Healing from the Death of a Parent

It’s an inevitable fact that at some point our parents will die.

For many the grief from the loss of a parent can be profound. There are times that you may feel unable to breathe the grief is so heavy.  Meaningful days (birthdays, holidays, anniversaries) will hit you like a hurricane, leaving you feeling like a chaotic mess.

If you have recently experienced a parent’s death, this will be a difficult time for you.  It’s ok for you to acknowledge you may be struggling; it’s ok to pause or slow down. There may be pressure for you to hold it together, or be a pillar of strength. I’m giving you permission: you don’t have to be everything to everyone!

Finding ways to manage with your own feelings and daily functioning can be a challenge. Here are some ways that you can start the healing process after the death of a parent.

Support: This could be meeting regularly with a close friend, connecting with family members, attending a grief and loss support group (if you’re in the Sacramento area check out these), or getting professional support from a therapist. A therapist that you trust will be able to guide you in processing your feelings and finding ways to heal from this significant loss.

Connection:  Identify a few ways that you felt connected with your parent. Maybe you shared a love for the same style of music or your parent always coached your sport team as a teenager. Whatever connection you had, identify a way to celebrate that. Some examples would be: see a sport game to honor your parent, download a new album of your parent’s favorite band, or keep a picture of you and your parent with you to remember the positive times.

Remembrance:  While attending the memorial services of a loved one can be emotional, it can also be one of the most healing experiences in your journey. Memorials allow you to connect with others that also loved and cared for your parent, share funny, poignant and loving memories, and share in the sadness of the loss with others.

For some individuals, choosing to remember their parent in a private, individual way feels right. You may want to a create ritual as a way to honor your parent, possibly lighting a candle and saying a prayer for them, having their favorite meal on special days, or letting balloons off to send messages to heaven.

Self-Care: Honor yourself and where you are at.  Grief is a complicated process and healing from the death of a parent looks different for each person. Drop the judgment about where you “should” be, how you “should” be healing, or what you “should” be feeling. There are no rights or wrongs. What you are feeling and experiencing is alright.

While this is probably the most challenging time for you to focus on your own self-care, this is the most important time for you to do so. Basic needs like eating nourishing foods throughout the day, trying to keep a consistent routine, doing things to ensure good sleep at night, connecting with friends and family, and moving your body with exercise daily will help you regulate your emotions.

Know what your limits are. Identify where you feel comfortable and where to draw the line. There will be extra demands upon your time, from managing the estate to family needs. Be aware of what you can give and what can wait, and be clear in setting those limits.

When the grief won’t go away: It’s impossible to put a timeframe on how long healing from a loss will take. For most, healing is a slow but a steady process toward beginning to feel at peace with the loss.

There are times when you may feel “stuck” in grief. If the heaviness and pain lingers in your life and begins to impact your daily functioning (caring for yourself or your family, impacting your ability to work, etc.) you may need additional support.

If you would like some support in your healing journey, please reach out to me at 916-547-3997. I’m here to help. Also, if you know someone who is experiencing the loss of a parent, please share this post to support them in their healing.

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist who specializes in providing counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.

 

How to Survive a Holiday Party: Tips for Introverts

With the holiday season in full swing, social gatherings are happening everywhere: from lighting the menorah with family, attending the tree lighting ceremony in Old Sacramento, a workplace holiday potluck, to a New Year’s Eve party.

If you’re an introvert, these get-togethers may feel overwhelming and more like a chore than a fun outing with friends.

 

Somewhere between 35-50% of people in the United States are introverts

What exactly is an introvert?

Think of a rechargeable battery. We all have an internal “battery” that gauges our energy levels.

For an introvert, charging that energy battery is done in solitude, doing activities that they enjoy. Being around people, even family and friends, can drain an introvert’s battery quickly. 

For extroverts it’s the opposite. Being in large groups and social settings charges their energy battery. An extrovert will feel invigorated during and after a large party and enjoys the stimulation.

Introversion/extroversion is a continuum – meaning that most people fall somewhere in the middle. If you’re an introvert, you may enjoy and feel stimulated from certain group gatherings but feel drained from others. And, even the most extreme extroverts need alone time.

The Myers-Briggs Typology Quiz is an easy way to figure out how introverted/extroverted you are. If you’re not sure where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, check out this quiz.

 

Aren’t introverts just shy?

A common misconception is that introversion is the same as shyness or social anxiety. Being shy or socially anxious actually has to do with fear around meeting, being around, and talking with people, whereas, introversion has to do with energy. Both introverts and extroverts can be shy and socially anxious. And both introverts and extroverts can be outgoing.

 

So what can an introvert do to survive holiday gatherings?

