From Loss to Love

Think of the most painful moment of your life.  Just take a moment to actually think of it.  Was there a sense of loss attached to it?  Loss of a piece of yourself, loss of your dignity, loss of trust, loss of a person you loved?  Grief is painful.  The trouble with pain is that it is a signal to stop, turn around, change something, and to avoid potential harm.  We know this instinctively when we pull away from the sting of a bee, or a hot pan.  However, not everything painful is to be avoided.  Not everything we experience that is painful harms us.  In fact, sometimes the painful thing is what heals us and grows us. Sadness from loss does not mean something is broken or needs to be avoided. It simply means something important to you is gone and it is imperative that you identify what it is and honor the importance it had in your life.  This is what we call grief, and it is not always about losing a loved one (although it certainly can be) it is about any loss we experience.  In the midst of grief we might try to stop the memories, pleasant or painful.  We may try to push the pain of memories away, in an attempt to self-protect.  But the pain doesn’t go away when it is suppressed or avoided, it is still right there, under the surface, waiting to pounce.  Avoidance doesn’t lower the level of suffering, it simply makes suffering the problem instead of the loss.  The more you suppress the feelings, the harder it is to keep it them down.  This is when grief can turn into depression, anxiety, anger and a whole list of other symptoms.  The pain of loss is still there, it has just taken a different form.

Loss and painful emotions have some big lessons to teach us.  Pain instructs us about compassion and if we let it and do our own work we need to do in therapy.  Pain leads us to the source of wisdom that sets us free from the pain.  Grief instructs us about what is important in life. It provides opportunity for learning how to love truly, and increases our flexibility.  To open your heart to loss, is to open your heart to love.

“Growth is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck” – Mandy Hale

What to do with grief and loss:

  1. Acknowledge it – before healing can commence, we must know there is a wound. No feelings are good, bad,or off limits.  Feelings don’t define us, they just are.  They are here one minute and gone the next.  We need to stop and acknowledge what we are grieving and our feelings about the loss before we can move toward growth.
  2. Embrace the feelings – although uncomfortable, these painful feelings will not last forever. They may ebb and flow, but eventually they will lessen in intensity as we allow them to be present. To distract from grief is one way to ensure it will last a very long time. Sometimes there may be feelings that you feel don’t belong to grief, like freedom or joy, embrace those too, they are normal. Try not to judge your emotions.
  3. Prepare to be overwhelmed – Like a strong wave, grief may crash and spiral to the point where it feels overwhelming.  It will eventually soothe, just as the wave eventually comes to the shore.
  4. Watch your thoughts – Don’t judge yourself. “I should be over this by now,” “If only I’d done something different,” “I will never let myself be vulnerable like this again,” and “This is my fault” are examples of unhelpful and distorted thoughts.  Although a normal part of grief, it is important to distance yourself a bit and know that they might be completely untrue, or twisted.  Step back and unhook them. Set those negative thoughts aside, and decide to deal with them later, perhaps with a therapist or safe loved one who will show you the truth about yourself and won’t make you feel judged.
  5. Act on your beliefs and values – It is important to keep  your values front and center during a time of loss. Act in accordance with them despite the ebb and flow of your emotions and thoughts. Even if these emotions feel counter to your values and beliefs. Sometimes it is helpful to talk with a therapist or close friend about how these feelings might be distorting your actions away from your beliefs and values. Maybe your values and beliefs have changed, that is ok too, this can happen when we experience loss.
  6. Practice self-compassion – take care of yourself . Now is not the time to take on new things or get stressed out with additional work.  Accept help from a friend or loved one, or hire someone to do things around the house for a while.  Talk to yourself with compassion.

What now?

Loss and love come in a single package.  The fact that you feel loss, means you loved something or someone deeply.  Despite cultural messages that tell us to avoid painful feelings like the plague, grief is the stuff of life.  Like salt is to sugar, we need pain and joy to fully experience life as it is. Don’t avoid pain using drugs, anger, vacations, alcohol, T.V. or video games, shopping or material goods, or anything else that can cover up our grief and feelings of loss.  This only increases the pain and twists is into something else more menacing. To close yourself to pain and vulnerability is to close yourself off to love, or the ability and connect.

