Archive for February 8th, 2012


I really appreciate that thinkers in my field, specifically humanistic existential, are speaking out against the American Psychiatric Association.  Dr. Stolorow posted some comments to Dr. Allen Frances‘ blog on the Huffington Post.

I think we need to take a stand against the APA.  They have the power to create the illusion and delusion of pathology in this country and in the world.

Check out Crazy Like Us:  The Globalization of the American Psyche.

The world looks to American psychology and worse yet, we push our beliefs about mental health and mental illness off on the rest of the world.  We send squads of traumatologists when there is a natural disaster and rather than being phenomenological and being present to the experience of others in different cultures, we assume we can help them from our viewpoint, which is not always conducive with their experience of the world.

There is much controversy about where to “put” grief/bereavement… some want to create a category of complicated bereavement (which allows clinicians to bill insurance for the their treatment). . . or they want to add grief/bereavement to the category of mood disorders (major depression/bipolar disorder), etc.  The hypocrisy of the later is that many psychiatrists today still believe that mood disorders are chemical imbalances so how do they explain adding grief to this category?

Currently, grief is in the DSM but it falls in an area that is about adjustment (daily issues where we may be having difficulties) but insurances don’t want to pay for people to get help with these issues.  And well, if you are looking for a justification for the use of medication, a difficulty with daily life isn’t much of a rationale for meds… though it happens every day.

I would hope that several divisions of the American Psychological Association along with the American Counseling Association, the Association for Death Education and Counseling, etc. take a stand against the APA’s instance at pathologizing grief.

Side Note:   I do have to say that I do believe that some people have difficulties that may require meds.  And it isn’t like those people with long-term mental health difficulties never experience loss.  But, let’s look at it. . . they have had difficulties before the loss and the loss was most likely a catalyst for further difficulties.  I don’t ever want any readers to think I am anti-meds.  I think that some people have benefitted from short-term use, especially if they have had instances where they have needed them in the past.  AND those seeking meds need to understand what they will do and not do and what are the long-term effects of taking medication.  The most important thing about any help we seek is to be informed. . . who is this therapist?  what is this medication?  how effective is this treatment?

Thanks for letting me jump on my anti-DSM soapbox.  I hope you look at all the info out there and make an informed decision for yourself!

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Your first question from our “Ask Here” page has come in and we are thrilled to get it.  Watch for the post with our readers question.

The Ask Here page was created so that you, the reader, could ask the questions that you most want to know about or suggest topics for the future.

When people hear that I have worked for hospice and am now a consultant working with people dealing with illness, loss, meditation practices, etc, they want to know how I do it.  Then they have a few questions that they want to know about. . .  things like:

what’s the criteria for being admitted to hospice?

how do I explain death to my kids/grandkids?

how do I start a meditation practice?

when is my mom going to get over it (a loss)?

how do I cope with my chronic or life-limiting illness?

can I teach my kids how to meditate?

Please feel free to ask your questions, share your story, and help other people grow and learn in the process.

Questions come to us to moderate and will not be posted directly onto the blog.  Names and email addresses are not required and posts will be kept anonymous unless it is specified otherwise.

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Longaker has a wonderful book, “Facing Death and Finding Hope:  A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying“.  She has worked for years with Sogyal Rinpoche, Tibetan teacher and author.  Christine helped to establish two important institutions in our country . . . Hospice of Santa Cruz County and Rigpa Fellowship (US).  She also helped Sogyal Rinpoche to develop the Spiritual Care for Living and Dying Program.

She has an incredible poem in the abovementioned book that she wrote shortly after the death of her husband.  Next week we celebrate love and relationships.  Maybe we’ve gotten to a place where it is pretty commercialized, painting everything pink and red or getting “the” reservation at the hottest restaurant or the perfect getaway spa weekend but when it all comes down to it, none of that really matters.

What matters is our connection, our ability to be present, our desire to be compassionate, and our earnestness in trying to understand and love.

The week coming up is, for me, always bittersweet.  2/13 is my grandfather’s birthday and he would be 98 years old.  It is also the birthday of a beloved family friend who died before I ever left Connecticut.

2/14 is when my brother was put into a coma 17 years ago and when my mentor and dear friend Lois began the process of helping him to relax into his dying with a white light meditation and relaxation.

2/15 at 10am was when the doorbell rang and Michael’s home health nurse was at the door to tell me to come to the hospital; Mike was ready to transition.  I “knew” about 15 minutes before that he was slipping away but he had the gift of being with our parents for the last time. . . just the three of them, just as he had started out in this world before I came along.

The American Psychiatric Association and other people, some in my own professional organization, would give us two weeks to grieve before giving us a diagnosis.  I guess the lot of them have never really loved anyone.

During the week to come, spend extra time being present to those who you love the most.  Listen to the quality of their voice, how the sun shines on their hair, the pitch of their giggle, the wrinkles on their hands. . . spend less time searching for that card at Hallmark and spend that time giving your loved one that mindful attention.

You will not always be together, as we change, age, grow ill, and die, as Longaker experienced with her husband.  Create memories now and enjoy the moment-to-moment love you share.


You Can Grow Less Beautiful

Your hair is falling out, and

you are not so beautiful.

Your eyes have dark shadows,

your body is bloated:  arms covered with

bruises and needlemarks;

legs swollen and useless.

Your body and spirit

are weakened with toxic chemicals

urine smells like antibiotics,

even the sweat,

that bathes your  whole body

in the early hours of morning

reeks of dicloxacillin and methotrexate.

You are nauseous all the time —

I am afraid to move on the bed

for fear of waking you

to moan

and lean over the edge

vomiting into the bag.

I curl up fetally

withdraw into my dreams

with a frightened back to you —

I’m scared

and I’m hiding

but I love you so much;

this truth does not change.

Years ago,

when I met you, as we were falling in love,

your beauty attracted me;

long, golden-brown hair

clear and peaceful green eyes

high cheekbones and long smooth muscles

but you know

I fell in love with your soul

the real essence of you

and this cannot grow less beautiful.

Sometimes these days

even your soul is cloudy

but I still recognize you.

We may be frightened

and hiding our sorrow

it may take a little longer

to acknowledge the truth,

yet I would not want to be anywhere else:

I am here     with you

you can grow less beautiful to the world

you are safe —

I will always love you.

~~Christine Longaker for her husband Lyttle.

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