Monthly Archives: December 2016

The 12 Freedoms of Grief

  Freedom #1

You have the freedom to realize your grief is unique. Others may grieve in different ways than you because your experience will be influenced by a variety of factors. These include the relationship you had with the person who died, circumstances of death-whether it was sudden or expected, your support system, and your cultural and religious background. It is important not to compare oneself with others who are grieving, and to consider the “one-D-at-A-time” approach to allow yourself to proceed at your own pace.

 Freedom #2

You have the freedom to talk about your grade. By expressing grief openly, healing occurs and you are likely to feel better. Ignoring it will not make your grief go away. It is more important to seek out caring friends and relatives who will listen without judging.

Freedom #3

You have the right to expect to feel a multitude of emotions. Your head, heart, and spirit will be affected when you are experiencing loss. As a result, you may experience feelings of confusion, disorganization, fear, guilt, relief, or other emotions. Sometimes they may come so I’m you continuously or follow each other within a short period of time. It is important to know that these emotions are normal responses to the death of a loved one, even though you may be feeling overwhelmed at the time.


Freedom #4

You have the freedom to allow for numbness. Part of the great experience includes feeling numb or disoriented when I loved one dies. It allows your emotions to “catch up” with what you know intellectually and allows you to be insulated from the reality of the death into you can tolerate what you don’t want to believe.

Freedom #5

You have the freedom to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. You may feel tired as a result of your feelings of loss and sadness. Your low-energy level may impair your ability to think clearly and to make decisions. It is important to nurture yourself by getting daily rest, eating balanced meals, and lowering your expectations of yourself.


Freedom #6

You have the freedom to experience grief attacks or memory embraces. You may experience “searches of grief” or flashbacks (“memory embraces”), which can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. These feelings are normal. Try to find someone who understands how you’re feeling and is willing to listen.

Freedom #7

You have the freedom to develop a support system. Although reaching out to others and excepting their help maybe difficult, finding people who will provide understanding you need and who will let you be yourself maybe the best action you can take on your own behalf.


Freedom #8

You have the freedom to make use of ritual. The funeral retro serves the dual purpose of acknowledging the death of a loved one and allowing you to express great. It also provides you with the support of caring people who are also greeting.

Freedom #9

You have the freedom to embrace your spirituality. Express your faith in whatever ways that seem appropriate to you. Try to have people around you to support your religious beliefs. You may feel hurt and abandoned and may feel angry at God because of the death of someone you love, but it is important to realize that this feeling is a normal part of grief. Try to find someone who won’t be judgmental about your feelings and who will allow you to explore your thoughts and feelings.


Freedom #10

You have the freedom to allow a search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, “why did he/she die?” Or, “why now?” This search for meaning is often another normal part of the healing process. Some questions have answers; some do not. Actually, healing occurs in the opportunity to pose the questions, not necessarily in answering them. Find a supportive friend who will listen responsively as you search for meaning. 

Freedom #11

You have the freedom to cherish her memories. Treasure the memories of your loved one who has died. Share them with your family and friends. Recognize that your memories may make you laugh or cry. In either case, they are a lasting part of your friendship that you had with a very special person in your life.

Freedom #12

 You have the freedom to move through your grief and heal. The capacity to love requires the necessity to grieve openly when someone you love dies. You cannot heal unless you openly express your grief. Denying your grief will only make it become more confusing and overwhelming. Embrace your grieve and heal. Reckon ceiling grieve will not happen quickly. Remember grief is a process not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Never forget that the death of someone you loved changes your life forever. It’s not that you will never be happy again, it’s simply that you will never be exactly the same as you were before death.

