Emotions of Suicide Loss

Reaching out to fellow Aspies, Lisa Morgan proffers her insight and advice to ensure that others on the autism spectrum don’t have to face suicide loss alone. Her book, Living Through Suicide Loss with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD): An Insider Guide for Individuals, Family, Friends, and Professional Responders is an honest look at the immediate aftermath of suicide loss, how emergency responders can help, and the long-term implications of living with suicide loss for individuals on the autism spectrum.

“A suicide loss can elicit such intense emotions that a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) can be quickly overwhelmed and flooded with out of control feelings.  The complicated grief, possible trauma, and relationship difficulties are some of the reasons for the emotional flooding a person with AS might experience.  I have experienced emotional flooding many times since my husband completed suicide in 2015.  I am going to share with you the coping skills that worked for me as I continue to understand and gain control over my troublesome emotions.”

  • Complicated Grief

“Complicated grief is grief that is coupled with anger, rejection, and feelings of guilt to name a few. Anger is the lion of my emotions. It’s wild, ferocious, and can maul my heart before I even know what is happening. I have learned to let it out slowly in small, manageable bits.  There are different ways this can be done. The easy way is to recognize when you are feeling angry and go with it while still maintaining control. Hit a pillow, punch the couch, or the mattress on the bed until you are spent and have no energy left. Go for a brisk walk or a run. For me, the coping skill is to do something physical. I have found emotions caused by rejection and feelings of guilt can be reasoned away somewhat by logic. Accepting that the decision to complete suicide was not up to you, but was responsibility of the person who died by suicide is the first logical step. I worked at accepting my husband’s decision and releasing myself from feeling any rejection and guilt.  There were uncomfortable emotions I had to sort out, but the comfortable logic of reason helped very much. It doesn’t happen overnight. Healing from complicated grief is a process that will take time. It’s an investment in a future of hope, happiness, and health.”

  • Possible Trauma

“There is possible trauma involved in losing a loved one to suicide. There are people who witness the suicide, find their loved one after the suicide, or who reach their loved one in time to try to save them, only to have their loved one still not make it. The trauma added to the complicated grief can bring out confusing emotions and flood an adult with AS. When I experience emotional flooding I shut down. My senses are extremely hyper-sensitive. I can’t control my anxiety which leads to lots of crying, and all I want to do is to withdraw inside of myself. When my emotions flood, I try to reach out to someone who can ground me and help me to regain control. It’s usually very helpful to have someone repeat truths until I can feel that my emotions are calming down. If I can’t find someone to reach out to, I can stay emotionally flooded for a long time. Instead, I try to draw, write, listen to music, take walks, and use the coping skills I know have worked before until I feel better. It can be difficult to actually start using the coping skills, but with determination it can be done.   One thing that I have learned with all the emotional flooding I’ve experienced is it will dissipate eventually. The more coping skills I use, the faster I have felt better.”

  • Relationship Difficulties

“I have yet to completely understand how some relationships disintegrate for the survivor of suicide loss at a time when those relationships are needed more than ever before. It’s a painful absence for sure. I had friends tell me they would stay with me no matter what I was going through and then- leave soon after the worst experience of my life. As an adult with AS, trust is extremely important, yet dreadfully hard to do because of my early school years where I learned to not trust anyone. The reason I can still trust after some relationships died with my husband, is because I still have some friends that were true to their word and stayed with me the whole time even until now. The emotions of losing the relationships I did—were painful, confusing, and left a big hole of emptiness in me.  The pain that comes with relational loss is deep. I thought those friends would be my friends for life. Acceptance is the key to coping with lost relationships. Remembering that the friends who left decided to go and there’s nothing I could do about it. Is it difficult to accept? Yes! Is it impossible to accept? No.”

“Nothing that has happened since the loss of my husband to suicide has been easy. Knowing that the aftermath of suicide loss is terribly hard has helped me to take up the challenge to succeed, to thrive, and to move forward. I’m worth it, you’re worth it, and we all matter.”

To learn more about Lisa Morgan’s book or to purchase a copy, click here.

Living Through Suicide Loss is a valuable addition to suicide grief literature. Morgan’s account of the challenges she faced, following her husband’s death, will resonate deeply with all suicide loss survivors.  The special challenges she documented as someone with Asperger’s syndrome, will sensitize and empower all involved in such tragedies.”

—Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC, Founder: Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors

“The excellent and much-needed book deals with the specific issues—emotional and practical—faced by people on the autism spectrum when a loved one completes suicide. Written from a personal, lived experience perspective, this sensitive and valuable book validates the experience of readers and helps them to manage what is essentially unmanageable.

—Jeanette Purks, autism self-advocate and author of
The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum

 

How to help children manage anxiety and embrace their imperfections

Rochel Lieberman, author of Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day, an empowering story that teaches children how to embrace their mistakes and practice resilience, discusses how parents and professionals can use her book to help children who struggle with anxiety and perfectionism.

When I crafted the characters and the story line of Pearla and Her Unpredictably Perfect Day, I visualized creating a tool that can be easily used both at home and at school. My goal as an author was influenced by my perspective as an Executive Speech Coach, where I spend most of my time working with and on behalf of children. In that capacity, I have educated children, their teachers, therapists, principals, and leaders. Above all else, I’ve gone through this journey as a mom, working alongside educators, helping them bring out the best in their own pupils. Thus, I wrote this book with the following vision: for parents, a book that is simple and can be used flexibly in the fine balancing act that is required of parenthood; for schools, a guide for conversations between children and their teachers or therapists.

I have always viewed books as magical instruments, with the power to transcend reality while simultaneously reinforcing our daily experiences. About fifteen years ago, as a college student, I vividly recall riding a New York City bus alongside a mom and her adorable little boy. Like a real New Yorker, she had a great designer bag—yet with an odd rectangular object poking out of the side. My curiosity was short lived, as her son quickly became bored of looking out the window, prompting her to empty some of the treasures from her bag. Amidst the emerging apple sauce and fruit snacks, the large rectangular shape materialized as a children’s book, which allowed her to entertain and delight her son for the remainder of the bus ride. This mom recognized that alongside a cellphone, keys, and snacks, there was a treasure in carrying a children’s book.

Any adult who has ventured into the land of storytelling with a child knows how widespread the benefits can be. Stories let readers connect with characters, like Pearla, who are having similar challenges, but in a nonthreatening way. They open the door to on-the-spot questions and sometimes even deeper conversations about the way life works, even when it’s not working out well. My hope for parents is that by reading this book together with the child in your life, you can reflect on the story and learn to recognize the triggers that caused Pearla distress, such as Pearla’s desire for perfection, and also learn from her healthy ability to strategize in times of stress. Then, you can have a purposeful conversation to relate these ideas, as applicable, to your own child’s obstacles.

For example, if your child struggles with anxiety from a need to perform perfect work, you can engage in a conversation about making mistakes in general and the thoughts and feelings associated with doing so. With Pearla’s fun storyline, my goal is that you can explore these normally sensitive topics in a casual mode, rather than in a “teaching” mode. To facilitate these conversations, I have included suggested questions in the back of the book. Some examples include questions for recognizing perfectionist tendencies (What do you like to have “perfect”?) and questions that allow the child to reframe their thinking about a perceived negative event (When does Pearla start to see that her cookies and cupcakes are perfect just the way they are?)  Keep in mind that these questions can be used as guides to formulate your own question, so that you can speak in a manner that is true to your own communicative style.

As parents, you can use your life experiences or situations other family members have encountered as examples, so your child is reminded that we all make mistakes. You can carry this one step further and talk about the idea that we all expect to make mistakes most every day, and we all have to deal with imperfect situations every day. If you expect to be going to a challenging place, with expected tension or changes of schedule, you can better prepare your child by using words to roleplay the situation and discuss which choices or behaviors are best suited to dealing with the expected encounter. In my experience, these conversations are best done either before or after an event, when the child is not in direct placement of the stressor. Remember, repairs are done after the rainstorm. In the middle of a challenging event, whisper words of encouragement and praise to your child. The longer talks, references to Pearla, and conversational questions can be saved for dry, sunny days.

The character of Pearla arose from my many joyful and zany experiences as a writer, as a mom raising my children, and from my years as a speech language therapist providing services to a wide range of children and adults. Through it all, I observed the growth and powerful learning that clients achieved when they courageously challenged their core beliefs on failure, perfection, and fear of daily challenges. All of us, children, adults, and caregivers alike, are on a journey with many bumps on the surprising road of life. While some of us learn to ride the bumps and face the challenges, others, like Pearla, find it very difficult to handle these imperfections without the help of a caring adult or professional.

