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Coronavirus and Finding Ways to Cope with Anxiety and Loss by Gloria Horsley

Today, I hosted a Facebook Live session with my daughter, Heidi, to discuss the impact of the coronavirus.  Tambre Leighn, an Open To Hope author, certified coach, Funder of Well Beyond Ordinary, and behavioral change expert, also joined us.

CONTRACTING THE CORONAVIRUS
Our session started with the news that my daughter, Heidi, took a coronavirus test this weekend and learned last night that she has tested positive. After starting to develop symptoms last week, she took action and got tested. Now, she is self-quarantining for the next 14 days, using protective gear and self-isolation to protect her husband and children.

Now that she has been diagnosed, Heidi has experienced a wide range of emotions — from anxiety to relief that she has a diagnosis to self-judgment about wishing she had known before getting on a plane or being anywhere in public. Heidi also feels anxious about causing any harm to her loved ones and even strangers she has come in contact with the last week or so.

However, it’s also been an important step for Heidi to share this information with us. It’s not meant to alarm or cause anxiety. Instead, Heidi feels it’s important to use her own experience to raise awareness of the importance of physical distancing and being aware of how our actions and decisions can impact others.

DEALING WITH RISING ANXIETY
This leads us to today’s guest and discussion about the impact of the coronavirus and the level of anxiety that it is creating. There is a lot of anxiety about the unknown, including what is the outcome of all of this. We also want to know how long will it go on and whether we and our loved ones will get the coronavirus and how bad it will be.

It’s understandable given the enormous impact and rate of change that we see happening around the world. While the information is good to know, it can also make us feel overwhelmed and contribute to the anxiety. Instead of answers, it only furthers the sense of the unknown since nothing has happened like this in our lifetime.

When we become anxious, it’s our mindset that focuses on the things we can’t control. In this case, there are many aspects of what is happening that we can’t control.

WHAT WE CAN DO
However, we can also choose to focus on those circumstances we can control. We can help ourselves, our loved ones, and our community by following all the mandates that the city, state, and federal governments have put into practice.

Another thing we can do is look at what triggers the anxiety in each of us. For some, it might be the media while others may have grief and loss in their lives that have amplified their anxiety.

Once we identify the trigger, we can then work on shifting our perspective and taking some action to move away from that trigger. If it was the media, then reduce how much time you spend reading and watching news stories about it. Do something that gives you a sense of purpose — whether that’s exercise,  a hobby, or something similar to what Heidi is doing by participating in this Facebook Live session.

RESILIENCE AND INNER STRENGTH
We have to know that we have the strength and resilience to overcome this situation. Believing that can help minimize the anxiety, which otherwise could adversely impact the physical strength of our immune system. And, we all need that immunity right now to physically fight this virus.

Then, there is our resilience. This is the capacity that we have to recover from situations and move forward. Many of us have had past situations that provide evidence of our resilience. If we have suffered loss and grief in the past and been able to carry on with our lives, then we are resilient.

PHYSICAL DISTANCE, NOT SOCIAL DISCONNECTION
Now, more than ever, we need each other. How we give ourselves the time and attention we need may have changed to a virtual channel. But, it is just as important and beneficial that we reach out to others — our friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues — and let them know we are here and thinking of them.

In the process, we will also have been proactive in controlling certain circumstances. We are choosing to physically distance ourselves to stay healthy and keep others safe, too. But, we are not socially disconnecting.

AN ACTION PLAN
Throughout this situation, it can help to create a personal action plan for yourself. It should fit your values, circumstances, and what matters to you. With this action plan, you have a purpose and focus that shifts your perspective away from the thoughts that make you anxious. You’ll able to keep your mindset on the actions you need to help yourself and those around you get through this situation.

