charlie Walton Articles

Connecticut Catastrophe: How Do You Face The Loss of Children?

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Connecticut catastropheOne of our necessary beliefs is that children are safe in school with their teachers. One of the reassurances we make to our little ones is that nothing bad will ever happen in Kindergarten.

Today a small community in Connecticut saw those beliefs shattered as eight adults and 20 children were violently killed.

What do you say when children are killed?

The most realistic answer, I have found is given by author, Charlie Walton, a father who himself lost his two sons in one night. What Charlie Walton urges friends, family and loved ones to understand is that when children die – there are no words. Words are insufficient to explain what has happened.

In his powerful little book When There are No Words: Finding Your Way to Cope with Loss and Grief, he clarifies that in the first hours and days of such loss, there is nothing he could say to himself and nothing that anyone else could say to him to make it right. There is nothing right about the death of children.

While the violent loss in Connecticut has broken hearts and stolen words  – it does not take away the connections and power of loved ones to ease and help contain pain. We have learned through trauma outreach that the most viable sources of response are the familiar networks of support.

  • The family, friends, and neighbors who just show up to take care of the daily needs of those grieving.
  • The parents whose bond to each other helps them walk together through this nightmare
  • The Moms and Dads who in holding their big and small children closer, with or without words, reduce the horror of what was experienced, witnessed or even seen on the media.
  • The Spiritual Caregivers whose presence affords a safe haven for many.

In this early stage of excruciating and bewildering loss – we know that a crucial step to easing pain and to feeling some emotional safety is to know you are not alone.

This is an unfathomable tragedy of loss by so many. A nation watches in tears. A nation hopes that the families …


Recognizing and Understanding Depression After Trauma

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

depression after traumaDisaster and trauma studies often focus on identifying the incidence of PTSD as the sequel to traumatic events.

Early interventions with those affected after a disaster or traumatic event increasingly utilize psycho-education to clarify and normalize common post-traumatic stress reactions and coping strategies.

While mentioned as a possible response, the high incidence of depression after trauma is less delineated and often goes unrecognized by those suffering.

Depression Occurs after Trauma:

  • A Rand corporation study reports that nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan – 300,000 in all – report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or major depression.
  • In the first long-term study of the health impacts of the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse on September 11, 2001, findings indicate that seven percent of police officers were diagnosed with depression, nine percent with PTSD and eight percent with panic disorder. Twenty eight percent of other rescue and recovery workers had symptoms of depression.
  • A survey of survivors from the Oklahoma City bombing showed that 23% had depression after the bombing.
  • Depression affects approximately 15 percent to 25 percent of cancer patients.
  • After a myocardial infarction, the incidence of major depression is from 15 percent to 20 percent, and an additional 27 percent of patients develop minor depression.

Both major depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occur frequently following traumatic exposure, both as separate disorders and concurrently.

Depression is the most common disorder suffered in conjunction with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Depression is nearly three to five times more likely in those with PTSD than those without PTSD.


Does Hope Really Make a Difference? Scientific Findings

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Almost everyone has some experience with hope: We hope for the best. We hang on to hope. We despair when we lose hope.

It would seem that hope, which is broadly defined as an emotional state that promotes the belief in a positive outcome, is in inherent in human nature.

Reflections of the importance of hope are found in early mythology, religion, philosophy and literature.

Pandora, although forbidden, opened the box given to her by Zeus, and in a moment, all the curses were released into the world and all the blessing escaped and were lost- except one: hope.

“To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” ― The King James Version of the Bible

“Hope is a waking dream.” –Aristotle

“Where there is no hope, it is incumbent on us to invent it.” -Albert Camus

“Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops — at all.” -Emily Dickinson

Clearly we need hope, but even as we embrace it we often wonder – Does hope really make a difference? Is it myth, fiction, collective denial?

There is actually increasing scientific evidence that hope changes us psychologically and physiologically – that it makes a difference.


The Denver Movie Shooting: A Dark Catastrophe

Friday, July 20th, 2012

movie tragedyThe definition of catastrophe is an event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering. The early morning shooting and killing of 12 people and wounding of others as they eagerly began viewing the latest Batman movie; “The Dark Knight Rises,” tragically qualifies.

As we shockingly take stock of this horrific event, we once again dare to imagine the pain of the families or resonate with memories of having faced similar pain. In the face of traumatic loss we are left without words, helpless to understand ‘Why’ and needing to believe there is a way to prevent such events.

We have come to know that even as we can still barely catch a breath and struggle for answers, there are some initial steps of Psychological First Aid (PFA) that offer some relief.

Here are some suggestions worth knowing and owning when life has suddenly become so darkened.


Transforming Trauma: From No Words To Your Words

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Trauma defies language; it resists being communicated”

Central to healing in the aftermath of a traumatic event is the transformation of trauma’s unspeakable imprint to a story that can be told without reliving it.

Understanding how trauma leaves us without words may make it easier to consider ways that can help unlock the story hidden in visual images, painful feelings, flashbacks, bodily symptoms or silent avoidance. Both are important steps toward finding your words and continuing your story.

What is a Traumatic Event?

A potentially traumatic event is most often one that is threatening to the life or bodily integrity of self or a loved one. It may include combat, sexual and physical assault, death of a child, suicide of a loved one, accidents, being held hostage, imprisoned, or tortured, natural and man-made disasters, as well the diagnosis of a life threatening illness.


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Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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