DOWNLOAD EPISODE >

Dr. Laura d’Angelo and Dr. Nathan White, Sarasota psychologists, join Lara Jaye on The Zen Leader to talk about How to Handle Sudden Tragedy and Deep Grief.

 

Intro:Welcome to The Zen Leaderwith Lara Jaye. Whether you’re a leader at home or in the boardroom, Lara provides the tools to help you get unstuck in different areas of your life. Now here’s your host, Lara Jaye.

Lara Jaye:Welcome to The Zen Leader. I’m your host, Lara Jaye, international bestselling author, speaker, and spiritual mentor. Through my coaching programs and radio show, I help you courageously transform your disconnected, unbalanced life into a joy-filled and meaningful one. Whether you’re a leader at home or in the boardroom, I help you navigate the ups and downs of life, supporting you in living your best life.

            Today, we’ve been talking a lot over this year about navigating life, and we talk a lot about the ups and what to do. Today is going to be, I’m just going to tell you. It’s going to be serious. We’re going to talk about when bad things happen, tragedy, life. We’re going to talk about that today, and I don’t know where we’re going to go with it [LAUGHTER], but it’s going to be good and that’s all I got to say. I’ve got a couple of amazing guests here in the studio and Dr. Laura d’Angelo welcome back!

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Thank you, Lara.

Lara:Yes, and Dr. Laura is an author and local psychologist. She’s enjoyed a career in public psychiatry, serving on the faculties of Vanderbilt and Oregon Health and Science University, providing statewide consultation and training in Development Disorders and Mental Health. Dr. Laura has been in private practice here in Sarasota since 2011. Joining her as well is Dr. Nathan White. Dr. Nathan, welcome.

Dr. Nathan White:Pleasure to be here. Thanks.

Lara:He is a licensed psychologist who holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Dr. White works with a range of clinical issues, including mood and anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, and life transitions. He looks to help clients discover their strengths and develop plans for effectively meeting life’s challenges, which is what we are going to do today. Welcome both of you!

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Thank you.

Dr. Nathan White:Thank you.

Lara:I’m so excited to have you in there. We’re going to talk about deep tragedy today and I have so many questions. My life [LAUGHTER]… and listeners know I’m always real. So, I’m going to be real and tell you that a couple months ago my mom passed away – I’ve talked about that on the show before. My dad moved in with my brother and his wife, such a blessing to be able to have him do that. In the last 10 days, my brother has lost two of his four boys in two completely unrelated accidents. The boys, they were 25 and 31, and so that’s where I’m coming at today and, “Okay, my body has shut down. I’m numb and this didn’t even happen to me.” This was my family, though, my brother. So, a complete tragedy and it’s times like this when you really see what’s important. Talk to me. I mean I’ve mentioned what my events are, but there’s other events that someone, our listeners, might be going through. What are some of the other events, too?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:That’s a hard one to follow up with. [LAUGHTER]

Lara:I’m sorry. [LAUGHTER] Right?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Nathan. Dr. Nathan, do you want to go first?

Dr. Nathan White:Well, to your question of what are some of the other things that people can deal with. I mean we’re talking about real stuff today, Trauma.

Lara:Exactly.

Dr. Nathan White:Trauma comes in a lot of different forms. It can come in definitely losing someone. It can come in abuse and a lot of other forms, witnessing horrific things. So, trauma has a lot of different manifestations that can come about.

Lara:It can be anything at any time.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Natural disasters, a car accident. I think the list keeps getting longer. I think when I started my training decades ago we were focused mostly on abuse, incest, but we live in a traumatogenic world. That’s a word…

Lara:What does that mean? [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I think it’s a world that genders trauma.

Lara:Right.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo: I think we’re affected on so many levels, personally, macro levels, micro levels. I had no idea that my career would be about trauma when I started out in 80s, started my training. There’s two things that came to mind, two examples of loss in families. One is I know a couple who were in their 80s now, and they’re just lovely people. Many, many years ago, they lost both of their daughters to cancer. One was young… I don’t know the details. The other was maybe in her 20s. But both of their children left them under those circumstances.

            They are people of financial means as best as I can understand, and they have dedicated their lives to philanthropy and creating services and resources with hospitals in the city where they live, and crisis lines, and help lines.

Lara:So through this trauma, they were able to turn it into something amazing to help others.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah, and they’ve been this for decades because they’re in their 80s now. This happened to them… their losses happened many years ago.

