The Many Faces of Grief: P - R
Phobias, PTSD, Process addictions, Poverty, Physical disability, Pet loss, Politics, Pandemic, Physical abuse, Pornography, Punitive justice
On Pet Loss:
Our pets hold a very special place in our hearts. The loss or anticipated loss of one of these dear ones can be heartbreaking. I have been fortunate to have pets for my entire life – dogs, cats, a horse, birds and a small flock of chickens. Animals have brought great joy and solace to me, as they do for many people. Their unconditional love, free of expectation have provided a comforting, reliable island of respite and warmth. Letting go of their little lives can be so difficult, but with the support of others, we can fold our lost pets into our loving embrace and hold onto the love they bring into our lives.
~Valerie Atchison, PhD
In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. This option entails recognizing the implications of the universal destination of the world’s goods (by paying attention to how much we consume and how and where it is made,) but . . . it demands before all else, an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers.
~ Dorothy Day
Pornography is not a new issue in relationships; however, the expansion of the Internet appears to have increased pornography viewing and exacerbated pre-existing tendencies (Cooper, Boies, Maheu & Greenfield, 1999; Young, 2008). One key factor in this increase is the convenience, affordability, and the anonymous nature of Internet pornography.
Many individuals never anticipate or expect that viewing pornography will negatively influence their lives, yet this often significantly impacts the user as well as his or her family, workplace, and community. The couple relationship, in particular, often feels the most negative effects of pornography (Manning, 2006). This fact sheet will review some of the impacts of pornography on partner relationships and provide steps toward healing a relationship hurt by pornography.
Pornography can have negative consequences for both the user and his or her intimate partner. Some of the common damaging effects of pornography for users can include addiction, isolation, increased aggression, distorted beliefs and perceptions about relationships and sexuality, negative feelings about themselves, and neglecting other areas of their lives (Maltz & Maltz, 2006; Manning, 2006). These negative consequences often carry over into other aspects of their lives, especially family and couple relationships.
While the negative impact on relationships can be challenging to overcome, healing is possible. It is first essential that an individual want to make the steps toward recovery. Others may encourage steps toward change, but only the user can ultimately make the transformation (Landau, Garrett & Webb, 2008). Without internal motivation, change will likely be superficial or short-lived. Second, the user must implement strategies to strengthen motivation to quit pornography. Some of these may include:
Become aware and understand how pornography creates problems. For individuals struggling with the addiction, it may be important to set aside time to honestly evaluate the impact of past pornography and possible future outcomes to strengthen their resolve to change. For partners, an open conversation about the negative effects may be helpful (Corley & Schneider, 2002; Zitzman & Butler, 2005). While it is a difficult topic to approach, both partners should have time to express how the pornography usage makes them feel without interruption and judgment from the other person. If the conversation begins to turn into an argument, partners can agree to take a break and come back to the topic after anger and frustration have subsided.
Re-evaluate and identify values to provide motivation for change. Individuals who take time to reflect on their values, beliefs, and goals, as well as how they want to be viewed by themselves and others may result in motivation to change (Young, 2001, 2008).
Face the fears of what life would be like without pornography. There is usually a reason why individuals choose to use pornography in the first place, so removing this habit from their lives may be challenging (Young 2001, 2008). Identifying and admitting specific fears about quitting pornography is an important step in ultimately resolving those fears.
Take responsibility for self-recovery. While other people can provide support and encouragement, only the individual can ultimately decide if he or she has a desire to change and is willing to do so (Landau, Garrett & Webb, 2008). With the guidance of an experienced counselor, individuals who want to change can develop an individualized plan that will help them be accountable and build on successes that will aid them in long-term change (Schneider, 2000; Schneider & Weiss, 2001; Zitzman & Butler, 2005).
There are many resources available for those seeking help. In addition to finding a qualified therapist or counselor in your area, some may choose to ask a trusted clergy member for additional resources. There are also several online resources:
www.sexaa.org Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) This group helps men and women overcome sexual addictions through a twelve-step process. They provide referral information for finding an SAA meeting in local areas as well as providing SAA meetings via Internet chat and telephone conference calls.
www.cosa-recovery.org Codependents of Sex Addicts (COSA) A twelve-step program for men and women whose lives have been affected by another person’s sexual behavior. They also provide referral information on finding local meetings as well as telephone conference calls.
www.aasect.org American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), a national organization that helps locate qualified sex therapists and counselors.
Regardless of how users find help to cope with their addiction, it is important to seek additional aids and tools to be fully successful in mastering and controlling pornography addiction.
Involvement in pornography is often a taboo subject to discuss in society, and yet it can be very destructive to individuals and their relationships. Pornography viewing behaviors can be challenging to overcome, but if there is a desire to change, healing is possible for both individuals and their relationships.
