, be you. Their life has completely transformed. That doesn’t mean your relationship with them has to.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

You’d Feel No Envy

She looks immaculate. Her white teeth literally glint in the sunlight. You aren’t sure which sparkles more, her gorgeous sapphire eyes, or the rippling waves of her hair. She wears $300 shoes, and a $700 dress. She walks gracefully and confidently.

You pass her by awkwardly, in your flip flops and $10 t-shirt. She stares straight ahead, as if you don’t even exist. You feel self conscious, wishing you could look more like her, be more like her. You envy her, in all her beautiful, perfect, confident glory. You feel pathetic and small, compared to her.

But you would feel no envy if you could see the rare skin disorder she hides beneath her designer outfit. You would feel no envy if you realized the reason she stares straight ahead is that she is trying with all her might to hold back tears, because last night she caught her husband cheating on her. You would feel no envy if you knew that she will never have the strength to leave him. Her Facebook photos will tell a story of a gorgeous couple, madly in love. Her reality will be far different.

Your heart sinks. You try not to watch the family enjoy their picnic at the park, as you sit like a lonely loser feeding the birds.  As the children giggle and gleefully chase each other about, you become acutely aware that your window of opportunity to have children of your own is quickly closing. You don’t even have a girlfriend, let alone a potential mother of your future children. You feel more than envy. You feel resentment at how unfair life is. You feel anger toward the family, in all their loving, laughing, hugging, picture perfect glory.

But you would feel no envy if you knew the couple is only together for the sake of the children. You’d feel no envy if you saw the father soak his pillow with tears every night, because the youngest child was just diagnosed with cancer. You’d feel no envy if you saw the mother soak hers because she is in love with a man she will never be able to have. The family photos on Facebook tell a story of a loving family that always has fun together. Their reality is far different.

Next time you sit beside a perfect looking couple in a restaurant, browse an old friend’s photos on social media, or pass a beautiful body on the beach, try to stop yourself from feeling that envy.  Reality is usually far different than appearance.

Give a warm smile, or type a sincere compliment. Because chances are, these people who seem to have it all are checking YOU out, and envying YOU.

(Oh, if only they could live a week in your life! They would feel no envy.)

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

The Seed of Doubt

The seed of doubt has been planted, and you seem unable to dig it out. The roots have started to grow, have wrapped themselves around your heart. They tighten every time you take a step backward. Every time you think of moving forward, your breath gets a little easier, the grip on your heart gets a little looser.

Maybe you could starve the seed, plunge yourself into darkness until it’s dead. But what would become of you in that darkness?

Maybe you need to accept this seed of doubt, and listen to what it’s trying to tell you. But will its grip on you ever ease completely?

You had a vision of your life, of how it would all turn out. You see that path ahead. On the surface, it looks very easy to travel. It looks familiar. It looks safe.

But that path feels full of thorny stems, and gnarly roots. You would have to drag them along with you as you travel. You are not sure how long you would last.

There has to be another path, but it’s a path you can’t even see.

You can feel it though. It feels like jumping off a cliff. It feels terrifying, thrilling and completely foreign. It feels free. You would need an enormous amount of confidence to travel this path.

You can’t travel it blindly though. At least you don’t want to. Maybe you have to?

The seed of doubt doesn’t seem to want to leave you alone. It has grown and wrapped its roots around your heart for a reason.

You just can’t let it grow within you, because it will tear you apart in time.

You must listen.

You must learn.

You must be strong.

 

Seeds of doubt get planted when you stop being truthful.

Be truthful. In the end, the truthful path, however rocky and twisty and turny it may be, is the only one you should choose.

 

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Thank you for reading!

Be Brave and Talk

10 Depression Symptom Analogies For Those Who Have Trouble Understanding

If others don’t believe you when you are certain you speak the truth, if you get blamed for something you know is not your fault, if no matter how many times you try explaining something the person just doesn’t get it, how does it make you feel?

Pretty frustrated, I’m sure.