Grieving Events

Death of a spouse


Marital separation


Death of a close family member

Personal injury or illness


Dismissal from work

Marital reconciliation


Change in health of family member


Sexual difficulties

Gain a new family member

Business readjustment

Change in financial state

Death of a close friend

Change to different line of work

Change in frequency of arguments

Major mortgage

Foreclosure of mortgage or loan

Change in responsibilities at work

Child leaving home

Trouble with in-laws

Outstanding personal achievement

Spouse starts or stops work

Begin or end school

Change in living conditions

Revision of personal habits

Trouble with boss

Change in working hours or conditions

Change in residence

Change in schools

Change in recreation

Change in church activities

Change in social activities

Minor mortgage or loan

Change in sleeping habits

Change in number of family reunions

Change in eating habits



Minor violation of law

Loss of Trust

Loss of Approval

Loss of Safety 

Loss of Control of ones body

PTSD: The Feminist Perspective

I am a feminist. If you asked me to describe myself, the first thing I would say is, “I’m a woman.” Many people are ignorant to exactly what feminism purports. . .especially those who fear it.

The Feminist Movement advocated for women’s rights and women’s sufferage: voting, equal pay, domestic violence and sexual harassment. The movement infers we must work to actively correct gender imbalances and abolish the exploitation of women.

by Instructor Kimberly Moffitt

Look at the world through a woman’s eyes and you will see what we deal with on a regular basis. The feminist perspective is to see things from a woman’s point-of-view in a society governed by men; also to be conscious, mindful and critical of men dominating women at home, work and out in the world.

My own Post Traumatic Stress has been compounded by acts perpetrated against me by men in my home (violent ex-husband), at work (sexual harassment), while running errands (humans without boundaries) and so forth. All aspects of my world, from childhood to current, were effected by the decisions and behavior of men. The first time I was five years old  [My First Kiss] and the last time was July 20th of this year. 

In college, I examined the history and psychology of women, and thus, am grateful to the women who endured before me; who suffered much of the same and worse at the hands of our male counterparts. Way back when, women who reacted to trauma were considered nothing more than hysterical. Today, society has so graciously begun to recognize that violence is a routine part of many women’s sexual, domestic and everyday lives.

Shortly before I was born, in the early 70s, post traumatic disorders were finally recognized more in women. I say “finally” because previously, our experiences as women were tenebrous; under the guise of “private life.”  The privacy society supposedly valued placed a barrier between HER and the rest of the world; rendering HER reality invisible, and HER voice silent. 

In my previous marriage, I was unable to speak up about my own life riddled by sexual and domestic violence. When I tried (a few times): his mother asked, “What did you do to make him hit you?” A friend said they did not want to get involved. A male marriage counselor said to me “Why don’t you give the guy a break?” A psychiatrist told me I was a Paranoid Schizophrenic. The psychiatrist asked if I had someone to watch my children because he wanted to hospitalize me for four to six months. He said it would take that long to see which medication(s) were right for me. This happened twenty years ago. At the time I didn’t know what a Paranoid Schizophrenic person looked like. I only knew two things: I was not mentally ill and the psychiatrist was yet another man who was trying to take or reduce my power. From early on I learned that speaking up about what was happening to me only served to invite further humiliation, and standing up for myself would not be permitted.

As a therapist, my goal is to design a confidential, validating, safe environment for one to speak their truth(s). I suppose I sought the career of a healer because no one offered me the space to overcome without re-victimization and further shame. I was rendered silent and could not point my finger at those who harmed me. I understand what it feels like to be prohibited from speaking about injuries.

A few years ago I had to go before my peers and state which theory/perspective I preferred to use in my work. My favorites are the psychodynamic and feminist theories. I chose to present the feminist perspective. That may seem odd, as my employ is within a male prison. Some presumed I did not know what I spoke of, but look at it this way: a feminist understanding empowers the marginalized to breach their barriers, to support one another, to take action and raise consciousness. My approach is to encourage the silenced; to give them a voice. 

I work with many traumatized people; individuals who have been physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused as children. The initial work on domestic violence and sexual abuse grew out of the feminist movement:when services for victims were organized outside of the traditional mental health system often with the assistance of professional women like Lenore Walker who inspired the movement [Lenore Walker].

Psychologist, Lenore Walker, began describing the psychological trauma of women who fled to shelters as “Battered Woman Syndrome.” In the early 1980’s when abused women and incest survivors spoke about their injuries, they were describing posttraumatic stress disorder; yet it was not clear that what was being observed in these survivors is essentially the same as what was seen in survivors of war.

