Communication with a Smile

With all the talking we do everyday one might think that using words would be a refined and easy form of communication. No so. Even those of us who teach others how to communicate effectively can slip into old habits when upset or when caught off guard. So here are a couple of reminders to help you get through your next complicated communication scenario without making matters worse.

Remember to use "I statements" and express your actual thoughts and feelings instead of negating or criticizing another persons opinion. If someone mentions that someone is a jerk and you don't agree, own your opinion by using the word "I" to express how you feel. For example: "Hmmm, I kind of like the way he stands up for himself."

This way you are not criticizing the other persons' opinion, you are just disagreeing with them. If however you respond by saying "That's not true." you are in effect telling the other person that they are wrong and you are right; you are criticizing their opinion, igniting a potential argument. In short you are taking a simple difference of opinion and turning it into a negative and hurtful verbal exchange.

Words are a tricky form of communication, and unless we grew up in a home where healthy communication was the norm it can take a great deal of effort to learn how to express our needs clearly, to listen without judgment and to express our differences without creating hurt feelings. However, making the effort can mean the difference in maintaining happy, healthy relationships.


Living With the Loss of a Loved One

More people die during the winter months than at any other time of year. Those of us who are left behind often find ourselves feeling the sting associated with grief as the anniversary of a loved one's passing rolls around.

It is common for people to feel depressed, irritable or to develop flu-like symptoms around the anniversary of a loved one's death. It isn't necessary to be conscious of the anniversary to develop the symptoms of grief; our mind and our body have great memories, and if we have not allowed ourselves to fully mourn our loss, our body can re-experience our unresolved feelings, turning them inward and creating havoc in our life.

In the aftermath of a traumatic or untimely death survivors may feel what is known as "Survivor's Guilt." Around the anniversary of your loss you may experience nightmares or fear that you too will die young or suffer a tragic accident. Unresolved grief can create devastating consequences including ill health or thoughts of suicide.

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. of Boulder, Colorado states that "unrealistic and unresolved guilt or grief reactions can lead to illness or death at or just before the anniversary of the death of a spouse, mother, father or child." Clearly the grieving process is not only necessary for optimum mental health but also for one's physical health.

So if your mood or behavior seems out of sync, search your memory to see if you may be experiencing anniversary related grief. Be kind to yourself, it can take 6 months to 2 years to fully grieve the loss of a loved one. But if you haven't worked through your feelings of denial, anger, bartering, depression and acceptance (as outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross) you can experience the effects of anniversary grief for decades.

Begin by acknowledging what you are feeling and experiencing, then look for opportunities to talk about your memories with a trusted friend. Start a journal and record your thoughts and how they relate to your loss. Visit the grave and have a candid talk with your loved one or write down what you would say to them if you could see them one last time.

If you have troubled memories or feelings acknowledge them. Idealizing those who have passed is neither honest nor helpful. Be willing to entertain all your feelings, even those that aren't pretty, being careful not to get stuck in your negativity.

You will know you have completed your grieving process when the anniversary comes and goes without incident, or when you can share memories with minimal emotion. Some say that time heals all wounds, but unless you are an active participant in your grieving process it may take the rest of your life.