Episode 68

March 23, 2024


#68 | Arianna Brandolini | How Do I Deal With Grief?

Hosted by

Tony Siebers Bina Colman
#68 | Arianna Brandolini | How Do I Deal With Grief?
Parent Projects - Aging In America
#68 | Arianna Brandolini | How Do I Deal With Grief?

Mar 23 2024 | 00:31:21


Show Notes

Today on the show, we have clinical psychologist, speaker, educator, and mental health advocate, Dr. Arianna Brandolini. She has degrees from Harvard University and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. Dr. Arianna resides in NYC where she has a private practice, and she is here with us for a conversation about processing grief and pain.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Speaker A: Hi, and welcome to Aging in America. This is the podcast brought to you by Parent project, and I am your host, Bina Coleman. Today on the show, we have a clinical psychologist, speaker, educator, and mental health advocate, Dr. Ariana. She has degrees from both Harvard University and Ferkhoff Graduate School of Psychology, and she lives in New York, where she has a private practice. Today she's here to have a conversation with us about grief and processing that pain. Let's jump right in with Dr. Ariana. Thank you for being here with us today. [00:00:35] Speaker B: Thank you for having me, Bina. I'm excited. [00:00:38] Speaker A: Yes, of course. We're just so honored to have you. Like I said, we are just excited to have you here and to chat with you about grief. It is obviously a very heavy subject, something everyone will go through. As sad as it is, it is our reality. And so I kind of just wanted to jump in and really get your take on what do you find to be the most important tools for us as we experience and work through the grief, no matter who we're grieving? [00:01:07] Speaker B: So I love that we're talking about this subject, Bina, just because I don't think we talk enough about grief, I think we, especially in the western world, are quite squeamish about it, when actually grief is a part of life. It's a part. It's something that we are all going to deal with, not only because we are all going to grieve a loved one eventually, but grief isn't just about somebody that we love dying. Grief is actually about loss. And life gives us many, many losses. Whether it's someone we love, whether it's a job, whether it's the loss of a relationship, whether it's the loss of an identity, whether it's the loss of a season, loss is constantly happening in our life. And so learning how to grieve and actually making grieving a part of our lifestyle helps us navigate losses well and helps us process pain well. And so life is hopefully exciting and beautiful and has many beautiful moments. But it's cyclical, right? We have highs and we have lows, and sometimes things are going great, and at the same time, things can be going not so great. And so learning how to actually move through pain and process pain well helps us live a better life, because actually, they've shown studies that if you repress grief or if you repress negative emotion. Right. We don't like to grieve. We don't like to feel icky, negative things. And so oftentimes, we will try and find ways of avoiding it. But the problem is that we can't just shut off negative emotions. Research has shown that when you shut off negative emotions, you actually dampen positive ones in general. Right. You kind of just cut off emotions. And so in order to live life fully, it's actually important to embrace grief and embrace emotions no matter what they might feel like. And so people often ask me, what does that mean? What does that look like? [00:03:25] Speaker A: That's what I was wondering. Like, how would you explain that to somebody? Like, yes, you got to be happy and live life. And I agree with you. But then how would you go into. But also with your grief? [00:03:35] Speaker B: Yeah. So I think oftentimes when something painful is happening in our life, as I mentioned, it's easier to avoid it because we don't like to feel painful things. And so actually creating space to feel emotion is essentially processing it. Like, your body is built to process emotion. You don't even have to know. It's nothing complicated. It's nothing like psycho babble. It's literally just allowing yourself to be present to it and to feel it. Right. And so being able to give yourself some space, often when we're dealing with. I know, dealing with loved ones who need care, when we're in the process of losing people we love, it's so easy to be constantly problem solving, constantly be in your mind, in your head, doing things. I got to do this, and then I got to do that, and I got to take the kids to school. There's so much that we carry, and we're able to sort of distract ourselves sometimes with all of this stuff, or it just feels like I need to get all of this stuff done or else everything will fall apart. And so it's actually really important to fight for some space to really be able to feel emotion and to be able to cry. Maybe that looks like. I know, exactly. If you look at it practically, right. Maybe it's just giving yourself 510 minutes to connect to something that's really, really painful and something that's really frustrating, something that's making you really