~ Naomi Brower, M.S., Weber County, Utah, FCS Agent
On coping with quarantine:
Quarantining yourself at home can play an important role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. But this doesn’t mean that coping with the disruption in your normal routine is easy. Taking care of your mental health is essential, even if your time in quarantine is relatively brief in the grand scheme of things.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines quarantine as separating and restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they then become ill. Because COVID-19 can be contagious even if people do not yet have symptoms, this step minimizes the spread of the illness during the asymptomatic period.
In addition to the uncertainty and stress of the global outbreak, spending time in quarantine can take a serious mental toll. Part of the reason for this is the impact that quarantine has on three key elements of mental health:
The American Psychological Association reports that social isolation carries a number of health risks. Feeling isolated can lead to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health, lower immunity, depressive symptoms, and impaired executive function. When executive function skills are impaired, you may find it more difficult to focus, manage your emotions, remember information, and follow directions.
A 2019 review in The Lancet analyzed the results of past studies to get a better idea of how COVID-19 may impact those who are quarantined. The review found that psychological distress is common both during and after periods of quarantine. People commonly experienced:
Post-traumatic stress symptoms
There is some evidence that there may be longer-term consequences as well. Substance and alcohol dependency was more common up to three years after quarantine.
The disruption in your normal daily routines can be one of the most difficult aspects of quarantine. This can leave you feeling directionless as you try to figure out how to fill all the hours of the day.
If you’re working from home, it can be helpful to structure your time much like a regular workday. This can be a challenge, however, if you're at home with other family members, including children, who are now home all day as well. Left without the structure of a normal school day, kids can be left feeling just as out-of-sorts as adults.
If you’re trying to keep small kids entertained while stuck in the house, or even trying to keep working amidst it all, it’s important to find a routine that works for you. Plan out activities that will keep everyone busy so you can get some work done. Try creating a daily schedule, but don't get too wrapped up in sticking to a strict routine. Make your own routines and break up the day in order to stave off monotony.
Some of the distress of being quarantined stems from boredom and frustration. Finding ways to stay occupied is important, so try to maintain as many of your routines as you can. Keep working on projects or find new activities to fill your time, whether it’s organizing your closet or trying out a new creative hobby.
Getting things done can provide a sense of purpose and competency. It gives you something to work towards and something to look forward to each day. So, make a plan, list some things you’d like to accomplish, and then start checking a few things off your list each day.
Staying in contact with other people not only staves off boredom, but it is also critical for minimizing the sense of isolation.8 Stay in touch with friends and family by phone and text. Reach out to others on social media. If possible, join a support group or discussion board specifically for people who are in quarantine. Talking to others who are going through the same thing can provide a sense of community and empowerment.
By doing your part to prevent the spread of the disease, you are protecting others and making sure that those who are sick are able to have greater access to available health resources. Reminding yourself of these reasons can sometimes make your days in quarantine a little easier to bear.
~ Verywell Mind
Rape, Regret, Retirement, Racism, Revenge, Resistance
When someone says the word “rape,” or discusses the idea of sexual assault, one rarely thinks to associate the traumatic incident with the concept of grief. When survivors consider their pain and the trauma they have experienced, the idea of going through the stages of grief may never cross their mind.
To many, grief is something that we experience when we lose a loved one, something that we suffer when a death occurs. When many picture grief, they picture the widow dressed all in black, or the family crying over the loss of a treasured grandparent. It isn’t often that we widen our own associations to include loss as a whole.
An individual who has experienced sexual assault may be mourning their own loss- this can mean the loss of their identity, the loss of the ‘normality’ their life held before the assault, or even, in cases when victims know their abuser, the loss of their abuser as a person they once had in their life.
The stages of grief have been showcased through the media, making their rounds on talk shows and movies alike. Though these stages have nearly become common knowledge and have often been looked at as simplistic, they hold precedence when discussing grief work. Individuals in grief are shown to experience five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages remain applicable to those grieving their sexual assault.
The process begins with Denial, which is often the victim’s immediate response to the rape. The victim may have difficulty acknowledging that the rape occurred, and may be looking for ways to classify it as separate from a sexual assault.
The victim may then move into the Anger stage, in which the victim may experience anger at her abuser, anger at the situation, or even misplaced anger within her/himself.
Bargaining then follows, with the victim attempting to minimize the emotional trauma that s/he is experiencing due to the assault. The victim bargains, attempting to balance or underplay emotions.
The victim then moves into the stage of Depression, in which the reality of the assault begins to take a hold. The victim may be experiencing hopelessness or shame now that s/he is more fully feeling her emotions and the assault has become “more real.”
Finally, the victim moves on to the Acceptance stage, where s/he is able to gain some acceptance toward the assault. At this point the victim is able to work within a “new normal,” and begin to resume life post-trauma.
