Loss of a Pet: How to Cope With the Death of Your Animal Friend

Dog looking up to the heavens

If you share your life with animals, it’s easy to think of them as part of the family — like the cat who occupies my desk whenever I’m working, patiently waiting for me to take a break and play. Dogs were domesticated nearly 14,000 years ago as working animals but undoubtedly developed a role as pets at the same time, while cats appear to have domesticated themselves multiple times, possibly as early as the Neolithic era. Sixty-eight percent of households keep animals, including not just cats and dogs but rats, hamsters, rabbits, fish, horses, and more.

But with the benefits of pets comes an inevitable dark side: What happens when the beloved animals who have become important parts of our lives pass away, leaving us with urns on our desks instead of warm bodies?

Continue reading Loss of a Pet: How to Cope With the Death of Your Animal Friend

Losing My Best Friend: A Pain Without Name

male best friends beer bottle sunset field

The text message hit like cannon fire from close range. I crumbled to the ground, holding my stomach. It was an early morning winter in the kitchen of our Brooklyn apartment. My wife and two kids came running. “What’s wrong?” “What happened?” “What’s wrong?”

What happened? What was wrong? Mike O’Shea was going to die. And I’d be introduced to a grief that would cripple me for many years.

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I like to think that Mike and I had been friends since before we were born. Not in some other life, but in the wombs of our mothers who were neighbors in a small New Jersey town, and both expecting in the summer of 1968. Our mothers had not been close prior to pregnancy — of different generations and ethnic backgrounds — but they bonded over pregnancy and both gave birth to boys in the first week of July. Continue reading Losing My Best Friend: A Pain Without Name

The Grief Competition: My Time at the Death Cafe

coffee with skull and beans in saucer at cafe

Sprinting down a crowded New York street is inherently cinematic. More than once, I’ve imagined myself on the big screen while running to catch a bus. Secretly, I love the hustle. Moving faster than those around me, looking harried and focused, is a way of silently communicating what I’d never say aloud: Look at me! I’m going places! Watch me pass you by!

October 2013, approximately four years ago: I’m clomping down Sixth Avenue, weaving through the Midtown after-work crowd, my water bottle and empty Tupperware clanging together in my canvas tote. I’m en route to a mediocre Chinese restaurant to talk about death with a bunch of strangers, and I’m running late, as usual. But running late to a Death Café feels like a hackneyed metaphor, a body in motion a painfully prescient reminder of the end destination. Continue reading The Grief Competition: My Time at the Death Cafe

A Decade of Grieving

woman grieving graveyard flowers double image

Note: If you are in a life threatening situation call +1 (800) 273-8255 or use these resources to get immediate help.

Day 1

I was 24 when Adam died. We were both 24. I had a missed call at 3am on my phone from my old roommate in Albuquerque, Eric. My boyfriend Chris dropped me off at my apartment early in the morning so I could get ready for work and I listened to the voicemail as I walked in my front door. Eric sounded distraught. “Call me back,” was all he said. So I called him back, even though it was 5am where he was.

“Our friend, Adam,” he said, choking through tears, “he’s gone. He killed himself.” Continue reading A Decade of Grieving

Finding Help for Complicated Grief

sad woman looking into sunset

Grief is one of the most intensely personal emotions we experience, and also one of the most public; not for nothing does every culture on Earth have rituals associated with grieving. Many of those rituals unfold over a series of days or months — Shiva in Jewish tradition, prayers in Buddhism — reflecting the fact that grief takes time. In a fast-paced society, there can be tremendous pressure to “get over it” as quickly as possible, and those who take more time than others may be viewed as suspect.

When does mourning cross the tipping point between a natural and healthy response to an intense life event and into something more dangerous? That’s a question that challenges researchers interested in a phenomenon called “complicated grief” or “difficult grief,” in which people become “stuck,” as Talkspace therapist Cynthia Stocker terms it. Whether an adjustment is related to the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or another dramatic change like something that affects someone’s sense of identity, some people have difficulty processing and moving through their grief. It can become overwhelming, and that’s when grief may transition into something harmful. Continue reading Finding Help for Complicated Grief

How Therapy Can Help People Cope With Terminal Illnesses

woman headscarf hospital bed

When people have a terminal illness and are journeying through their final days, they need lots of love and support from friends and family. Sometimes this isn’t enough, though.

Loved ones don’t necessarily have the skills or time to help someone come to terms with mortality. They might not know how to assist in making meaning of life as it is coming to an end.

This is when a psychotherapist or grief counselor can be invaluable. These mental health professionals have the skills to make patients and their loved ones as comfortable as possible during the end of a terminal illness. Continue reading How Therapy Can Help People Cope With Terminal Illnesses

Coping with Grief and Anxiety in the Wake of the Orlando Shooting

orlando shooting lgbt vigil

When Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, walked into the Pulse Night Club on the night of June 11, he most likely thought it would be a normal evening. He would dance, socialize, maybe enjoy some of the live entertainment or Latin theme night. Then he would go home, sleep in and see his loved ones in the coming days.

Capo — and at least 49 other people — did not return. They lost their lives in the Orlando shooting, a senseless act of violence and the deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history. Continue reading Coping with Grief and Anxiety in the Wake of the Orlando Shooting