angry and allowing yourself to just sit in it and to not avoid it. And whether it's journaling it, whether it's speaking it out loud, whether it's praying it, whether it's meditating on it, we often think, oh, my gosh, am I going to be overwhelmed by this thing? Is it going to overtake me and I'm never going to be able to shut it off. No, actually, emotions are like waves. If you let them happen, they will move through you and so that's what processing it looks like. It's actually connecting to that pain. And it looks like maybe crying. It looks like just allowing yourself to feel the pit in your stomach or the weight in your chest and just letting it sit there and after it doesn't mean you have to sit in there forever. Maybe it's for ten minutes, maybe it's just for a minute. But afterwards, you can get up, you can keep going, you can see your friends, you can go exercise, you can do problem solving. But it's about allowing this stuff to be a present in your day to day life or week to week life. And it doesn't have to be complicated. It can be really simple. [00:06:25] Speaker A: I love that. As soon as you said the waves through your body, it's all I'm visualizing now. I think that was so beautiful and such an easy way for people to really understand that grief will come. And it does hurt, but you can get through it. I love that. So thank you for explaining it that way. First, well, I guess that was first. So second, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? I know I explained where you went to college, but you just gave such a beautiful explanation. I'd love for everyone to understand why you got into this. I think you do more than just grief, but how you're such an expert on grief and your background and all that. [00:07:03] Speaker B: Yeah, sure. So I'm a clinical psychologist. I have a private practice in New York City. And so I see patients here. One of my specialties is anxiety disorders. And so what that means it's an umbrella term for different diagnoses that have anxiety as kind of the main symptomatology. Right. And so it can be things like obsessive compulsive disorder. It can be a panic disorder. It can be generalized anxiety, chronic worry. But along with that, we're not robots, right? We don't come in neat little boxes. Oftentimes we have anxiety for a reason. I see a lot of people who have depression or just general life stress who are going through life transitions. And so I see people in all stages of life. And we were talking a little bit about grief and grieving and how actually, people don't realize that grief is a huge part of your day to day life, even if you haven't lost a loved one. And so even when it comes to stress and anxiety and depression, you're actually going through loss and grief constantly in different areas of your life. And so that's something that I talk about a lot with people especially, and people also have a lot of family dynamics that they're dealing with. Yeah. So I tend to see a whole wide range of things like that. And so I specialize the type of treatment I do is called cognitive behavioral therapy, which basically means it's trying to take a look at how your patterns of belief, how your behaviors, how your relationship to your emotions all impact the way you navigate the world and impact the way you live in the world. And sometimes that stuff is really healthy and helpful. And sometimes what we think and what we do and how we feel isn't necessarily healthy or helpful and isn't how we would like to be in the world. And so, as I like to say, I like to teach people how to be their own psychologist. Yeah. Because I think people, these are actually practical and helpful tools that are accessible to everybody, if you know where to look. And so the idea is to be able to, whether it's me or anybody else. Right. We're here to help people through seasons of life that might be difficult, but then help you build skills and resilience to the point where you can actually be self reliant. And it doesn't mean that you don't ever need to come back. Sometimes people need a booster, but that's what I'm really passionate about, is just equipping people with the tools and the skills and the knowledge to really be able to handle hard things and to feel like they can really do that and feel empowered to do that. [00:09:48] Speaker A: That's incredible. What a great service you provide all your clients. That's amazing. I really enjoyed hearing that. And everything that you bring together to make that person realize they can do this, they can get through and do the hard things. You did mention being present, and that's something I think, no matter if we're grieving or not grieving, I think it's something in our society that could be worked on for everybody, maybe myself included. Can you talk a little bit about being present and what it means to you and your clients and how you teach about it? [00:10:20] Speaker B: Yeah, sure. This is something that we all struggle with. Most of us are not really good at this, and a lot of it is that we really live in a very mindless time in history. We are pulled in so many different directions by different things that demand our attention. Right. Whether it's our phones, our online presence, our work, our school, our