Monthly Archives: January 2009

Divorce is a Legitimate Choice

For many men and women in a wide variety of situations divorce is a legitimate and appropriate choice.

Getting divorced is a process and consists of 3 main elements:

  • Emotional
  • Financial
  • Legal

Healing from divorce is not easy.  It is often a long and excruciating process and always brings out strong emotions.  The divorce process frequently leaves people feeling lonely, flawed, enraged, undesirable, helpless, empty and emotionally raw and overwhelmed.

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce, the best recommendation I have is to put together a team of knowledgeable, experienced professionals who will work on your behalf for the best possible outcome for you!

Lawyers, mediators, therapists, coaches, accountants, clergy and financial planners all have valuable points of view to consider.  If you have children, stay in close communication with your children’s teachers and the parents of their friends.

An important part of the repair process is learning to honor and heal the many emotions of divorce.  Please remember that all these emotions are a normal and natural response to divorce:

  • Anger at yourself and your ex-partner;
  • Shame and guilt that haunts you and keeps you stuck and unable to think about many of the alternatives and possibilities;
  • Sadness and despair over the loss of the relationship;
  • Anxiety over the disruption of the family; and
  • Loss of a lifetime of hopes, dreams, expectations.

While there is no argument from me that divorce can be painful and awful in many ways, you still have choices when it comes to your response(s) to getting divorced.  I urge you to become willing to choose…

  • Self-discovery;
  • Deepening your self-awareness;
  • Renewing self-respect;
  • Learning to make new choices; and
  • Working on forgiveness.

Take the first step on the road back from the awfulness of your divorce and toward repairing and restoring an injured part of self, forwarding cooperation and good will with those with whom you have been in conflict, reducing any on-going harmful impact on yourself and your children, exploring the values that drive your decisions and creating useful, healthy ways to meet your needs.  You can say goodbye to pain and confusion and begin designing a life that is rich and meaningful today.

Remember, only YOU can make it happen!


What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving

What do you say to someone whose life comes crashing down around them; whose life, as they knew it, is forever and profoundly changed?

The first thing to really recognize is that when someone experiences the death of a loved one, the loss is so pervasive, the pain so excruciating, that there are no words that will be particularly helpful or meaningful to hear.

You see, grieving is a wholly feeling experience.  The intellectual recognition that someone has died is present inside us immediately, and is very different from the emotional recognition that someone has died; really getting that you will never see his face again; never hear her voice again; never be able to throw your arms around each other and share a bear hug.

The emotional recognition is a normal, natural and necessary process we call grieving.

Recognize that people who are grieving the loss of a loved one – even the death of an elderly person who had a good life and whose death was expected – are experiencing something that is incomprehensible.  Inexplicable.  Unimaginable.  Inconsolable.

And in fact, sometimes people say the most stupid things to people who are grieving –even with the best of intentions.

Don’t Say This to a Grieving Person

  • There was nothing you could do; you did your best!
  • Time heals all wounds
  • You should keep yourself busy; busy hands are happy hands
  • You still have another child
  • I know what you’re going through

Make a personal connection to the person who is feeling the agony of a loss. Have the courage to speak the truth about the terribleness of what has happened.

Allow yourself to acknowledge that a loss occurred and someone feels deeply saddened; think of words that might accurately describe loss, like – terrible, tragic, heartbreaking, sad, nightmare; be sure to speak from the “I position;” and whatever you say, keep it simple; and keep it short!

Consider Saying This to a Grieving Person

  • I can’t imagine how terrible this is for you.  You are in my thoughts.
  • I can only imagine the profound sadness in your heart right now.  I am keeping you in my prayers.
  • There are no words I can say to express my sorrow.
  • I wish there was something I could say that would lessen the agony you must feel today.

Reflecting the truth of the pain back to those in pain is how you sow the seeds of caring and comfort.

Remember, only You can make it happen!


The End of a Relationship Can Be a Terrible Loss

Breaking up, getting divorced and the death of your partner are among the biggest loss events in life. 

There are three important things to remember:

    1. Grief is the reaction to a loss event;
    2. Grieving is the normal, natural, and necessary process that restores us to wholeness;
    3. Grieving is a wholly feeling experience.

Grieving is as unique as your fingerprints.  No two people will react to the same loss event in the same way and no two people will grieve the same way.

