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The Process of Loss


Loss is a part of life and we all will experience many losses as we navigate our journeys. Loss comes in many guises; it is not only the death of a loved one. Loss can be the dissolution of an important relationship, having to move from a beloved family home, losing a part of your life to illness; almost any life transition is accompanied by a sense of loss. Loss and the grieving process go hand in hand, and grief is something one should not try to side-step. It is an essential part of being able to move on from the loss, and if you don’t allow yourself to grieve, you could end up with psychological and physical health issues later on.


In her book On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross posited fives stages of normal grief. They need not occur in any particular order, and most often people in grief will move back and forth through the different stages. But all grief is a highly personal and individual process, and there is no timetable for it. Each person will grieve in his or her own time, and in his or her own way.


The five stages of grief are:


  • Denial and Isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance


In denial and isolation one is not accepting the reality of the situation. Often this feeling makes the person feel isolated and alone, or causes him to isolate himself from others. It is important in this stage that you try as well as you can, to be with your support system – loved ones, friends and family – and that you talk about how you feel as openly as possible. If you need to seek professional help, do not wait. Get it.


With anger, your feelings are deflected because the pain of the situation is too much to bear, and anger is the result. People who aren’t in awareness of this stage, often take their anger out on loved ones or others, getting agitated and losing their tempers easily. But anger is a more active stage than denial, and puts you on your path towards acceptance.


In bargaining people go through the “if only’s”. If only I had gotten a second opinion, if only I had said “I love you”, if only I had gotten help earlier. The “if only’s” can drive you nuts if you aren’t careful, and is also another way to not have to feel the actual pain of the loss.


Depression is the beginning of dealing with the pain. You could be depressed over more practical matters, like costs and bills, and then you get depressed because you know you must say goodbye and let the situation or person go. This part of the depression stage is more individual and private, and comes along with deep reflection, memories, and deep sadness. It is normal to feel this for months, but if it goes on for too long, get professional help. Sorting through your feelings, which can be very complex, may need a fresh set of eyes.


Acceptance does not come to everyone. Some people are never able to move out of denial and anger. The ability to make peace with the situation is sometimes hard won, and not everyone gets there. Give yourself time and don’t be impatient with yourself. The grieving process can be quite protracted, and there are no time limits.


Loss and grief are necessary parts of living a full life, and knowing something about them, can help you to cope a little better. The process is personal, and will take longer for some than others. But there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and you may move back and forth through the different stages a few times before you come to some peace. Journal about your feelings, talk about them, even paint or draw them. You don’t have to be an artist to be creative in your expression of them. And in the end, getting your feelings out will ease the pain and speed up the process.



Scared to see a counselor?


Being scared to seek counseling is really common. After all, we’ve been taught that we should solve our own problems! Sometimes overcoming the realization that we need help isn’t an easy thing to do. Even if whatever your challenge is isn’t serious, admitting that we can’t fix the situation ourselves is difficult. Maybe you know what you should be doing, but you aren’t motivated to do it. Maybe you’ve just got a couple roadblocks to overcome. Whatever it is, you’re thinking that talking it over with a counselor might be helpful, but you’re a little scared to get started. Counseling can be the first step you take in making a difference in your life.

Here are some things to think about while considering seeking some guidance:

Hope Counseling | Session


It’s only a conversation

Sometimes all it takes is one meeting with a counselor to get the advice we’re looking for. Maybe it’ll take two. Maybe you’ll decide it’s really helpful and become a returning client. Either way, you’re not losing anything by just making one appointment.

You run things

If there’s a topic you don’t want to discuss, you don’t have to talk about it! Sometimes people are afraid that counselors will try to get inside your head and read your thoughts. Although this would be an amazing super power, I don’t know any counselors that can actually do that. If there is a topic you don’t want to talk about, just say so. If you feel like the conversation is going in a bad direction, say so. You have the stage to work on whatever problem you want to work on.

It’s Effective

You know how just venting to your friends is so cathartic? Imagine that your friend was actually educated in how to help you perfectly. That’s what counseling is. Many people have overcome depression, relationship issues, or self-esteem issues just by working through their problems with a therapist. They’ll help you look at your situation from a different angle.

Start with a phone call

Call the office and request to just talk to someone on the phone, to get a feeling if talking it out is something that can help you. You’ve got nothing invested, and you’re totally anonymous. If once you talk to the counselor for a bit, you’ve decided that it might be helpful to schedule a full session, go ahead! You’ve already made huge progress.