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This from our friends at AfterTalk:

Coronavirus, Medicare, and Telemedicine: Everything You Need to Know

 

Editor’s Note: We are grateful to Boomer Benefits for this and past articles by Danielle K. Roberts. Since many of our readers are either seniors or those counseling seniors, we thought this excellent summary of the pandemic and medicare was worth sharing with all of you. A link to the Boomer Benefits site is at the end of the article. Be Safe!

LL and LB

Coronavirus, Medicare, and Telemedicine: Everything You Need to Know
by Danielle K. Roberts

If you’re like most of us, the global coronavirus pandemic has you feeling a little unsettled and concerned. Our daily routines are disrupted, we’re avoiding family, friends, and community social circles, and feel a frisson of fear every time we sneeze or cough. Even a simple thing like grocery shopping has become a worrisome ordeal.

We’re living in uncharted territory. Seniors, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of the virus, are caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s important to follow the CDC guidelines and stay home to protect yourself, but what happens if you don’t feel well and need medical care?

The good news is that Medicare is responding to the coronavirus crisis and making it easier than ever to get the care you need, even if you can’t—or shouldn’t—leave your house. With expanded coverage for telemedicine, Medicare is making sure seniors can get necessary healthcare without the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus, Medicare, and telemedicine.

Medicare will now cover your telemedicine appointment. Recent changes have been made to provide better access to patients from their homes.

What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses have been around a long time; some are harmless to humans and some cause disease. In some cases, the disease is mild—similar to a slight cold. In other cases, the disease can be severe. Both the SARS and MERS epidemics were caused by a coronavirus.

In 2019, a new strain of coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, a city in China. This new virus, called COVID-19, can cause severe respiratory

symptoms and pneumonia. The disease is spread among humans through droplets from coughs and sneezes. There is currently no vaccine for this strain of coronavirus.

Symptoms of coronavirus can develop any time up to 14 days after exposure. The virus attacks the respiratory system; symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In rare cases, it can cause respiratory failure, kidney failure, and even death.

 Danielle Roberts of boomerbenefits.com joins ABC News 10 to answers viewer questions about telemedicine and health insurance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE PAGE WITH THE VIDEO

Who is at risk for coronavirus?
Anyone can get coronavirus, but certain people are more at risk for dangerous complications from the disease. According to the CDC, these people are especially vulnerable to COVID-19:

Coronavirus is also known as COVID-19

  • Seniors
  • People with asthma
  • People with diabetes
  • People with heart or lung disease
  • People with HIV
  • Pregnant women

You can lower your risk for coronavirus and slow the spread of disease by following the CDC recommendations:

  1. Avoid unnecessary travel, especially on airplanes and cruise ships.
  2. Clean and disinfect your home, paying special attention to doorknobs, light switches, toilets, faucets, sinks, and cell phones.
  3. Avoid touching surfaces in public places—elevator buttons, handrails, and door handles—and avoid places where people gather.
  4. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, rubbing them together for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  5. Try not to touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, since the virus enters the body through mucous membranes.
  6. Maintain a distance of 6 feet or more between yourself and other people.

Special recommendations for seniors
Seniors are in a difficult spot. They are at higher risk because of their age and also because many have underlying conditions such as hypertension or heart disease. Not only are they more likely to contract coronavirus, but they are also more likely to have severe symptoms.

You can better protect yourself by following the CDC recommendations for high-risk individuals:

  • Obtain a three-month supply of your daily medications. You may need to call your doctor or pharmacist to get a prescription for an extended supply of doses.
  • Stock up on over-the-counter medications to treat fever (aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen). Don’t forget supplies such as thermometers, facial tissues, and hand sanitizer. If you have underlying conditions, additional supplies such as a blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter may be useful for telemedicine monitoring.
  • Fill your pantry with household staples and groceries to last several weeks.
  • Build a network of family, friends, and community support services who can deliver meals, medications, and supplies if your stock runs low.

Keep a record of your temperature each day. This will be helpful for your doctor if you do begin to develop symptoms.