The cognitive or thinking part of self is not the grieving part of self.  Think of your personal energy as being 100%.  In a perfect world, 50% of your personal energy is your outside self and 50% of your personal energy is your inside self.

The job of the outside self is to think, assess, evaluate, make decisions, go to work, pay your bills, read the paper, plan for your future, remember to send your mother a birthday card; behaviors that occur outside of you.

The job of the inside self is to feel your feelings, be creative, intuitive, inspired, insightful, spiritual, intimate, passionate, joyful, compassionate; experiences that occur inside you.

If you fall down and injure your leg, the blood supply leaves parts of your body and goes to the injured leg to help it heal.  You will respect the injury, modify your physical activity, not stress or otherwise re-injure the injured leg, and allow it time to heal.

Similarly, it is correct to think about the injury to your emotions as an emotional rupture.  Your normal, natural, and necessary emotional response to an emotional rupture includes shock, numbness, disbelief, anger, sheer terror, and many other feelings and physical body responses.

Much of the energy of your outside self has been redirected inward, to the inside self, much like the blood being directed away from some parts of the physical body and redirected to the injured part of the physical body.

Following a loss, the ratio of outside to inside energy is more like 10% outside self-energy and 90% inside self-energy.  A lot of the energy of the outside self has been sent to support the emotional rupture of the inside self.

So, logically that means that thinking, making decisions, going to work, paying your bills, and many of the other daily tasks of the outside self (moving on, getting back to normal) won’t get done anytime soon.  There simply isn’t enough outside-self energy at this moment.

It also means you may be feeling fatigued, lack motivation, focus, and concentration…all activities of the outside self.  Stop having unrealistic expectations of yourself because a lot of your energy has been redirected from your outside self to your inside self to help heal the emotional rupture and allow your heart time to heal.

Don’t expect that you will return to "business as usual," "move on," "get back to normal," without sufficient time to walk the path of grieving; to give yourself time to restore your sense of safety, regain your sense of balance inside and outside, and reorganize your thinking and coping strategies.

Trust what you know, deep in the place where you know it.  Honor your courage and respect the tenderness of your heart and your soul.  Tell the truth about your limitations and your vulnerability.  They are your strengths!  You are the exquisite reflection of your humanness!!  Your reactions are completely normal, natural, and necessary.

Take very good care of you.  You deserve it!

Remember, only You can make it happen!

Living Well with Chronic Illness

Living with chronic illness impacts one’s physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Living with chronic illness often causes one to feel helpless and hopeless, discouraged and isolated.  It can devastate one’s career and financial security, friendships and love relationships, creativity, concentration, motivation, and one’s very peace of mind. 

It is important now and useful long-term, to remain as active, social, and productive as possible.  That means focus on what you can do and let go of what you can no longer do.  Create priorities for your body, mind, heart, and soul.

Ancient philosophers and healers recognized that the body and the mind were one.  Modern research confirms this body/mind connection.  Western medicine has coined a term for what the ancients knew: psychoneuroimmunology.  Harvard Medical School now publishes a professional journal called Mind/Body Medicine.  Studies show that improved physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being stimulate an innate healing response in the body.  It is possible to create a healthier lifestyle that will promote wellness.  The key is to balance the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life.

Improving and maintaining physical well-being includes proper nutrition, rest, and exercise.  It means carefully selecting the activities in which you participate and the people with whom you spend time to ensure that you are making good choices about expending energy and making the most of each day.

Paying attention to the psychological and emotional aspects of your life includes becoming a good observer of your thoughts, feelings, and how/what you feel in your body.  This is a time to allow yourself to experience, examine, and express your thoughts and feelings in an honest and forthright way.

Accurately expressing yourself is one of the most important aspects of living with chronic illness.  No one will know how you feel and what you can reasonably be expected to do or not do unless you tell people directly.  Value yourself and take ownership of your feelings, and thoughts, your resources and choices.

Honor and express your deepest truth and make what you say and how you say it match what you feel.  Say your real “yes” and your real “no” and say what you feel without blaming or needing to please others.  Don’t avoid saying what is in your heart or on your mind to say.  Don’t hide your worries and concerns because you don’t want others to know you are not in control.

