In a world where silence breeds suffering, let us remember that seeking help is an act of courage. We must transcend cultural taboos and empower ourselves to embrace vulnerability on our journey to mental wellness. Today, we have the privilege of hosting a remarkable guest, Resident in Counseloling Reginald W. Lockhart, affectionately known as Reggie, who shares the value of grief counseling. In this candid conversation, Reggie fearlessly shares his personal experiences, inviting us into his world with authenticity and vulnerability. As the episode unfolds, Tina engages Reggie in a deep exploration of the taboos surrounding therapy, particularly within the African-American community. Counselor Reggie discusses the significance of recognizing that we all fall under the same umbrella of needing support, irrespective of cultural backgrounds or personal characteristics. He emphasizes that grief knows no boundaries and that seeking assistance in our journey of healing is not a sign of weakness but a display of strength. Counselor Reggie also highlights the importance of being present and attentive to the needs of loved ones who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide. Tune in now and take the first step to seek help.
Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.
I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide
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Grief Counseling: Overcoming Barriers To Seeking Help With Reginald W. Lockhart, Resident in Counseloling
I want you to be prepared. The real talk is in this conversation. I also want you to guard yourself if dealing with a conversation around difficult marriages. There are different triggers that could happen to you in this conversation. There is a lot of graphic conversation. I want you to be prepared for that. It may or may not work well for you. Just be okay with that if that’s a thing.
In this conversation, we do talk about some of the taboos when it comes to people that may attend church or faith-based, people of color, and as it relates to mental wellness. I want you to also realize that that conversation relates to any community of people that are very proud and may not always seek out help. This conversation is value-added. I wanted you to be prepared. Let’s get into the discussion.
Our guest is Mr. Reginald Lockhart, but I’m going to be calling him Reggie. Welcome, Mr. Lockhart. I’m going to allow you to share a little bit about yourself.
It’s always a pleasure to see you. I appreciate you and the work that you’re doing with widowhood and everything. A little bit about me, I am many years in a ministry in teaching and preaching. I decided to go to seminary and get my Counseling degree. I got my Master’s in Counseling. My wife thought I was crazy. She called it the cemetery. I did get that and I was very enlightened.
What else is about me is my mother suffered from schizophrenia. That’s one of the things that led me into the counseling program in Clinical Counseling. I’m raising up my business, Train The Brain, LLC. It’s about mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I have a wife, Dorothy, of many years, a son, Josh and a daughter, Tyra. My son is getting his PhD at Boston University. I’ll be there to see him get his Doctorship. My daughter earned an Emmy from the 2017 Olympics. They’re doing well. I guess that’s all about me.
One thing I want to share with you is when my late husband passed away, the first thing that Reggie sent me is this book that I share with everyone, I Wasn’t Ready To Say Goodbye. This literally was my lifeline because there was too much going on. There was too much I didn’t understand. Reggie called me that first weekend. He said, “How are you doing? I know that was a dumb question. I know how you’re doing. It’s horrible.”
Even for all he knows, we just automatically asked those questions. He said, “I got a book for you. I’m going to send it to you.” He wanted my address because we kept in touch phone number-wise, but we didn’t have addresses. I said, “When this gets started, I wanted Reggie to be one of our guests,” because as we’re sharing our stories, one of the huge parts of widowhood is to have resources. You may not all be able to be on Reggie’s time and on his schedule and personally, he may not be the person that you are organically connected with.
This conversation is to find a very valuable, knowledgeable source that can help you navigate through a very difficult time. Reggie’s going to represent a lot of people that are in this work out here to help us because it is a very difficult time. I’m going to pick his mind. We’re going to have some fun and have this discussion. I’m appreciative of him taking time out of his schedule to be here with us. Reggie, what gives you hope these days?
What gives me hope these days is to continue not to drink the Kool-Aid of my youth. There were a lot of things told to me being outside Detroit, Toledo, Ohio, in the projects that were harsh, abusive, the whole nine yards either from a mother, bullies or whatever. That has stuck with me somewhat through high school. As I got older and started learning more, I was like, “You’re not that person of the youth. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”
The counseling has helped me to learn my child-adaptive ways of dealing with abuse or dealing with trauma and everything. I can embrace that and my child-adaptive ways and convert that into something that’s productive. That’s what I’m trying to learn to do. I’m even learning each day how to be kinder to my wife, cook her breakfast, take care of her and everything because she did have cancer. There are some remnants and neuropathy left from the cancer. I try every day to be better. That’s what gives me help, the ever-learning. I guess that would be the key.
That’s some solid information right there because what you were saying is no matter what’s happened in our past, there’s an opportunity to reformat that and take whatever I’ve experienced. I can learn from that. I can’t get rid of it because what’s happened happened. I can use it to learn from my good and be able to leverage that as I continue living.
Take responsibility. That’s what you want to do. There was a show called Unprisoned on Hulu. What’s significant about it is that there’s a woman whose father was in prison for twenty years. He finally gets out and everything. It cuts to the daughter having her child friend or child self with her. Her child self is always holding her hand and like that.
The child represents the methods of how she adapted to her father leaving and going to prison. The little girl is very abrasive and says dirty words because that was her feelings when she was that age. It’s how she learns to embrace her youth, past and how to project positivity toward her future. It’s pretty good. That’s what we’re doing. I heard a preacher say, “We got to get our heads out of our past and stop shooting all over ourselves.”
If I’m in a ministry, we got to stop shooting all, “What could I have done? What should I have done?” It’s all part of CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which is thinking all or nothing. You are always catastrophizing everything. Everything is catastrophic. Those are just bad ways and we got to convert those ways into something positive.