The symptoms of shell-shock were due to psychological trauma and the emotional stress of prolonged exposure to violence and death. The symptoms produced in traumatized soldiers were like those seen in women who were exposed to continued physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

Who and how a person becomes  traumatized is irrelevant. A trauma is a trauma. . .is a trauma. If you want to be there for him or her do not shame them when they begin to speak their truths.  Treat them with dignity and respect. Do not silence them, rather encourage them to write and talk freely about their terrors. Invite them to feel safe. Do not question their overwhelming fears. Understand, they are haunted by unwanted memories. These things might protect your friends and loved ones against an acute breakdown; which can lead to rapid decompensation.

The focus from a feminist perspective would be to empower: I will not allow my truths to be forgotten. I refuse to be stigmatized. I do not need to convince others that my distress is righteous or justified. I will not be stripped of my dignity. Look at the world through my traumatized eyes when I am angry, crying, short-tempered, or lack affect and recognize that psychological trauma is a lasting legacy.



Freelance journalist Armani Lopez


I once met a man who said his greatest fear was being homeless. Rather, the notion of not being homeless and then through a series of circumstances involving poor luck and bad decisions, ending up homeless. 

During our discussion, being homeless was not the answer I gave when prompted for my greatest fear but after hearing his answer how could one not agree that the fear of becoming homeless is indeed a respectable thing to decide to be afraid of and to avoid? In fact, I had never even really considered many ramifications of living on the streets prior to this.

Homelessness has been a popular political issue for some time now, if you consider New York mayor’s infamous crackdown on certain sectors of the homeless population. This generally painted a negative picture of homeless people, usually depicting them as violent, mentally disturbed people, implying that for reasons concerning their inherent character were unable to respect an acceptable merit of work ethic and have thus been removed to the fringes of society, not to be casually associated with for fear of bad habits being transferred. 

Meddling in their affairs is typically a job for the social worker, individuals trained in all manners of maintaining the welfare of his or her fellow citizens. Since there are many aspects to this; the discipline can be depicted in various forms of work. The most popular kinds of services in this category are probably food banks, such as Loves & Fishes in Sacramento, California and other similar organizations, in which people are encouraged to donate his or her time via a volunteer program. 

It helps to look at the volunteer service as a give-take opportunity, as the people donate their time for a positive cause and can usually log in a decent amount of hours for their volunteer experience. Other passionate individuals may even take it a step further and actually work for said organizations, rather than just volunteering during off hours. Could full fledged careers really be carved through a niche that relies on a population of hobos?

Arguably, more people than one might think are homeless, have been homeless before, or are in situations that could render them homeless for a temporary or undetermined amount of time. It might not even really be age dependent, meaning, (excluding a few key demographics), if you interact with a few people over the course of a few days to a week, you may find at least one or a few have been in the previously mentioned domestically threatening scenarios. After realizing you would have never guessed these people were in those situations, you may note how initially kind or well mannered they seemed. It is analogous to the stereotypical orphan child, growing up without parents and learning how to fend for his or herself, usually going on to building a reputable life for their spouse and children, not wanting anyone they know or love to have to endure the same childhood experiences. 

There is an ever increasing drive to remain stable and avoid the purgatory known as homelessness. In fact, that is probably the most common reason for wanting what is known as “success”, in order to “keep up with the Jones’s”, or to not be homeless: to be comfortable and known for being a valuable contributing member of society, to be admired by peers for the noticeable work he has accomplished, the lives he has touched, the differences in the world he has made, and the rewards he has received as a testament to all this expected employment of man hours; a duty required by every man so that the people’s nation can remain strong and intact.

However, that being said, it has been recognized that a traditional homebound life is not for everyone. From couch surfing to extensive traveling, a few years without particular adult responsibilities has been suggested as a necessary and/or rewarding time of one’s life, in which invaluable lessons concerning respect and empathy can be learned through exposure to a variety of people and cultures. In most cases these people probably aren’t actually homeless as the lifestyle is voluntary.