Lara:That seems so with not just trauma, but for all of us in our lives. The thing that takes us down might actually be what builds us up, maybe. I’m hoping. [LAUGHTER] Praying. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:There’s a saying, if I can remember this and some spiritual writings by a Persian prophet, and it says, “My calamity is my providence. Outwardly it is. Inwardly it is fire and…” okay, I guess I’m a little anxious. “My calamity is my providence. Outwardly it is fire and vengeance. Inwardly it is light and mercy.”

Lara:Oh, Dr. Laura, that’s beautiful.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:It’s beautiful. It’s how do we get there?

Lara:How do we get there?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:How are we aware of getting there? I think that’s the question we ask ourselves.

Lara:Is it different for, let’s say, a loss? For me, it was totally different, but I’m asking is it, in general, different with the patients and clients that you work with? If you got a chance, for those living, for us to say good-bye versus a sudden, didn’t know this was coming accidents?

Dr. Nathan White:Is it less painful? No, not necessarily.

Lara:No. [LAUGHTER] Right.

Dr. Nathan White:They’re both going to be painful, but I think that my observation is when sometimes people get a chance to say good-bye it gives them some comfort because unresolved things…

Lara:There’s some closure.

Dr. Nathan White:There’s closure.

Lara:You get a chance.

Dr. Nathan White:Whereas if something sudden happens, there’s a lot of could have, should have, wish I had done, wish I had said. So you’re not just dealing with the loss, but you’re dealing with all these things that you didn’t get to address. Whereas if you get to say good-bye, sometimes that can help to…

Lara:If they have a long illness or something.

Dr. Nathan White:Exactly.

Lara:You have an opportunity to.

Dr. Nathan White:Right.

Lara:That makes sense.

Dr. Nathan White:To kind of cope in a different way.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I have a situation that I was just reminded of. A close friend of mine lost her brother last week. He was in his 70s. He was ready to go. He had an illness. He didn’t want it to be treated, so he had all his affairs in order and he lived in another country. She was there several times to say hello and good-bye. Everything was as good as it could be in saying good-bye.

            After he passed, they learned… they might have known this before, but he had requested that there be no funeral and not even an obituary. He was a fairly prominent person within his community. She said, “There’s something that’s just weird about it.” She said, “This is really hard not to be allowed closure under those circumstances.” He didn’t even want prayers said. I think they were going to spread his ashes, but she said she’s going to do it on her own, but she doesn’t want to dishonor his wishes.

Lara:So she wanted to honor him, but at the same time, she was struggling with closure.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah.

Lara: The funeral and all of that is for us, anyway, right?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:She felt like, “No, this is really hard for me not to be able to have this last step,” which is a more common step, than not, I think.

Lara:That makes sense. That makes sense.

Dr. Nathan White:That makes sense. I mean even when we’re young we learn how do you say, “How are you?” You’re greeting someone and then when you leave, you’re saying, “Good-bye.”

Lara:Yes.

Dr. Nathan White:So at a young age, we learn that. So whereas…

Lara:If we don’t have that opportunity to wrap it up…

Dr. Nathan White:Exactly.

Lara:And say good-bye.

Dr. Nathan White:It can be harder.

Lara:It can be harder.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Lara:I would say I totally agree with that and can see that even those that may be… my son was in Japan and couldn’t get back for my mom’s funeral, and so he had a harder time processing it and grieving, I think, than the rest of us who got to be together and move through it.

Dr. Nathan White:Right.

Lara:For those that were a part, that makes total sense. There are all different kinds of stages of grief, and I think I’m witnessing all of them and everyone deals…

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Experiencing them, too.

Lara:Experiencing all of them and all at once.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Lara:I feel sorry for people around me right now and our family, but tell me… and we’re just going to start this because I know we’ve got about a minute and we’re going to take a break. But grief can be so deep and everyone it seems handles it differently. What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Nathan White:Well, in the literature, Kübler-Ross came up with the stages of grief with denial and a lot of other things like anger and bargaining and depression and acceptance. [00:10:08]But that’s just a context for how we experience things. Not everybody experiences all those different things, and as you said, you were experiencing a lot of those same emotions all at once.

Lara:[LAUGHTER] All at once, yeah.

Dr. Nathan White:But as we’ve been talking about on the show, we all experience death and trauma very differently. Difficult emotions can come up.

Lara:We never know when they’re going to come up.

Dr. Nathan White:Right.

Lara:What’s going to trigger us.

Dr. Nathan White:Right.

Lara:I think is very… what I’m seeing, too. It’s like we might think we’re okay in that moment, and then I notice, oh, something somebody will say or mention his name or something will remind me of that loss, and then it’ll just be tears or whatever.

Dr. Nathan White:Sure.