A caring therapist, teacher, or allied professional can help children learn to accept impossible-to-avoid changes and challenges in their daily life. Remediating these negative and unhealthy beliefs and feelings is so important, because many times children and adults can carry these painful feelings, along with the ever elusive search for perfection and order, throughout their life’s journey. It is my dream that this book can be used as a tool to foster better social skills by sparking discussions in the classroom or in the safety of a therapist’s office at school or in private practice. The therapist can begin the sessions by attempting to understand the core of the child’s feelings about challenges and beliefs about making mistakes.

Research supports the calming effects of labeling an emotion, as is done in this story (look for the colored phrases in the text). In the privacy of a therapist office, where a child can relate their own story, the therapist can help them label their emotions, using the book as a model. The child and therapist can talk about everyday situations where they may be triggered to experience those emotions. Then, to advance the conversation, the therapist can use the time to problem solve with the child and generate solutions for these everyday experiences.  They can discuss possible scenarios or alternative plans that Pearla may have done that would not have been beneficial, such as screaming, stomping her feet or having a tantrum in front of the customers. This can lead to practical discussions about the consequences for each of the solutions that the child suggested.

In a more structured format, the therapist can probe the child with the following questions from the book’s suggested questions in order to help the child recognize emotions (What part of your body begins to hurt when you feel afraid?), to bring awareness to the words that the child says to himself (What words do you think when you feel afraid?) or to gently elicit support for the child (What thoughts can you think to help you feel less afraid?). These conversations are essential, as research supports that the specific words that you say to yourself  can alter the way you behave. Answers to these questions will slowly open the door to dealing with daily challenges and imperfections. As one client once said to me, “I am good even though I am not perfect.” There is a lot to be learned from the wisdom in those words. Enjoy reading Pearla and Her Unpredictably Perfect Day with the child in your life and let the talking and learning begin.

 

You can learn more, read reviews, or purchase a copy of Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day here. To learn more about the author, visit Rochel Lieberman at www.ariberspeech.com, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

How to Start Tricky Conversations with Child Sufferers of Abuse

abuseDaisy Law has over 17 years’ experience as a teacher of English and literacy. As a teacher, she has been trained in safeguarding and understands the importance of children being able to disclose secrets about abuse, neglect and other such topics.

Not all conversations are easy, even when you’re an adult. Whether as a parent, a teacher or a health and social work professional, there are some discussions which can feel too emotionally charged for us to confront. The reasons some conversations are trickier can be many and varied, but when that difficult talk is with a child sufferer of abuse, it’s important to see things from their point of view. In the trickiest conversations with children, support for them is more important than our own discomfort.

Any form of child abuse can be so entrenched in societal taboos that the shadow of those structures affects the way we approach speaking about it with kids. We may not mean to. We may not even know we’re doing it. But nonetheless, our choice of words, tone or body language can reinforce issues of blame and shame which children who have been abused often carry within.

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FIXING A MAJOR GAP IN CLINICAL AND COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY

Clinical and counseling psychology have, in many ways, become rather superficial 9781849057431over the past several decades. With their emphases on manualized treatment, homework assignments and structured approaches, modern clinical practitioners have lost a good deal of what made their predecessors helpful to many people. And what they lost is a solid, comprehensive understanding of human behavior and what leads humans to change. There just is not much emphasis these days on understanding human behavior from a number of different vantage points when the focus these days is only on getting patients in, doing a certain number of very structured steps and then getting them on their way.

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The trials and tribulations of talking to young people about sex

In this exclusive Q&A, Nick Luxmoore shares what he’s learnt about helping young adults to cope with the trials and tribulations of sexuality. With nearly 40 years’ experience of working with young people, Nick’s book Horny and Hormonal provides advice on how to deal with the difficult situations faced by  young people and strategies to help reduce their anxieties around this crucial and sensitive part of their lives.

Luxmoore---Horny-and-hormonal

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Working with Asperger Couples Online

ASD-Specific Couples Counseling
If you or your partner has a diagnosed or suspected case of Asperger Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it’s important to seek counseling with an ASD-specific couples counselor.

Counselors who are not familiar with ASD often tend to ascribe an Asperger or neurodiverse couple’s conflicts and challenges to “personality clashes,” or family of origin issues. Uninformed counselors may not understand the intentions of either partner, and so perpetuate the confusion that exists in many of these neurodiverse or Asperger relationships. More importantly, when the counselor doesn’t understand ASD, he might not be able to see how the Asperger traits of the partner might be affecting the relationship and intensifying the conflict.