If you connected with this article and wish you could move through some pain to connect to the wisdom and love on the other side let me help you. Call 559-697-5045 and begin your journey toward inner healing

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.” — Jimmy Dugan

Do you live the Hanford or Visalia California area? Call me to set up a therapy appointment today!

Debra Schmitt, ACSW

Reno NV Therapist / California Teletherapy

Call: 559-697-5045

Find Me on Facebook!


Is It Anger or Abuse?

It can be scary and frustrating when someone expresses anger toward us.  We may wonder if this is healthy or abusive.  In the heat of the moment we may want to retaliate.  We may feel the need to set boundaries but are afraid to do so.  We may wonder whether the anger is abuse.

What is Anger?

One thing to consider is that all feelings and are not good or bad, they just are…it is what we do with our feelings that can be good or bad (or as I like to say, healthy or unhealthy).  Healthy anger is adaptive and protects us.  When we follow its trail inside us we find deep hurts, fears and disappointments.   These softer feelings are called primary emotions.  Primary emotions bring a sense of connection when shared and in a healthy partner, elicit empathy.  When we share anger, this leads to disconnection and hurt feelings that can eventually lead to resentment.  However, there are healthy ways to work with anger that can help us heal and grow.

One of the first steps toward healing is to distinguish between anger and abuse.

Here is a checklist adapted from David Ricco’s writings that may help.

True anger is always mindful.
Abuse is ego-driven and caught in mindsets.

True anger is a form of assertiveness that shows respect.
Abuse is aggressive, an attack.

True anger shows tough love that enriches or repairs the relationship.
Abuse explodes in rough or damaging mistreatment that endangers the relationship.

True anger arises from displeasure at an injustice.
Abuse arises from the sense of an affront to a bruised, indignant ego.

True anger focuses on the injustice as intolerable but reparable.
Abuse focuses on the other person as bad.

True anger aims at a deeper and more effective bond; an angry person moves toward the other.
Abuse wants to get the rage out no matter who gets hurt: an abuser moves against the other.

True anger coexists with and empowers love: fearless.
Abuse cancels love in favor of fear: fear-based.

True anger is nonviolent, in control, and always remains within safe limits.
Abuse is violent, out of control, derisive, punitive, hostile, and retaliatory.

True anger includes grief and acknowledges this.
Abuse includes grief but masks it with feigned invulnerability or denial.

True anger believes the other is a catalyst of anger.
Abuse believes the other is a cause of anger.

True anger treats the other as a peer.
Abuse treats the other as a target.

True anger is a form of addressing, processing, and resolving.
Abuse is a form of avoiding one’s own grief and distress.

Is is wrong to express anger?

No!  But how we do this can either benefit us or drive us from one another.  Need more help?  Give me a call and set up an appointment.

Do you live the Hanford or Visalia California area? Call me to set up a therapy appointment today!

Debra Schmitt, ACSW

Reno NV Therapist / California Teletherapy

Call: 559-697-5045

Find Me on Facebook!

Adapted from How to Be An Adult in Relationships, by David Richo (Shambhala, 2002). Copyright (c) 2002 by David Richo.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention:

Suicide is a major topic of concern in the media these days.  Suicide has touched most of us in one way or another.  We have either heard about prominent celebrities committing suicide or been heart wrenched to find out about by a friend or loved one’s suicide.  The shock of this news rings through us and we often wonder what could have been done to prevent this suicide.  We wonder what we missed, or how we could have helped the victim.