Lara:Yeah, definitely. Well, we are going to take a break right now. When we come back, we’re going to continue in talking about the stages of grief. We’ll be right back here on The Zen Leader.

[BREAK]

Lara:I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader. Welcome back. You can find me here at wsrqradio.comor larajaye.com. In the studio is Dr. Nathan and Dr. Laura. How can we find you two here in Sarasota? What’s your web address?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:We’re in the midst of moving. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Nathan White:Transitioning. [LAUGHTER]

Lara:You’re in transition.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Transitioning. Yes. So you caught us right in the midst of it.

Lara:In the middle.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I will be at the Center of Revitalizing Psychiatry right on Wood Street, right off of Tamiami Trail. I’ve been in practice, my own practice, for five years, and actually this very week we’re moving to a new facility.

Lara:Yay! Congratulations!

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Thank you.

Lara:Great. What about you, Dr. Nathan?

Dr. Nathan White:I’m working out of two different offices, but one of the offices that I’m going to be working out of is private practice on 1751 Mound Street right next to the P.F. Chang’s in Sarasota.

Lara:Awesome! Pick up some P.F. Chang’s and go see Dr. Nathan.

[LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:We’ve been working together since 2011.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Lara:Nice!

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:So we’re going to have separate offices for the first time. We’ll still be in contact because we share patients.

Dr. Nathan White:That’s right. Yeah.

Lara:Wonderful.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I’m going to miss his presence.

Lara:Well, it’s such a pleasure to have you both on together as we talk about grief and trauma. Right before the break, we were bringing up the different stages of Greek. Greek? Grief. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:That, too.

Lara:Yeah, that, too. It feels like that sometimes. But you mentioned the stages. Let’s talk about denial. This can’t be happening to me. What happens when we’re in denial? Is that generally the first stage?

Dr. Nathan White:For a lot of people, it’s shock. I’m reminded of one client that I had who they found themselves reaching for their phone to call that person that they lost. It’s that experience where you’re in reality, but you’re not. You’re hit with the news, and it’s just you can’t believe it’s happening. It’s like a dream.

Lara:Like a dream. Second stage: anger. Why is this happening?

Dr. Nathan White:When bad things happen, people don’t usually get happy about that.

Lara:[LAUGHTER] Right.

Dr. Nathan White:[LAUGHTER] When it surfaces, it can manifest in a lot of different ways. It can manifest itself towards others, towards the world, towards people themselves.

Lara:That brings up kind of blaming.

Dr. Nathan White:Sure.

Lara:We want to blame somebody. We’ve got to find out why this happened.

Dr. Nathan White:Exactly.

Lara:Somebody needs to pay for why this happened.

Dr. Nathan White:Right. Yeah.

Lara:I don’t know.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:It’s normal. It’s normal.

Lara:It’s normal. You just feel so hopeless and helpless.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo: It’s normal.

Lara:Then bargaining. What does that mean?

Dr. Nathan White:I think it’s the woulda, coulda, shoulda. “If things could be different…” “Oh, if I had been better…” “If I had done this…” Or, “How could things transpire if this had happened.” In some ways, it’s still in denial because you’re having difficulty accepting it and you’re wishing that something could be done to prevent it.

Lara:Depression. Another stage.

Dr. Nathan White:When the news really hits in, it’s difficult, especially if you don’t feel like you have purpose. Earlier in the show, Dr. Laura was mentioning how people use tragedy to transform it to something else, where they were giving to others. A lot of times if you don’t find that thing to ground you — whether it’s helping others or support or whatever it is to ground you — you can just get stuck in the feeling of depression.

Lara:A loss.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I think that it’s a question of how do you find meaning in suffering, the eternal question. Viktor Frankl wrote much about that after World War II, right?

Lara:Yes.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I think that’s a really important point. How do you find meaning and purpose regardless of loss or even without loss in life, but especially at that time? I like the term transcend. Eventually, how can you transcend what’s happening here down here? How does it raise up? What happens to us? It takes time, too. It takes time.

Lara:It does take time. Lots of time. Then the last step, acceptance. Will we ever accept? Do people really accept the suffering, the loss, the trauma?

Dr. Nathan White:I think there are degrees of it. As you move further and further away from painful things, the reality can fit in and set in more. The pain may still be there, but it can minimize in intensity. So acceptance, I think it’s a matter of degree.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah, I know one woman not personally who had seven children, one of whom was one of my dearest, dearest friends. But one of her first babies died at the age of two and I met that mom. She was a matriarch. I met her years ago. All the kids were young adults and such and were all grown up now. But she said she felt she had one foot in heaven, and she carried that with her throughout her life. So, it was just really…

Lara:What a wonderful example. Aww.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah, it was really lovely and I think about that a lot. She’s passed on now. She lived a ripe old age.