Extreme Coupon Shopping Causes Extreme Stress

A Few Thoughts on  on “Extreme” Coupon Shopping

shopping stress

You have seen the shows and heard all the stories, people spending mere pennies for items you pay full price for. So why not try it yourself? Well you can, but make sure you are cautious and always keep your emotional and mental state in check. Yes, you might be saving hundreds of dollars every week, but you can’t concentrate or relax because you are trying to think of the next big deal, or you are planning and plotting how to get more coupons. It is an addicting habit and it can get out of control. When left without limitations, extreme couponing can be just as dangerous to your health as smoking or depression.

Couponing can take over your life and cause stress and anxiety you do not need or want. Is it worth it to buy that butter for 25 cents when you end up having a breakdown? Your physical and mental health should be priority over everything else!

Plus, the consistent exposure to disappointment isn’t good for you either. Maybe you go into a store with coupons in hand ready to score the best deal of the day, but then the item is sold out! So you scramble to the customer service desk and request they call another store to see if they have the items. They call a couple of stores before finding one that has what you’re looking for, GREAT! That store happens to be 20 miles away, but you don’t care you are so wrapped up in the fact that you are going to save a lot of money. So, you get into your car and speed as fast as you can because you don’t want anyone else to buy the item, even though they have already saved it at the service desk for you. In the process of speeding to the next store you’re pulled over and get a ticket, but you are so concerned about getting to the next store you just throw it in your purse and continue to the store. It doesn’t matter to you that you cut off five senior citizens; they were in your way.

Is a speeding ticket, your safety, and gas money it took to get to the second store worth it? Yes, it is great to save money but it shouldn’t be the only reason you coupon. You do not need to stock up on 40 tubes of toothpaste; they will expire before you can use them! Do yourself a favor and step out of the situation you have built for yourself and take a look. Does this look like something that could be mental or physically harming you? If you think yes, then you need to do something to change it. Cut back on the amount of time you spend couponing or even take a few weeks off and see how you feel.

For the first week you may feel antsy and like you need to be out there saving. But after that you will see what it is like to be much less stressed, and all of that built up stress was something you had the power to change all along.


Observing Students’ Emotional Response to the Game Portal


What Portal and Similar Video Games can Teach Us

portal video game helps students at wabash collegeWabash College might just have the coolest and most innovative professor in the country. Portal was on the syllabus in a 2011 semester at the college, and with good reason. The professor understands that certain games, movies, songs, and books can pique different emotional and human responses.

They can also teach us about life, and give insight into some of life’s most provocative and unanswered questions. Portal is the perfect game for the existentialist.

Professor Michael Abbot used Portal as educational material during his “Enduring Questions” class. During this time, he taught the students while observing their emotional responses to playing as Chell.

With copies of the game from Valve, Abbot’s students ventured into a world of emotional enlightenment. Abbot’s precursor to the game was his demonstration of Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Dr. Goffman’s book explains how humans display different versions of ourselves in various situations. When we’re in social settings, we are not the same as when we are alone. There’s a saying, “he knows me better than I know myself“. While only an expression, the phrase can’t have true meaning because we are always most honest with who we are, when we are alone. Only the closest people in our lives can see into that person, and even then, it’s still not the same.

GLaDOS, as a character, is aligned closely to Goffman’s text about slowly removing the protective layer to get down to one’s true personality. Her position in this created a great example of how we become ourselves once we’re comfortable in our environment. The game displays this by letting you into her personality slowly, test-by-test. Then, in the sequel, you learn even more as you go into the history behind the snide, sassy computer-villain.

Beyond the fan-favorite GLaDOS character, the game puts Chell in a few other emotionally straining situations.

  • Emotional Stress – The pressure to escape or die might leave her with a ton of emotional baggage at the end. Chell has to live in constant “Fight or Flight” mode; the stress will eventually get her if she doesn’t get out.
  • Verbal Abuse – GlaDOS calls Chell a slew of names and ends many tests with a fat joke. Chell will end up with an eating disorder.
  • Loneliness – Chell doesn’t speak; she won’t give Aperture the satisfaction of a response. There are no other humans around, all she has is her companion cube.
  • Manipulation – Giving Chell a companion cube to love, only to make her kill it in the end; it does things to a person
  • Abandonment – Unclear whether it’s true or just a jab, Chell hears repeatedly from GLaDOS that her parents didn’t want her.