That is some very practical information. Have you had people come to you or in conversation say, “I feel like I’m stuck in grief?”
I did. I did a grief class in Virginia for a couple of years. I had one young lady whose husband was shot down in the front yard by a young boy down the street. It was a terrible incident. Nice neighborhood an everything. Who would have thought? Her husband was an ATF agent, but to be shot down by a little boy in the neighborhood for some money. She lost it because she told him to take the dog out for a walk and he agreed to it. She felt two things. She felt that she was responsible and felt the sudden loss of a loved one, which was horrific. She dealt with it with liquor.
She drank and said, “I just got a bottle of vodka.” The first thing I said was, “You’re being honest. I’m working with you,” because we can’t be judgy. We don’t want to be judgy to somebody because what would you do if you were in that same scenario or situation? The worst thing would be to be judgy because what happened is after the funeral and everybody’s going away, it’s just you and the grief. It leads some people to very dark places. It’s up to us as counselors, people, brothers in Christ or what have you, friends or neighbors to help and not be judgy of them.
One of the things that I’ve done with her is begin to work with her on not the past but on the present. I began to work with her now and deal with her symptoms now, which is grief, the five stages of grief. She’s going through all the stages of grief. The thing about the five stages of grief is it can be anywhere. You can have acceptance one time and you could be back at anger, and then you could be back at bargaining.The thing about the five stages of grief is that it can be anywhere. Click To Tweet
You could be all over the place because there’s no set structure to the stage of grief. After a while, you begin to be more at acceptance, hopefully. I began to work with her in the present and said, “I got your back. What can I do to help and everything?” After a while, I’m talking with her and everything because, in most people. What happens with grief is that if you can imagine a stoplight. Grief is like this.
You’re at the stoplight. It represents the funeral. Everybody’s there, your friends, neighbors, everybody comes, surrounds you and everything, but after a while, the light turns green. Everybody goes their way, and you’re still standing at the light. You’re stuck. Everybody is gone. You felt like you were all alone. I had one young lady say, “Blank God.” I’m going to let you fill that in.
She was an avid member of the church, but that’s how she felt because her mother was suddenly taken away from her. She felt ripped apart and everything. You have to work with people where they are. I normally tell people, “If a person just lost somebody from a horrific loss, I don’t send them to grief counseling. They’re not ready for that. They have to build up to sit in a class with other people. Otherwise, you’ll just get anger.”
Is that a grief support group or just an individual?
That would be a group. I wouldn’t recommend it right away.
Let me back up. If someone just had this loss, that individual one-on-one counseling is where they should be spending their time, not trying to be in a group scenario. I can see that.
It’s because they’re all over the place and being in a group doesn’t help. I had a couple who would go on, “Why did he take them? Why did he take my husband? I loved him.” They would go off, throw papers and everything. I didn’t say anything because I knew where they were. I would tell them, “Let’s just do one-on-one and everything because you’re not ready to be in a group yet. You got to settle down. You need some more counseling. More therapy.”
I can relate to that. When Mark passed, I immediately started working with a counselor one-on-one. It was about three months and I was seeing her daily or weekly. It was a good cadence. By the time I did get to be with the group, it was good to be in a scenario where there were people in different stages. When I say stages, their spouses passed in different timelines. When I entered that conversation, I was a person who most newly lost their spouse.
It was interesting to see them talk about different places they’ve been mentally in this process. It gave me some hope as far as where I could go in this process and continually deal with the grief myself. I know a lot of people say, “I just want to move on or move forward.” I don’t know if that’s possible. You just learn how to repackage or live with it. I feel like grief, to some extent, is always going to be with you. I don’t know. What do you think?
Grief is like fingerprints. Everybody’s different. Everybody has their way of grieving, getting through it, and moving on. It’s like losing their arm, but a lot of times, amputees say that they still feel the arm. They still have to get used to it because the arm is gone, but they still feel it. That’s the way with grief. There’s a process that each individual has to go through in order to grow. When it happened to you, I had read that book. I felt that you were like the lady that found her husband in the bedroom dead in that book. I said, “Tina’s got to read this book.”
I felt I had to get it to you because that’s what you needed right there. You didn’t need me. You needed something that can relate. She went out every day and stood on the lawn, “God, why?” I felt that you were like her on the lawn. As we go through grief and we find that connection with someone or something, whether it’s God or another person, it’s just hard to grow to move on.
In my curriculum, I have people in the church that went through grief. One of the deacons in there said that his wife would ask him every year, “I want to redo the living room. I want a vaulted ceiling. I want this and that.” He said, “I’ll do it.” For five years, he didn’t do it. That sixth year, she passed away. What does he do every year to cope? He redoes his living room. That’s how he copes with it. It makes him feel better. Is he wrong? That’s how he copes with it. He feels closer to her. He feels connected and everything. That’s why with mental health, it’s as well as the spiritual thing. We’re relational. We have to have that connectedness with someone and everything. That’s how we get better.
There are a couple of things I want to circle back to with that. How much of a role do you think guilt plays in someone’s grief?
That’s a big one because, depending on what happened, guilt seemed to crawl in and find its way in somehow or another. We want to find out the why, what happened and everything. It must have been me. We try to find out the reasons why. It’s like the young lady that sent her husband out to walk the dog and he got shot. She blamed herself, “It must have been me.” I kept telling her, “You didn’t have anything to do with that. You didn’t have the gun. You didn’t pull the trigger. You weren’t even out there.” Sometimes, it’s just walking them through the process of what happened or going back and talking about the process of the death. It’s to help them to understand and allowing them to filter and talk the way they need to talk.
