Reflections + Resources to Honor the Tension of Hope and Despair in Your Life

Hope and Despair blog post| Potentia Therapy Inc.

In honor of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept 10th, 2019 and Suicide Awareness + Prevention Week that took place from Sept 6th until Sept 10th, 2019, and Suicide Awareness + Prevention month all of September, we have been rumbling with the concepts of hope and despair and how they impact our well-being, our relationships, our work, and our outlook.

The tension between hope and despair is a part of the human experience. It is not something we are taught to expect nor how to deal with or address.

Hope keeps us grounded. It is our oxygen, our life-raft, our ‘why’ when despair starts to hover and take root. Despair can feel disorienting and debilitating. It does its best to stifle hope.

Because loving, caring and committing is brave and daring work – we need to see the spectrum of hope and despair as a normal experience.

We also are committed to helping people know when it is time to reach out for help so they are not suffering in silence.

Mental health struggles, betrayal, loneliness, family of origin ‘rules’ and experiences, trauma, impatience, perfectionism, and struggles with meaningful work or purpose can feel bleak.

You matter. Your story matters. Your life matters.

We believe this in our bones and will hold that truth until you can own this belief yourself. It is a fight in a culture of never enough, shame, and blame. But we are up for the fight to help people reclaim the worthiness that was never meant to be put on the table for negotiation.

The following are some quotes and resources by our team of therapists on the topic of inevitable hope and despair.

Resources for Hope and Despair

Reflections on Hope and Despair

I find myself consistently encouraging people to cultivate compassion for themselves, and get curious about how they have been responding to the despair they are experiencing. – Chris Cessna, LMFT

Hope can feel elusive and sometimes just out of reach of our cognitive processing or intellectual learning. There might be another medium of expression calling to you right now to help organize your experience. This could look like a song, a piece of art, a film, a crisp walk in the morning by the water, a wise word from a kind stranger. What experiences have moved you in your lifetime? Can they be invited into your life in a bigger way right now? – Kimberly Ayres, AMFT

Nights can be cold and lonely, and can also be our catalyst into finding community around the fire. We don’t have to carry some burdens on our own. – Kimberly Ayres, AMFT

This book (Lost Connections by Johan Hari) is full of honest thoughts and real experiences around grief. Joan’s thoughts and experiences can be felt all around the pages. This book is for those who have felt loss and grief in their lives and to let them know they are not alone. – Lauren Bryan, M.A, ASW

Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts is such an important book in normalizing what so many moms experience in the Postpartum season. This book illustrates with true-to-life thoughts and experiences, the depth of despair and hope available for parents experiencing the overwhelm and sometimes frightening thoughts common during those first weeks and months with a new child. – Holly Kelley, LMFT

Maybe Tomorrow is a touching book about the weight of grief and the gift of the presence of a friend in moments that feel hopeless. With it’s colorful illustrations and simple story it’s appropriate for all ages. – Holly Kelley, LMFT

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please do not white knuckle it. If you are in San Diego, please contact the San Deigo Crisis Hotline at 1-800-479-3339 or call 911.

National Resources for Hope and Despair

@800273TALK via Twitter

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).

www.twloha.com

Also, be sure to click here to access some journal prompts for you to use as a guide as you honor the hope and despair in your life.

To learn more about how Potentia could help you through your own personal rumbles with hope and despair, please click here.

Our Potentia team is here to help. Learn more about our clinical team and what we have to offer here.

With gratitude –
Rebecca Ching, LMFT, Founder + CEO – Potentia Therapy, Inc.

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What You Should Know About Reproductive Loss

Reproductive Loss | Potentia Therapy Inc.

A Brief Explanation of Reproductive Loss

Reproductive loss is an inclusive spectrum of loss that ranges from the ambiguous loss experienced in infertility, to miscarriage (loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks), stillbirth (loss of a pregnancy after 20 weeks), as well as elective adoptions and abortions.

Consider that most people are unconsciously writing their reproductive story from the time they are young – think about how old you might have been when you first started to think about someday having children… or thinking you didn’t want to have children. It typically doesn’t cross young minds that it might be difficult to conceive, that we might not find a partner we want to have children with, or that we might lose a pregnancy.