While the five stages of grief have been shown to represent the process of grief for many, it is important to realize that grief is an individualized experience that is different for everyone. Not all individuals grieve in the same way; some may progress quickly through the first three stages and find themselves stuck in the depression stage for a longer period of time, while others may remain in denial for years after the assault before they can move into anger. Some may find they skip certain stages altogether.
Healing from a sexual trauma or any traumatic response occurs differently for each victim, and unfortunately does not happen as quickly as many hopes it will. The same can be said for grief work- unfortunately those in grief do not progress through their five stages overnight, but with a strong network of support and enough time, victims can find their way towards acceptance.
~ Meghan Hahl, Therapy Intern
The cyclical realities of the impact of racism, anti-Black racism and other forms of intersectional violence on our health make breathing seem like a luxury at times. The full blunt impact of racism and other forms of violence echoes heavily in our hearts, our minds, bodies and actions.
Grief is a direct result of racism and intersectional violence and it affects us physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, transnationally and transgenerationally. More importantly, not being able to fully engage in our grief is a direct outcome of chronic experiences of racist violence.
Insoluble grief, anti-Black racism and other forms of violence that Black, Indigenous and racialized people deal with can result in chronic prolonged traumatic health issues. These issues can include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, cancer and low birth rates.
Anti-oppression psychotherapy: A trauma informed model
As an African/Black woman, anti-violence activist, health researcher, and mental health practitioner, living with a visual disability for over 20 years, I have worked with many community members dealing with health struggles directly related to anti-Black racism and other forms of intersectional violence.
I have discovered that discussions of the daily impact of racism are happening with friends, families, trusted coworkers, in our journals and sometimes in isolation.
To try and help my clients deal with this, I worked with a colleague to develop and practice an innovative model we call anti-oppression psychotherapy (AOP).
AOP addresses the delusion and confusion of trauma in the bodies and minds of the oppressed. It is a resistance and a revolutionary model that grows out of Black feminist and intersectional theories and practices.
Exercise or movement can be effective as a tension release when dealing with everyday racism. Bruce Mars/Unsplash
AOP examines the impacts and intersections of oppressions as they interact together. It interprets issues of racism as acts of trauma and violence to our health and it incorporates resistance strategies and healthy coping mechanisms — to help community members and clients through grief, loss and identity formation.
This model exists because the erasure of our grief, our loss, needs to be known, attended to, cared for and supported — to survive continuous violence, battled daily from generation to generation.
Self and community care is critical to combating the effects of racism and intersectional violence. AOP addresses racism as a health determinant and gives the power to heal back to the communities who are suffering.
How to support your own healing
Below are eight self-care tips to support you and your loved ones on this cyclical healing journey:
Build safe spaces. Engage in safe spaces within community, and/or individually — to allow the impact of anti-Black racism and other intersectional violence on your health to be voiced, witnessed, unpacked and reconfigured away from the outside “gaze.” This is critical to the healing process. Keeping trauma in your body stresses your physiological and mental health.
Make an ongoing healing plan. Understand that healing is cyclical and make a plan for when you experience violence again. Healing is flexible, political and deserved. If you need help, seek community members and professionals who practice from an intersectional and anti-oppression approach.
Create alone time. Connect spiritually or environmentally (these could be interchangeable for some) in a space of comfort. This allows reconnection to ancestral knowledges and healing. Community healing circles can be important as can critical expressive arts. Coping strategies can be active but should include silence, meditation and relaxation techniques — to ensure you do not internalize violence.
Express emotions and have a physical release. Engage in intimacy (or massage) in a safe space — to reconstruct the power and healing possibilities of safe touch and prevent you holding violent materials in your body, mind and soul. Embracing and addressing anger in a safe supportive place can help you find emancipatory ways to deal with trauma. Self-forgiveness and grief are critical to the healing process.
Cook and eat nutritious food regularly. Eat well to strengthen the immune system, which is needed to fight present and transgenerational trauma. Some form of exercise or movement can also be effective as a tension release.
Create community support and information sharing. Use social media and old school meet-ups — to access anti-oppression health practitioners and equitable, least harm, health services. This can decrease the sometimes - detrimental effects of opting out of the system. If you know a community member is suffering, reach out to them.
Make space for transgenerational teachings. Allow space for teaching and strategizing. Always listen to your children and Elders and ask questions about their experiences of violence. Offer children unconditional love and support them in their healing process by initiating active solutions or problem solving.
Support local and transnational activism. Support your local organizers against anti-Black racism and intersectional violence. Actualizing change is empowering and supports the revitalization needed to improve health. However, be aware of the hard work of direct action and address burn out proactively. Take time out or “time in” to do your own healing work. Healing is political.
~ Global Health Professor Roberta K. Timothy