I would then make a claim that a positive connotation for the term ‘homeless’ is ‘vagabond’. Of course, there are probably some criteria to be called a vagabond and to be differentiated from the average homeless population. Vagabonds typically travel for work and may have an extensive network of contacts (not unlike your average homeless person). They usually exert a cool aura and are knowledgeable about what is going on in the scene of their choice. As has been said before, some people just aren’t good at following through with that “typical American” lifestyle. Perhaps it bores them or their line of work calls for slightly more unusual circumstances. Most people would not assume that there is something seriously wrong with their mental capabilities.

On the other hand local hobo populations have been an irreplaceable source of entertainment for roughly fifteen-twenty years now, and the internet has made tuning in to the antics of homeless people even more accessible. Simply put, some people probably couldn’t just help it; whether that be inadvertently getting addicted to drugs through a boyfriend (leading to homelessness) or inherent mental instability that activated at the wrong time, some people are aware of his or her potential shortcomings but simply can’t help it, even when interacting with others. They seem mostly content, or understanding of their dilemma. There’s probably just as much violence and conflict with them as there is in family, civil, or domestic disputes. They may be well aware of some particular aspect regarding basic needs. Some of them are actually better off than one may initially presume.

In my life so far I have met a variety of poor people, some of them homeless. A lot of them don’t have access to contemporary resources and only are concerned with what they know or have been taught growing up. Religion and Christianity is a popular source to turn to to help get through the day. A man who seemed fairly interested in my well being once asked what I was studying in college. I said ‘journalism’. He said he studied that too and was a journalist some thirty or forty years ago, and to look at him now, after enjoying a career in journalism. He was dressed fairly casual but was apparently homeless. I’m guessing he was trying to teach me something about life. He asked if I was into music, and I said yes. I produced a few tracks here and there for some people I know. He said he was a music producer back in the day as well. He asked if I heard of one of his groups, which was a trio of Spanish males in what appeared a precursor to popular boy bands. I told him no. He said he produced a few hits for them back in the 70’s. I wasn’t sure what to say. Pretty soon, some other guy joined the conversation and started talking to him, at which point I kind of eased my way out. The guy seemed tired and confused but I am sure he meant well.

People typically try to foster the homeless with spare change, food, or clothing. Somewhat sensibly, some people refuse to give them money because they might use it to support an alcohol or drug habit. I am not sure if anyone knows what to do about all the homelessness. It is as if the goal is to take care of the entire population. You can offer them food or goods as a quick short term solution of good doing but the rest is seemingly up to them to change their life for the better. What happens after all homeless people are given homes to stay in or sustainable jobs to work? There will always be a new generation of people living on the streets, for one reason or another. Then, is it always up to some person or the other to provide appropriate dictation on how best to improve living conditions and the right thing to work towards?

If one is lucky enough, I suppose, they can get out of it early and maybe learn a skill or two on one way of dealing with people in the real world. These people are probably living with different views from people in other conditions and it takes a little bit of time to learn and understand where each person is coming from, regardless of if there’s a more respectable way of obtaining money. People generally seek the easiest, ultimately least stressful way of life for them to support his or herself. Besides taking an “easy way out” not everyone manages to find that work which suits them best. People will generally attempt to do so in order to be the most attractive in some way; to truly be rich and minimize chances of being considered poor, unsafe, or alone.




Last week I attended the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) conference in San Francisco. I took two courses; 36 hours of training about how to assist individuals and groups in crises. We learned debriefing and crisis communication techniques and were reminded of common psychological reactions to trauma; including important differences between things like distress versus dysfunction. 

On the last day we were formed into groups of eight for the purpose of completing a role play exercise (one of my least favorite things). My group scenario was about a janitor who came to work wielding a knife. Our task was to decide how to role play it. We agreed on a script: we were at a meeting for supervisors when the irate janitor came at us with a knife. One group member offered ideas to aid the script. He looked at me and said,” and you were really affected by this because it happened to you before at a former work place and it was really bad.” 

