“What number are you?” is a common question that you may hear at coffee shops, summer lake days, or with your workplace friends. The Enneagram has quickly become the most popular personality test out there.
Grief is not an everyday word. But maybe it should be. Google Dictionary defines it as a “deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death,” and that’s mostly how we use it. Only on the doleful, rainy days of a funeral do we allow ourselves the time to actually stop and grieve. But there are other events, occasions, or happenings when it is okay, and even beneficial, to embrace the deep sorrow we naturally feel when we lose something. The act of mourning appropriately acknowledges loss and allows the mourner to move on in a healthy manner. In other words, grieving is an opportunity, and too often we deny ourselves the chance to mourn.
1. You can grieve the loss of a relationship.
It is natural for friends to come and go. Like glaciers drifting apart slowly over time, friends often float down differing canals due to the intrinsic currents of life. When pals part ways, sweethearts break up, or a relationship changes for the worst, take the needed time to grieve the loss. Don’t allow insecurity or a broken heart to deter you from wisely navigating the impacts of a damaged bond.
2. You can grieve the loss of innocence.
Regret from a major blunder often hounds us in the aftermath and instills a fear so great that we bury the aching memory deep inside. Rather than avoiding or coping unhealthily with the loss of innocence, embrace the reality of the situation and grieve appropriately. Everybody makes mistakes, and it is okay to go through a season of grief for a loss of innocence. You are not your mishaps, and they cannot define your future without your consent. Mourn the loss, and bury the memory fittingly.
3. You can grieve the loss of an objective.
A strong vision casted can offer hope and motivation as we fight passionately to succeed. Often, however, passion and vision aren’t enough, and, for whatever reason, we don’t attain the results we desire. Before rushing to the next big idea, take time to grieve your loss. Through a mourning season, not only can you lay to rest the hurt of supposed failure, but you can recognize your mistakes, learn from them, and emotionally ready yourself for future attempts.
Despite a suppressive culture, allow yourself the opportunity to grieve your losses, whatever they may be. Like holding a funeral, allowing a season of mourning can offer a stronger sense of inner peace and liberation for future possibilities. The singe of pain will often remain, but the pain can only bind if we allow it. And, like a crisp dawn, mourning laments the night while celebrating new day. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to make grief an everyday word if it can help us attain the peace we need to move forward.
Like money, friendships don’t just grow on trees.
The pain of losing a friendship can hurt even deeper than the sting of ending a romantic pursuit. In the dating scene, potential lovers enter with an understanding that it just...might not work. “We’re taking it slow,” they say, “Seeing what happens.”
Friends, on the other hand, can click instantly, dive deep impulsively, and a friendship can feel so natural that both are certain it was meant to be. Not having the same cushion of expectation to soften blows of dissension, the unique intimacy found among friends can make it devastating when trust is broken, calls are left to voicemail, texts are ignored, or a friend is made an ex with a conclusive Facebook message. We are left with the question, how does someone cope when a friendship ends?
There are many reasons, both good and bad, to end a relationship. But, whether you are the one moving on or the one being moved on from, allow a friendship ended to challenge you toward inward reflection, then encourage you toward outward reaction.
First, this is an opportunity to reflect. Be careful not to let the hurt you feel blind you to appropriately considering the hurt you may have caused. None of us are perfect. What were some ways in which you contributed to the dispute? What can you learn from this situation? Don’t rob yourself of the chance to grow personally or neglect this opportunity for self-reflection. Reflecting humbly will not only help to make a positive out of a negative, bring hope from despair, and give meaning to the unknown; it will mature you and equip you to move forward appropriately.
Second, this is an opportunity to act. Mourn the loss of a friendship, but focus your energy on cultivating new ones. See a Brave counselor, if necessary, to help navigate the sometimes painful and challenging transition. Friendships don’t grow on trees, but like trees, friendships change with every season. It’s natural for them to grow and to die. Though there is grief when an intimate friend withers to a mere acquaintance, there is someone somewhere who has the potential to become an intimate friend. And you can’t know which one until you simply ask them out to coffee, plant a few seeds in fresh soil, and apply what you learned from a fallen tree before.
UIX: Brave Grand Rapids is building foundations for mental health
What does it mean to be brave?
To a community, bravery can take on many different molds.
For Brave Grand Rapids counselor Allison Waldron, bravery continues to be doing the hard thing.
"It means saying 'no,' when saying 'yes' might be the easier option. It means having that difficult conversation with a friend or family member," she says. "It means being vulnerable and speaking up for yourself, even though it can be emotionally draining and uncomfortable."
