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Hey, I’m Dr. Kevin Skinner. Thank you for taking time to ask your question here on brighter mornings. Your question is how can I grieve effectively when I didn’t get a chance to due to COVID-19? Man, I’ll tell you, this is one of those questions that we’re getting more and more of because COVID-19 has made it so we can’t go visit parents. We can’t go into care centers hospitals and it is a very common question. So I’m so grateful that you asked this question and let me just give you three or four ideas that I recommend to my clients when they struggle with that in opportunity to say goodbye, whether that’s COVID related or not.

So the first thing that I tell my clients is to consider this phase of loss as a time to grieve. And that often means that we want to give the loss meaning and openly talk about in your own writing or allow to somebody, a friend, a loved one, how you felt about your loved one. So concept number one is we want to make sure that we give me meaning to this loss and that could be done through writing or talking it out.

Number two, as you go through that, writing or talking about what would you want to have done finish in your mind, what you wish you could have done, but was not able to, because of COVID-19. What would I want to have said, what would have, I want to have done as a way to show my appreciation or love or gratitude for the life of that loved one.

The third part, now that you’ve given it a voice you’ve done, some of them said some of the things you’ve wanted to say is take time to specifically focus on the hurt and the loss that you have had. And what that might sound is I felt like I didn’t get to say goodbye. And I feel what give a language to your hurt, to your feelings and what really, what that means is at this point, you might have had experiences and emotions that make you overwhelmingly sad.

Give those feelings a voice. In other words, we’re going to now pay attention to your emotions, loss, sorrow, maybe anger. They too need an expression.

So now we’re going to turn our attention to the emotions you’ve been writing. You’ve been talking, I’ve been doing things to that you would like to have said, but now we’re going to pay attention to your emotions. What are the deeper wounds in our hurts that you’re feeling?

And finally, the fourth part. Anytime we grieve. It’s important that we don’t judge what we feel or think or what your, or how even how your body’s responding. Some people lose weight. Some people get eat more to for comfort because they feel that, that loss.

So I’m going to ask you at this point to, to listen to your body. And really get attuned to how your body’s feeling with it loss. Sometimes we have habits of picking up a phone or sending them email or whatever to the person who is lost. I would suggest that maybe you continue to write or call in your mind. What would you say in that phone call?

Now my fifth and final point, I guess I had one more because of loss. I invite you to consider having a sit down conversation, imagine that your loved one was sitting down in a chair right next to you. I want you to imagine that with me right now. I want you to just to feel their presence and because you know them, what would they say? What would you want to say? I’d like you to have that imaginary conversation as if it’s happening. What you come to realize is even though they’re gone, they’re still present because your memories with them and because you know them well enough, they will feel they will sense and you will feel and sense what that conversation actually would have been if they were still alive.

These are just some strategies to help you be authentic and real. Through the grieving process.

Thank you for asking this important question and I hope it helps you and many others as they go through this difficult time. May you be blessed?

Hey, thank you for asking your question here on brighter mornings. I’m Dr. Kevin Skinner. I know it’s not easy to reach out for support and help when you’ve when you’ve lost a loved one. So, I thank you for taking the time to, to ask your question and hopefully my response can give you some ideas on, on what to do. First your question your question has to do with,

I lost my spouse to cancer about a year ago. I thought a year later that I would be doing it better than I am. Do you have any suggestions for me?

First of all it’s been a year, and if it’s been a year, my experience is that about our year anniversary or during the anniversaries of when those things happen, where we lose our loved one. That time of the year, sometimes the sounds, the smells the day, can drum up a whole lot of emotion and it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re feeling more of those pains right now because the season is the season that you lost your spouse. And so that’s the first part that I would say to you is it’s often more intense feelings around seasons or times when you’ve lost your loved one. So that’s concept number one.

And the next part of it is, people often say, shouldn’t I be through this. And, actually my experience is that it’s actually not that you’re not going to be through this. That idea of being through something is just not fair to you and fair to people who’ve lost loved ones. The idea of just being through something it means we’re over it or done, it’s done. And, that relationship that you had with your spouse, it’s not something that we finish because they’re gone and they’ve passed on.

That’s not how this world works.

When you love somebody, those feelings are going to be with you and that’s going to bring pains, it’s going to bring hurt. And so it’s very important that you honor those feelings rather than feel like you’re not getting through this. And sometimes people feel like they have to get through it because others are putting pressure on them. It’s you got to be done with this. Move on, start doing X, Y, Z, and I think it’s very valuable for you to step back and honor, wherever you’re at, and the time it’s taking. Nevertheless, as you go through this, there’s maybe times where you think this is overwhelming me, this is too much. If you’re finding that, I think it would be very helpful for you to reach out to a professional and get support. Maybe attend a support group where you can talk with others who’ve lost loved ones and, hear their experiences. Because we know that in groups where people are talking openly, there’s great value in hearing and experiencing what others are going through as well and realizing that you’re not alone anyway. So I would suggest that if it’s, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, please do reach out to others, seek maybe a group support, I think that could be very valuable too.