Recording your temperature every day is a good way to stay on top of potential problems; fever is one of the first signs of the disease. If you start to feel ill, you’ll have a temperature log to share with your healthcare provider to help her make an accurate diagnosis.

Isolation isn’t fun; it can be lonely and boring to be cooped up at home. But resist the urge to ask your children and grandchildren to visit, even if no one is showing signs of illness. With a 14-day incubation period, people can spread the virus before they show symptoms. Take advantage of technology like FaceTime to stay in touch with loved ones.

If you’re in good health, don’t feel like you’re stuck indoors. If the weather is nice, take a walk around the neighborhood—maintaining a safe distance from others, of course. Sit in the sun and listen to music or read a good book. A little fresh air works wonders when you’re self-quarantined.

What should I do if I feel sick?
With all the potential complications from coronavirus, it’s understandable if your first response is to go to the ER or urgent care when you feel sick. But heading to the hospital is quite possibly the worst thing you can do.

Hospitals are full of sick people, especially in the middle of a pandemic. If you don’t have COVID-19 before you get to the ER, you might pick it up once you get there. And if you do have coronavirus, it will take some time to diagnose it, which means you could be infecting others while you wait for your results.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, call your primary care physician or county health department right away. Depending on your situation, they may direct you to a drive-through testing site or conduct a telehealth visit to diagnose your condition. Home testing kits are coming on the market, which means you may soon be able to test for coronavirus without leaving your house.

If your symptoms aren’t related to coronavirus, it’s still best to call your doctor before seeking treatment outside the home. Many conditions can be managed with telemedicine and you’ll avoid unnecessary risk of exposure if you’re able to remain in place.

For medical emergencies—chest pain, difficulty breathing, symptoms of stroke, or serious falls, for example—don’t waste time calling your doctor. Dial 911 right away.

What is telemedicine?
People often use the terms telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably; they’re related, but there are a few differences. Telemedicine is a range of technologies used by healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat illness and disease from a remote location. Telehealth, on the other hand, is focused on remote health monitoring and health maintenance.

Telemedicine is used by healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat illness and disease from a remote location.

If you have a cough and runny nose, and you have a video call with your doctor to diagnose your illness and prescribe an antibiotic, that’s telemedicine. If you’re discharged home after a heart attack and your doctor uses remote monitoring equipment and telephone check-ins to keep an eye on your heart rate and blood pressure, that’s telehealth.

Telemedicine uses communication technology to simulate an office visit. You and your doctor can see and talk to one another in real-time over a secure connection. Your doctor can prescribe medications and order lab tests and x-rays through telemedicine just as he could with a face-to-face visit.

Most telemedicine platforms don’t require any special equipment. You simply download an app on your smartphone or computer. You don’t pay per-minute connection charges, although you may have data charges depending on your cell phone plan.

How does Medicare cover telemedicine for coronavirus?
Original Medicare has covered telemedicine in certain situations for several years. However, the benefit was limited to people in rural areas and required them to travel to a local clinic or hospital to video conference with a doctor. In 2019, Medicare expanded the telehealth benefit to cover virtual check-ins for patients who had established relationships with a provider and were under ongoing care for a particular condition.

Early in March, President Trump issued an emergency declaration allowing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to waive restrictions for telemedicine and telehealth services. Under the new rules, Medicare beneficiaries can receive a wide range of health services right in their homes. These include:

  • Medicare telemedicine visits: Medicare will cover telemedicine encounters for any office visit, hospital visit, or other health service that typically takes place in person. Health professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, dieticians, psychologists, and medical therapists can now evaluate, diagnose, and treat Medicare beneficiaries using telemedicine video technology. The requirement for an established provider-patient relationship will not be enforced during this public health emergency. This means you can call any doctor or hospital offering telemedicine whether you’ve previously been seen there or not.
  • Medicare virtual check-ins: Medicare will pay for telephone and/or text check-ins with established patients. For people with chronic conditions, these virtual check-ins mean they can get frequent monitoring and advice to help them stay healthy without leaving home.
  • Medicare e-visits: E-visits take place through a patient portal and don’t involve any face-to-face or voice contact between the patient and provider. These are usually non-emergency issues, such as a medication refill request. E-visits require an established patient-provider relationship.