It's not an easy thing to do, but for many in Grand Rapids it can be all they have. At Brave, Waldron is hoping to help local youth find the confidence to live intentionally. Within the majestic brick walls of the 103 College Ave estate Waldron works with young clients on issues related to assertiveness and identity, self-worth, grief, and beyond.
"Brave Grand Rapids came to be through a vision to serve the young adult community through counseling and to provide a place where people can come to feel safe," she says, "The entire process of counseling involves taking risks: from sending an email to the final session, bravery is involved."
Waldron has strong connections to the West Michigan community, a spirit that's also fostered in the work of Brave. She attended Grand Valley State University for her undergraduate studies, and received a master's degree in counseling from Cornerstone University, and has since volunteered her services in the form of emotional and academic support to local high schools and youth groups.
As Brave Grand Rapids grows, Waldron is counting on strong community bonds to help spread words of empowerment and confidence to youth affected by mental health issues. It's a population that expands every day, and without help, could become more isolated as well.
The National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness report that 1 in 5 children between the ages of 13 and 18 are living with a serious mental illness and that half of all mental illness issues begin by the age of 14. Mental health is obviously a serious issue that requires skill and empathy to confront but it's also a field that Waldron believes an entire community can support as they grow together.
"The idea of Brave continues to change its shape," she says.
Mental Health has long been and still is, surrounded by a stigma of inadequacy. From labels to economic burdens, to a fear of strange environments, there are many reasons why someone, especially a young person, would not seek treatment. This is a hurdle many mental health organizations face in connecting with youths, according to HQ Grand Rapids Drop-In Director Holly Anderton.
"Youth who struggle with mental illness deserve to engage in resources that are specific to youth and with minimal barriers," Anderton says. "Many organizations offer mental health services but they require youth to participate in lengthly and invasive intakes that can be triggering to youth, overwhelming, assumes youth should trust them, and inappropriate."
Opportunities for mental health services are often restricted to those with health insurance, which can cut off a large segment of the youth population. But their needs are just as great, Anderton says.
"Many unsafe and unstably housed youth do not have health insurance and are not interested in engaging in a mental health service that requires them to give all of their personal information. This stems from a lack of trust in community providers and organizations not being youth sensitive," she says. "Additionally, many youth feel they are judged based upon the insurance they have."
While mental health is a growing concern in modern society, access to those resources need to increase at the same rate or the concerns will only get worse. According to Anderton, it's going to take a bit of creativity to appropriately address the unmet mental health needs among youth in West Michigan and beyond. The key lies in building opportunities for youth to experience services where they can regain trust in the system prior to having to disclose so much information about themselves.
A vision for community supported mental health is not far behind with new training programs like Mental Health First Aid available. While similar programs are cropping up across the country, Network 180 facilitates Youth Mental Health First Aid training for residents of Kent County.
Anyone over the age of 18, interested in helping others through issues like anxiety, depression, psychosis, or addiction, can enroll in a Mental Health First Aid course, which confronts the most common mental health challenges youth face, reviews typical adolescent development patters, and teaches a 5-step action plan for helping young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.
The Mental Health Foundation has been reaching out to schools with its own multi-media education program led by social workers. The "Live Laugh Love" program covers stigma surrounding mental illness, signs and symptoms of depression and suicide, and steps to take when dealing with a mental health crisis.
Even smartphones are integrating into the culture of mental health wellness. With the Crisis Text Line, users can conveniently locate and communicate with a caring responder. The opportunity to text, instead of speech, makes the option even more accessible to those with difficulty speaking.
The first step
Just as mental health issues can be frightening and painful, the path to wellness isn't always the easiest to take. But there's no reward without risk, Waldron says. That focus has kept her committed as a counselor to instilling young people with the strength to feel safe.
She credits the "tangible truths" she's found in connecting with people as fuel to keep moving forward, and branching out. A little advice from a guidance counselor in college was helpful, too. And although she's finished school, Waldron still finds herself back on campus. She says she gets a lot of help and insight from the counselors and supervisors that have built their own practices.
Mental health is a serious issue, and the more minds rallied around the cause, the better. Every individual can provide new insight and challenges for the field, but they don't have to do it alone.
"I am honored to be able to walk alongside people as they try to figure out life’s challenges," Waldron says.
The heart of Brave was founded on meeting people where they are, and Waldron is hoping that, with enough work, will hopefully set them off on a path to where they want to be.
For more information on Allison Waldron and Brave Grand Rapids, visit http://bravegr.com/