An untrained couples counselor may not fully take into account the pervasive nature of ASD. Counseling that fails to address the ASD issues not only perpetuates a couple’s unhappiness, it can even bring about the demise of the relationship. The longevity and survival of many neurodiverse marriages depends on finding an ASD-specific couples counselor.

Many couples that I see report having previously seen other counselors who did not understand the neurodiverse aspect of their relationship. Some couples say things like, “We’ve been in couples counseling for eight out of the 12 years we’ve been married, but our issues never really got resolved.” It’s common for me to be the second or in some cases the fourth or fifth counselor that the couple has seen.

An ASD-specific couples counselor who is experienced with relationships where one partner has diagnosed or suspected Asperger’s/autism and the other is neurotypical or non-spectrum (NS) can provide both partners with information about ASD, help them understand ASD traits, each other’s perspectives, create a safe space where both partners can speak honestly, help the partners create and implement strategies tailored to ASD, and provide accountability, motivation, and support to move the couple in a positive direction.

-Working with Asperger Couples Online
Due to the lack of ASD specialists and counselors for adults with ASD, I’ve been working with Asperger couples and individuals via the phone and video conferencing since 2012. Rather than jeopardize an already delicate situation or a marriage in crisis by working with a counselor who many not know how to address the ASD-specific issues, many couples chose to work with me online. So far, I’ve worked with numerous individuals and couples from as far as Africa, India, Australia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and various parts of the United States. I typically use Skype, Facetime or Google Hangout to work with my clients.

Most of my clients find our work together useful and they are able to benefit from the discussions, problem solving, and strategies that we come up with in these online sessions. The Asperger-specific strategies that couples and individuals find useful in our in person sessions translate well into the online sessions as well.

-Strategies that Work In Person Work Online As well
Identifying ASD traits that are contributing to problems in the marriage is key. Untangling the neurotypical or nonspectrum (NS) partner’s own issues from their partner’s ASD is also important. Couples counseling for neurodiverse couples, is most useful when concrete, actionsteps, and ‘to-do’ strategies are implemented within the ASD framework. It is important that strategies be nonjudgmental, clear, directive, and collaborative in creating solutions in your marriage or relationship.

Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to identify distortions in thinking for both partners is helpful. For example, a particular NS partner might have a tendency to hyperfocus on their partner’s issues rather than their own areas of growth. Or the partner with ASD, because of their high anxiety around money, may paint a dire picture of their financial situation, when the truth may be far from it. While, listening to and validating both partners’ concerns, fears and experiences, it’s necessary that the couples counselor is able to discern the truth and get to the reality of a couple’s situation.

Many couples take notes on strategies that we identify. They work just as hard to implement these new behaviors and solutions as my in-person clients.

-How Long Can Couples Expect to Be in Counseling?
I often say to couples that watching a marriage improve is like watching a tree grow. We are unable to see a seed sprouting into a plant. However, a time-release camera that took a picture of the growing sapling every day, would enable us to see each millimeter of progress. Over the course of a year, we would also see a grown tree.

How long does it take for the average Asperger couple to get their marriage back on track? This truly depends on each individual couple. The process of resolving their marriage can take regular weekly or biweekly sessions over several months or even a couple of years in some cases. I’ve seen couples who’ve flown from out of state to see me for a few intensive sessions over a weekend, and who’ve reported great success. Couples who fly in to see me for intensive sessions, typically continue to work with me online.

After the initial phase of a few months of intensive couples counseling is done, most couples continue on for maintenance even a few years after. Once the initial phase of couples work is done, some couples chose to seek out counseling during major life-stressors or decisions.

Why does it take a few months to a year or longer of couples in counseling in order to see long-term changes? Just like with anything else, whether it’s exercise or healthy eating, resetting negative patterns of interaction that were established over years take time to change. The other thing is while change is difficult for most people, for individuals with ASD, change can be even harder. Shedding old ways of thinking, being and relating to each other is always fraught with challenges, but with persistence and hard work anything is possible.

