Pet Loss Support Group

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I will be facilitating this support group.  Details below:

 

Have you or someone you know lost a pet? We will be hosting a free talk on pet loss and grief open to the community. Due to limited seating please respond, call, or email our office by Sunday, March 5th 2017. Please only children over 12. If there is enough interest we will have a sign up for Pet Grief for children under 12.
cnyvms.appointment@gmail.com
315-853-2408

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Wisdom of The Doctor

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Gracie

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It’s not crystal clear, but this is my favorite photo of Gracie.  She was the quirkiest dog I’ve ever known.  We were on our way to the kennel and she was in the very back of my SUV.  She always loved to ride in the car…

About a week after our dog, Emily, died, my son was home from college and wanted to be part of the picking out another female dog.  We still had George, our golden lab/German shepherd mix and he was really struggling without Emily to tell him what to do.  Against my better judgement and with a heart that was grieving deeply and not ready to welcome another dog, the four of us (husband, son, daughter and me) went to the local humane society to take a look at what they had.

Humane societies are the saddest places.  All of those dogs and we could only take one home with us!!  We chose a couple to get to know.  The first one was waaaaayyyyy too energetic and young.  We prefer dogs a bit older.  My daughter chose one and she was brought into the little room with us.  All four of us sat on the floor and this dog kept going back and forth between my son and husband, completely ignoring the girls.  The boys seemed to really like her and then…THEN…she put her paws up on my husband’s shoulders, looked deeply into his eyes and licked him on the face.  I kid you not.  You know how in the old cartoons, when something happens and hearts start to circle around a characters head when they fall in love.  Yeah.  Hearts around my husband’s head.  That dog was going home with us.

We renamed her Gracie because we already had a George.  Those of you of a certain age – ahem – will recognize the names of the famous comedy team George Burns and Gracie Allen (still my favorite duo).  However, if we had waited a bit, we would have named her Kitty.  She had apparently been living in a basement with cats for quite some time and had adopted cat-like behavior.  We always said she was a terrible dog, but a great cat.

Once we got her home and settled in, we noticed other things about her.  Like how fast she could run.  We’d go for walks with her and George and she would literally jump over him to pass him on a trail.  So we nicknamed her Gracie Gazelle.  We also occasionally called her Pretty Pretty Princess because when she came back from the groomers, she would prance around KNOWING how adorable she looked.  She liked to be clean.  Like a cat.

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She had a habit of crawling up onto my husband’s lap and snuggling around his neck.  Like a cat.  And she even head-bumped.  Like a cat.  She ignored people when they came onto our property or into our home.  Like a cat.  I think she thought it was beneath her to bark.

Gracie was a unique mix.  Part German Shepherd.  Part Husky.  Part Doberman.  She had half a blue eye.  A big, fluffy Husky tail.  A floppy ear (what one vet called a cocked ear – one up and one down).  She used to curl up in a ball like Husky’s do…and like cats do.  She loved to be outside, especially if the weather was cold.  And she loved to take a nap on the lawn while it was snowing.  Her Huskyness ran deep, though she looked more like a Shepherd.

She was always a perpetual puppy.  Until she got old.  Literally overnight.  We noticed last Spring that she seemed older.  Slower.  Less interested and less responsive.  As the summer passed, she started falling and listing to one side.  She started sleeping more, going out less and for shorter and shorter periods of time.

Then my husband had a dream.  In it, George was sitting up on a hill on beautiful green grass under a bright blue sky.  He was looking backwards, over his shoulder beckoning to be followed.  At first, my husband thought George was waiting for him, but then realized he was waiting for Gracie.  They had been great companions, great friends.  That was the first big cry we had…knowing that the end was near for Gracie.

Over the course of the next month, she began to decline rapidly.  Naturally, she waited until we were out of town to have a major series of strokes.  Not only were we out of town two hours away, but it was our 35th wedding anniversary and we were supposed to leave for a vacation the next morning.  While my husband canceled our vacation reservations, I packed up our stuff (I had spoken at a conference earlier that day) and we headed home.  My daughter and her boyfriend took care of her until we could get home, God bless them.  That was a long two hours for all of us.   One look and we knew it was time.  We loaded her in the car, drove through tears to the emergency vet and prepared to say good-bye to our Pretty Pretty Princess.

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As we were waiting for the vet, I noticed for the first time that when Gracie was laying down, the patch on her chest looks like a heart and I snapped this picture.  It might seem a bit morbid to do that, but to me it was comforting…like a sign of love from our departing girl.

The vet was amazing.   Compassionate.  Thoughtful.  Mindful of Gracie’s needs and ours.  She gave us time with her to let us say our goodbyes and our thank yous and express our love and appreciation.  Then she came in and Gracie was gone quickly and painlessly.  An end to her seizure, to her pain and to her life.

Rest in peace, Gracie.

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FREE Presentation, October 20

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On Thursday, October 20, I will be giving a presentation at Schuyler Commons, 1776 Independence Ave., Utica.  This is a comprehensive 60 minute presentation that will include grief reactions, factors complicating grief, coping with grief, and how to help someone else who is grieving.  It will be followed by a time for questions.  Registration is required by Tuesday, October 18.  Please either call  me at 1. 315. 765. 6530 or email me at translatinggrief@gmail.com.