I tell people, “I’m a preacher, but if you want to use bad language, I don’t care. I need to know exactly how you feel. I want you to just be honest with me.” Sometimes I go like this, “Woo.” It’s a lot, but people need to say what they need to say. A professor at one of the seminaries told me that a pastor and his wife came for counseling for their marriage. He welcomed him in and everything. He and his wife were part of the counseling ministry. They asked him for one thing. They said, “Can we cuss during the session?” He was blown away because they’re pastor and wife.
He thought about it. He said, “God sees them at home. He sees them everywhere, whether they do it here or not. He thought about it and he said, “Sure.” He let them do it. They came in and it was a lot, but they got to say what it is that was in their heart. They got those releases. They got relational and connectedness. They just did it for one session. After that, they were good.
You started off by letting us know you went to seminary and you have been a pastor. I hear a lot of churchy taboos that you’re not afraid to deal with. You’re not removing people from a space because they say, “I’m grieving. I’m drinking alcohol.” Not that that’s the long-term resolution because there are repercussions from that being the long stay, but that’s where they’re at initially. I hear you are not running away from someone using profanity or different things they’re doing. Do you feel like a lot of times when people have faith and they’re doing things uncharacteristic of what they think their faith has brought them to, that adds to their guilt in grieving?
It does add to it because they don’t know that the grief or the trauma is just there. Their mind is everywhere. They’re trying to figure it out. The guilt, anger, shame and pain are all happening at the same time. As counselors, Christians and everything, we have to be not judgy towards that. We have to be loving toward that. Jesus said, “With love and kindness have I drawn thee,” when somebody’s going through and having a lot of problems and issues and everything.
A lot of times, with grief, I sit next to the person and don’t say anything and just let them talk because they’re trying to find me. It’s like the compass is like this and they’re trying to find true North. The only way to do that is to talk your way through it to endure the pain. It’s amazing because in America, we say, “Get over it.” Other countries have wailing walls where you can stay for six months. I don’t understand, but America is so microwave and instant, “She’s gone,” or, “He’s gone. He’s dead.”
I feel as if in America, we are challenged to give people space to be open about how they feel that you have to present that, “I’m okay.” You have to present that, “I know the funeral’s over. I’m going back to work. Life is such and such.” Everyone deals with it on their own terms, but people that don’t feel comfortable to have that safe space are stuffing their grief inside and putting on that posture that it does not serve them well.
I had a bishop whose mother died and I know how close he is to his mother. I sensed that. After she died, at the funeral and everything, I went and talked to him. I said, “You’re hurting with your mother.” He said, “Yes, I am. I’m hurting.” I said, “I know you are. I’m here with you.” I would check on him every week to see how he was doing because he started stuffing, like as you said. Throw it away. I have a PTS group with men. Men will sit on a pew and rot before they talk or tell what’s going on with them. Before they reveal those secrets and all that, they would just rot. That’s what I do. I try to go into the pews, bring them out, talk them to the side and do those kinds of things.
You’re meeting them at their point of need. You identify that hurt and pain and what it looks like. One of the things that was boggling to me initially, I had no concept of what I was up against. I had a miscarriage before my daughter, but before the miscarriage, I had a friend and she had told me about her miscarriages and how that was. I felt like that was me looking behind the curtain of what it could look like. When I got pregnant, the idea that I could have had a miscarriage wasn’t totally foreign.
It was like, “This is a possibility of what could happen.” I prepared myself that it could go that way. It is amazing that we all have to pass this way. We all are going to either be the loved one who has been lost or we are going to have a loved one that we are going to lose. I hope with these types of conversations, this is someone peeking behind the veil. They may not have lost a loved one. They just may be interested and go like, “What is that going to feel like?” There’s nothing out there telling you, “We need to be prepared for our loved ones leaving.” Grief will sucker punch you.
It’s horrific. My mother was in hospice for five years. We’re good. We are visiting her and the whole nine yards. At the funeral when she died, me and my brother lost it. I was a speaker. They had to escort me and my brother off the pulpit to sit down because we lost it. That’s the way grief is. I always say my favorite thing. Queen Elizabeth II said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”Grief is the price we pay for love. Click To Tweet
One young lady pulled me to the side. This was at church, “Why am I so mad? I feel so bad. I was cooking. My son and my husband were at the dinner table. They were just talking away. I told them, ‘Stop laughing. Stop talking. My daddy’s dead.’” It just came out. It scared her son and her husband to death. They were petrified. She walked away to the kitchen. She said, “I don’t like that.” I said, “It’s the relationship.”
One girl asked me, “When my mother passed away, I was okay, but when my ride or die passed away, I lost it.” I said, “It’s the relationship. You were close to your father. You talked every day. You had that special relationship.” The other young lady, I told her, “You went shopping every day. She called you at 4:00 every day. That’s a relationship. When that is severed, that is broken, you’re lost. You had a loss and you are lost.”
I want to spend a good bit of time here because I want to unpack the severity of what this grief looks like. Many times I feel like people want to brush it underneath a rug and act like, “Just get on with life.” When you just sever something, everything is disconnected. It is impactful in a way that you cannot even comprehend. As a minister, I have been in a room with people who lost loved ones. I’m there. I feel for them. I’m compassionate, but you are removed. That is their situation. As you said, in all the knowledge you have and everything that you’ve been taught, it doesn’t prevent the pain of that severing. People want to think, “I know God. My faith is this.” That severe pain is going to be there. I don’t know a way to eliminate it from existing.
