Thoughtful Therapy

  Helping women find freedom and peace



Choices in Relationships: You Get to Decide

Posted on 28 April, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (7979)

From time to time couples have disagreements, or even fights. That's completely normal. Actually, it's the couples that say they never argue that are the most concerning to me. That likely means there are many things left unsaid that need to be discussed, potentially resulting in festering wounds that will appear at some point down the line, worse than they would have been if talked about when they first occurred. We all have pet peeves, and we all experience little annoyances from time to time. These things must be dealt with, though. You get to choose how. You either decide to bring it up and discuss it, or decide to let it go. But, remember to pick your battles. Not everything is worth making into a big discussion. Figure out what's important and what really isn't, and let go of the stuff that really isn't important.

Now, that said, there may be times when you and your partner are so far apart on an issue that it seems impossible to resolve it. This is, presumably, not something like how to load the dishwasher "correctly." This type of issue likely runs along the lines of how to manage your money, how to raise your children, or religious or political beliefs. Ideally, you have talked about these things before forming a partnership, but maybe it didn't come up at that time, or maybe viewpoints have changed since then. Whatever the case, these issues and others can be polarizing in a relationship.

So, what do you do? Do you just walk away? Do you put your all into trying to resolve things? Do you accept having different viewpoints and allow that to be okay? Yes. These are all options you can pick.

Walk Away. You are allowed to end a relationship because you have different points of view. Sometimes this is what people choose. They may decide that it is not worth it to try to work through the issue, or it may become apparent that it is not possible to work through it. This could be because neither part of the couple is willing to give an inch, or it could be that one person wants to work on it and the other does not. Before walking away, though, consider all that has been put into the relationship. Are you ready to put that aside and start over? Is it worth it? Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. You get to decide.

Resolve Things. You are allowed to put everything you've got into making the relationship better and trying to resolve the issue. Again, you have to decide if it's worth it to put the work in, and it is certainly most effective if both parties are willing to do this. It is difficult to do marriage counseling when one person is clearly not interested in staying. This is, of course, devastating for the one who wants to stay. However, if both people are working toward the same goal, much progress can be made. It's not necessarily easy to resolve things, but for those who feel strongly that they want to fulfill their commitment no matter what happens, this may be the way to go. You get to decide.

Accept Different Viewpoints. You are allowed to let different viewpoints coexist in the relationship. For some couples, they are able to hold conflicting or differing beliefs while staying together harmoniously. They each release imagined control over the other, which lessens the pressure of being responsible for someone else's views. They choose to let it be okay that they don't agree. They accept the differences instead of allowing them to drive a wedge into the relationship. Can you move past the need to control or to feel responsible for another's beliefs? Can you let go of embarrassment over disagreement on a serious issue? You get to decide.

You get to decide how to handle your relationship. What works for you and your partner may not work for another couple, and that is okay. Find what you can live with, and decide to live with it.

The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki: A Book Review

Posted on 9 December, 2014 at 19:00 Comments comments (2681)

In The Death Class: A True Story About Life, Erika Hayasaki tells her experience of shadowing Norma Bowe, a professor at Kean University in New Jersey. What is unique about Bowe is the subject matter of her most popular course: Death in Perspective, affectionately called the "death class" by students. According the Hayasaki, the class has a three year waiting list and is one of the most popular courses on campus. Hayasaki reveals that Bowe allowed her to follow her for four years, including auditing the class, with the stipulation that Hayasaki "participate in the class as a student."

Hayasaki describes Bowe as a figure larger than life: a teacher, counselor, nurse, shoulder to cry on, activist, rescuer, mother, partner, and more. Bowe is there for her students whenever they need her, and they often call at all hours, desperate for help. Her dedication is present not only in the classroom, but also in the real world. Bowe helps many students with their crises, and Hayasaki chronicles eight of them, giving the reader greater insight into each struggle, something that would not have been possible had she included the stories of the dozens of students she interviewed.

We meet Caitlin, whose mother frequently attempts suicide, and who continually allows herself to be thrown into the role of rescuer. She battles her family issues while doing her best to finish her college degree. Her boyfriend Jonathan's story includes a horrific childhood event, sadly repeated in his adult life. Israel longs for a fresh start after a long history of gang membership. Jerzy grieves his wife, who was murdered in a tragic shooting. We meet others, too, dealing with equally difficult circumstances, and Hayasaki leads us through their stories, sometimes interweaving them, sometimes letting them stand alone. The common thread, however, is Norma Bowe and her "death class." Through this class, Bowe gives each student the chance to process his or her losses and life events, taking the group on field trips to cemeteries and autopsies, and assigning projects that, ironically, get to the heart of what it means to really live.

