Older hand and child's hand holding a rose.

I have written about grief before and here I am again. This time, all bets are off and I am so angry at the denial around grief and addiction.

I have presented on this subject at a couple of rehabs for the staff. In the past I could speak to the patients but that has since changed. The VA Hospital at Perry Point, Maryland has invited me over the years and I have been honoured to speak on this subject to those who work with recovering veterans, particularly those plagued with PTSD. In the past, Dr. Robert Ackerman encouraged me to continue my determination and I was invited to speak at his annual conferences on addiction.

In addition, for almost twenty years I spoke at the conference in Indianapolis with Kiski and Dennis Miller, which was one of my favourites, where I met the remarkable Dr. Dan Newman who shared my views. His book, Grief Behind Bars, gave another slant on the need. I speak at many Compassionate Friends chapters and their conferences. I love them.

Here is the question? Why are so many therapists and counselors afraid of dealing with grief and what is more, do everything they can to prevent specialists coming in to alleviate the pain to those trying their best to recover?

Sculpture of man pushing against wall.I have been told by one counselor that anyone who uses their grief is using it as an excuse not to deal with their addiction. So, what is it?  A friggin’ revolving door is what it is. If people enter treatment and have an ongoing bereavement, many of them will return to their addiction. It’s as simple as that. So what is it? Money? The revolving door brings in the cash and fees for service aren’t that high for thanatologists to do their thing.

It isn’t just the patients who suffer. Their families must cope with their own losses and most rehabs do excellent family work, but NOT GRIEF. Why? I am so fortunate that an outpatients’ facility where I do some staff training is starting a group for parents who have lost children to heroin overdose, or any lost child for that matter. I am co-leading the group with an exceptional social worker/former hospice worker/drug and alcohol counselor. I can’t mention her name nor the facility as I haven’t asked for permission, but maybe toward the end of the blog I will be able to do so. They are way ahead in the acknowledgement of the issue.

This Can’t Wait

Why am I not waiting to submit the blog? Because I am doing what I suggest others do – SPEAK MY TRUTH. The fact that I am royally pissed off adds to it. When I am this angry, I do not repress.

Let me give you a few examples.

Some time ago, I worked with a group of women in a rehab. I was only allowed forty five minutes. On this day, I noticed two women who were sad. One of them told me her sister had recently died from cancer and the other woman, her sister from homicide. I HAD FORTY FIVE MINUTES and believe me if I went a second over that time, the counselor was at the door telling me it was time. I discovered later that they had nothing to do for another half hour.

Intimidating? Hummmmmmmmmmmm. So, I suggested to both these women to ask their therapist if I could spend some time with them individually to deal with their enormous grief, in addition to being in treatment for addiction. This is when I received the message from the counselor that they were just making excuses. As far as I know, one of the women took her own life shortly after leaving treatment and I don’t know about this other one. My heart ached for them, but when some staff persons are entrenched in their own restrictive attitudes there is little or nothing that can be done…………………. until they realise I AM NOT GOING AWAY.

That viewpoint seems to invade some rehabs. Just recently I was at another rehab (I do go to a lot of them in the hope that someone might hear me) and a young woman approached me and told me her fiancé had died the week before she entered treatment. I told her the same thing. Different place, different therapist. She desperately needed to talk, to get some suggestions, some compassion and it seemed obvious that the best way to go was to approach her therapist with permission to see me. I never heard from her and when I returned to this rehab, she wasn’t there.  Brutal. I just do not understand how they cannot see the importance of speaking their pain and anxiety.

Their families are grieving too, not only for the death of a loved one, but that another loved one has entered treatment. Thank goodness they do, but the stress on the family is enormous. Been there, done that. I know how that feels personally. This is why I am so passionate on the subject.

I have been told by many people that I am here for a purpose. I just found it.

How I am going to do something that I have been fighting for since 1974 hasn’t been revealed to me. It will come possibly by someone who believes as I do and has the people who can open those tightly closed doors. Perhaps someone can tell me why these people are so  afraid of the subject of grief, as I don’t get it. It has been my life for all those years and with the horrifying increase in the use of heroin and opiates, it is crucial to educate those who take care of the confused and pain ridden. Heroin is so available now and it is cheap. It isn’t going away any time soon. So what the hell are we waiting for? We need to get down to facing the situation and do whatever we can to combat it

If you look on my webpage under ENDORSEMENTS you will see how others support me, but it simply isn’t enough. I am not afraid of facing anybody when it is something I believe in so fiercely. My background in this subject is pristine locally, nationally and internationally. I was trained by the best. I took courses with Dame Cicely Saunders when I was eighteen in the UK. She is the founder of Hospice.

I attended many lectures by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who taught me so much and gave us all the freedom to interpret her philosophy any way it would work for our chosen specialty. In that, she taught that each person grieves differently and that respect is full frontal. She wrote the book, On Death and Dying, in which she listed the five levels of grieving. It was a breakthrough. Dr. Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist and came to this country to work with cancer patients. When she went to some of the wards and hospitals she realized that they were not treated with respect, or hope, nor were they being heard. She listened to them and created bereavement training for the staff.