Sadly, this is the case for many who suffer mental illness, like depression. Imagine being accused of creating your own illness with your negative attitude, laziness, or self pity. It’s pretty awful. Those with depression long to be believed, long to be understood. Depression is NOT a feeling. It’s a very real disease, and I’m going to attempt to describe it to you with some analogies below.

10 Depression Symptom Analogies To Help You Understand:

1.) Irritability (The Sandpaper Bed)

You stand beside your bed. It looks cozy and inviting. You climb in and are startled by the feel of the sheets on your skin. They are rough, like sandpaper. Your pillow is hard as a rock. You roll over, nothing changes. The sandpaper sheets hurt your skin, the rock pillow makes your head hurt. This is what irritability is like. You know you should not be bothered, but everything annoys you, angers you, makes you very uncomfortable. You wish with all of your might you could relax and feel peaceful, but it just won’t happen. You want to explode at everyone around you, but you hold it in as best you can. You press on, try to appear normal. Like a night spent in the sandpaper bed would be, it’s totally exhausting.

2.) Empty/Numb (The Worst Comedy Show Ever)

Depression frequently makes you feel…absolutely nothing at all. Imagine you’re at a comedy show, but you’re the only one who finds nothing funny about it. Everyone else cracks up laughing at jokes that evoke no response in you at all. You wish you could enjoy yourself as they are, but your heart and mind are void of all feeling, You throw back a few drinks, to try to ignite a spark of life within you, to no avail. You just want to go home so you can stop pretending you actually feel something other than numbness. Depression often makes you feel as though someone has reached in and ripped your soul out of your body. It’s not fun.

3.) Extreme Fatigue (the 500 lb lead weight suit)

Picture yourself wearing full body armour made of lead. You try to go about your daily activities, but every movement requires tremendous effort. You want to move. You try your best to move. It’s just completely exhausting. No matter how hard you try, you seem unable to take off your lead body armour. It only removes itself when it feels like it.

4.) Self Loathing (tied with a rope to someone you really dislike)

What if that person you can’t stand being around, that person you have a hard time finding good qualities in, that person you just can’t seem to like was tied to you with a 3 foot long rope for an entire day? “No way in hell,” you are probably thinking. Well, if you suffer depression, that person is tied to you permanently. That person is yourself. It is a very sad, but very true reality of depression. The majority of the time during a depressive episode the sufferer thinks very negatively about themselves, and they might even have feelings of self hatred.

5.) Guilt (A body covered in long whiskers that bug everyone around you.)

Imagine you walk through the mall, or attend a family function, and all of a sudden your body grows huge, prickly whiskers that poke at everyone around you. You’d feel the need to apologize an awful lot. You’d probably feel pretty bad. Guilty. Guilty for being your prickly, whiskery self. Depression doesn’t make a person grow whiskers of course, but it certainly brings on constant, tremendous feelings of guilt. It makes you feel as though you are letting everyone down, that everyone is annoyed at, or disappointed by you.

6.) Physical Discomfort (The Constant Hangover)

Headache. Body Aches. Joint Pain. Nausea. Dizziness. If it gets bad enough, depression makes you feel like you have a constant hangover. If you haven’t experienced a hangover, think of how you feel when you are coming down with the flu. Many cases of depression/anxiety are diagnosed only after the patient has sought medical help for physical symptoms.( I myself was one of those cases.) Those “Depression Hurts” commercials do not lie.

7.) Confusion (partially soundproof, translucent glass box.)

If you spent an hour surrounded by glass that was hard to see through, hard to hear through and tried to go about life as usual, things would get pretty darn confusing. Depression often feels exactly like this. Focusing on anything becomes very hard. You find yourself holding your head in your hands all the time. Your vision literally blurs, and you have a hard time understanding what anyone is talking to you about. This confusion just increases other symptoms, like irritability and fatigue.

8.) Strong Desire to Hide (avoiding a telemarketer who is always callng)

You know that feeling you have when you see a telemarketer’s number on the call display? Someone with depression feels this way pretty much all of the time. They don’t want to answer the phone, or the door. They don’t want to go get groceries, they don’t want to go to your party. All they really want to do is hide under the covers and stop pretending everything is alright. They want to hide away so they can be depressed without fear of judgement, or feelings of guilt.