In the past, if Medicare covered these services, they were subject to the standard Part B deductible and coinsurance amounts. President Trump’s emergency declaration authorizes providers to waive the Part B coinsurance or copayments for telemedicine services, as long as they do so uniformly. In other words, a doctor can’t waive the coinsurance for one patient and collect it from another.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have telemedicine benefits beyond those authorized by Part B. Call your plan’s member services department for details.

How does Medicare cover coronavirus testing and treatment?
Medicare covers coronavirus testing at 100%. You do not have to meet your deductible before testing is free. Medicare Advantage plans are also encouraged to waive any cost-sharing for coronavirus testing to make sure every senior gets testing when it’s necessary.

All medically necessary treatment for coronavirus is covered by Medicare. In addition, Medicare will pay for inpatient stays even if you are medically able to be discharged but need to remain in the hospital for quarantine purposes.

Other Medicare benefits for coronavirus

If you’re covered by a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have access to expanded benefits that may be helpful during the public health emergency. For example, some Medicare Advantage plans pay for meal and grocery delivery. Others cover home health aides who can help you clean and disinfect your home. If you need to fill a prescription and your pharmacy doesn’t deliver, your plan may also pay for a private ride service to and from the pharmacy so you can avoid public transportation.

Many Medicare Advantage plans also have benefits for over-the-counter medications and devices. Your plan may pay for your stockpile of Tylenol, hand sanitizer, and a home blood pressure cuff or pulse oximeter to help your doctor monitor your health over telemedicine visits. Check your plan brochure for details.

The bottom line about Medicare and coronavirus
We’re living through unprecedented times and it’s normal to feel like things are spinning out of control. The good news is that you can reduce or eliminate your risk of coronavirus if you follow the CDC’s recommendations and stay at home until the crisis is ended.

Many grocery stores are offering delivery so that you don’t have to leave your home.

Medicare is there to support you in all your health needs during this time. By expanding benefits for telemedicine, you can avoid a trip to the doctor and potential exposure to the virus. Don’t be afraid to call your doctor and request a telemedicine encounter—you’re lowering the risk of infection for yourself and others. And you’ll get the same quality of care you’d get in the office.

If you need medication, ask your pharmacy to deliver it and any other health supplies you may need. If they can’t, call your Medicare plan to see which pharmacies in your network offer home delivery. Your plan’s mail order pharmacy is another option to avoid unnecessary trips.

The team at Boomer Benefits is committed to helping you with your Medicare options in this time.

Take advantage of businesses offering extra services to help keep you safe. Many grocery stores are offering doorstep delivery; don’t risk getting sick because you’ve run out of eggs or coffee. Services such as Instacart and Amazon Prime can bring virtually anything you need right to your door. You can even get takeout from your favorite local restaurants delivered to your house.

Remember, staying home doesn’t mean ignoring your healthcare. Phone your doctor if you feel sick or have questions about your health. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of rest to keep your immune system at its best. Use your time at home to learn something new or re-engage with a neglected hobby. Call your friends and family regularly to keep your spirits up and encourage one another to stick with the program until the CDC says it’s OK to return to normal life.

We’ll all get through this together. The experts at Boomer Benefits are here when you need Medicare advice and our offices will remain open by phone to offer help when you need it.

“We are in the business of helping people understand Medicare, in simple, plain terms that everyone can understand. We believe that it’s important that you first understand Medicare itself.  You can’t understand your supplement options until you first get a handle on your basic Medicare benefits. Fortunately, we’ve mastered how to make it simple.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE BOOMER BENEFITS WEBSITE

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‘Your Papa Is Right Here’

After my husband died, an old friend asked me what he could offer me, beyond words. I thought of something that our young sons could treasure.