Lara:But that’s a great way to take the trauma and hold on to the loved one that you’ve lost and still move forward in life, because really that’s what is so hard after a trauma. I mean it seems like physically… let’s talk about physically what happens. You get the news. Your body just seems to shut down. Eating, sleeping, you can’t process things. What else happens it seems?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Or you feel stomach punched, don’t you?

Lara:[LAUGHTER] Yes.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Some people might sleep more. Some people sleep less. Some people eat more. Some people eat less. I liken it to the moment if somebody comes up to you and says, “Boo!” and scares you and you have moment where you’re scared and it stays with you. Adrenaline.

Lara:Is it adrenaline that’s going? Okay.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Adrenaline, cortisol. You probably don’t know all the chemicals — we have notions — but I think that physical feeling stays with you, and it wears you out. It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah, yeah.

Lara:Fascinating.

Dr. Nathan White:I’m also reminded of other clients who I’ve seen who the threshold for dealing with emotion is different because they’ve experienced a trauma. They’re more likely to tear. They’re more likely to have energy. Then it just kind of goes away, if a trigger comes up or if they’re reminded of something.

Lara:Oh, that’s really interesting. Help me understand that some more. Say that again in a different way.

Dr. Nathan White:Sometimes I’ll see people who, as they’re coping, I’ll be having a conversation with them and they’re doing okay, and then something flashes across their mind that reminds them of the loss, and the joy in that moment is lost and it’s like they lose the energy. They lose the motivation.

Lara:So, it’s an emotional reaction. They may have been dealing with it fine, and it might be even a year or two down the road, but something triggers it. I’m sure that there will be triggers for the rest of someone’s life after a traumatic event or witnessing something, or losing a child, I would suspect.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Lara:Yes.

Dr. Nathan White:Or you can see just in the moment emotionally, but also even physically, because emotions take on physical manifestations. It can change.

Lara:I don’t think a lot of our listeners… I talk a lot about that, I want to listeners to really understand that emotionally that stuff can get stuck in our bodies, and we can hold it. That’s one of the things that I work a lot with clients on is clearing that energetic imprint of emotions, even from when we were children that are stuck in there, even from when our parents were pregnant with us. That gets stuck in our own bodies. Do you work with clients with that that have that happen?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I have an interesting case, a little more expansive than that one. This was a lovely woman in her 40s from Eastern Europe who came to see me, and she had been well all her life. No family history of depression, anxiety — none of her own — and she couldn’t even think of anything that was going on in her life that bothered her. [00:20:02]She was having severe anxiety, bad depression. It just came on like a snap and she couldn’t function at home. She was this worker and this housewife and had two grown sons, just terrific and happy. She and her family had moved here to the Sarasota area a couple years before and she says, “We’ve never been happier.” She said, “We love it here. I don’t understand. I’m just feeling the best ever.”

            I couldn’t find… often you find something. You can find some reason that something has gone awry, and I just couldn’t, and I was scratching my head. I knew her for several months, and she had an accent from her country.

As I got to know her over the months, I said, “I was just talking to a friend of mine in another city where I used to live, and her voice reminds me so much of yours. You have such a similar accent.” They were from nearby countries.

            She said, “Oh, they had a terrible war.” It was Bosnia-Croatia issues and it turns out this woman, 20 years ago, had experienced the same war. They were living there and they escaped, and fled, and had all sorts of horrible things happen to them. They got out. They moved to another state. I believe they were in New York for many years rebuilding their lives, working hard, and they were happy to be able to move here. This was many, many years later.

            So, she was probably in her 20s when they fled. I said, “I get it.” I said, “You have post-traumatic stress disorder,” and this is why it’s called post. After the trauma and typically when you’re “safe,” you feel “safe,” you’re not in crisis mode, you’re not in survival mode… that’s a whole other level of anxiety and focus. But here she was just fine. Everything was really lovely and then the body decided, “It’s time to let it out,” and it just came out in a vengeance. [CHUCKLE]

She’s done, but she had one meltdown. She did well on medications to begin with. Then she had a little bit of a meltdown. This is even before I knew about her, the history of the war that she went through, and she’s really doing great. This has made quite a bit of difference. I mean she’s not only doing medication, therapy is really, really important.

Lara:Absolutely. I do want to talk more after the break all about PTSD and what happens, and what the trauma does. So right after break, we’ll be right back.

