IN THE NEWS
Acknowledging and Managing Grief During the Holidays
by GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON (ABC7) — While the holidays can be a joyful period at the end of a long year, for many it’s a painful reminder of those we’ve lost. And as difficult as 2020 has been, people everywhere are experiencing waves of grief unlike ever before. Clinical therapist and grief expert Jill Johnson-Young shared how to effectively channel our emotions this season.
Grieving a Loss While Maintaining a Therapy Practice…
You will have some clients who realize you have lost a loved one, and may bring it up. Being prepared for those moments while not intruding on the client’s therapeutic process is tremendously important. If the client is a grief client, you will need to evaluate how much disclosure is necessary and how much is too much, while not being untruthful and breaching your client’s sense of trust.
Finally, seeking out consultation or talking with a colleague in your practice if you feel tenuous about your sense of balance, or seeking out your own counseling are options I strongly suggest. It can be very difficult to find a therapist who will see another therapist, and especially one who is an expert in grief, but ask around. We are out there, and getting support is far better than being isolated. “It’s complicated” does not begin got describe all the issues that can come into play. Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW, Riverside CA, www.yourpaththroughgrief.com
When speaking about someone who has taken their own life, avoid the phrase “committed suicide,” says Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW, a California-based grief counselor, author, and speaker. “This sounds almost accusatory, creates blame, and hurts those who are left behind,” she explains. Instead, she suggests saying: “died as a result of suicide,” “died from suicide,” or even “ended their life.” Another common mistake is asking family members how exactly the person died. Don’t ask that question at all, she says.
Jill is an incredibly talented therapist and a social worker. She will work from your strengths to enhance the skills you already have and to address the issues holding you back or disrupting your life. Her goal is to assist you in reaching a more satisfying state in your life, to reduce your stress, and to make home a better place to be. Her specialties include working through grief and loss (including children's grief and anticipatory grief), chronic illness issues, depression and mood disorders, trauma recovery, adoption and infertility issues, and geriatric and aging issues. She is a speaker/trainer and has provided training to parenting groups, educational support groups, community groups and employer groups. Some of her topics include Alzheimer, dementia, caregiving 101, child abuse reporting laws, parenting the adoptive child and trauma recovery. She currently facilitates a dementia support group. She’s also coming out with a book about grieving a pet; how amazing is that?
Your child may have questions, and it’s OK to give them real answers. Try to avoid making abstract statements that your child might not understand or that might scare them, Jill A. Johnson-Young, LCSW, tells SheKnows. Don’t tell them that their deceased loved one is watching them all the time. “That’s stalker-creepy, and they won’t shower,” she says. Another example: saying the family cat has “gone to sleep,” could make a kid afraid to close their eyes.
An interview with Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW about how we have been trained to handle grief wrong. Curt and Katie talk with Jill about what the Kubler-Ross model is useful for (and what it’s not) as well has how therapists can better deal with grief – for themselves and in their practice.
"Stepping out of safety and into who you want to be, especially after a loss, is an awesome way to rediscover who you are, and what you have to offer. (Finding someone who wants to marry you after you have been widowed twice before age 50 is pretty amazing too)." - Jill A. Johnson-Young, LCSW
When midlife or senior clients come to therapy with new mental health symptoms, dementia may be overlooked as the cause. How can mental health professionals help?
“There’s a reason for everything.” Feelings about death are often tied closely to spirituality and religion, so the things that you find most reassuring after a death may not be as comforting to others. If you see death as part of a bigger plan, that’s great — but you should be mindful about making assumptions that others believe the same. Also, this “assumes that some power is choosing to have your loved one die, and that you are supposed to be okay with it and find some purpose in their death,” licensed clinical social worker and grief specialist Jill Johnson-Young points out. That can feel like a lot of pressure, even to people whose beliefs have room for positivity around death.
Moving to a new house isn't always a welcome prospect. When you're not thrilled about leaving your beloved family home behind, a proper goodbye can help with the transition. These meaningful ways honor the old house while fostering hope for the next chapter of your life in the new house.
1. Throw a House Cooling Party
Host a party before moving day? It seems counterproductive. But a house cooling party is a great way to empty your pantry and fridge. Most importantly, it's a gathering to reflect on the memorable times you had in the house with family and friends. For a thoughtful and fun activity for the kids (and yourself), create a friendship board with pictures of the new house on it. Have everyone sign the board and take plenty of pictures of the guests so you can attach the pictures to the board later. "This will give your kiddos the ability to take those people with them and to see them in their new home—hopefully encouraging post-move friendships," suggests Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW, CEO and Clinical Director at Central Counseling Services in California. When you're done eating and reminiscing, here's a great idea for sending your guests home with a parting gift: assign one room for stuff you don't want to take with you, and invite your friends to browse the items and take what they want.
Talk to your utility company. While it might not be the first place you'd consider tapping as a caregiver, Jill Johnson-Young suggests remembering that your utility company may be able to help you if, say, you're running any special equipment necessary for a loved one to live at home.
Since the early 1990s, Johnson-Young has been a licensed clinical social worker in Riverside, California, and runs a support group for dementia caregivers. She also has firsthand experience taking care of ill loved ones. Her first and second wives died, respectively, of pulmonary fibrosis in 2010, and Lewy body dementia in 2013. She also helped her mother care for her father for 10 years.
Johnson-Young says that if you have medical equipment running in your home, and it's impacting your bill, call your electric company, which may be able to lower it.
"Most utilities have a program for that, and it also means [that] if there's an outage, your home goes on a priority list for getting back online," she says.
Check out thrift stores. Say your insurance company refuses to pay for equipment your loved one needs; you may have luck finding it at a thrift store that's connected to a church, Johnson-Young says.
"We have a large Seventh-day Adventist presence in our area, and their church often had DME – durable medical equipment – available at no or low cost," she says.
Utilize social media. These platforms offer great ways to reach out for help or to link up with groups of folks who are grappling with similar caregiving issues, Johnson-Young adds.
"They have ideas from practical experience, and [these groups are] also a great place to vent without being seen by family," she says. "The Lewy group I still belong to frequently links families together for mutual assistance and for care packages to lighten the caregiver's load for a moment."
Kids need space to grieve. Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW, and author of The Grief Workbook and Someone Is Sick – How Do I Say Goodbye? says that, “When I work with kiddos expecting a death I use honest language, and real language. ‘Have you noticed that Nanny is slowing down/losing weight/not eating as much/can’t play like she used to? She’s not well. In fact, she is sick, and we have to start getting ready to say goodbye.'”
This will, of course, probably bring you to tears. That’s okay. Hoffman says we need to let our kids see us cry, get angry about the loss, feel pain, and yes, use the dreaded d-word. “The greatest way to teach children anything is to do it ourselves so think about what you want your kids to do and do the same. It takes a good leader to always be strong, it takes a great leader to lead even while vulnerable or compromised. Be a great leader.”
Johnson-Young affirms that dealing with the death of a pet will help them learn about death, life, and treasuring memories. “It’s the best way to help them deal with loss as adults.”
Johnson-Young suggests that we begin the process of grieving while Mingus is still around — before that last trip to the vet. “I would encourage some sort of goodbye while she is still alive, like an ‘I love you circle’ where you all pet her and tell her what memories you will always have of her. If you have a belief in an afterlife, then pets go to heaven. Reassure them that you are not as old as [Mingus], and that you are well and will not be dying. Allow them to process. Do not spring this on them at the last moment.”