By  Marc Sorensen Leandro

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Every inch of me needed a break,  so my mom took the boys to a playground down the road. It was young for them but there was a fence, so as they scooted or swung, you at least knew they wouldn’t dart into the street. And it was the one kid-friendly place I’d discovered in Berkeley, during a week devoured  by unpacking, anticipation, and parenting by avoidance. 

Once they drove off, I was alone for the first time in our new house. I cried a tangled mixture of exhaustion and grief, leaving me with a plugged nose, bloodshot eyes, and a dull pain in my chest any time I took a deep breath. With the boys’ screeching and scampering temporarily quieted, in this place Lin had never been and never would be, a door opened and out came the sads. 

I walked up to my new bedroom and pulled open a curtain covering a closet stacked four or five high with boxes, and fixed my eyes on a leather valise wedged into a corner. It was a slightly ratty, box-shaped thing with a stitched handle, on either side of which was a tarnished metal clasp that you twist to release. It was Lin’s, and it was old, from long before we met, and had been a mute companion from Brooklyn to Rhode Island to Los Angeles, where Lin got off, and then to Berkeley with me and the boys. I’d noticed it before, imagining that some night when the kids were asleep, Lin would describe in granular detail what his life was like when the contents of the case were used, and useful. He’d tell me who he was then, and how it was different or worse or better than now. 

I dragged the case out, found a stack of notebook inside, and grabbed one at random. Written on the inside cover was Lin’s name and the date, early into his freshman year at the University of Oregon. Even though it was 20 years old, the pages were so clean and well-preserved that I felt like an archivist who should be wearing special gloves. I flipped to the middle, and tucked into a manila divider on a loose-leaf sheet, found a poem in Lin’s unmistakable script. I knew that he had written poetry, but he probably felt it wasn’t good enough to share. Or maybe he thought that he’d get around to sharing it, someday. 

I want to lie down in the sun
and bask in the glow of the water.
I want my soul to leave my
body through my eyes and ears
and let my doubts drip out
the ends of my hair. I am
a ceremonial headdress
floating down the Milky Way
in a bamboo canoe. Spirits
glow inside me, and my fingers
and toes are twenty lighthouses,
beckoning the kindred. Pain
huddles in the doorway. Fear
has lost its fins. I breathe in
the sky and exhale the water.
I pretend they aren’t watching.
The river and I create dances
together, and when we get tired,
we sleep in each other’s arms.
A deep sleep that lets me forget
the struggles and free my
hands of scars. Forget paper
and pen and their tragic
electricity. Forget this mortal
coil with the rattle at the
end. I want to make contact
and know that it’s a miracle. A
miracle without a pen that is not
bound in paper. I want history
inside. I want to leave all this
vertical behind. I want to lie down
in the water and bask in the sun.
-Lin Sorensen, 1995

The room slowed. Lin was 19 when he put this down, with 22 years left to live. Somehow, the words grasped his fate, and in the aftermath, in our new unintended home in Berkeley, I was astounded and unsettled and comforted all at once.

I called Lin’s dad to tell him what I’d found. He was struck too, and what’s more, said he was taking a class on Milky Way photography the following weekend. The next day, I slipped the poem onto the clipboard Lin and I used to log the boys’ milk intake when they were tiny, and walked to UC Berkeley, where my librarian friend photographed it with a special camera on a pure white background. I made an oversized print of that image, and after Lin’s dad captured a haunting celestial portrait, I blew that up too and placed both in identical frames which I hung at the foot of our bed, of my bed. Two mattes, two glass sheets, and two photos, into one whole. Now, as I go to sleep or when I wake up, I’ll take them in and smile, or stare, and sometimes I press my outstretched fingers to the poem and make contact. 