[BREAK]

Lara:I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader. Welcome back. You can find me here at wsrqradio.comor larajaye.com. Right before break, we were talking with Dr. Laura and Dr. Nathan about trauma and grief and PTSD. Dr. Laura, that was an amazing story, and PTSD, the post-traumatic stress disorder, and how it can show up years later, and we may not even know that it’s sitting in us, but it finds its way that it wants out, right? When it’s ready to come out. [LAUGHTER] Are you finding that?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah. It needs to come out.

Lara:It needs to come out.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:It really does need to come out and I think our bodies tell us when we’re ready. They often do.

Lara:Sometimes we’re not paying attention.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Or sometimes we suppress it.

Lara:Sure.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Or put it aside, I imagine. We see those people… well, we see all levels.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:But more often than others, perhaps we see people who are really ready to feel better. They might just be feeling bad and not know why.

Lara:That makes sense. So, PTSD. That could happen from losing a child, from the war. That was a great example. Just pretty much any kind of trauma.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Any loss.

Lara:Any loss.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Any loss.

Lara:Any loss. So, we talked about physical reactions. We talked about emotional reactions. What are some helpful coping strategies for those who are going through an actual trauma right now? What could our listeners do if they have been just slammed with some kind of trauma and cannot even breathe? Like breathing is the most difficult thing right now.

Dr. Nathan White:Well, to go along with what you just said, learning to breathe so that you can then talk. To follow up with what Dr. Laura said, we can store things in our body and our minds. Having that place, whether it’s therapy, whether it’s with a trusted friend, or someone to be able to have that time and dialogue to make sense of what’s happening. You mentioned before we want to know why. Why can sometimes be helpful, but sometimes just talking it through can be very helpful and a first step in dealing with what…

Lara:Is it possible to make sense of it, of a loss like trauma?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:That’s a big, big question and the older I get — I’m the oldest one in this room — this life becomes more mysterious to me, and I personally don’t ask why as often as I used to. Why did this? Why me? Why is this happening? I try to reframe for me, not my patients so much, and I won’t impose that on them, but what can I learn from this? Is there meaning in this? Where am I going with this? What do I do with it? The whys are hard, hard questions. I don’t know how often we… maybe when something goes well in our lives, “Oh, this is why it happened.” That’s easy, right?

Dr. Nathan White:Right.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:But the tough stuff. I do try to stay away from the whys in practice, but you have to allow patients to empty as well.

Dr. Nathan White:Sure.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Sometimes in the office, as you talked about breathing with a patient, they’ll be sitting there talking. I’ll say, “Just breathe. Exhale.”

Lara:You can tell they’ve forgotten to.

Lara:They’re holding everything in. Yes.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah.

Dr. Nathan White:You can’t process if you’re not breathing. [LAUGHTER]

Lara:Right. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:You think?

[LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Are you kidding?

Lara:Right. I like that not asking the question why. Years ago when I was really, really depressed, I was in my counselor’s office and I saw a book sitting there, and it said something about what is your depression trying to tell you? That got me journaling about what is my depression? Why is it here? What does it want to tell me? It was just a weird way to ask it, but I still remember that from years later, and I try to do that with other things, too, that pop up. It’s like, “Why are you here? What do you want?”

[LAUGHTER]

Lara:“What am I not hearing?”

Dr. Laura d’Angelo: Especially as we get older, right? [LAUGHTER]

Lara:Exactly, exactly. I’m like, “I don’t want you in my life anymore. Why are you here?”

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah, and like you said, the why question can sometimes be helpful and sometimes do need to give voice to that. But questions are really important because they steer you in a certain direction. Sometimes, why questions can steer you into getting stuck because you don’t always know the answer to a why question. But questions like some of the other ones doctor posed of, “What can I learn? Where am I?”

Lara:More empowering questions.

Dr. Nathan White:Exactly. That gets your eye on what direction can you move so you don’t get stuck.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah, I just want to say one small thing about the use of medications at these times. Medications are just one tool, and sometimes they really can be very helpful when used properly and safely, and the medications we typically use are not addictive to help you sleep, to help you eat.

Lara:Just the basics right now.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:If you are sleep deprived, nothing is going to heal. If you don’t eat well. The three things to being well are proper sleep, proper nutrition, and proper exercise. If you don’t have those three things functioning, you can’t even heal well in therapy.