Pick and Choose: You don’t have to attend every party, gathering and get-together you are invited to. Identify which you would enjoy the most, which you are obligated to attend, and which would be the most draining on you. Find balance in your days and weeks, know your limits, and politely decline attending certain events that would empty your battery.

Charge your Battery:  Find ways to charge up your battery before an event. Do something that you enjoy: a walk in the park, reading your favorite book, listening to Christmas music while baking cookies.

Set Limits: Identify the length of time you feel comfortable in group settings and social events. Give yourself a timeframe for attending the event and respect yourself and your needs by allowing yourself to leave when you’re feeling exhausted.

Take a Buddy:  Enlist a friend, family member or your mate to attend the event with you. Having a close connection nearby can be reassuring and allow you to have a safety zone to reconnect with during the social gathering.

Make a Plan: Once you’ve got your support person arranged, come up with a game plan together. Remember how earlier you identified your own limits? Share your limits, feelings and needs with your support. Make arrangements so that you and your support are on the same page for the party and both your social needs get met.

Unwind: When you’re heading home from a gathering, take some deep breaths, listen to your favorite music or just enjoy some quiet time, and praise yourself at an event well-handled.

Be OK with Being You:  Get comfortable with the fact that you’re an introvert. It’s ok! Knowing this about yourself and honoring your needs around social interactions will leave you feeling recharged and happy. You will be more engaged when you are around others, because you will know how to keep your battery full.

 

If you would like some more information about being an introvert, check out Susan Cain’s book called “Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

I hope these tips help make this year’s holiday gathering more enjoyable for you. If you have techniques that have helped you as an introvert, I’d love to hear about them. Please share with me in the comments or email at adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT is a Sacramento Area therapist who provides counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.

Navigating Conflict

You found out a friend of yours was talking about you behind your back.

She said some hurtful, and frankly inaccurate, things about you to another person and it got back to you.

Over the past few weeks she’s been short with you, making rude comments under her breath, being avoidant.  Recently she got very mad, yelling at you, calling you names and attacking you verbally.

You feel small around her, like you aren’t good enough. You shut down when she is attacking, not sure what to say or do. You’re not sure what to do to make it stop.

 

Sometimes it’s difficult to stand up to a dominant person because you don’t feel confident about yourself. Maybe you tend to avoid conflict because you believe your needs aren’t important, or you worry that if you ask for what you need people won’t follow through or take you seriously.

Experiencing challenging, traumatic, or abusive situations in your past impacts the way you view yourself and your ability to stand up and be assertive with others. Negative self-talk keeps you in the same cycle, possibly believing that you deserve the aggression.

 

So what can you do when a person in your life is being a bully?

Try these steps to navigate conflict with a challenging person:

Distance yourself.  In most situations finding ways to distance yourself will help you gain perspective to the situation. It’s possible this person is a friend, acquaintance, parent at your child’s school, coworker. Look at where you see and interact with this person and find ways to take a step back. Maybe you skip the PTA meeting for a week, eat lunch in a new area to avoid this person at work, or change your daily routine around. A small break will help you gain perspective on how to interact and change this situation.

Be assertive. Use clear, direct and assertive communication. Tell this person how you are feeling and ask for a change in the situation.  Here’s an example of a statement that can help you speak assertively:  I feel ________ (describe your feeling) when ______ (situation that is happening). I would like __________ (describe your desired solution).  Be very clear about what outcome you would like (for example, you want them to stop talking about you behind your back).

Remind yourself that “It’s not me, it’s you”.  I’m not talking about shirking all your responsibility. A vital step in resolving conflict is to take an honest evaluation of the situation, own your stuff, own your part in contributing to the situation, and then recognize what part the other person has in this encounter.

Recognizing your responsibility means finding out how your actions contributed and making steps to change. After that, reminding yourself “It’s not me, it’s you” can be a helpful part in not taking all the blame. 

Seek support.  Enlisting support from those around you to address the situation with this person may be necessary. If this is occurring in the workplace, notify a supervisor or human resources. If it’s a friend, ask a mutual friend to help mediate the interactions. The key here is to speak up and ask for help from others.

Evaluate the relationship. If the above steps haven’t made a difference in the relationship, it may be time to evaluate if this relationship is important to you and worth keeping. It may be time to gently cut ties and move on.

Taking the steps above will help you assert the power you have inside of you. You have confidence inside, but it might be hidden or have been stifled in the past. Be bold. Take the time to evaluate what is right for you in this moment, and then do what works!

If you need support or help finding the best way to be assertive with a challenging person in your life get in touch with me. I’d love to help. You can email me directly at adrianajoynermft@gmail.com or call at 916-547-3997.

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT is a Sacramento Area therapist who provides psychotherapy to people healing from trauma and abuse, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. She has an office located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  To schedule an appointment, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.