Suicide rates are on the rise.  Here are some statistics from, and*


  • Suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for those ages 10-34
  • Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for those ages 35-55
  • For every completed suicide, 25 attempt it
  • 54% of suicide victims were not diagnosed with a mental health disorder

Suicide is not a mental disorder, it is a symptom.  Many treatable mental health disorders carry a risk of suicide, such as depression or mood disorders.   However, because of the high prevalence of mental health stigmatization in our culture, many people who could have sought treatment for suicidal impulses did not and paid the ultimate price.  It is important for us to begin to think differently about mental health.  We don’t stigmatize people for going to the doctor, why is therapy any different?  In fact, why is therapy not as routine as going to the gym?  The whole world would be better if we all sought after our mental health as much as we do our physical health.  Surprisingly, mental and physical health are very connected. More blogs to come on the link between mental and physical health…

It is important to remember is that suicide is not “selfish.”  In fact, the person considering suicide may truly believe the act is selfless because they feel like a burden to their loved ones.  For those of you who may be considering suicide, your family and friends LOVE YOU! You are not a burden, you simply need help.  We all need help sometimes and how you feel right now will most definitely pass.  Never make a permanent decision on a temporary feeling.

One of the many questions that go through a loved one’s minds when thinking about preventing suicide are: “What are the warning signs?” and “What can I do to help if I see these signs in a loved one?”

Warning Signs:

  • Extreme Mood Swings or Sadness: Long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and outbursts of rage.
  • Being Isolated/ Withdrawal: Not feeling connected to anything or anyone. Isolating from people or activities one once loved this includes the loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities the person previously enjoyed. Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities.
  • Feeling Trapped: Talking about unbearable pain, or talking about being a burden to others.
  • Hopelessness: Feeling a deep sense of hopelessness about the future, with the sense that circumstances cannot improve.
  • Sleep Disturbance – Sleeping to little or too much.
  • Sudden relief from sadness, a feeling of calm, or even joy: Suddenly becoming calm of elation after a long period of depression or moodiness.
  • Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit marked changes in attitude or behavior.  This can often include a “slowing down” effect in speech, thinking and affect (facial expressions).  This could also be a “speeding up” in dangerous behaviors, risk taking, or talking about these topics more often. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance and hygiene.
  • Increased anxiety, agitation, or rage: Talking about seeking revenge or behaving recklessly.
  • Dangerous or self-harmful behavior: Risky behavior, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Increased alcohol or drug use: Using substances to cope with uncontrollable symptoms. This can decrease inhibitions and therefore increase the risk of suicide attempts due to low impulse control.
  • Recent trauma or life crisis: Major life transitions or crises may give rise to suicidal ideation and attempts. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, losing housing, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.
  • Making preparations: Looking for access to lethal means such as buying a firearm or other means like poison or drugs. Visiting friends and family members out of the blue and saying goodbye. Talking as though they will never see you again. Giving away personal possessions. Making a will. Cleaning up room or home. Writing a suicide.
  • Threatening suicide: From 50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give someone a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it.

Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously. Many people wonder if they should even bring up the topic to someone who they suspect is suicidal.   The answer is yes!  Talking about suicide is to prevent suicide.  You cannot make someone suicidal by asking them if they are, on the other hand, if you do ask, then you have an opportunity to provide help.

If you suspect a loved one is suicidal:

    • Ask: Make sure you use the right works such as “Do you want to kill yourself?” or “Do you want to commit suicide?”
    • Take any weapons: If the person has means to a weapon or other object they could use to hurt themselves, remove it from the immediate premises and restrict their access to it if possible.
    • Call 911 or take the person to the emergency room right away: Tell the person you cannot let them hurt themselves and that you are going to get them the help they need.
    • Don’t leave the person alone: Utilize friends or family to stay with the person if needed while you call for help.  Or call for help while the person is in your care.
    • Help them connect: Help them understand that you care about them and still want them around.
    • Find a Qualified Therapist: Just because this crisis is over, does not meant that the person is “out of the woods” yet.  Make sure that your loved one receives regular psychotherapy and even psychiatric treatment from a qualified professional so they can find relief and recovery, as well as learn to cope with any suicidal feelings they might have again in the future.
    • Follow up: Make sure after the crisis ends that you are checking in with them on a regular basis.

If you feel suicidal:

  • Call someone for help: You can call anonymously 1(800) 273-8255 (24/7 to talk with the suicide prevention hotline), call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • Find a qualified therapist.

Do you live the Hanford or Visalia California area? Call me to set up a therapy appointment today!

Debra Schmitt, ACSW

Reno NV Therapist / California Teletherapy

Call: 559-697-5045

Find Me on Facebook!


**Statistics are from:;;