My job now is to curate into existence things that Max and Otis can see and touch and be around — everyday things that will burrow deep into their child’s minds and spur questions that in time might become answers. 

On the day Lin died, there was a party at our house in L.A. That’s the only word for it. His dad flew in, as he had countless times when Lin was sick, and with my parents and five or six friends, we danced and drank and held each other into the night, with the same stunned disbelief across all our faces, lit at times by smiles that beamed Lin’s sweetness. 

After the others left and the boys were long asleep, it was just me and my dad, who 12 hours before sat with Lin and me at the very end. So much of me was freshly carved out as we stood there saying goodnight, and then Lin’s hand was on my left shoulder, steadying me, comforting me. I cried out in shock, then formed some words to explain to my dad what had happened. He and I shared one last hug for the day, and I continued to my room, shutting the door behind me.

The Klonopin was kicking in when my phone dinged. “Can you talk?” read a text message from an old friend back East who must have heard. Can I talk? Thirty seconds later, we were on the phone. He’d been into the whiskey and we cried together, and the only words I remember at first were, so unfair so unfair, I know I know… I know. Before we hung up, he told me how much he loved Lin, and that he wished there was something he could do beyond words. With my heart all filled up and just hours into freefall, and I came up with something.

I moved from Rhode Island to San Francisco in the mid-1990s,  around the time this same friend took up woodworking. At a going-away party, he gave me one of his first creations, a compact cherrywood box, inlaid with a brushed stainless steel top. When you open the brass-hinged lid, a small circle cut-out of the metal from the other side reveals itself. At 24, it was the finest thing I’d ever owned, and it became a repository for all my prized ephemera. I moved at least 10 times in the two decades that followed, and I always packed the box with care, tenderly wrapping it in towel after towel, and placing it in a backpack I kept by my side, while lesser belongings clattered around in the back of the U-Haul. 

“What about recreating the box? The same but bigger, as a reliquary for all things Lin, for the boys to have one day?” He said yes right then, and six months later, just before Lin’s memorial, it arrived. Larger and even more beautiful than its predecessor, it was identical in design with two differences: the word Lin, carved by hand inside, and the inlaid stainless steel top buffed to a brilliant mirror finish that would ward off a vampire. When the boys are old enough, inside they’ll discover among other things,  some of Lin’s writing, a bundle of kitchen-counter notes he and I left each other in the early Brooklyn days, a printed dinner menu from our wedding, condolence cards, his eyeglasses, his wedding ring, and a vial of sand from the last time we were together at the beach as a family.

Objects are big with me, now, like an energetic tether that connects me to Lin. And our boys, they’re at an age where things dig deep grooves. Not long ago, I wrote myself a note that I titled Cornerstones of Continuity/Remembrance. The framed photographs are No. 3 on that list, and the boys have already started asking about their backstory. And the wooden box and its contents are No. 5. My job now is to curate into existence things that Max and Otis can see and touch and be around — everyday things that will burrow deep into their child’s minds and spur questions that in time might become answers. 

These are delicate days, and my wish — more than anything I’ve ever wished except that Lin would live — is that our boys won’t spend years fumbling into sharp, dark cul-de-sacs in an effort to find him. I want to make him known. I want continuity, like when they were 4½ and he was still alive, but also like he’s putting them to bed and taking them to soccer practice and sitting in the front row of their high school graduation with tears welling up in his eyes. I’ll fail in this goal, because he is not here, and because the boys must quest their quests. But I can light the road, and I can draw maps, with guardrails and markers, affixed with neon arrows that flash brightly and say to them, “Your Papa is right here.” 

The boys arrived back from the playground with their batteries depleted and their edges smoothed. They found me puffy-eyed, sprawled on the carpet in my room surrounded by Papa’s notebooks, and climbed onto me, nuzzling and giggling and generally being the puppies that they are. The pendulum of my heart swings unpredictably between gratitude and despair every day still, two years after our world blew up. And sometimes, I’m dead sure that I can’t do this. But then, the silliness and warmth and light that shone on us for so brief a time presses through and I think, maybe I can.