people. We have so a flood of information and stimulation that's coming at us from every direction all the time. And so one of the things I talk about a lot with my patients is something called mindfulness. And I'm sure you guys have probably talked about it on this podcast because it is so important and helpful for living a healthy life. And all that mindfulness means is being fully present and aware of a current experience without judgment. And it can be internal, an internal experience. Like, for example, feeling the breath that you breathe in your body, counting your breaths, feeling tension in your body. Or it can be external, like noticing the weather and the temperature, counting the number of red cars that pass you by. All it means, again, is sort of bringing your attention to the here and now. And I don't know who said this. [00:11:50] Speaker A: Quote, but I say it a lot. [00:11:51] Speaker B: So I should probably find out. But someone said anxiety is living in the future. Depression is living in the past. Health and wellness is actually living in the present and in the right now. And so oftentimes, especially if you're dealing with really real and heavy problems in life, right? Like caring for a loved one, caring for aging parents. This stuff takes up a lot of emotional energy, and you're going to be constantly consumed with a to do list and what you need to do. And worrying, worrying about the future, maybe grieving the past, and thinking about this is all normal and normal for going through something as difficult as this. And so the idea is, okay, how do we help people navigate a really hard situation as best as they possibly can so that they can have a quick recovery, so that they can feel like they still are in control and still feel like they have strength throughout it, even though it's really hard. [00:12:56] Speaker C: Right. [00:12:57] Speaker B: And so mindfulness and being present is part of the picture of something that is actually really helpful. And it's something that unfortunately takes effort. It takes effort. It takes intentionality, because it's very easy to be reactive and to be mindless. Right. So one of the things I always talk about is fighting for presence, fighting to be able to be fully present and mindful in your life, even if it's just for five minutes. [00:13:30] Speaker C: Right. [00:13:31] Speaker B: And actually, research shows that if you're able to practice a form of mindfulness, a form of presence, just eight minutes a day, and if you make that a habit, it actually really impacts your long term mental health. It decreases anxiety, it decreases depression, it increases joy. And so I often talk about lifestyles and how do you incorporate healthy things? [00:14:00] Speaker A: You took the question out of my mouth. I was going to ask, how would you recommend to incorporate it? Would it be meditation? Would be journaling? [00:14:09] Speaker B: What is so awesome about. I was just talking about the information age and what a one of the beautiful things about it is that there are so many resources out there. [00:14:18] Speaker A: You're very right. Yeah, exactly. [00:14:20] Speaker B: So if you have no idea where to start, that's totally fine. There are so many resources, and so it can look many different ways. There are so many apps that you can download right on your phone that do mindful meditations that are, like eight to ten minutes long, and you can just shove in some earphones and just follow along. And so there's apps like the calm app and headspace and the meditation app and insight Timer. There's many of them. So you have apps, if you even just Google on YouTube, there's, like a whole bunch of stuff. There's tons of podcasts. If you even just look online, it can also look like a spiritual practice. [00:15:01] Speaker A: Right? [00:15:02] Speaker B: It can look like praying in the mornings. It can look like if you're taking a walk with your dogs or with your loved ones or with your kids or even by yourself, right. It can look like noticing, okay, what's the temperature like outside? How many trees are there around me? What are the people around me doing? How many cars are driving by? How does my breath feel in my lungs? How do my feet feel? Is there any tension in my body? [00:15:31] Speaker C: Right. [00:15:31] Speaker B: It's actually just practicing being present to your walk, or it can be drinking your cup of coffee. And so I would just recommend starting somewhere and seeing what resonates with you. There is ones that are a little bit more passive, that are a little bit more meditation and kind of noticing thoughts passing in and out of your brain. Some people like that. Some people like something a little bit more active, like exercises or doing noticing things in your body. And so you just got to start somewhere. It doesn't matter what it looks like. And then as you practice and take a look and see, oh, I liked that. Or no, that was really boring. But one thing I will say, this stuff is hard. It is not easy because it's a skill. It's a skill that you're building. And I know that doing what I do, it's still a struggle. But the good thing about practicing it and making it part of your routine, right? So initially, when you're learning