Lara:When you’ve just had a traumatic event, your body is shutting down and is numb, and you can’t sleep. You can’t eat or, like you said, you sleep too much or eat too much. It’s like we need the balance, and so that makes sense. Then coping strategies, you just have to take it moment-by-moment, day-by-day, right?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah. I think our bodies are always trying to heal. I think we’d heal through these things even without medication, but I think medication can help jumpstart you just to get you back to a level of a clear mind and helping you clear your heart too. But none of this healing is possible without proper… I’m not saying that therapy is not for everyone, but all sorts of other remedies that would help people.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah. I would say in addition to some of those things my observation is also that structure can be really important. Because people who have a lot of free time when they have a lot of bad things or a lot of bad thoughts that they’re dealing with, if you have 12 hours of just you’re stuck with your thoughts, that can be overwhelming.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah, right. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Nathan White:Oftentimes when people have a structure, places they can go, people they can see, people they can help, that adds to their ability to kind of get through the week.

Lara:And gives them purpose and meaning again when they feel like their life was sucked out of them.

Dr. Nathan White:Right.

Lara:That’s a really good point. I hadn’t thought about that with the mind taking off if you have too much time. That is important.

What about for the people around you? So something traumatic has happened to you and let’s say our listeners are trying to support someone who’s going through a trauma, and there are just no words. What can they say? What can they do?

Dr. Nathan White:The first thing that pops in my mind is we feel pressure to do so much, to fix.[00:30:04]But sometimes, really, the simplest, the most helpful, just being there. Just making yourself available, giving people space. But if they don’t need a lot, then just…

Lara:Because some people want space. Others don’t.

Dr. Nathan White:Exactly.

Lara:They want a hundred people around. Others just want to be alone. So, you have to honor with they want, right?

Dr. Nathan White:Exactly. “Hey, I’m thinking about you. I’m here if you need me.” Sometimes less is more.

Lara:Less is more.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I think listening. Listening. To just be there to listen.

Lara:How about some non-judgmental listening? [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Because listen. People will tell you what they need or what they want.

Lara:That’s true. They will.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:It’s really true.

Dr. Nathan White:They will.

Lara:If you listen.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Then sometimes I’ve had, in my personal experience, two instances with friends, with girlfriends who were going through loss, divorce — I think it was mostly around divorce — and I was just there. One I was calling. One I had coffee with, and just chatting and chatting and chatting, whatever.

Years later each of them said to me, “Oh, my gosh! You saved my life. You had no idea what you said to me.” I said, “What did I say?” They told me what I said and it was so meaningful to them, and I was like, “I don’t even remember saying that.” So sometimes what we think is so helpful means nothing to someone, and something so casual or heartfelt as well, in both of these cases, I’m like, “I’m really glad I asked,” because I had no idea. So, you never know. I keep that in mind. You never know how you’re going to affect someone, good or bad. I tread very cautiously. I’ve learned in my old age I’m learning to listen more and more, even though I talk whole heap. [LAUGHTER]

Lara:That’s really funny. I think people do. They want to reach out and they want to help. Sometimes they maybe say the wrong thing and then it upsets the person who’s traumatized, and that makes things worse. So, it’s just honoring… we might think — or that person who’s trying to help — that’s how they want to be held if they were traumatized, but that’s not necessarily what that person needs. Again, it’s being aware of what they need.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah. It might be hard when a person is really suffering and in the midst of loss to realize that Suzy meant well. Her intentions were so good. Sometimes you can’t rise to that and say, “Her intentions were right,” because you’re just hurting so much.

Lara:Right, that makes sense. I say that in times like this sometimes people just say stupid things, and they don’t mean to. They really want to be there for you and be loving, but they don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. It might come out, and if you’re going through the trauma, you’re very sensitive right now. Everything is like Ping Pong balls. Maybe you’re tired of hugs. Who knows?

[LAUGHTER]

Lara:Don’t tell me you’re sorry! I just want my child back.

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I had a girlfriend who was going through very difficult medical issues and this went on for a few years. She was laughing was just, “Please don’t even pray anymore.” She said, “I’m not even going to pray to God. He’s so busy.” He or She, whatever it is. But she was laughing about it.

Lara:I’m glad she was laughing.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah, that was the good part about it. She said, “Don’t do that anymore. We’ve been doing this for years now.” [LAUGHTER]

Lara:We’ll get through it all. That’s great. We are going to take a break and we will be right back with The Zen Leader.

[BREAK]

Lara:I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader. Welcome back and in the studio is Dr. Laura and Dr. Nathan. Again, where can we find you? Dr. Laura, you’re moving to a new office.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I’m moving to Center of Revitalizing Psychiatry next week.

Lara:Here in Sarasota?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:In Sarasota, mm-hmm.

Lara:Yeah, awesome. Dr. Nathan?

Dr. Nathan White:I’m going to be moving to 1751 Mound Street. Should I give the phone number?

Lara:Sure, go for it.

Dr. Nathan White:(480) 323-9742.