And then the final part that I’d like to offer today, is because it’s been a year there’s some things as you go through this next year, I’ve actually told people this and they’ve found it helpful, maybe during a time, like now on the day that your spouse died, getting together with family and friends on that day and maybe what I had a friend do is actually get together with their children, spend time celebrating the life of your loved one who’s lost or gone. And, think about pictures and memories and share those memories in this celebration.

And I shared that with a friend and her children have done that and it’s been interesting that they get together and that day is a day where they support each other, strengthen each other. And think of their favorite memories with her lost dad.

That’s just a suggestion. At this time, I wish you the best and thank you for taking time to ask your question here on Brighter Mornings.

May you have Brighter Mornings as you go through this difficult time.

My thoughts are with you and thanks for your question.

Hi, I’m Dr. Kevin Skinner. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist. And I want to thank you for asking your question here on Brighter Mornings. Your question is related to finding yourself feeling anger towards your lost parent, you find yourself discovering more and more about their life that they didn’t tell you about and find you’re finding yourself more angry.

Let me address this idea because sometimes we find ourselves discovering information about our parents or other people after they’re gone and it’s wait, why didn’t they tell me this? Or, why did they keep that a secret? Now this is not uncommon, unfortunately, but we find a lot of people feel like the shame of their behaviors, they don’t want people to know or judge them, in particular, the people who they care the most about. In this case, I would want to offer just a couple of thoughts related to what you could do to work through those emotions.

First of all, we know that as you feel anger, you might also feel a little bit ashamed because your parent’s gone and why do I, why am I angry at my dead parent?

But I think it’s normal as you go through your emotions to give respect to those feelings and honor them. And so what’s what I call giving a voice to the emotion or to the, in this situation, the anger. So one way to give a voice to that is to write a letter to them about what that information means to you and what it has meant to you now that you know it.

And I want you to imagine that you were sharing that information with them. Like, why didn’t we talk about this? And allow yourself just to flow in that emotion and let it out. That important concept is something that a lot of people are afraid to do because they don’t want to make a parent feel bad.

Your parents gone, but your emotions aren’t and your emotions towards what you discovered are also important. So we have to give it a voice. We need to honor those feelings. And if you write it in a letter, it’s one way to process through it. You might shred it or you might read it and then shred it. But the idea is to let it out, give it a voice that’s concept number one.

Number two actually has to do with thinking about your parents in a different way. Obviously, that information has changed how you’ve made me feel about your parents. I also encourage you to think about what drove them to do, or to hide that information? What were they afraid of and what concerns they have and did they try to repair the damage that they had done? Just, they didn’t talk about what they had done.

And with these are things that I would encourage you to think through because many times when I talk with people, the more they analyze or look at someone who’s hurt them they begin to realize that they too have a story. Now, I don’t know what your parents’ story was and why they did what they did. But everyone has a story. Sometimes those stories don’t make any sense to us. Sometimes the more information we get about them, we realize, Oh, they did that because grandpa did that and great grandma or grandpa did that and they felt this way.

And so we begin to have a little bit more in some cases, not always, we have a little bit more compassion or empathy for what their life was like. Sometimes that can happen. Sometimes it can’t. In your case, I don’t know, but I invite you to think through their story and maybe why they hid that information. It doesn’t justify it, but it might help you have more understanding.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful to you. And if you have further questions, feel free to ask them here on Brighter Mornings.

First of all, my heart goes out to you and your entire family. Your son especially and your son’s friends family. There’s nothing as painful as loss. Suicide in and of itself is very painful.

I think the first thing is to listen. “How are you doing? As a parent, I don’t even know what to say other than I love you and I’m concerned, this loss, how is it influencing you? What’s it like for you right now?”

Because we also know that there is a tendency for peers to feel guilt, to feel shame, “I should have reached out, I should have done this.”

I think there is a platform of being able to say “these are some common things that friends can feel, like I should’ve been more, why didn’t I? Are you feeling those?”

In some ways you’re trying to get your child to open up. Have you had suicidal thoughts? These are the types of questions that we can’t be afraid to ask, because we know others start to feel and wonder “can that be me?” If they’re already down, that it can have a contagious type of a response. Don’t be afraid to ask your child very directly “have you felt those feelings? And, if you ever feel those, would you please come to me because I love you. I want to be a support and you matter to me, you matter.”

Get information, listen as much as you can. Right now it’s important to periodically follow up. How are you feeling? How are you doing? If you see them having difficult emotions, don’t be hesitant to ask difficult questions and have hard conversations. If you can get your child to talk, it will be one of the more important things that you can do for him right now.

If you see things that are really concerning, don’t be afraid to get a professional therapist for your child to talk with somebody. A school counselor would be good as well so your son doesn’t feel alone in those feelings.

Anything you want to add, jenna?

Absolutely. My heart also goes out to you mom and dad, and this child, and the whole community, a suicide in a peer group in a community as is truly a capital T trauma for everyone involved.

One thing I would add from the theoretical perspective that I bring clinically, is that we can really be helpful in how we name these parts of people that engage in destructive behavior. It is helpful to articulate for the child, this is not all of who your friend was. This was a suicidal part who was trying to help him with pain.

I think that can be such a helpful way to separate out the part of the child that took their life by suicide from the whole child.

To really reinforce that the positive aspects of that relationship are still valid and still true. Help that pain that are much more effective.