any type of skill, it's like practicing scales on a piano. If you want to learn how to play piano, you got to practice scales and you got to schedule some practice time, and it's a pain in the neck, and you got to boring stuff first and things that you don't particularly like. And so it might mean kind of, okay, before I take my shower, and after my cup of coffee, I'm going to do some mindfulness. I'm going to do an eight minute exercise. But as you actually incorporate it into your routine somewhere, what you find is that eventually it actually starts to become part of your everyday life. And so now that I've incorporated it, I actually find myself being more mindful during the day. And this is. Yeah, it also is what's really helpful. For example, when something happens that you feel pain about, that you feel grief about. I'm more aware of grief flowing through my body when it happens because I've practiced mindfulness, and so many of my patients find this, they're able to actually, in the moment, process things in real time. And that is actually a beautiful skill to live a successful life. Right. It's to be able to say, oh, I am in so much pain right now. My heart feels so heavy and I'm just so sad. I'm really sad. And you can say my heart feels sad, and you can connect to that for a few seconds, and then you can kind of keep going. [00:17:56] Speaker C: Right. [00:17:56] Speaker B: But that also helps, you know, what it is that you need. If you're not present to your body, to your brain, to your emotions, you have no idea what you need. And so eventually, we kind of fall apart or we get pains and aches in our body or we're not sleeping, all this stuff starts to happen physically, and we're like, oh, why do I feel so bad? And oftentimes it's like, well, you haven't really been present to what your body and your brain and your heart needs. And so you haven't been giving yourself what you need to be able to navigate this in a healthy way. [00:18:34] Speaker C: Right? [00:18:35] Speaker B: So it's also, if anybody's experiencing that stuff, headaches, tension, physical stuff, heart palpitations, sometimes those are actually clues. Oh, maybe there's actually stuff I need to process and I need to be a little bit more mindful in my life to know what it is that my body and my heart needs. [00:18:57] Speaker A: I love that so much. I feel like it could really relate. And correct me if I'm wrong, but with my children, they're six and eight, and you were speaking, I'm like, oh, what a beautiful thing. If I could get them at this age, really connect and see how they feel, amazing. Maybe we won't have many tempers, but really to understand what is going on. I really love that explanation. And you gave such great ways to even get started in three ways. Truthfully, like you said, jump on YouTube and find some meditations. [00:19:28] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. And there's one specifically for things like grief. And know there's things specific to sometimes what people are going through, and people find it really helpful because oftentimes it gives you language for feelings that you might not have language for. [00:19:43] Speaker A: Right. [00:19:43] Speaker B: Oftentimes, this is all also. Yeah. It's what I work with a lot. And you mentioned kids. Kids often they look to parents and caregivers to give words to what's going on. [00:19:54] Speaker A: Right. [00:19:54] Speaker B: That's why when your kids having a tantrum and they're really tired, you're like, oh, you're really tired. Right. You're really tired. And they're like, oh, I'm really tired. Right. You're teaching them kind of what's going on in their body and what they're feeling. Yeah. And listen, most of us have not gotten some good education on this when we were young, and so we got to learn when we're adults. [00:20:13] Speaker A: I feel like for this stuff, our kids or this whole next generation, they are just so lucky. They have much more education on this stuff, how they feel, all that kind of stuff. [00:20:25] Speaker B: Yeah. The good news is that it's never too late. You can absolutely do it from now. And so even doing, you can find things like that where it's sort of like mindful meditations on grief and loss. And it's really helpful to give you emotions and to give you names to your emotions. It also talks about things like being connected to your body. What does that mean? Okay, so when you're feeling grief, where does that sit in your body? Right. Oftentimes we don't take a moment to actually understand what is it that I'm feeling. And so I know for me, grief feels like a deep heaviness and a weight in my chest. Right. It feels like a weight in my heart. And for some people, they might feel like a lump in their throat. For others, it might be in their stomach. [00:21:09] Speaker C: Right. [00:21:10] Speaker B: And so it's about getting to know yourself, and there's so many resources to help you do that. [00:21:17] Speaker A: And I also have to say, I love how you bring up grief. And you brought up something I never thought of. With grief, it's even the simplest changing of the season. [00:21:24] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. [00:21:25] Speaker A: I truly would never have thought