Marc Sorensen Leandro is a writer and private chef who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boys, Max and Otis. He was a contributor to Huffington Post, and his work has been featured in Out Magazine and American Circus, among others. Find him on Instagram at @marcbenjamin1.

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Marty, thank you for always sharing articles, this is one of the things that sets this forum apart from others...your invaluable help.  I don't know how I missed the one on COVID before, but glad I saw it now, along with the more recent one.

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1 hour ago, MartyT said:

The pendulum of my heart swings unpredictably between gratitude and despair every day still, two years after our world blew up.

Oh, wow...  that is simply profound, and exactly how I feel these days.

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Many ask, "Do I need counseling?"  Here's what "What's Your Grief" has to say on the subject:

Demystifying Grief Counseling: Five FAQs

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What is grief counseling?

First, we want to clarify what we mean by ‘grief counseling’. When we use the terms ‘grief counseling’, we’re using it to mean any type of one-on-one, couples, or family therapy, provided by a licensed counselor, to someone(s) who experienced a significant loss. Ideally, the counselor will have experience and expertise related to grief and bereavement, though their backgrounds will vary. 

The impetus for seeking therapy is challenges related to coping with loss and adjusting to life in its wake. Though, a person may find they address a wide range of issues throughout their counseling journey, whether they set out to do so or not.


Do I need grief counseling?

The question many people start with – and thus the most common question we hear – is something along the lines of “Do I need grief counseling?” or “How do I know I should go to grief counseling?”

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I’m afraid our answer isn’t the most satisfying for people who want black-and-white guidelines, but I also think it’s the simplest. What we say is – if you are even slightly open to counseling – it never hurts to give it a try. 

People often think there’s a threshold of severity they should surpass before seeking counseling. Just as a person might wait until a fever spikes to a specific temperature before calling the doctor, they believe their grief has to hit a certain intensity before calling a counselor.

However, therapeutic experiences can be helpful to anyone, even people who are feeling pretty ‘okay’ in their life.  For example, counseling can help a person explore their experiences in a supportive, confidential, and non-judgmental environment. Also, counselors can provide psychoeducation and help clients identify coping tools and resources for dealing with a wide range of stressors. 

We know this may seem overly simplistic, logistically speaking. There are barriers related to access and cost that we’ll address a little in the next few FAQs. But generally speaking, in terms of whether you should try it or not, if doing so doesn’t place undue strain on your wallet or your time – then we say go for it. 

For our friends who want a little more concrete advice on this topic, try these articles:

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Posted: July 28, 2020 
The Ephemeral Nature of Normal

Here’s a question for you, now that we’re a little halfway through this mishigas of a year: what does “normal” even mean anymore?

I won’t quote dictionaries at you; you know better than anyone else what normal looks like for you. As humans, we’re simple creatures of habit. We get into routines, we set our own boundaries, we develop preferences and nurture them. We create our normal, settle in and get comfortable — and then along comes a pandemic to throw everything into the air like so many juggling balls.

And it does feel like that sometimes, doesn’t it? Your job situation changes (working from home, losing hours, being let go), there’s nowhere to take the kids all summer, your loved ones are all at each other’s throats, no one knows what schools will be doing next year but they’re asking you to decide what to do right now… this is a real cluster, and here we are trying to balance it all, when the easier thing to do would be to let it hit the floor.

You feel like you’re not keeping up the way you used to, you’re frustrated with your seeming inability to get things done, the world feels like it’s had a sepia filter dropped over it, you’re losing track of time, and the calendar looks like a jumble of numbers and squares… and that hazy mess of confusion just happens to be the sneakiest way depression gets the drop on you.