Reproductive Loss is Common

Reproductive loss is much more common than most people are aware:

As many as 1 in every 4 known pregnancies will end in miscarriage and 1 in 80 pregnancies will result in a stillbirth.

1 in 6 couples will experience problems with infertility and about 1 in 4 women will have an elective abortion by the time they are 45yrs old.

It is very likely that you have experienced a reproductive loss or know someone close to you who has… you simply may not be aware of it.

Why Reproductive Loss is Different

The loss experienced related to reproduction is different than other grief you may have experienced. At this time, there isn’t language attributed this type of loss as there is if you lose a partner (widow) or a parent (orphan).

Grief of a reproductive loss is not frequently openly acknowledged and is rarely publicly mourned. You are grieving someone you never met but likely held hopes and dreams for. Women, couples, and families are often left to grieve alone.  

There is no legislation offering time off to grieve a miscarriage despite being offered time to grieve an aunt or grandparent. The grief experienced is typically disenfranchised grief – grief that someone has difficulty resolving and integrating into their story.

As a result of their grief, women and men are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, or complicated grief. Women/gestational partners are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety immediately following the loss but research shows that many men are also developing these symptoms, and may experience a delay in the onset of the symptoms.

Culturally, it has been assumed that women, or the gestational partners, are most likely to experience grief and mental health difficulties related to loss but research is beginning to show that men are just as likely to experience grief and mental health difficulties following a reproductive loss.

What We Know About Resolving Grief of a Reproductive Loss

As a helping professional, it is important to know whether a reproductive loss has occurred – whether you’re working with women, or men. During an intake, consider asking not only about who is living in the home or how many children an individual has, but also how many pregnancies have they experienced.

It is not necessary to unpack initially, but it can be helpful to know if a reproductive loss has occurred. It can also be helpful to be aware of past difficulties with infertility.  If your helping professional isn’t asking these questions, it can be helpful to offer this information up-front. Many times, people can get stuck in therapy without being aware of why – resolving loss (even when you’re not aware that it is affecting you) can be a key to moving forward.

The goals of grief counseling are typically to help an individual grieve and restore a sense of self. Resolution of grief typically refers to the restoration of the sense of self without behaviors, beliefs, or grief interfering with daily functioning or physical, emotional, and relational well being.

Many therapeutic modalities can facilitate the grieving process (EMDR, Internal Family Systems, Emotionally Focused Therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology and grief+trauma informed psychoeducation are our preferred methodologies but there are many that support this goal). As as part of therapy, it can be helpful to learn how to navigate your reproductive story and fluidly re-write that story as it changes.  We learn to amend and adjust while also creating meaning within it.

While you may not have control over reproductive loss that occurs, you can have control of the narrative.

As a society, we have a long way to go in terms of recognizing and giving voice to reproductive loss and those that have suffered the grief of such a loss. That being said, there are numerous organizations and individual providers that are available to support you and your loved ones.

Consider connecting with an individual therapist that works specifically with perinatal mental health and reproductive loss or joining a reproductive loss support group specific to your needs (ex. Miscarriage. Stillbirth, Infertility, Post Abortion support groups).

Also consider resources available below:

If You Know Someone Who Has Experienced a Reproductive Loss…

  • Listen to their story… without interrupting or making sense of it for them.
  • Acknowledge their emotions, even when it feels uncomfortable.
  • Honor their requests for confidentiality.
  • Support them in finding resources if needed.
  • Say:
    • I’m so sorry for your loss.
    • That must be so hard.
    • How can I help?
    • I’m here for you.

Wherever you are in the pursuit of parenthood, our team is here to support you. It is possible to hold anticipation, fear, joy, and pain at the same time. It is possible to find relief from the peripartum or postpartum symptoms you may be experiencing.

You were made to thrive in this journey you are on.

Thanks for reading. The more feel understood around these issue, the less have to suffer in silence.

With gratitude –

Holly Kelley, LMFT


To learn more about Potentia’s Perinatal Mental Health services, please see here.

Our Potentia team is here to help. Learn more about our experience and what we have to offer here.

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