During and after playing the game, Abbot used a student forum to create a discussion about the game, and the responses varied. Some students identified with the main character, and said they hoped that they’d escape. Other students felt a sense of accomplishment, as they felt like they were escaping.

The game also inspired creativity for many, and with the comedy, emotion, and suspense going further in the sequel, it has gotten a lot of attention for its impressive storyline. A fan-made film, by Dan Trachtenberg, depicts the emotional responses from Chell, and the events in the test chamber.



It doesn’t have to be Portal, but when you feel overwhelmed by life’s burning questions, escape into an elaborate story, and analyze your feelings afterwards. You’ll be amazed at the wonderful effect it can have. Video games like Portal and Bioshock make effective stories because they’re anecdotes that you interact with, and in some cases, you determine the outcome.

Does Diet Affect Your Mood? Five Tips for a “Happy” Diet

When you’re depressed, you  don’t stop to think about things, let alone the mundane everyday tasks you’ve always done, like eating. You might not realize that vitamins and hormones dictate our emotions, and serotonin plays a huge role in depression. Serotonin is a chemical that your brain produces when it’s feeling genuinely happy and content. Depression often comes from situational turmoil in one’s life, but it can also come from inadequate serotonin production, which means a person can feel depressed even if he or she has a great life. Other vitamins influence our moods as well, so it does make sense that the foods we eat play a role in how we feel.

Here are some foods you can eat to help improve your mood on the “bad days”.

  • Eggs, fish, lean beef and chicken are all rich in Vitamins B-6 and B-12. These vitamins help promote chipper and relaxed moods.
  • Nuts and seeds, like almonds, are magnesium rich. Magnesium is a big one if your depression is from a chemical imbalance because it promotes serotonin production and it increases natural energy levels. Opting for sugary or salty nuts won’t work as well as the unsalted or unsweetened brand.
  • Complex carbohydrates like strong grains take longer to digest, and that helps regulate blood sugars. When blood sugar isn’t spiking, irritability isn’t either.
  • Green tea contains an amino acid L-theanine that diminishes the appetite, which prevents overeating and the subsequent remorse, and it naturally increases happiness.
  • Opt for complex fruits, like pineapples and pomegranates. Foods that are rich in Vitamin A and C as well as copper and fiber all help you feel and look better. A good theory is that if it’s hard to eat, and if it takes effort to chew, it will probably take longer to digest, and it improves blood flow, serotonin production, and weight loss.

How to Get through an Argument with Your Mate

Okay, so maybe that’s easier said than done. Each of us reacts to anger in our own, unique way. Some people can let the little things go, while others get lost in their emotions, seeing only red, and often acting unreasonable.

First, it’s hard, but try to understand what is making you unhappy, so that you can have a rational, adult discussion with your mate. Even simply reflecting before you respond shows a great deal of respect.

Then, ask yourself how severe your problem is. Was it unforgivable, or was it something minor than you can let go? If it’s the latter, try letting your guard down. In a battle, someone has to back down; it doesn’t work well if both parties are overly combative. If the issue isn’t that huge in the grand scheme of things, try hard to let it go.

It’s like the infamous professor story:

  • A professor picked up an empty mayonnaise jar and filled it with golf balls.
  • He asked the students if the jar was full. They said that it was…
  • The professor picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
  • The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
  • He asked the students again if the jar was full. They said that it was…
  • The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled up everything else.
  • He asked once more if the jar was full. They said that it was…
  • The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else; the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter.

Set your priorities; the rest is just sand.

(Read the full version here-

Want to be happy? Don’t think about it

An interesting article from Katrina Onstad recently appeared in Toronto’s Globe and Mail about “embracing uncertainty.”

It’s a growing theory called pegged the “ironic process theory” by Harvard professor of psychology Daniel Wegner. It can be summed up beautifully by journalist Oliver Burkeman in his book called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, as “the effort to try to feel happy is actually precisely the thing that makes us miserable.”

That statement can be further explained as psychologist, Gabriele Oettingen who studied and found “the removal of obstacles through positive thinking can actually lull people into the false sensation that success has already been achieved.” It’s basically covering up what’s eating them inside, letting it fester until it finally explodes. As much as this happens within people until a breakdown occurs, it happens in society as well.

In Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided, she argues that the “mindset of relentless optimism fostered the conditions for the collapse of the economy in 2008.” Economists ignored signs, trying to be positive that things would turn around, but they never did.

So if you’re happy, and you don’t know it, maybe you need to talk to someone at Hope Counseling.