It’s immediate change. It’s like, “This is your new house. Go there now.” That would be challenging. To have a relationship that’s no more, that person is gone off the face of the Earth, he or she is in an urn, beneath the ground or in a drawer is horrific. Immediate change is tough. Even when we change to go to church or we change clothes, that’s a little something. To lose somebody is the hard part. It is an immediate change because people don’t want it. I don’t want it to change. We have these myths. If I could ever stop these little myths of, “He’s in a better place,” no, they want them here. Stop saying that stuff. That’s not a good thing to say to somebody who just had a loss.
We understand where you’re coming from, but that’s not the thing to say because they’re looking at the, “The better place is right here with me,” especially your mom or your husband. We had all these little myths that we say, “You’re going to be stronger because of this.” What’s wrong? Jesus said, “In your weakness, I’ll be there.” Why are we using these clichés? I’m going to tell you, a lot of it is because some people don’t want to help. They don’t want to feel what you feel so they try to tell you, in other words, “Just get over it so I won’t feel bad.”
I want to look at that. We become very uncomfortable when we’re in the presence of someone that’s not happy, sad or grieving. Do you think that has to do with our lack of being educated, that this is part of life?
It’s a lack of education. Education has something to do with it because we don’t know what to say or do with the person there. That has part of it. A lot of it is, “I’m sad about my life anyway. I don’t want to get more sadder by listening to you.” Not everybody but some people are like, “That’s enough for me. I’m going to walk away because I’m feeling some way.” That’s just not the way to be. The way to be is empathy.
We got to empathize with people. We have to go where they are. When I first got into counseling, my professor said, “When you’re counseling right, you’re going into the cave of that person’s issues. When you go into the cave, you must tie a rope around yourself so that you don’t get dragged down with their issues and somebody can pull you out.”We have to empathize with people. We have to go where they are. Click To Tweet
A lot of times, people don’t want to go into the cave or casket of their issues because those places are dark. I pride myself on going to dark places. In counseling, sometimes you cry along with your client. I had a young man. He was seventeen years old. He was built. He was a stud. I said, “Look at you. I used to be like that.” I noticed, in counseling, you have to look at the way patients dress, their eyes and cognitive gestures, everything.
He was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. He always shows his body and everything. Later on, he told me that he was raped for four years by his cousins as a little boy. I said, “What?” He said, “They called me fat.” He was fat, chubby and everything. After he got out there, got some counseling and everything right, he worked on his body. That’s his way of showing off of, of overcoming. I said, “I want to get a fist bump.” We worked together for two years and he’s doing well.
What I take away from that is it may be difficult and hard, but not we have to, but it serves us well to not try to run away from the grief but to lean in and to work on ourselves and what that grief has presented for us because it deals with us all differently.
There are a couple of them. I got them at the Pentagon. In grief counseling, it talks about leaning into the grief. By leaning to grief, it helps you to expose those things, guilt and all that stuff. In other words, get the pictures out. Look at the pictures of the person you lost. Go to the graveyard. Sit in the bedroom. My wife lost her mother. What we did was we got a globe and put her favorite scripture on it. Every year, we would pass it around to each part of the family. We pass it at Christmas time, so we’re all together and we talk about her. That’s our way of getting through that grief and dealing with it because my wife and her sisters miss their mom and everything.
I’ve been that way. What I try to do is to boost the conversation, talk about her the funny things that she did and stuff like that and some of her quirks and all that. We would just have a great time. That does so much for the family. It’s like with the person that we know that lost somebody. They’re not necessarily looking for a pity party. They’re just looking for an understanding somebody to sit with them. You don’t have to do much. All you have to do is just be with them. Call them. Check on them. You don’t have to carry your Bible, have a thesis, big long conversation, a choir of ministers or anything like that. Just be with them.
That goes so far. Just being present and, oftentimes, not having to say a word. Just being there with someone because everybody knows they don’t know what to say and no matter what you say, it is not going to make this change. This is where we’re at.
This is why people say what they have heard all their life, “He’s in a better place. It’s going to be all right.”
You regurgitate these statements that have no value to them at all.
It irritates me.
You are true because people feel as if, “I talked to the widow or the widower. I talked to the grieving person. I gave them that cliché statement. My work here is done. I can move on.” No, you left a hot mess because the person grieving is such in a mental fall. They don’t even know how to tell you, “That was dumb as rocks. Why did you tell me that?” No one is expecting someone who just lost their spouse, “How are you doing? You’re so strong. You’ll get through this.” I remember sitting in that front row. People came by and told me, “You are so strong. You’ll be okay.” I was like, “I can’t slap you in church.”
You wanted to get that bottle of vodka.
I didn’t like vodka. Whiskey sour was my thing. Vodka’s too hard for a sister. What started going through my mind was, “Did I tell somebody grieving those statements?” I started going through the Rolodex in my head of every funeral I’d been to and every situation to think, “Was I that shallow?” If someone has done that, you did that because you didn’t know. After you read this and if you choose to tell somebody, “They’re in a better place,” that’s on you. What you want to do is give them a gift card for Walmart or their favorite spa. Just give them a hug and say, “I’m sorry,” and keep it moving because all those other statements don’t weigh that much.
One of the things I did was I took the gentleman who was 75 or 76 years old. I bought him a TV. That was many years ago. He talks about that TV now.
There’s noise in the house. There’s something going on and voices.
His son tells me all the time, “He just talks about that TV.” I just felt doing something nice. It was a regular old nice flat-screen TV.