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Announcing: Bereavement support group

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This free, six week bereavement support group is for any adult who has experienced the death of someone they love.  Whether it was by illness, accident or suicide, you will find support, education and coping techniques to help you travel your personal grief journey.  It begins Thursday, September 22 from 2:00 to 3:30 pm at Schuyler Commons, 1776 Independence Square, Utica.  (Schuyler Commons is located in N. Utica off of Trenton Road).  This group is facilitated by me, Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW, bereavement counselor and owner of Translating Grief, LLC.

Registration is required by Tuesday, September 20.  Please register by calling me at 1.315.765.6530 or by emailing translatinggrief@gmail.com.

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Grief is a lot like…menopause?!

 

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Bear with me now….Grief has been compared to so many things — waves, storms, shipwrecks, ping pong balls — but I’ve never heard it connected to menopause.  My brain just does funny things when I’m watching someone have a hot flash…or when I’m experiencing the joys of one myself.

Recently I’ve spent a bit of time with a woman I love who happens to be hot flashing her way through menopause.  She can’t get through a day or sleep through a night without multiple hot flashes.  Maybe you know the kind.  Toes to nose heat.  Full body sweats. Flushing.  Discomfort.  Embarrassment in public.  Not fun. Really – REALLY – not fun.

Because I’m a grief counselor, everything relates in some way to grief and loss in my mind. As I watched her flash, it occurred to me that there are, indeed, parallels to a grief journey. Here are my 4 A’s connecting the two:

Assault.   You have no control over when it begins.  Menopause just starts when it starts. Your grief starts when it starts – when you lose someone or something you love.  There it is in all its…glory?…somehow that doesn’t fit…in all its nastiness?  confusion? intrusiveness?  The symptoms are involuntary.  You are going to experience menopause whether you want to or not — assuming you’re a woman 😉  You are going to experience grief no matter how hard you try to run away from it, avoid it, or repress it.  It bubbles up. Trust me.  It bubbles up.

Ache.  Hot flashes and the other joys of menopause occur whenever they darn well please. It’s the same with grief ‘attacks’.  Triggers pop up.  Sometimes you can see them coming. Sometimes they ambush you and overwhelm you – toes to nose – and there is no stopping it.  It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of a grocery store or in the privacy of your own home. It hurts.  It intrudes.  It’s complicated and confusing and painful and we just want it to go away.

Adjustment.  This life becomes your new life.  Your adjusted life.  What was before is no longer the same.   It is different now.  Life has unalterably changed.  In menopause, it feels like a betrayal of your body.  The way that it functioned.  The way you could depend on it. The way you viewed it.  Now it is acting with a mind of its own.  The same for grief.  It definitely has a personality.  It has a life of its own.  Its own emotions.  Its own reactions – sometimes at the least convenient times.  It is always with you.  Always present. And you learn to live with it.  Both of them.  They become your companions.  Your -as my daughter in law says – second pair of underwear.  Over time you learn ways to cope.  The woman I love carries around a little plastic portable fan.  She sleeps with the air conditioning on full blast AND a fan…and sometimes those are not enough.  She’s tried a lot of remedies, some Western, some non-traditional.  None helped.  Coping with grief is much the same way. We are all so individual, so unique, that what works for one may not work for another. In fact, I’m not sure anything “works”.  There is nothing anyone can say or do that will remove the pain of grief.  But I will offer these as nearly universal coping tools:  1.  find at least one person with whom you can talk openly and honestly.  Someone who will not judge you or try to talk you out of your grief.  Someone who will enter into your space and love you through the worst of the pain.  2.  Allow yourself to sit in the pain.  It hurts. Avoidance is counter-productive.  Lean into it.  Identify it.  Feel it.  Experience it.  And then breathe it out and move onto the next thing.

Attitude.  Both menopause and grief are facts of life.  There is no escaping them.  But we don’t have to be destroyed by them.  Facing either head on, head up, eyes and hearts open can be incredibly empowering.  Embracing our changes, our lessons, our uniqueness, our flashes, our triggers,  in the face of them, is what helps us to grow.  Eventually we develop more compassion for others who are experiencing what we have experienced.  A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.  I’m not saying that smiling, or talking, or thinking positive is the solution to either one.  I’m saying that there is growth and empowerment and, even, meaning in the struggle.  We are changing.  We are growing.  We are becoming.  How and where and who is up to us.

As always, if you’d like to make an appointment to discuss your journey, please email or call me.  I offer a free consultation to see if we are a good fit.

Godspeed…

Lisa

 

 

 

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Don’t speak to fill the space….

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So…we were binge watching Orange is the New Black and a character died (no spoilers from me).  When another character wanted to offer condolences to the grieving “family”, yet another character warned her to not say “She’s in a better place” and not to “speak to fill the space”.  I chuckled when she said that last bit because that’s what so many people do.  Being uncomfortable with the kind of pain someone is experiencing – and likely expressing – causes people to just try to fill the space with unintentionally painful or, even, hurtful words.  It’s not necessary to fill the space when offering condolences.  Just being there is important.  And, please, for heaven’s sake, never never NEVER say “I know just how you feel”.  This article is a comprehensive collection of how others offered their condolences.  It’s a looooonnnngggg list, but might give you some ideas about how to comfort someone who is hurting beyond words…

http://stillstandingmag.com/2016/06/the-nicest-thing-to-say-or-do-after-loss/

 

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