My heart raced. A memory intruded. I’m at my old job, Advance America, and there is a gun against my head. Something is changing. The air is different. How many times have I been triggered? 100? 500? It’s irrelevant, I decided after realizing there are more to come. There will always be more. In the interim I am hurting and I’m wearing this pain completely; like an invisible blanket no one can see. PTSD is like an insurgent. It compels my senses to go rogue against my body; like a traitor. I retreat into darkness. I’ve been betrayed. I cannot fight against the way the memories seduce me. I’m triggered. I tried not to let it divide me. I don’t like the way it conquers me. I hate it. I gather strength and will the images to shut down. . .one by one. The robbery happened more than a decade ago, yet, I still feel poisoned by it. I’m triggered. It always knows where to find me. It arrives bestowing unwanted memories so that I can’t even remember NOW. I’m relying on someone to remember the way I am invaded from time to time so that they may bring me back safely, but alas, no one notices. They are blind to the way I lose time, and lose sleep, and when I sleep, I wake up heavier, burdened, and haunted for in my dreams I was being hunted. No one notices the patterns of my aches or the way the pain thumps inside my head after I’ve been frightened. No one sees this unseen part; like the times I snap out of it and it takes me a minute to realize where I am and who they are. No one notices the way I synthesize details of my surroundings so that I may recall the present. I remember: tomorrow is Monday and then I attempt to get up to exit the conference room except I can’t move my legs. Someone is speaking to me and I nod my head, but I don’t know what they’re saying. I want to speak and I can’t because the words were displaced before they reached my lips and no one knows I’m triggered. I feel myself tumbling forward and breaking free. There is a roar of laughter and I’m jerked back into the present, but the fear lingers and I feel weakened. Meanwhile, I wonder about the man who put his gun to my head. What is he doing in the present? I’m back in the present and no one even noticed I was gone.  

 My group members suggestion triggered me. I wanted to leave the conference room, but before the role play began, the instructor told us he didn’t want anyone running out of the room in an effort to appear distraught as part of the role play. I wanted to leave, but I did not want to draw attention to myself, nor did I want to explain myself. I sat there in my group with seven other individuals and thought ‘wow this still fucks with me.’ I thought I was over being triggered about the robbery because I am finally able to speak aloud about the incident without feeling as if I am choking, panicking and on the verge of tears. 

Since the robbery, I have become acquainted with PTSD and have learned how to soothe myself using self-talk. I tell myself I am okay and remind myself that I’m not crazy because a motherfucker chose to put a gun to my head and I believed he was going to rape and murder me.    

The business I worked for more than a decade ago was robbed. I was robbed. I was alone when it happened. So much time has passed and sometimes my  responds as if it just happened. Some of you may be able to banish awful things from your memory. Certain things are too horrible to recall. One thought is, people don’t want to talk about terrible things. Another piece is, terrible things are difficult to listen to. Many times people with PTSD are re-victimized and re-traumatized when they attempt to speak their truth. Due to this phenomena we may hesitate to open up because we might become triggered in the process of telling our story and to make matters worse, while triggered, sometimes what we say becomes detached from what we mean to say. This amounts to being misunderstood; especially to the untrained listener. 


I can hear myself when I’m triggered. I’m embarrassed at how dramatic and bizarre I must sound. I understand how difficult this may be for the person on the receiving end. I often play the role of listener for patients, friends, strangers, and family. When I am speaking with a human who is upset, in crisis or traumatized; my duty is to remain clearheaded so that I can piece together fragments of their story. I must be multilingual in a sense; in order to understand the fractured language the traumatized person uses to illustrate how they became riven. 

I tell you about me so that you can see what we have in common. We are connected by atrocity. We are survivors of combat, prison, abuse, assault, disasters, accidents… We survived wars, predators and husbands. We survived one trauma, many overwhelming events, and/or prolonged psychological abuse. Because of our commonalities I want you to know I understand what many don’t: the impact of traumatic experiences and the strength and resilience required to adapt and recover from those unspeakable things.  


Ice Breakers


Car Accidents and PTSD