Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM, LMHC. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

Emotional First Aid August 17, 2010

Ten ways to handle bad news:

1. Breathe deeply and slowly. Use grounding techniques (see Grounding Techniques).

2. Remember: This will pass.

3. Don’t take it personally, no matter what happened.

4. Allow all your feelings; yes, all of them.

5. Have faith in yourself. You are more competent than you think right this moment. Use prayer or meditation to access your faith in yourself or something greater than yourself.

6. Keep to your routine as much as possible, even if you feel dazed and numb. It will anchor you.

7. Eat, sleep, and get some fresh air.

8. Connect with anyone available: family, friends, a therapist, neighbors, even strangers.

9. Picture yourself as a six year old and lovingly take that little being into your arms. Speak softly, gently, and reassuringly to the frightened child inside.

10. Understand: You are here for everything, the good and the bad. You are a river of experiences, let life flow without judgment. You may not like it, but you can handle it.
While these ten suggestions can be read in under a minute, taking the time to do them will build resiliency and get you from one second to the next. Sometimes, just existing through a traumatic experience is the best you can do. Five minutes from now, tomorrow, or next week, things will look different.

Faith is surrendering to what is, doing what you can, and believing everything is happening for your highest good.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


How to Handle: “Get over it already.” July 23, 2009

There seems to be a prevailing philosophy that all grief should disappear in a short time.  Its mantra, “Get over it already,” is uttered incessantly, whether you just broke-up, lost a job, had an accident, or buried a loved one. What’s the rush, and whose healing schedule are you on? Surely, not theirs. Grief work (which can include anger, anxiety, depression, remorse, resentment, and feelings of worthlessness) has no timetable.  It is as unique as your fingerprint; yet, there seems to be this belief that moving on as fast as possible is the only right way.  Of course, with this mandate saturating our culture, anyone who takes his or her time to fully grieve is left with the double whammy of having endured whatever sparked the grief and feeling like a failure because they haven’t “gotten over it” yet.

We all know plenty of people mask their misery with drugs, alcohol, random sex, and a plethora of other addictions. Could this possibly be healthier than dealing with it? In some circles as long as someone keeps their pain under wraps, and puts on a happy face, everyone can just party hearty.  After all, it’s no fun being around a grief-stricken soul; and it’s even worse feeling ineffectual because you can’t make them happier.  No wonder there’s such a deep societal desire to “get over it already.”

So, what is the best response to: “Aren’t you over that already?” (Especially, when it’s delivered in a tone that seems to imply, “What’s wrong with you?” and, puts you on the defensive).  In a perfect world, where everyone has their wits about them 24/7, it might be utter silence accompanied by a slightly quizzical look. This would circumvent the the knee-jerk defensive response to what sounds like a criticism.  A simple “No” might suffice, but you risk the person replying with, “Well, you should be!”  If there’s a little two year old inside you, and there is in almost all adults, he or she is likely to take offense at being told what to do.

Henry Ford II once said, “Never explain, never complain.”  Perhaps that’s the best guide. Unfortunately, if the person exhorting you to “get over it” is a close friend or relative, you might feel a vested interest in sharing your true thoughts and feelings, if for no other reason than not having them ever utter those words to you again. You might even share how you’ve decided to give yourself a cosmic permission slip to take all the time you need to process your grief.

If you’re feeling particularly honest, you could say: “When you ask that question I feel denigrated and judged,”  letting your comment hang in the air and putting the onus on the other person to respond.

Or, you might try: “One of the things this whole experience has taught me is that I can take whatever time I need to let go and forgive. I may never completely get over this. I’ve decided to make that OK, too.”

Then there’s the very direct approach: “I don’t find that a helpful question,” or, “Please don’t ask me that.”

I generally like to assume the best (or, at least some neutral motivation) on the part of people saying, “Aren’t you over that, already?”  Perhaps, they want to propel you to healing faster, because they don’t like seeing you in pain or they feel helpless in assuaging your misery. It really is all about what they think and feel, and their projection of what they believe they would do if in your shoes.  While understanding the genesis of their comment can be helpful, it doesn’t really solve the problem of the best response.  Clearly, that depends on your mood, with whom you are speaking, and your stage of grief. (Contrary to what Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, those stages do not follow linearly, and can come back to haunt you in all sorts of disorderly and unpredictable ways.)

You could say, “Perhaps, if you had this experience (divorce, break-up, death of a loved one) you would have already worked through your grief, but I haven’t. Part of my journey is making it safe to allow my feelings to evolve.”

A deeper issue here is having the courage of your convictions and the confidence to express them.  The only way to build confidence is by doing difficult things.  Assertively standing up for yourself can be very challenging, especially when you feel beaten down by life; but, that’s the time to practice speaking your truth. It will not only build confidence, but you might feel a new lightness from unburdening yourself and being authentic.

In a perfect world, people might have the sensitivity and awareness to say, “I am so sorry this situation is painful and difficult for you,” and just leave it at that.  But, if they continue to say, Aren’t you over that already?” perhaps responding with: “I appreciate your desire to see an end to my suffering. Thank you for your sympathy and concern.” could be liberating, and keep you from reacting defensively.

No one likes to feel judged, put-down, or chastised. If you know that question pushes your buttons it’s best to get away from it as quickly as possible, especially with acquaintances.  If you want to explain how you really feel to friends or family, that’s different as you have a long-standing bond with them, and presumably many years of relationship ahead.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Grief October 3, 2008

Filed under: GRIEF — chocophile @ 4:04 pm
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Grief is the most protean of emotions, constantly shifting from one feeling to another.  One minute you’re depressed, the next you’re angry.  Later you find yourself bargaining with life, and then you’re in the ozone of denial.  Acceptance comes, but only after you’ve faced your demons.


The thing to remember about grief is that it’s a transformative process. If you allow all its permutations, you will come out on the other side, just as the phoenix rose from the ashes.  


Grieving is healing.  Even if you are 100% sure this divorce is the best decision you could have made, you are leaving someone.  All your hopes and dreams for a future with that person are suddenly lost.   Acknowledging that loss, surrendering to it, and giving yourself time to adjust are crucial steps in moving forward.  Grief is the mosaic of feelings accompanying this process.  


Breakthrough grief, a term I coined to describe those times when you are suddenly overtaken with anger, existential angst, loneliness, despair, etc., is to be expected.  Welcome it.  I know it can rock you to your core, but remember it’s like an inner fire blazing through a forrest of psychic material that needs to burn down to the ground to make way for new growth.  This is a bittersweet process: crucial for your ultimate metamorphosis, but like a cosmic hazing in the moment. 


Here’s something to think about if you are tempted to rush through your grief.  Let’s pretend you see a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.  It’s almost out of its cocoon, but you think you’ll help so you tear open the last little bit.  The almost-ready butterfly emerges but can’t fly. Why not? Because it needed to develop its muscles further by using them to open that last little bit of cocoon.  


Nature knows what its doing.  We are designed with self-healing body-minds.  However, if we interfere with our process we may never really fly.


Make it safe to feel all your feelings.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


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