with The Rowan Center for Behavioral Medicine


Grieving a Pet is Real

“'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
~Alfred Lord Tennyson
Anybody who has ever loved, taken care of, or welcomed an animal into one's home and heart can probably appreciate just how profound the bond between human and animal can be. Losing an animal, therefore, can be profoundly devastating. Although it is quite normal to experience grief in response to the loss of a beloved animal, grieving a pet is unfortunately stigmatized in our society where it is culturally ingrained to believe that animals are inferior and subservient to people (e.g., think of the inhumane treatment of animals in research labs, the factory farming industry, and puppy mills).


The Power of Visualization

How often have you heard an athlete say they visualize the moves they are going to make before they actually do it? Visualizing something and actually acting it out are closely connected. This process involves the activation of our motor cortex located in the frontal lobe of our brains. Our motor cortex is involved in planning, controlling and executing voluntary movements. Basically, thinking about moving a body part or side stepping to avoid an opponent from stealing the basketball from you activates the same areas of the motor cortex responsible for initiating that movement directly. Although, thinking about a movement does not increase the amount of excitatory postsynaptic potentional (EPSP) enough to reach a threshold to actually cause firing of a neuron in the brain that generates that movement, it does still activate the same region. So in short, you can think of something that activates the same region of the brain involved in movement without actually generating movement. Visualization allows us to rehearse our anticipated movements and over time primes our brain and body to more accurately and effectively execute an action. This occurs by the way of stimulating a component of the basal ganglion, the putamen (part of the striatum), a region of the brain that is involved in the rehearsal of movement. Over the course of rehearsing movements via visualization the brain learns routine action/movement making the action/movement more programmed and fine-tuned.


Self-Esteem in Children Part 2: Parental Involvement

In our last blog on self-esteem in children, we learned that parental involvement is key to development of healthy self-esteem.  Now that you recognize signs of healthy and unhealthy self-esteem in children, here are some things you can do to ensure your child develops a healthy self-esteem.

Despite their best efforts, many times parents can make mistakes in communication that increase problems with self-esteem. Here are some traps parents fall into which contribute to low self-esteem:


To Come Out or Not to Come Out: That is the Question (Part 2)

Coming out of the proverbial closet means disclosing an important aspect of one's identity. For those identifying along the LGBTQ spectrum, it typically involves revealing one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity to others.
Individuals who are heterosexual and cisgendered need not “come out” because these identities are assumed in our heteronormative society. This means that people are generally expected and presumed to be straight and cisgendered unless there is reason to believe otherwise. If, however, society embraced the diversity that naturally exists among humans (as well as among members of the larger animal kingdom), then any identity would be perceived as equally viable and normal as the next: straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, cisgendered, gender queer, gender bending, transgender, etc. See Part 1 of this series for a review of the terms in bold.


Self-Esteem In Children: Recognizing Self-Esteem

As parents we want our children to be happy and grow up to be successful individuals.  Developing and nurturing a healthy self-esteem in children is key in raising successful individuals.   I am often asked by parents in my practice how to best nurture a strong sense of self-esteem in their children.  The best start is to understand the definition of self-esteem and the steps one can take to promote a healthy sense of self. 


To Come Out or Not to Come Out: That is the Question (Part 1)

This blog series will provide an in depth exploration of the coming out process and is intended to serve as a resource for individuals who are interested in learning more about sexual orientation and gender identity formation. I will begin by introducing some basic terminology to serve as an important foundation for beginning to understand the multiple factors involved in coming out. For some, this may be the first time you are hearing (or, in this case, reading) these words and definitions, and for others, these may be a review. When learning about and understanding any culture, it is helpful to first become acquainted with its language. The following is a comprehensive compendium of several relevant terms borrowed from the University of Michigan Student Life Spectrum Center's website:


Navigating Grief

Grief is a ubiquitous human experience, but somehow we are never truly prepared for the many faces that bereavement presents. Perhaps our Western culture, with its emphasis on perennial youth and denial of aging and death, encourages us to turn a blind eye to the experience of loss.

Over the course of my life, in both personal and professional contexts, I have had the opportunity to sit and “bear witness” to grief with many people. So often, I have found wounded souls feeling bewildered and surprised by the experience of grief. In spite of my professional experiences with grief, I have found myself confused and frightened in the face of a recent loss.


Grieving After Suicide Part 1: Understanding the types of grief

According to the Centers for Disease control, more than 40,000 people completed suicide in 2013 making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Statistics also suggest that nearly 1 million people complete suicide each year (DeLeo, Bertolote, Lester, 2002). For those who are grieving the loss of someone they love due to suicide, the process of healing is often very difficult.
The loss of a loved one to suicide is extremely painful not only because loved ones are grieving the loss of that person, but also because the circumstances of that loss can often intensify the difficulty of the grieving process. In addition to feeling sadness and loss, the bereaved often face some unique challenges associated with the loss of someone by suicide.


Stress Management 101

All of us experience stress on a daily basis and some degree of stress is absolutely normal as well as necessary to keep us alert, occupied and moving forward towards our goals. In fact, many perform best under mild to moderate degree of stress. However, we all know that significantly high levels of stress can become debilitating and problematic. 
With everyday factors such as work, school, children finances and other obligations, stress can easily become unmanageable. Although at times it may feel like we do not have control over the stress, the truth of the matter is that we have more control over our stress than we might think. Stress management is all about taking charge and the way we deal with problems. No matter how stressful our lives seem, there are steps we can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.