They’re like $300. They’re not that much. I know a woman that’s a widow. Every time I saw her, I heard some noise. I was like, “What is that?” They said they were playing music on their phones. I was like, “Why are you doing that?” They said, “It’s because I’m alone. I didn’t use to be alone all the time.” They had their spouse with them. All the time, the music is coming out of their phones. I was like, “What I thought was how great for her to identify what she needed found a self-safe way to meet her needs?” What I encourage people to do is to be honest about what your deficit is.
“This person died and I’m lonely. I don’t like eating by myself. It’s hard to sleep at night.” We all have a list of when our loved one dies and being honest about what that deficit is. How to address the deficit becomes the challenge and they need to do that. Everybody’s going to look at that differently. Some people may say that deficit is going to be a void forever because I never want to feel that again because only that person filled it, but there are some deficits that I will need to have fulfilled because I’m still living. That is a challenge so much with that severing because so many things are lost. We don’t even know how to attribute or identify what we’ve lost when that person died all the time.
The other thing is that you have delayed grief. Sometimes, you are in a dark place and you have to deal with the quiet. The quiet can be devastating because then sometimes our demons float to the top with the quiet because it’s just silence. The relationship is gone. The whole thing is severed. With the quiet, sometimes the dark side of you comes out and everything. You become promiscuous because you’re trying to deal with it. You self-medicate or are angry. You lay everybody out that you see and everything. I know a young lady who is yelling at everybody, but that’s what comes out. As Christians and counselors, we have to be understanding and be able to help flow with that darkness until they can come and start seeing the light.
That’s why we’re there. They’re there to keep them above the water and drowning. That’s what we do. Sometimes all you can do is hold them, sit there and attach yourself to them. Check on them. Tell them you got their back. Even tell them, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here.” That’s what people need. They don’t need the long conversation, thesis, crowd of ministry and all that.
If I’m looking for a therapist, a counselor, a grief support group or whichever you want to select, what are some things that I should think about in that search?
The first thing I want to say about counselors and therapists is that they’re like barbers and beauticians. You have to find one you can connect with that you like and you feel comfortable with. I know many people go to a counselor, “The person left and thought counseling wasn’t for them.” It’s like you just have to keep finding the person that you can talk to and you feel some sort of connection to.Counselors and therapists are like barbers and beauticians. You have to find one you can connect with, that you feel comfortable with. Click To Tweet
When you go to your first barber, and you don’t like them and everything, you don’t stop. You kept on calling people and trying to find a barber. It’s the same with the beautician. You didn’t like the way she did your hair and stuff like that. The shop was off and too much talk or whatever, but you didn’t stop right there because your hair got to get done. That’s what we got to think about when we have grief or we have something in us that we need to get taken care of. We need counseling. We have to keep pursuing it until we find one that connects us that we can connect with.
You mentioned earlier that, let’s say, I went to a grief support group and it was too early. I’m turned off. Should I retry it, should I wait a little bit or grief support maybe is just not for me. What if someone told you that?
Wait a little bit. 60 to 90 days is pretty good if you’re not ready and you know when you’re not ready for a grief support group. That’s when you’re irritated and you feel like the class should know and are angry like you are now. You are not ready for the group. You need to do the individual thing until you get better. When you’re able to sit and listen, even if just a few minutes or 30 minutes and everything like that, that’s when you know that you’re ready for the group.
We had a few people that we had to say, “Let me recommend you a counselor because you’re not ready for this right here.” We have seen them come back and they were fine. It’s just that they just needed a little time. Everybody is a little different, but I’m saying, in general, 60 to 90 days and hopefully, you should be fine. If you’re still upset, keep going on with the one-on-one until you’re ready for the group.
You said something earlier about people trying to find what works for them. Everybody is just not going to find the same thing that’s going to work to help them get through their grief. The overall concept may be the same, but the exact path that we all walk through our grief may differ. Do you think people think like there are five steps? “I went through this today.” I’m speeding through the grief journey. In a year, I’m going to be done grieving, move on and my life’s going to be fine.
I wish it could be like that, but it’s just not. There is delayed grief. We had 65-year-old who lost her daughter when she was 20 years old. Fast forward to 65, her second daughter was killed in an accident. At the funeral, she was calling her current daughter who died her first daughter’s name. She had a delayed reaction to that first grief and probably she never processed the grief. When the second daughter died, it all impacted together. Everybody kept saying, “Who is she talking about? What’s this name?” They finally figure it out. Her sister or brother figured out, “That’s her first daughter who died.” We have those different types that we deal with. We get stuck. We have delayed grief and all those things.
That’s why it’s good to get with a counselor or support group that can help you flush those things out. She told me, “I had to go with my counselor.” She got a counselor. She sat down and worked that thing out. She was 65. She was very straight up. She was able to grow. That’s what it is. We wanted to grow because it doesn’t all go away. What happens is that we are able to overcome. When we overcome, that doesn’t mean that it’s gone. What it means is that we’ve got it managed now. We can manage it. When we manage something, that means that it could get to us and everything. We have our ways to cope and overcome. Whether it’s giving you breathing techniques, yoga or music therapy, there are all interventions to help you with the grief.
Sometimes people get panic attacks. Breathing techniques help you. Breathe in, breathe out and hold that breath. It helps with breathing. It helps you to calm down. Sometimes I turn on my favorite music from the ‘70s. It makes me feel better. Sometimes sitting and meditating makes you feel better. Get isolated for a minute and start to think. There are different techniques that a counselor can help you with so you can be better and get better. You just have to know it’s a process, but they’re trained enough to help you to get you through the process. If it doesn’t help, find another counselor or therapist. Remember the beauty shop and barbershop.