It’s not the symptom we usually focus on when we talk about depression. We’re used to seeing pervasive self-hatred and dislike, fatigue and an empty tank of energy, disturbed sleep habits, isolation, and the midnight munchies (because making a midday meal feels like climbing Mount Everest). Above all, there’s the constant weight of sadness, and the creeping diminishment from being soaked in feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that sneak up on you, becoming a true blue cognitive distortion that colors your thinking.

But when you’re experiencing a significant loss of focus and concentration, the disruption to your thought patterns can easily become just as intrusive. When you can’t remember details or make clear decisions and “normal” changes every time the sun comes up, it’s hard to feel like you’re in control of anything around you.  Read on here >>>

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If there’s one good thng about grief, it's this...

by Danny Katz

If there’s anything good about grief, which there isn’t, but if there was (there isn’t), it would be this: you lose a lot of weight. Oh yeah, you just burn off the calories because your gut is a seething churning pit of despair – it’s really effective.

 

We’re grieving the loss of a much-adored loved one and I have to say, we’ve never looked trimmer. I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror and thought, “Whoahhh Danny, your body is a trim, hunky masterpiece of sculptural musculature! Sure your face is a gaunt, haggard bladder of misery with sad, saggy bloodhound jowls ... but the bod? Whoahhh, ripped!”

If there’s another good thing about grief, which there isn’t, but if there was (there definitely isn’t), it would be this: friends are really nice to you.

Yeah, they drop round gifts of flowers and pot-plants – our house turned into a Royal Botanic Garden, a tiny indoor one, fragrantly scented with roses and burnt toast.

Some friends even drop round cakes and chocolates, and we can eat everything because we’re on the Gut-Churning Seething-Despair All-Grief Diet (“I lost five kilos in seven days after gorging on an entire Maltesers Cheesecake! I cannot un-recommend the All-Grief Diet enough!!!!” D. Katz, Melbourne. #LookingFabulous #ApartFromBloodhoundJowls).

If there’s one final good thing about grief, which there isn’t, but if there was (believe me, there isn’t), it would be this: grief puts everything into perspective.

Yeah, you realise that petty problems are unimportant, that love is all-important, and that no matter how much you’re suffering, there’s always someone else who’s suffering worse than you, which is bizarrely reassuring.

Though following this line of logic, in a world with a finite human population, there must be one person who’s right at the bottom of the hardship heap. Someone who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Well, life is terrible, but at least I know someone else is suffering worse than ... oh ... wait. No, I’m it. Bugger.”

The Person Who Suffers Worse Than Anyone Else On The Planet must be doing it tough. They’d be grieving for loved ones, they’d be living in a war-zone, they’d be stricken with poverty, they’d be bombarded with cryptocurrency spam-emails even though they’ve already unsubscribed twice.

The Person Who Suffers Worse Than Anyone Else On The Planet would be racked with illness, they’d be out of work, they’d be dealing with a broken relationship, they’d be regretting ripping off a hangnail they knew they shouldn’t rip off and now it stings every time they dunk their finger in orange juice (which they know they shouldn’t be doing either).

The Person Who Suffers Worse Than Anyone Else On The Planet is a great hero: they make everyone else feel better about their crappy circumstances.

And at least they can console themselves by thinking: “Well, at least I’m not one of those foie gras ducks who spend their brief lives getting force-fed corn through a tube jammed down their throat until their livers become horribly distended then they’re slaughtered so the liver can be mashed into a French pâté that may one day be used in a Masterchef invention test, served in an ice-cream cone with a roast quince chutney, which all three judges will say is completely inedible. Being born just to become an ingredient in a failed Masterchef invention test: no suffering is worse than that. That’s the bottom."

Hangnails, cheesecake, distended livers: these are the thoughts going through my grieving brain. And I know in time our grief will lessen, the cakes will stop coming, the kilos will stack back on, and friends will go back to treating me with the indifference I deserve. Very much looking forward to it.

Danny Katz is a Melbourne humourist.

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