The Death Class is a book that seeks to explain both the biological process of death, and what happens to those left behind. It is touching and raw, but with an overarching theme of hope. The reader senses that somehow things will be okay, although perhaps different than before, while following each student's process of change over the course of the book. The lives of those included are not perfect, and Hayasaki does not pretend they are or will be in the end, but she tells the story in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.

Erika Hayasaki is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and is an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Norma Bowe is a professor at Kean University in New Jersey and founder of the nonprofit Be the Change.

It's Okay to Grieve in Your Own Way

Posted on 20 October, 2014 at 11:00 Comments comments (4548)

There are many kinds of loss. The death of a friend or loved one may be one of the most common, but some other losses include:


Job loss

Death of a dream

Loss of a beloved pet


Loss of a relationship

Change in life circumstances

Less ability to do what you used to be able to do


Loss is a personal, painful thing. You may feel like you will never recover from it, like things will never be the same. You may feel sad, depressed, angry, scared, confused, or even relieved. All those feelings are okay. Actually, whatever you are feeling is okay. You grieve in your own, unique way. No one can tell you it's the wrong way because it's your way. It's what you need to do to process your loss.


But you can find healing. No, things won't be the same, but you can find your new way to live. You can go on with your life, remembering and honoring the loss, but not letting it continue to devastate you. Life really is for the living, and at some point, you will be ready to rejoin it. Don't rush to get there. Don't let anyone push you into it before you're ready. Take your time and feel your feelings. Let yourself feel numb, or angry, or sad, or relieved. Realize that others may not understand your process. That's okay. They don't have to "get it." They will probably go back to their regular routine while you are still reeling, and let that be okay, too. It's different for you than it is for them. You need more time. That's normal.


One day, you'll laugh again, when you thought you never would. It might surprise you; you might even feel guilty about it! Laughing is a good sign, though. Enjoying something you used to like means you are dealing with your loss. It means you are starting to live again. You're starting to accept your new normal, whether that means life without a special person or pet, a new job or lack of a job, the limits on your health you now have to deal with, or any of a number of things. Loss is hard. Grief is hard. But it doesn't have to be the end of your world. You can get through this. And it is about getting through it, not around it or avoiding it in some way. You must wade into it, let it surround you, plod on, and come out the other side. And you will come out the other side. In your own time. When you are ready.


Until that happens, let it be okay to take the time you need to process what you need to process. When you're ready to go on, do what you need to do: rejoin slowly; jump all in; reevaluate your commitments; start something new; pick up something old; make a new friend; eliminate someone toxic from your life. Do what's healthy for you, and don't feel guilty about it.


Remember, life is for the living. Remember the loss. Honor it. But keep living life. That's why you're still here.

Everyone Says I Should Be Over It

Posted on 29 July, 2014 at 23:05 Comments comments (1865)

Paula's husband died about two weeks ago. It was sudden and unexpected. She is still feeling numb, like this is all a bad dream, even though the funeral and burial have taken place. Her friends and coworkers have gone back to their normal lives, but Paula doesn't feel like she has a normal life to go back to.

Kate had a miscarriage a few weeks ago. She and her husband were devastated. They had waited so long to have a baby, and had begun to think it would never happen for them. Now, what should have been such a happy time has turned into a nightmare. They hadn't told very many people yet about the pregnancy, so it almost feels like they are keeping the loss a secret. Kate feels relieved not to have to give everyone the bad news, but she also wishes she had someone to talk to. Those who knew have expressed their sympathy, but now they have moved on, back to their regular routines.

Loss is a painful and personal thing. When you lose a close friend or family member you may feel numb at first, in shock. You can hardly believe this is really happening. Friends, coworkers, and church groups may be there to help initially. Maybe they bring meals, pick up family members from the airport, help host a luncheon, or even do laundry or housecleaning. Usually, though, after a few weeks these people go back to their regular lives. It's not that they don't care about you. It's just that they are "over it," and they think you are, too. After all, it's been several weeks now. Haven't you processed the death of your loved one? Well, no. You haven't. You may have started moving through the stages of grief, but it's likely you are only just starting to come out of feeling numb. This is very normal.

Processing grief takes time. If you have lost someone close to you, it may take months, or even a couple years, before you feel more like yourself again. Give yourself the time you need to heal, and don't rush yourself. Don't let the reactions of others make you think you are "doing it wrong." Grief is different for everyone. Some people need longer than others to deal with it. Let that be okay. You may feel sad, depressed, numb, confused, shocked, angry, or relieved. These feelings (and more) are all okay to have. They are normal.

You won't forget the person you lost, and you don't need to forget them. You can move from a place of focusing on their death, to focusing on their life and all the wonderful memories you have of them. There may always be some sadness there. Expect that. Expect that you will have triggers that may bring back some of the difficult grief memories. Some you will see coming, some you won't. Let that be okay, too. Life is for the living, and while you may feel dead inside at first, you can live again. Give yourself time to get there. Be patient. Don't rush. Just grieve at your own pace.