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Grief and Valentine’s Day

When it comes to grief and holidays, especially at this time of year, it can feel hard to catch a break. After getting through the winter holidays with their emphasis on family, there is barely a moment to get your bearings before Valentine’s Day surfaces on the horizon. Even if you’ve never really felt connected to Valentine’s Day, advertisements and casual conversations about plans can leave you feeling isolated or eager to flee.

If you’re looking for help, Episode 05 of the Dear Dougy podcast is full of strategies for approaching Valentine’s Day when you are carrying both love and grief in your heart.

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Marking the New Year

Grief can radically change how we approach and feel about the holiday season. During the lead up to the season, there can be a lot of attention given to the family-focused holidays such as Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Christmas. With so much energy put towards those holidays, New Year’s can sneak up on people, especially families with children. While most holidays are associated with memories and traditions shared with the person who died, New Year’s adds a different twist: a visible, concrete marker of the passing of time. 2016 may be the first year that the person who died will never experience. Maybe 2015 was filled with painful memories: diagnoses, treatment, receiving news of someone’s death, funerals, etc.  If it’s been many years since someone died, having the passing of time marked so tangibly can also be difficult. We hear people say, “I can’t believe it’s been three years.” “This is one more year my dad won’t be here for.” For some, the previous year was one of major milestones and celebrations (weddings, graduations, new jobs, birth of children, etc.) without the physical presence of the person who died. It can be heartbreaking to review the year, noting everything that a loved one missed.

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The importance of self-care while grieving

Even though grief is a full spectrum experience that affects us on multiple levels, the emotional impact tends to get the most press, with descriptions of people experiencing sadness, anger, and isolation. The physical, cognitive, and behavioral effects can often come as a shock, leaving people confused and overwhelmed by reactions that aren’t as well known. For many people, grief interrupts their sleep, appetite, ability to concentrate, and physical health. This is why it’s so important to cultivate care and support that addresses each of these realms. At The Dougy Center, we provide children and teens with a variety of outlets for expression including music, art, dramatic play, and physical activity. If you are grieving, or know someone who is, it can be helpful to think through how to best nurture the body and mind.

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Living with Tragedy

The headlines over these past few summer months have been filled with tragedy: a beloved lion in Africa killed, pieces of a missing airplane found on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, members of a faith community murdered because of their race in South Carolina, and at the time of this writing, a number of wildfires torching their way through the western United States. This month also marks the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. If we live long enough, we will come to intimately know tragedy in many forms. But for children, whom we instinctively wish to protect, we often find ourselves at a loss about what to say and do. How do we reconcile a world filled with pain and tragedy with the innocence, wonder, and hope that children represent? How do we foster the optimism of youth with the wisdom of age that not everything goes according to plans?

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