9.) Dread (a colonoscopy is looming, every minute of every day)

I think it’s safe to say nobody out there looks forward to the day they need a colonoscopy. When you suffer depression, you always feel like something unpleasant lies in the near future. Dread. Dread for reasons you can’t explain. In fact, knowing the dread was caused by an approaching colonoscopy would probably be an improvement over the nonspecific, sinking, scared feeling you often wake with, eat lunch with, go to bed with when you suffer from depression.

10.) Hopeless/Trapped (drowning)

Imagine you are trapped in a tank of deep water. You tread water for a long time. You start getting tired. You aren’t sure how much longer you’ll be able to keep your head above water. You try to stay afloat, try to conserve your energy and pray someone will come along and help you. Time ticks on. You are so tired. You sink below the surface, hold your breath for as long as you can. Nobody is coming to save you because nobody notices you need help. Desperately, you pull to the surface, gasp for air, sink back down again. You aren’t going to make it. You have lost all hope.

Depression is a very lonely, often desperate battle to feel alive.

But it doesn’t have to be lonely.

It doesn’t have to be hopeless.

There is plenty of help available for those suffering depression. They just need to feel comfortable enough to seek it out. All of the stigma, the fear, the lack of empathy and understanding toward mental illness in our society needs to end.

The best thing you can do for someone with depression is let them know you believe them, and you are not afraid to talk with them about it openly and honestly.

You can be that arm that pulls them out of that tank of deep water with a few powerful words.

“I am here for you.”

“I am listening.”

” I believe you.”

 

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Thanks so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk.

Holidays Aren’t Happy For Everyone…And That Should Be Okay

Waking before dawn, sneaking into your siblings’ room to whisper excitedly about what special treasures you might soon find hidden downstairs.

Snuggling on the couch with a full belly, surrounded by the comforting sound of loved ones’ laughter.

Photographs flashing.

Wine glasses clinking.

Wishing time would pass just a little more slowly, so you could take it all in, relish it, savour it.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But for some, this coming and going can’t happen fast enough.

Waking before dawn, your stomach sinking with dread as you remember the day ahead will be filled with forced smiles, the hiding of shaking hands, and drinks taken in secret.

Clutching your blankets, breathing deep to hold back the nausea, as you long for the comfort of your lost loved one’s laughter.

Photograph avoiding.

Wine glass refilling.

Wishing time could just skip over this day, so you wouldn’t have to put on an act, so you could avoid the guilt, escape the pain.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But there are people out there who would rather the holidays didn’t come at all.

Perhaps it’s because they grieve a great loss which only gets highlighted when the holidays arrive. But they endure it with a smile so they don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

Perhaps they suffer anxiety in silence and feel overwhelmed and exhausted by pretending they’re okay throughout the flurry of family activity.

Perhaps they suffer depression, and attend holiday events out of obligation. Expectations to enjoy and be happy force their face into a smile, but inside their feelings of guilt and self loathing only grow.

Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if those who are unhappy come holiday time didn’t have to pretend?

Of course we have the best of intentions when we expect and encourage full, enthusiastic participation in holiday events, when we wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”,  we certainly don’t mean to make anyone feel bad.

We just need a little more awareness.

We just need a little more acceptance.

We just need a little more openness and honesty.

Although we’ve made progress, our society still feels rather uncomfortable being open about things that aren’t sunshine and roses, and this is especially true at holiday time.  And what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We judge, we avoid, we ignore. This makes things much harder than they have to be for people who are grieving or suffering mental illness.

Pretending is exhausting. Pretending is lonely. Pretending makes you feel ashamed of your reality.

Let’s take the pressure off holiday happiness.

Let’s ask honest questions about how loved ones are feeling.

Let’s extend invitations that are truly optional, and come with alternative plans for later.

Let’s acknowledge our loved ones’ struggles with respect and empathy.

Although we can’t make things all better, we sure can make the holidays easier by being real. Not everyone loves holidays. And that is okay.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk