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JMcCasslin

Therapist's Corner...
"Taking the Taboo Out": Infant and Pregnancy Loss

     Like all months, October is designated as a month that honors several different causes. It's National Bullying Prevention Month, Global Diversity Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, German-American Heritage Month, and National Pasta Month - and that's just naming a few! We all have causes that are near and dear to our hearts, and mine falls in October. For me, this is National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Month, a time when I allow myself to dwell a bit longer on what-might-have-been.
     You see, not only is the cause important, but Halloween (and the 2 days preceding it) is when I lost my unborn child. I was 10 weeks pregnant. We hadn't told extended family. I was home with my two other children when it happened. I had to face something I never dreamed would happen. I had to ask for help. I had to go to the doctor's office - alone (my husband was out of town and couldn't be reached). I had to grieve, and I had to continue with life.
     And I wasn't going to talk about it because it just wasn't something you advertised.
     But talk I did. Maybe it's my therapy background, maybe it was my need to be comforted, maybe it was because I wanted people to know about the life I had carried and lost. I did some research online so I was prepared for as many responses as I could prepare for - compassion and sympathy put into helpful word and not-so-helpful words.
     I bring this up because miscarriage and infant loss is a topic I work with in therapy. Oftentimes, it isn't the reason the client has come to my office but it is a significant event in their life history, whether it happened yesterday or 40 years ago. It affects some of their decisions, their relationships, and their hearts. If it was a sibling they lost, it affects their parents and how they were raised.
     And MANY of them have never told anyone other than family members.
     Some people worry others won't be empathetic. Some don't think others will understand. Some fear hearing the not-so-helpful-but-well-meaning statements, like "At least you were only 10 weeks" or "You can always have another child." Some feel they need to be "strong" and not show emotion. Some fathers were told they couldn't be emotional about it because they didn't understand the loss, as they hadn't carried the child, and they needed to support the mother. Plus a myriad of other reasons.
     Not only do people fear others' reactions but they are often confused about how they are supposed to feel. They feel angry, sad, hurt, anxious, unworthy, guilty, relief (especially if things weren't going right for a long time) - all at once. They don't know which feeling is going to respond at any given moment or in any situation. They are in a fog, just trying to make it through their day, focusing on their job or their other children - they are in survival mode. Even decades later, they get upset or angry at things people say or do. They feel sadness at life events because they think of the child who will not experience those things.
     And the guilt...oh, the guilt. What did I do wrong? What did I eat? What did I drink? Why didn't I protect my child better? Did I take a supplement or medication that caused it? What's wrong with my body that it couldn't carry my child?
     Even the words used to describe a loss before birth are misleading. Take miscarriage for example. Mis-carriage. The body failed to carry the child. How about spontaneous abortion? The body randomly aborted the child. Some people even have to go to abortion clinics in order to remove their child from the womb, and it is listed as "abortion" on the paperwork. Some mothers give birth, knowing their child is not alive, or knowing their child will only live for seconds or minutes once out of the womb.
     All these things affect parents, and siblings. My children know about their sibling-in-Heaven. They know the name, and they enjoy guessing the gender.
     We found comfort by turning towards each other. My husband and I worked through, and continue to work through, the grief together. We include the children, especially since the oldest understood the baby would not be born and cried. However, even the siblings born after know about the angel-baby. We named the baby. We turned to our spiritual beliefs for comfort and to explain to our children. I found resources online, such as Held Your Whole Life, where I ordered a necklace in remembrance. We talked openly with others, both friends and strangers, and they OFTEN responded with empathy and a similar story. We've been supports and resources for others who want to talk. I've written articles about my experience, and in return, I've received messages of hope and thanks because someone - anyone - just ONE person - needed to hear that they were not alone.
     So I remain open about my experience. When asked how many children I have, I reply "Four and one angel." I am open to listening when others want to talk. I want to honor their loss. I want to rejoice in rainbow babies (children born after a loss). I want to bring awareness to the losses so that it is no longer a taboo subject.
     I encourage you to do the same, as much as you are comfortable, but also push your boundaries. If you have lost a child during pregnancy or while they were a baby/toddler, you are not alone. If you have not experienced these losses, you are important as support and as a listener.
     We need each other in all our struggles.

~ Jessica McCaslin, Therapist

Klein Chris

Therapist's Corner...
When Life Doesn't Fit Your Plans

            Life is what happens when we are making other plans. 
   
 I know I'm not the only one who has thought this, particularly in moments when plans change due to unforeseen circumstances. Accidents happen, illnesses strike, basements flood, tires go flat, bills arrive, and loved ones die. We had other plans and our world is rocked momentarily as we try to find solid ground again.
Yes, life happens when we are making other plans. But we are not without options.
        
We can shake our fist, we can curse, we can be angry, we can ask "Why me?," we can give up (momentarily) - and after we've done all that, we can dig deep and deal with it. I'm reminded of the book The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck that a very wise woman encouraged me to read many years ago. The first three words of the book are "Life is difficult." This wise woman reminded me that everyone has difficulty in their lives. If we expect to meet with challenges on our journey, then we are not surprised when things happen. And the difficulties become less difficult. I know this sounds like acceptance. Acceptance doesn't mean we have to like what is happening or has happened. It simply means we cease fighting and acknowledge we don't have the power to change it. What's done is done. Then we move forward and take action to change the things we have the power to change.
     I love mottos and sayings. Some of my favorites include the following:

  • Keep it simple, stupid.
  • Take it one day at a time.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Act as if...
  • God doesn't give me any more than I can handle with His help.
     It is amazing how helpful these simple sayings are in changing our self-talk and propelling us forward. 
What action do you take when life "happens?" Do you get trapped in the victim role, or do you spring into action? Do you grab onto your favorite negative coping skill, or do you reach into your "resilience bag" and pull out your most effective coping strategy? Do you ask for help? Is your focus only on your difficulty, or do your raise your eyes and look around you? One thing I know for certain is that we are not alone. 
So, when life happens, remember that you do have choices. Choose hope and take action.
~ Chris Klein, Therapist

Lenz

From Our EAP...
What is a Critical Incident?

     A critical incident is a situation experienced by a person or group of people that may cause them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions. These reactions have the potential to interfere with their ability to function during the incident, immediately following the incident or later - even much later. Critical incidents do not have to be a major disaster; rather they take the form of many different situations.
      The following are examples of some c
ritical incidents:

  • the serious injury or death of a member of the public while an employee is performing regular duties (e.g., death during a surgery)
  • the serious injury or death of an employee on or off duty (e.g., car accident)
  • the suicide or homicide or unexpected death of an employee
  • an event associated with prolonged and extraordinary input in rescue efforts (e.g., rescue attempts)
  • any incident which can be considered a serious physical or psychological threat to an employee while on duty (e.g., gunman threat)
  • any incident in which there is unusual media coverage
  • a series of incidents that may have cumulative effects (e.g., officer responding to several accident scenes or suicides)
  • any abnormal event in which circumstances are so unusual or so distressing as to produce immediate or delayed emotional reactions that surpass normal coping mechanisms

     CISD (critical incident stress debriefing) is not the same as therapy. It is a system of services in which the normal recovery process to abnormal events is supported through individual or group processes. When individuals are exposed to an abnormal event, and then share their experiences, it is generally helpful. Myths or attitudes that individuals should be able to "tough it out" are less helpful and are more likely to lead to abnormal responses or prolonged recovery to such events.
     It is important that all departments respond to a critical incident. Sometimes organizations require the employees to attend a group debriefing and then suggest they meet with the facilitator as individuals. Other organizations do not make it mandatory, but they "highly suggest" attending and participating. It's important for employees involved in the incident to receive the referral in a timely manner. Often, the sessions are held within a few days of the event but they do not immediately follow the event because people first need time to get through any shock and to process things for themselves.
     One very important factor in an employee's ability to recover (resiliency) from a critical incident is their perceived amount of support from the organization. When an employee believes they experienced a critical incident for which no referral or offer of services has been made, they may request services through their supervisor or the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Family Resources of Greater Nebraska, P.C. has several therapists who are trained in CISD. 

~ Lana Lenz, EAP Coordinator

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