What the (*) ? I now have 2 disorders. Prolonged Grief Disorder just became a real thing!

I had a rather shocking, but welcoming surprise last week. What has commonly been referred to in the therapy community as complicated grief has now been recognized as a real mental health condition. It is called prolonged grief disorder (read more here) and was recently entered into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The symptoms have been defined and classified by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which you can read more about here.

In short, the DSM is the handbook used by clinicians and psychiatrists in the United States to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. It covers all categories of mental health disorders for adults and children, including anxiety, depression, OCD, addictive and eating disorders. Why is this so important to point out?

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Why we don’t talk about grief and 5 ways to change this

I had the pleasure of speaking with someone recently who said that as a bereaved parent, nothing’s changed throughout their grief experience of many years. These sentiments echo my own. I’ve been bereaved since 2005 after losing my daughter to suicide.

I’ve written before about my frustration as a bereaved parent, in that we really don’t talk about grief. Which makes the recovery process that much harder. But whenever I have it mirrored back to me through someone else’s experience, especially long-time grievers, I think it’s important to talk about again. And again. Because nobody knows when their world is going to be rocked by a loss or something else that can feel almost as devastating. Read on to discover the 5 ways to change this.

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Grief Culture Today

Sadly, I had a reminder recently of just how much our grief culture today remains unchanged from sixteen years ago, when I lost my daughter (and decades before). One of my family members shared with me the difficulty they had in knowing what to say to an acquaintance, who has a family member who is critically ill with COVID 19.

Given our own bereavement and the isolation we all felt as a result of it, I was somewhat taken aback to learn that this encounter for my family member still felt extremely awkward, despite everything we’ve gone through after the suicide of my daughter. It turns out that the bereaved can be just as tongue-tied when having an unexpected and/or unpleasant conversation with someone going through stress, worry or trauma. In this case, someone coping with the serious illness of a loved one that could potentially lead to their death.

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WHAT IF YOU JUST SAID YES?

Are you someone who is more comfortable saying no to opportunities than yes? Can you recognize opportunities when they come knocking at your door? Looking back, do you have any regrets over the relationships or opportunities you let slip away?

Whether any of the above relates to a missed business opportunity, relationship you passed on or a job you turned down. Or it was the moment you hesitated to ask for a promotion, shied away from becoming an entrepreneur or hesitated to pursue an education. When you didn’t believe enough in yourself to make your dream career come true, or change anything else about your life, do you wonder what would have happened if you’d just said yes to something or someone instead of no?

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Beyond Bereavement – Hope Is Essential

Bereavement is the result of deprivation or loss. Many people (including my former self) do not equate bereavement with an experience other than physical death. However, bereavement can arise from anything that has caused us to live with intense grief.

No matter what has happened in our life to create adversity or knock us off our feet, we can change. We can free ourselves from whatever has trapped us in our mind and physical circumstances. From feeling hopeless we could ever move beyond whatever has thrown us our raw deal. From whatever has left us bereft of all happiness and the things we once wanted.

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Death – Do we choose our time to go?

Wow, these past few days, news outlets have been reporting the deaths of several high-profile people from suicide, accident and illness. Deaths that have included people young and older, but none that would have been expected because they were a suicide, weird accident or someone we would consider way too young to be dying from disease or illness.

My spiritual practice over a span of four decades has taught me (and millions of others) that we choose our manner and time of death. While there can be different exit points throughout our life, it is the final one we must respect as what any person chooses as the way and time that is right for them to end their physical existence on this planet. At any age.

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Are You Stuck in the Past and Want More for Your Life?

Any life event that has uprooted you in some way may be keeping you stuck in pain. This could be from a childhood trauma or as an adult, the loss of a loved one, relationship, job, money, health, lifestyle or friends. Pain is pain, no matter where it comes from. It can feel just as devastating for everyone, dependent on what we are here to experience.

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Recognizing PTSD – Could Power Pave the Way?

Here’s an interesting news story. After “mysteriously vanishing from the spotlight” two years ago, RCMP Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound, a twenty-two-year veteran of the RCMP and for six years, the “public face” of the integrated homicide investigation team (IHIT) in Metro Vancouver, is emerging as the RCMP’s new face of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here’s my take on the story. Is she really? Or, is Pound the chosen one to finally get the media’s attention (and stay there) to highlight just how broken the system is when it comes to the RCMP providing support and resources to its mentally injured members? Here’s part of her story.

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Surviving Suicide – Finding Life Again

I’ve just returned from a month-long mini round-the-world trip that took me and my husband to Asia, Indonesia and Europe. Now, while most people who love to travel would probably have been excited planning, counting down the days to departure and actually travelling, I found myself, as always, in a state of neutrality more than I did excitement. More than neutrality, it is the state that anyone who lives with PTSD struggles with, not having the ability to feel excited about much of anything (which as an aside, is different from being able to feel gratitude). As such, I honestly could not rouse myself to feel anything more than hopeful that all would go well on each leg of the trip (which it did) and as much excitement as I could feel reuniting with our son in various locations for some quality time together. If anyone can drum up excitement in me, it’s my son!

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Assessing Your Personal Needs in Grief

After loss, life changes dramatically for everyone grieving the death. Whether it’s a parent or spouse, sibling or child you have lost, you will be feeling the impact of your loved one’s death in some way, as will every one of your family members. The more complicated or unexpected the death, the greater this impact will be. And it’s tough to support each other in grief, because everybody is going through something different at every stage. It can be a confusing time with everyone’s needs rapidly changing.

For some, grief will last a long time. For others, they will seemingly return to normal a lot sooner, which represents a struggle for anyone trying to understand a griever’s unique experience. It stands to reason that many relationships and sometimes even entire family units break down, especially after certain types of loss.

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