Most of her colleagues thought she was nuts and were very vocal about it. I attended as many trainings as I could. She was tiny and filled with the energy of belief in something that she held close to her heart. She was not intimidated by anyone. She continued, as did Dame Cicely Saunders, to instill in any health professional working with cancer patients, the importance of personal dignity. I know all about that as I fought for it for John.

You know how some professionals are when they see someone in a wheelchair who has lived for many years on this planet. This is how it goes. We go into the doctor’s office and the nurse comes to ask questions. However, in this case she directed all the questions about John’s condition, to me. I told her, “He is in a wheelchair. He has a brain and knows better than I, how he feels.”  She smiled and continued to ask the ‘expert’, which would be me.  When she continued to ask more questions I completely ignored her so she had to focus on John. What the hell is the matter with these people that have no respect and show no comprehension? She talked like some stereotypical car salespersons. When I went to buy a car, they talked to John as if I weren’t there. He soon took care of that. The last car I bought from Car Sense, although my son in law was with me, the young man spoke directly to me

To be honest, I am tired of screaming about Grief and Addictions, yet will not be silenced. What is necessary is for people who agree with me to start considering what is being done in schools, colleges, universities. For some years I was a Professor for Marywood University with their off campus courses for Masters’ degree students. That course, “Coping With Loss, Death and Grief”, was one of the most popular. Most of the students were teachers, school nurses and counselors. It was very rewarding.  I met some of them years later who had faced loss and grief and they told me how that course had helped on a personal level.

Many years ago, Neshaminy High School had a fantastic programme for students who were going to fail their graduation. The staff was astonishing. I believe it was called “Open Space” and it was spectacular. These teachers were determined to deal with any student who needed special attention. Now I know that most schools try to put students in a box and that program proved it could be done another way, with freedom of expressions and discussions that paved the way for success for these students. They asked me if I would do something on grief and addiction which I was delighted to do. I entered the room where there was a large circle of chairs. A lot of students were there and others sat on tables and desks, apart from the group. I said nothing. As I started to talk about loss and death, which tend to be quite different, I noticed they began to pay attention. Within fifteen minutes those students outside the circle joined it. They talked about the deaths of family members due to drug use and were not allowed to talk about it. They talked. Talked and talked. Because it was Open Space with its flexibility, I was given as long as I wanted.  They cried (imagine – high school young men cried.) They poured out all they had been told to swallow and even though it sounds unreal, every one of those students graduated.

I experienced another system from another school where my son went. I took him out of the High School he was in as he was an angry young man with a little filter. The only teacher he respected was the Physical Educator. I heard of this other school where the amazing teachers were able to reach their students. In that school, they discovered his hidden talent for music. Who knew? Not me. He once told me that he didn’t need therapy because he had his drums. True. I believe that the schools were so successful that the programme was canceled. Not sure about Open Space – I tend to think it went the way of the world!!!

So it can be done. I am sure there are grief therapist/counselors/thanatologists who do work in schools and other places. I am just not sure where.

Pain needs to be expressed and heard from those who understand it. I specialize in working with families who have lost children to death, or parents whose children have been killed through violence. I love and respect them enormously, learning so much from them. They have told me what not to say and I have a very long list.

If any of the readers have ideas for my purpose in life, let me know.  I would love it if more people respond to my postings as I know a lot of you have great ideas and suggestions. I remember leaving my card at a local school asking that possibly I could speak with the PTA or his staff and didn’t even have the courtesy of a response. This is what I have discovered about schools. With all the hoo hah surrounding it years ago, it is easier to teach sex education than grief.

To those are in grief now, and it doesn’t matter how long, I am thinking of starting a private group. It is time. I hear you, I get it. Remember Dr. Seuss.  SAY WHAT YOU FEEL, DO WHAT YOU WANT, AS THOSE WHO MIND DON’T MATTER AND THOSE WHO MATTER DON’T MIND.

Be well and prosper.

 

The ‘Nice’ Woman Just Left

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4 thoughts on “The ‘Nice’ Woman Just Left

  1. Oh Yvonne you have hit the mother load! How we all could benefit from sharing our grief ! How many times have I heard get over it, that was years ago. Even my own family members do not want to hear my story. I really believe as you do that the reason for any addiction is because society can not and will not deal with grief. I too love what Edith Kobler Ross gave us on dealing with grief and loss but it has seem to have become taboo again. Especially in this day and age with all the violence that is happening something needs to change. With out EKR I would never had survived all the deaths and losses I have experienced. Sign me up!!

  2. Yvonne Kaye!!! Love this blog and think of you A LOT. I will be forever thankful for you, for you made me deal with grief and to not be bitter after losing my daughter, Georgiana. I remember so many thing you told me 16+ years ago, especially that Dr. Suess saying. Grief is a part of my life and though it has changed, somedays it feels very fresh. It hurts. And, people still don’t know what to say to me when I have a bad day and mention my daughter. I will never stop mentioning her name! I learned so much from you, and I am forever grateful for you. Today, I have struggles of being a single mom to my boys (remember them) now going on 15 and 12! Awesome boys but single parenting and grief can certainly break you if you let them. Love this blog and your humor through it all 🙂

  3. Dear yvonne,
    I would begin with the staff…have some group for them on a regular basis for dealing with their own grief, and then, possibley, some space will be opened in their hearts for the grief of others

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