There are more. I love the analogy of mental wellness person having that rope around them, “They’re in the cave with me, but they’re slowly pulling me out.” With grief, we have no expectation of the level that it’s going to take us out. No one’s talking about it, so then we feel like we have to act like, “I’m not having those situations. That’s not what’s going on with me. I’m perfectly fine.”
Everybody is going to lose someone. When you go home, those things in the dark by yourself, you’re quietly suffering and dealing with things. If I’ve been doing that and I’ve been silently suffering, I’ve been putting on the look that I’m fine every day, then I go home miserable and I have convinced myself this is what grief looks like, what would you tell me?
I have talked to somebody in that situation. I said, “I love you, but you lost the love of your life. I know you are feeling some way. You can pull this act with anybody else, but I know that you’re going through something. I’ve been through grief. It’s a lie and everything. You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to, but I’m here to help. I’ve got people you can talk to. You can talk to me. You can come over to my house.” I even told people, “I’ve got chicken and Kool-Aid,” just to be funny.
It would break them down a little bit. They would say something. They would be, “It’s rough.” I say, “I know it is,” and to empathize with them, “I know it’s rough.” Let them know, “I’m not where you at, but I’m here for you.” That’s what helped. Keep empathizing with the person. Don’t criticize. Don’t judge and everything because we get critical, “You should be past this by now.”
The other thing is if a person is grieving for five years, it’s okay. It’s all right. There’s no time limit on grieving. People want to put a time limit, “It’s been a year. It’s been six months.” No. That’s what I tell them in that situation where they’re not so open I say, “Don’t let anybody tell you how long to grieve because it’s rough. You lost somebody that you love, somebody that was close to you and now that person is gone and everything.”
When you are not helping people, what is Reggie doing for himself? What do you enjoy doing?
I’m talking to Dr. Madison. I am getting therapy myself. That’s my supervisor. I’m talking to her. Sometimes she says, “I need you to counsel me.” There’s a thing that we worry about in counseling, which is transference and countertransference. As a counselor, we identify things in our clients that are in us and vice versa. We have to be careful of those things. We have to talk to somebody that we are close to, a counselor or I talk to my wife.
One night I was feeling bad after counseling in person. I went over to my son’s house and knocked on the door. He opened the door. I grabbed him. I hugged him. He said, “Are you okay?” I said, “No, I’m feeling better now.” I just hugged him and talked for a few minutes, “Bye.” He said, “Are you okay?” I said, “I’m okay. I just needed to do this.” My ways of coping are by talking to my wife, hugging my son with my grandkids, or either with Dr. Madison. I’ve tugged her ear a couple of times a month and everything just so I can stay balanced. Life is not perfect, but the people you talk to can help you stay level if you have somebody you can relate to.
You were doing the same thing you’re telling the people you’re supporting to do. At least it’s what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. It’s not one-way thing. You’re not over here like, “I have the answers for everything,” and walk away. You’re making sure that you’re taking care of your own mental wellness.
I have worked for the court services and offender supervisor agency in Washington, DC. I was helping young ladies to get back into the community after serving time. It was like a rehab thing. A young lady told me that she was with her daughter and she did some time. Her daughter says something pretty sharp to her. Before she knew it, she broke her jaw. She’s sitting in the kitchen, seeing her daughter on the floor with a broken jaw. Somebody called the police and she ran on the streets. She’s running from the police because of what she has done to her daughter. She’s telling me all of this. I had to calm her down and make her realize that the event was over. You can never change what happened.
I had to restructure things for her to realize, “We’re here now. This is the present. What do we do now? How do we cope with that?” She looked at me for a long time and she said, “I’m just glad you’re here. Somebody listening to me,” and not judging her. A lot of times, we need to slow down and listen to people and present them in a new light.
I told her to write down fifteen things her and her daughter did. I call it the highlights. “Give me fifteen things.” They are so excited. They wrote down the fifteen things. I said, “I’m about to get you all to stop talking. You all talk too much.” They didn’t realize the bright lights they had in life. All that darkness and what they did, the crimes that they did, they still had bright lights. It lets them know that, “This wasn’t all bad. My life wasn’t all bad. There was some good at it. Maybe I just need to keep leaning toward the good.”
That is good because you linked into something I wanted to talk about that there are other ways that you support people, not just in grief. When we say grief, we have been lined up with grief as a far part of losing a loved one. Do you help people in other types of grief, other things that people lost or lost expectation? How does that work in comparison?
You’re saying it pertains to grief.
I want to take grief. We’ve been limited to the discussion of grief with the loss of a loved one. I want you to take the word grief and expand past that. What other ways do you work with people dealing with grief that is just not in that capacity?
I’m trying not to get real complicated or anything. I work with a gentleman who enjoys murder. He has killed people and enjoys it. He doesn’t understand the loss that affects others. I work with him for maybe a couple of months and everything like that. It wasn’t enough time and everything. I work with guys like that.
That’s people in correction facilities and things of that nature. I want to make sure they know that this person is not out roaming. I want to be clear that this is not some confidentiality, that you’re not talking about this. This person is incarcerated.