Lara:We will ring up the phone lines for you.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I’ll give you my number which it will rollover.

Lara:Yeah, go right ahead.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:(941) 315-6895. It will rollover to the new number. I’m in transition. I’m in loss.

Lara:Yay! You’re in transition. That’s right. That’s right.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:It’s a little bit of loss and gain.

Lara:Loss and gain. A little bit of both. Right before break, you were telling a story and you mentioned divorce, which I had completely forgot about that traumatic event. That was nothing today compared to…

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:That was nothing, right?

Lara:It was a big deal before this.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Right.

Lara:Big day, big, big deal. And so many people. What is it? The percentages keep going up and up on divorce, and it is traumatic. Now, it’s a slower traumatic versus a sudden car accident or whatever. But let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the slower boil.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Right. [LAUGHTER] The slow boil. What’s the particular question?

Lara:Trauma, trauma.

[LAUGHTER]

Lara:What do we do with that? Could I have PTSD from a divorce?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Oh, I think so.

Lara:Okay. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I think the process of a divorce, marriage… I mean I think by the time people decide to divorce it’s a foregone conclusion. It’s a formality, okay? But it doesn’t mean… you have emotions during a marriage that’s not working, when you’re deciding to change, when you are divorced, when you’re post-divorce, years down the road. I mean, you’ve got the entire chorus line there going on. [LAUGHTER]

Lara:Yeah. Really it could have started five, 10 years before when you finally decide, “Let’s fill out some paperwork.” Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah. I mean, I have a patient. Oh, she’s been wanting and she’s disliked her marriage. It’s been 30+ years. She’s hated it, hated it, hated it, hated it. Then finally, “I’m doing this. I’m divorcing.” It goes pretty quickly in Florida, compared to other states I’ve lived in, and a month after she’s crying and sobbing, “I’ve sold the house and I miss my house.”

Lara:Then everything hits her.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:She’s like, “Who is this man? My husband has been so nice to me.” Then she’s sobbing and sobbing. It was whole other context. So… [LAUGHTER]

Lara:Wow! So again, that’s a traumatic event, and I mean I remember my own divorce, unraveling it, and the pain. It was very slow. Whereas when I hear about the death of a loved one, it’s just this quick my body freezes. The slow boil, but it still builds up. It still gets stuck in you unless you talk about it, which a lot of people don’t want to talk about it, especially a lot of men don’t have anyone to talk about, or they don’t think they need to. Would you say that?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I don’t know. What I’ve seen with the men… well, I’ve seen more women talk about divorce. Have you Nathan?

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah.

Lara:Right, that’s what… I think the men need it. The men need it, but they’re not coming in for help.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo: I see the men. I’m thinking of one. He really misses his wife. I think he wants to be back with her, and there’s a combination of anger and frustration. It’s a very different dynamic talking to a man than a female. Is that your impression?

Dr. Nathan White:Yeah, I mean I think everyone is going to be different. Yeah, everybody is going to be different.

[LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:That’s what’s so hard is that as many people as there are divorces is as varied as there are how they’re married, and they’re individual. Wow! There’s each person and then there’s the two of them together. That’s another entity. So, you have so many levels and at different times.

Dr. Nathan White:Factors, mm-hmm.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:There can be relief after the divorce, and then is it statistically five years later how much happier are people after a divorce? Not necessarily, or unhappy in different ways.

Lara:Oh, so they’re unhappy in different ways.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Yeah.

Lara:Well, that’s not good news, Dr. Laura. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:No, I was told this by another therapist.

Lara:Okay. Well, I’m not going to believe that. No, just kidding.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:No, other ways.

Lara:Other ways, other ways. I have a male friend right now who is a few months out of a divorce, and he still is, “She was my best friend.” He doesn’t want to go back with her. It’s over. But she was my best friend and the mother of my children, and that’s just beautiful. But still trying to heal himself and move on. It’s hard when you’re tied like that. But to unravel the divorce, when you’ve had a slow boil of this traumatic event, we still all need to do that. The clients that come in for you guys for divorce, Dr. Nathan, you see a lot of anxiety and depression.

Dr. Nathan White:Sure.

Lara:Which probably comes maybe a year or two after the traumatic event.

Dr. Nathan White:Sometimes, and then sometimes it immediately shows up.

Lara:Sometimes it’ll immediately show up. Okay. How do you start by working with them?

Dr. Nathan White:Are we talking about divorce or are we talking about…?

Lara:Either way.

Dr. Nathan White:Either way. I think, as we were talking before, giving someone that space to process what’s going on, to try to make sense of it as best as they can.

Lara:A safe space. A safe space.