And there are other couples who come indefinitely, with no time frame in mind. Many times, these couples tend not to have children as yet, or be in the stage of life where their children are grown or have left the home. Long-term couples counseling gives many couples the accountability, motivation, and space for marital connectedness. Though even long-term couples can eventually settle on coming once a month for maintenance. Other couples taper off regular sessions and come on an as-needed basis during a particular life-stressor or event.

-The Value of Couples Counseling
Not attending to relationship issues while married can often lead to divorce, and the price tag is high. For many couples divorce can cost thousands of dollars. Not to mention a decline in income for both partners. For example, if there children involved, there is a decade or two of child support payments for the primary earner in the relationship, which can be about 30 percent of his income. For the nonearning or lower income partner in the relationship, the decline in income can also take years to recover from. Financial costs aside, the end of a marriage can take a significant emotional, mental and physical toll on the couple and their children if any.

When partners are unhappy in their marriage and chose not to seek counseling, it can affect their job performance, and have longterm psychological and even physical problems. It’s important to weigh the cost of couple’s counseling in terms of money and time against the very lives of the couples and their families. Of course there are always cases where couples might not want to stay together and a separation and a divorce is the best decision for them.

-Online Sessions
Out of state online sessions aren’t covered by health insurance. I offer couples packages of 2 sessions or 5 sessions each. The 5 package session comes with an initial half an hour of free consultation. After the initial 2 or 5 sessions have run out, couples may choose to buy more packages or schedule additional sessions as we go. If you’re interested in setting up a session with me, please email me at contact@evmendes.com.

 

Eva Mendes, LMHC, NCC is the author of Marriage and Lasting Relationships with Asperger Syndrome: Successful Strategies for Couples or Counselors. Eva works with individuals with Asperger Syndrome, and autism. An expert on relationships and social communication issues, Eva has spoken at conferences and colleges and has written several papers on this subject. She has a private practice in Arlington, MA where she sees couples and individuals for counseling inperson; she is also available to work with clients via Skype and phone. Eva leads the popular Spouse and the Couple’s Support Groups at the Asperger/Autism Network in Watertown. She is also a longtime yoga practitioner, and a Buddhist. Her website is www.evmendes.com.

A sneak peek into Luna’s Red Hat

It is spring. Luna is in the park, wearing her Mum’s red hat. The sun is shining, but today is not a day for feeling sunny: it was a year ago today that Luna’s mum committed suicide. Fear, anger, and guilt are just some of the emotions that Luna is coping with. Luckily, her Dad is there to help Luna with her emotions and questions.

 

An extract from Luna's Red Hat

An extract from Luna’s Red Hat

Emmi Smid is a children’s book author and illustrator. She was born in the Netherlands but currently lives and works in Brighton, UK. Emmi wrote Luna’s Red Hat for her cousins, who would have wanted to have a book like this when they were younger.

2014 Living Now Book Awards JKP/SD Medal Winners Announced!

The Living Now Book Awards were established in 2008 to honor life-changing books, and to bring increased recognition to the year’s best lifestyle, homestyle, world-improvement and self-improvement titles. The awards celebrate the innovation and creativity of books that enhance the quality of life. The gold, silver and bronze medalists in the 2014 Living Now Book Awards highlight titles that represent some of the fastest-growing segments in book publishing today.

We are proud and excited to announce that one book from Jessica Kingsley Publishers and two books from our Singing Dragon imprint have been selected as Medal Winners!

From the Jessica Kingsley Publishers list…Final Chapters: Writings About the End of Life

Gold Medal WinnerGold Medal Winner in Grieving/Death & Dying
Final Chapters: Writings About the End of Life
Edited by Roger Kirkpatrick

 

 

From Singing Dragon…Chasing the Phantom: In Pursuit of Myth and Meaning in the Realm of the Snow Leopard

Gold Medal WinnerGold Medal Winner in Enlightenment/Spirituality
Chasing the Phantom: In Pursuit of Myth and Meaning in the Realm of the Snow Leopard
by Eduard Fischer

 

Bronze Medal Winner

Bronze Medal Winner in Healing Arts/Bodywork/Energy Techniques
Qigong and Chinese Self-Massage for Everyday Health Care: Ways to Address Chronic Health Issues and to Improve Your Overall Health Based on Chinese Medicine Techniques
Compiled by Zeng Qingnan

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica Kingsley Publishers/Singing Dragon would like to congratulate our 2014 Living Now Book Award Winning authors.

For more information on Living Now Book Awards or to see the full list of 2014 Medal Winners, please click here.