The person is nineteen years of age. He specifically told me, “I enjoy shooting people,” and the whole nine yards. His childhood and the losses that he had in childhood have led him to these endeavors. I had to work with him and explain how all that relates to how he is now. I also had to deal with a young lady who was raped by her father growing up until she left around 16 or 17 and she had to deal with that. She lost herself. Sometimes we lose ourselves in abuse and we tend to relive the trauma. I have to work with people who lost perspective of themselves in shame and guilt.Sometimes, we lose ourselves in our abuse and we just tend to relive the trauma and everything. Click To Tweet
You find grief in all ways. In marriage, I had a young lady and I was teaching a marriage thing. I was at a Baptist church in Maryland. I was talking to divorcees. They’re being divorced. A young lady stood up in front of 300 people. It was packed. She had a tableau. “Why did he do this to me? My life wasn’t supposed to be this way.” I didn’t say anything. I just listened to her. I let her say what she had to say. It was amazing. Some ladies got up and went toward her. I said, “You all spend some time with her. She’s all right. Everybody’s okay. This is the place to do that.”
There’s that loss of a marriage and then the loss of a child too, and then we have to deal with that. There are a couple of people I’ve dealt with who had the loss of a child and that is horrific. Unfortunately, one person lost six babies. We talked to her and kept working with her. After a while, I tease her, “When you get back up, you’re going to get back out there.” She would say, “Oh my God.” She did. Now she has two kids. She’s doing well. There are all the different gamuts of loss like loss of a child, loss of yourself, “Where am I?” or a spouse. People don’t talk about that. People don’t know what to say. I always say the privilege of working with people like that. It hasn’t always been successful, but I tried and gave them something to look at.
A couple of things come to my mind, not specific to that. Between people in the church and unfortunately, sometimes, I can only speak to my own community. People with a lot of melon don’t want to do mental health work. I just throw that topic and you just go where you want with that.
In 1990, I was an associate minister at a church in Germany. I was with the chaplain in his office. He had a book that said Insanity In The Church. He was old school, an old geezer, but he was very educated. I said, “What is this, chaplain?” He said, “Don’t you touch it. You aren’t ready for anything like that.” He was right because when I went to seminary and as I got older in the ministry, I found out that people in the church community, the Black community, this is all taboo. Mental health is like witchcraft or it’s like, “Don’t touch it. Don’t even talk about it. Don’t even speak it into existence.”
I would go into churches and talk to pastors. I would said, “Pastor, do you believe that therapy can help?” I get some negative and good reactions. I get one, “Whatever you can do to help, just do it.” You get all kinds. What has happened is that the community has gotten better towards mental health. Look at what’s happening now.
Look at Ja Morant, a basketball player. He got caught in the club with his gun. He realized that he had some mental health issues. Michael Phelps, the swimmer, had some depression issues. Adele, postpartum. They had all kinds issues. You then get with suicide, and I often tell people, With suicide, it’s often the happiest people that you know because they seem content. How did you feel when you think you made a great decision?”
I realize that that’s how the church has seemed to be coming along. They’re not there yet, but they’re starting to get there. The community is pushing the church to deal with these issues. I thank God for the young pastors coming along and knowing they have to deal with this issue. I deal with a lot of pastors who have therapists. I love it because I think every pastor should have a therapist. Anytime you are pastoring people, you need to be talking to somebody like the counsellor that was I was alluding to before.
We counselors need to be talking to somebody and make sure that we’re on point. It’s a problem, especially for Black men in the church. We still want to supper in silence. We will die before somebody knows our secret and shortcomings. We die because of those old myths that haunt us. The myth, “Men never cry.” Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t do us any good with his machoism, “Men always want to have sex,” and all these other myths.
We have all these myths in our minds. When we have a panic attack, we’re like, “This isn’t supposed to happen to me.” You’re sitting in a crowd, shaking, can’t breathe and all that. We’re afraid we don’t want to tell anybody, but we need to talk to somebody. That’s what the counselors, therapists, neighbors and friends like that. You need to talk to somebody and let them know you have an issue.
What makes you want to keep doing this?
I love talking to people and trying to make them smile. I love the fact that they feel that they got somebody they can talk to. I love what I do even if I never got paid. I’m still a resident, so I don’t hardly get paid, but I love doing it. I was talking to a young lady. I was trying to get something done with my mortgage and set up a different way to pay my mortgage. She ended up talking to me about her anxiety. I talked to her for an hour about anxiety, then we got the mortgage straight and she was just happy to talk to me.
If, in this conversation, I feel like, “I want to talk to Reggie,” is that possible? How do I do that?
You can go through me in Psychology Today. Request for me. I’m in there if you want to talk to me. Predominantly, I’m in North Carolina, so I can do mentorship. I can mentor in North Carolina because my residency is in Virginia. If you’re in Virginia, I can definitely talk to you. If I’m booked up, I definitely have people to recommend. Reach me to me in Psychology Today.
We have talked about quite the gamut. Any closing comments or things you want to talk about that we didn’t? We have as much time as you will give us if there’s anything else you want to cover.
I do want to say that suicide is up in a Black community. It is huge and getting crazy. It’s higher in the LGBTQ community. It is especially high in the military community. It’s going up. My thing is, what do you do when you think somebody’s suicidal, things that you can say and stuff like that? The person that’s suicidal has suicidal ideations or thinking about suicide. It’s the same with grief. They’re not taboo. You don’t need to be scared of them or anything like that. You just want to talk and say, “How are you doing? What’s going on?” Be there for them and everything. For a person that’s suicidal, one of the things you tell is they have a plan.
If they tell you they got a bunch of pills, “I have a gun,” or things like that, then you need to let somebody know that this person’s suicidal. You need to call the authorities. Let them know they’re suicidal. There are signs of suicide. They start doing the last things like funeral arrangements, taking care of things, making sure it’s as good and stuff like that. You want to check on them and say, “You’re doing a whole lot of things like that. What’s going on?” Watch them and be there for them.