Dr. Nathan White:Right. And to think about how are you going to start to move forward. There’s processing, but then there’s also that piece of, “Okay, this is the new reality. What are you going to do?” in that gentle way. Obviously, you can’t just move to that place.

Lara:Right, right. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Nathan White:But you have to start thinking about if you don’t have that purpose, how are you going to find that purpose? What is meaningful? How do you use skills and talents that you have? [00:40:00] Because oftentimes I see… one of my observations is that when people are using their skills and talents to help others, it can be an incredibly meaningful experience.

Lara:Especially back to the beginning, taking something traumatic and transforming it into something that is helping others I think is what you were saying.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Being of service to others.

Lara:Being of service to others.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:That’s one of our purposes, really. I think that’s one reason we’re here.

Dr. Nathan White:That’s right. Doing the most good for as many as we can.

Lara:Do you know of any other examples — I’m sure you do — of clients or people that you know that have taken something that traumatic, even if it was a divorce or something, and turned it into helping others? Can you think of any other examples that are listeners might be able to get ideas when they’re in the midst of something?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Particularly around divorce, per se?

Lara:Anything, anything.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I have a patient who wrote a book about a fat little girl that people made fun of, and she was fat herself as a child she said. I mean she’s completely buff, but this was a real trauma for her through her childhood.

Lara:Absolutely.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:People made fun of her. Actually, the book was stolen out of my office. [CHUCKLE] I don’t recall the character being fat, but that’s what it represented for the girl who wrote it, the woman who wrote it. But these kids were making fun of her, of this child. At the end of the book, of course, it had a happy ending. It was a child’s book and it was resolved. But she did a lot of work with kids and fitness. She’s still quite young, but she was doing that early on. That’s how she turned her self-image…

Lara:That’s a great transformation story and she’s an adult now probably helping kids.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Mm-hmm.

Lara:Wonderful. I love hearing those kind of stories. That’s great. So, Dr. Laura, for your clients who come in with a trauma event, are they dealing with symptoms or they say, “I lost my child?”

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Well, both. I mean, a child… well, a child loss, I don’t think there’s any… I mean, I was taught this in my residency and I have to agree with this. I don’t think there’s any loss greater or more difficult. It is not normal to lose a child through life. It’s normal to lose older people, older generations, right, to say good-bye. So, I don’t think people ever get over it. I don’t know what that means, even though we use that term. It’s with you all the time.

            As that patient I said who came in with symptoms, but I didn’t even know and she didn’t know it was from war trauma, I always say we’re detectives. We’re detectives. What is going on here? We do ask ourselves all the time, “Why is somebody coming here now?” We ask the patient. If they’re coming in with just symptoms as opposed to a story, we’ll say, “What is bringing them here now?” We ask that, “What brings you here now?” Try to get that. Because really in our business the story, the history, gives us all the answers.

            There’s this other thing, a quote from George Washington Carver. I’m sounding so poetic today if I get this one right. He dealt with plants. But it was about how much we love. We don’t have the right words in English, but how do we love our patients? How do we care for them? The quote from George Washington Carver is, “Anything will give up its secrets if you just love it enough.” I think that talks about trust, if a patient has trust in the therapist or the doctor, they’ll eventually reveal, and this is what intimacy is about. Opening and sharing yourself. That’s where the healing comes in. That’s where if we listen long enough and love the process, and love the person long enough, we’re given the answers and I think it helps them heal.

Lara:That’s lovely. For people who have been through a traumatic event, they need that trusted, safe person to be able to go in. It might not be the week it happens, but it might be a month down the road or six months down the road, but I think it’s really important that they do reach out for support.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:I think people who’ve had deep trauma… I don’t know how to measure a trauma. I don’t want to do that.

Lara:Right.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:But we’ve seen all levels, whatever levels of trauma, just for the sake of discussion. The deeper, the longer it goes, sometimes it takes several years to trust the doctor you’re working with where things come out. We’ve both had those experiences.

Dr. Nathan White:Yes. [LAUGHTER]

Lara:Amazing. It has been such a pleasure to have Dr. Laura and Dr. Nathan in the studio today. Thank you so much for coming.

Dr. Nathan White:Thank you.

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Thank you.

Lara:I invite our listeners to call these guys, either one of them. If you’re going through something right now, they can help you get help and breathe.

[LAUGHTER]

Lara:Deep breaths, right?

Dr. Laura d’Angelo:Exhale.

Lara:Deep breaths. And take this trauma and see what you can do to transform it. Thank you for joining me on The Zen Leader. Have a great weekend.

 

END OF TRANSCRIPT [00:45:10]