Accessing your spiritual nature can be as easy as watching the sunset or taking a walk through a beautiful garden.  You might also consider meditation, yoga, chanting, or praying.  Whether you call it God, the Universe, higher power, or “the force” a la Steven Spielberg, it is quite comforting and healing to experience the inner peace that is uniquely you.

Sitting in the quiet and allowing your attention to flow inward is very foreign to men and women in the Western world.  It is, however, a fundamental practice if one is to develop and maintain health and well-being, inside and outside.

Human beings are resilient and adaptable.  When faced with seemingly insurmountable tasks, we rise to the occasion.  Chronic illness often motivates us to re-evaluate and reconsider every aspect of life; to review and change habits, goals, choices, and decisions.

This review includes everything from food choices, career/work, social relationships and recreational activities, to including naps and going to sleep earlier.  Now is the time to create a more flexible schedule and intentionally pace yourself.

Determination and persistence will enable you to stay motivated through the tough times, and stay involved in activities that are meaningful and joyful.  Maintaining your sense of humor is essential.

Invite people into your life who are kind, respectful, and compassionate.  Stay away from well-meaning, well-intentioned people who have an agenda for you and can’t see you or hear you accurately.

This is the opportunity to create the changes in your life that will bring meaning to every day and cause you to choose and maintain a lifestyle that promotes and sustains your well-being:  physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual.

While chronic illness may close some doors, it will no doubt open others.  Take good care!  You’re worth it.

Remember, only You can make it happen!

Illness–A Family’s Response

When a family member becomes ill, whether for a week, for a few months, or with a long-term or terminal illness, each individual has a reaction and the entire family unit has a reaction.

Frequently I am asked by family members and by those who are ill, how to talk to others in the family.  Illness deeply affects everyone in the family in many ways.

“Role reorganization” is a healthy process that a family undergoes in response to the illness or death of one of its members.  If we think about the family being a system for a moment, the entire system is thrown into disequilibrium.

Roles and responsibilities must now be reassigned to re-establish the equilibrium, that is, to bring back balance and harmony to the family system and each individual.

Using each family’s values, beliefs, and ways of coping, they must re-evaluate and re-establish the rules, communication patterns, family expectations, and behavior patterns that will keep the family operating in a stable manner.

It is very useful for each person to talk about how the person’s illness is affecting him or her and discuss the idea and necessity of role reorganization for their entire family.  Everyone in the family must be included in all the conversations.  No side or private conversations should occur until each person in the family is talking about the issues and working together to find mutually acceptable solutions.

There is a good chance for success if communications between all the family members are open and honest.  Each person’s needs must be recognized as being legitimate and important.  Each individual must, with mindfulness and intention, make a commitment to the survival of the family.

It is vital to include all siblings, no matter what their ages, because they deserve an opportunity to talk about how they have been affected and they have a right and a responsibility to assume some new roles.

It is also essential to include the person who is ill so he or she can feel reassured that they are still an important family member and can know how the family is adjusting itself to accommodate the illness.  This will help the ill person be reassured that his or her needs can and will be met and that no one will be over-burdened because of him/her.

In the event one of the family members is unable or unwilling to participate, I encourage the other members to set firm boundaries and communicate directly what they are willing and able to do.  Often people are in a reacting mode and not thinking very clearly.  When approached with some information and a plan, people often welcome discussions and easily consider alternatives to this painful dilemma.

Please remember, one person’s illness affects everyone in that person’s life; friends, family members, co-workers, and even neighbors and business associates.  If you are the ill person and have the presence of mind and the physical strength, provide the space for everyone to talk to you and each other about their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to your illness.

If you are a friend or a family member, please create the time and space for everyone to talk about what has happened.  Be sure to include the ill person.

Nobody ever wants to ‘bring it up’ and upset anybody else; everyone is thinking about what is happening and everyone is already upset.

Have the courage to tell the truth in the presence of those who are special to you and face the pain and sadness that is making its home in your heart.

Remember, only You can make it happen!

Dr Jackie Black Newsletter

Hello. I am Dr. Jackie Black, your Couples in Trouble Expert. Since 1999, I have guided many formerly frustrated and desperately unhappy Couples in Trouble to happiness, closeness and having more fun together than they ever imagined. My years of experience combined with your commitment to your personal growth will enable you to welcome the results you have always wanted and never believed were possible in your marriage.

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