People get upset because they say, “I don’t understand. Why did this happen? How come I didn’t know?” Suicide is a decision. A person decides that and that’s what to do. We had one young lady that went to the range, took her 9mm and cocked it. You could see it all on camera. She pulls the trigger and the weapon jammed. She took and reloaded it, did it again, pulled the trigger and she blew her head off. I don’t mean to be so graphic.
The night before, she was at church praising the Lord. Everything was happy because she made a great decision. If you try to find out why, those are some of the things you never know. Try to be there for the person. I was at the Pentagon. I had a gentleman that every time he came to the office, he went off with a nasty attitude, negative statements and all that. It was going on for a year. I told my boss, “What is it? What’s the matter with him?” because I was new.
He said, “You don’t know?” I said, “What?” He said, “His daughter committed suicide. She was fifteen years old.” I was blown away. That man came to the office. I closed in on him. I said, “I don’t mean to be in your business or personal like that, but they said your daughter committed suicide.” He said, “Yes, I didn’t like it. I don’t understand it.” I just listened to him. He got to be my friend. He would stop by the office and we’d talk.
His negativity started going down and everything like that. He’s still sarcastic, but I know where that originates. I wasn’t judgy. I sat and talked with him. I’m was trying to explain some things. He talked about God. He didn’t care for God. I told him, “God cared for you. That’s why you’re blessed.” Somebody that’s suicidal or has suicide ideations, don’t think of it as taboo or anything like that. Continue to talk to them. By all means, call for help if you think they’re suicidal. Let somebody know. Just don’t keep it to yourself.
Here is an international link for suicide prevention for wherever you may be because this show will be in eight different countries. By the time you get this, it may be beyond that. That is a link for suicide prevention or a hotline to be able to reach out to that because that can be helpful. The conversation is very organic and gritty, but the conversation itself is that. What are some of your success stories of people that you’ve worked with, where they’re at and to keep you wanting to come back and do this?
The young gentleman that I spoke of was a success story, the one that got raped by his cousins for four years. He’s doing well. He was able to pass and graduate high school and then go to college. That makes me proud. The couples that I’ve talked to, a lot of the couples are still doing well. They’re happy. I’m a counselor, so I’m just playing with it. We had a couple that she enjoyed having sex out the window. The first question I ask is, “How far are you up? Are you on the third floor? I want to know about safety.” She had this little giggle.
Do you mean she was hanging out of the window as they were having intimacy? She took this to a whole other level.
There are 60 couples there. I’m dying laughing. My wife slaps me and, “Get yourself together.” I’m laughing. I’m asking, “How far were you up?” The gentleman seemed to be very happy and pleased. That was fun. We had a couple who’ve been married for twenty years and she never had an orgasm. It was an intimacy issue. We had to get them to intimacy, show them what intimacy looks like to them. He didn’t know. He was just going in and out. Three weeks later, she came to the meeting and I was sitting around. She said, “Yes.” I was like, “What happened?” “I had one.” We’re like, “What?” She said, “I had an orgasm.” He’s sitting right there. I said, “Okay. Do you want to talk about it?” She said, “Yes.”
He said, “We’re good.” I said, “Okay, All right. No pun intended. We can go in deeper later.” Those are some of the success stories. I had a young guy and he was seventeen, but he’s been on acid, LSD, crack. He’s done everything and homosexuality. He comes to my office. He is bipolar. I spend a few weeks with him. He has done so well after that. Now he brings his friends to church. He has a little ministry at the church that he started. That was good. Those are my success stories.
There is no cave that Reggie is not willing to go in with that rope and help somebody get out. That’s what I understand. That is amazing. Any last comments?
I appreciate you. I like the work that you’re doing with the show. I’m going to make sure that I contribute to this because I want to see you successful. I’ll continue to read your blogs.
Widowhood Real Talk With Tina is a registered 501(c)3. We are doing this from donations. We are working on grants and 100% of all of the funds that are donated go back into either producing the content, producing the show, the books that we give away and people volunteer. There is no payroll for this. This is trying to take what was my pain, make it purpose and be able to lean into so many hurting people to have hope, healing and encouragement to know that you are not alone on this journey. Thank you for mentioning that.
With you being an African-American woman, they need you in the Black community because we still stuff things under the carpet. We’re going to church in pain and suffering. It’s needed.
That’s also what makes my situation so unique because Mark was European, White, Caucasian. My ability to go across those racial boundaries is because of love. I’m Black enough to realize what’s going on in the Black community and have been with a European man for 32 years to not be unaware of what goes on around me in the place to speak to. These are different things that different people struggle with. We are here with you on this journey.
There are not enough people to do grief counseling. We need as many as we can get to understand and to talk to people. That’s why I support this, definitely.
Thank you so much.
That was real talk, for sure. I have no apologies for it. It was a conversation that needed to be had. I want to delve into the idea that I know I mentioned about some of the taboos or the way people in the African-American community think about therapy. I also want to add any people that consider themselves proud, people that don’t like to ask for help, consider that all under the same umbrella when it comes to the idea of mental wellness that they may steer away from some of that.
I hope that this conversation has been inspiring for you to encourage you to seek out help as you walk through your grief journey. If you’re standing side by side with someone that is dealing with grief that you can encourage them, that you are empowered to realize how being silent and just being present is helpful.Realize that just being present is helpful to someone going through grief. Click To Tweet
To be able to reach out if you feel like someone is suicidal, to reach a hotline and to be present and be aware that you value and that you are important. If you are the person going through grief, I am so sorry for the loved one that is no longer here that has driven you to this conversation. I am glad that you have found and are now part of our widowhood. We are on this journey with you. Thank you for being here. Talk to you soon.