that. And as you said, I'm like, no, it makes complete sense. Like, you hear about the sadness in the winter and all this kind of stuff. [00:21:35] Speaker B: Yeah. One thing that's sure about life is that everything changes. [00:21:43] Speaker A: Absolutely. [00:21:44] Speaker B: And so some changes are wonderful and good, but often change is hard. Again, like a loss of even something that has been great, and then suddenly you don't feel that anymore. It's still a loss. And there's some things that are big that we have to grieve maybe more than others and some things are smaller. But actually just giving yourself that five minutes of allowing yourself to feel like, oh, I'm sad that this thing is over. And connecting to that again, it allows you to kind of get rid of the garbage in a way. Right. I like to give this analogy that it's like if you have a balloon full of air, you can push it underwater and you can keep it underwater for however long, but eventually your arms get tired, right? And eventually it'll bubble up and it'll come above the surface or it'll pop and explode. And so this is in terms, when we talk about processing emotion, processing grief, oftentimes we just go, go and shove all these things on top of each other and kind of stuff this stuff down because we're like, I don't have time to do this, I need to do this, I need to do that. Or we ignore it because we don't want to deal with it. We think it's going to be overwhelming, and then suddenly it'll bubble up. [00:23:01] Speaker A: Right? [00:23:01] Speaker B: Whether it's exploding on our kids or whether it's, again, physical stuff. And grief sits and it waits. It needs to be felt in order for it to go away. Otherwise it just lives in your body somewhere and it is going to come out in other ways. And so rather than kind of having this balloon that you're shoving below the surface, how do you let some air out, right. And it doesn't have to be all at once. It can be a little bit at a time. As I said, it's not about taking a week and mourning and grieving. It's actually, you know what? Maybe it's just taking a little bit of time every week, every day. And you process that pain and you process grief. You let some air out of that balloon, so then you actually don't have to expend so much emotional energy shoving it down. Right. And once you let some ear out, then you get up, you do fun things, you do your to do list, and then you process pain and grief, and then you get up and you go see your friends, and you do exercise and you do whatever else, and then you process some pain, right? So it doesn't have to be so overwhelming. [00:24:09] Speaker A: So I think that's a perfect example and kind of to get us to our next question is, I love your balloon example, because I've lost a parent and it's never going away, but it's just a little bit at a time. So I really like that. Can you talk to us about the cycles of grief? I think it's a very interesting, simple as the changing of the seasons to losing a loved one, what people can expect to go through. [00:24:34] Speaker B: Yeah. One thing that I think a lot of people find really scary about grief is that it's really messy. Grief is not linear. It doesn't make much sense. One day you can be feeling totally fine and not much, and the next day you feel devastated and can't get out of bed. The next day you feel angry. So a lot of people, they're like, oh, my gosh, am I doing this correctly? What does this mean? What does this look like? And so one thing I always talk about is kind of leaning into the messiness of grief and that whatever's happening, it's normal, it's good, it's how it should be. It's the way that your body and your brain and your heart needs to grieve. And it looks very different for different people. And so don't ever compare yourself because you're just not going to look like anybody else. As we process grief, right. Initially, if there is a significant loss, right. It might feel very present, and you might be doing a lot of this processing of pain and grief. You might be. Every single day you're driving in your car, one moment you feel fine, and then the next moment you feel, like, punched in the gut and you're hysterically crying. Right. I encourage people to not be afraid of that. It's literally, those are the cycles of grief. And have a good cry, have some makeup in the car to just smack some on again before you go to your appointment, and then you keep moving. [00:26:10] Speaker C: Right. [00:26:11] Speaker B: And so, as you mentioned, I don't think grief ever leaves us, but it transforms, right? It transforms as we learn how to carry it, as we transform it into, as we're able to appreciate different aspects of our loved ones life. As time goes on, the cycles of grief might look different and the feelings behind it might look different, but again, your body knows what it needs to do. It is built to do it. And so part of it is trusting your body and your heart to be able to do whatever it is that you need to in order to be able to grieve well. [00:26:55] Speaker A: Wow, that's beautiful. I think you really summed it up well and really could let people realize it's okay, what they're going through. That was a beautiful explanation. [00:27:05] Speaker B: Absolutely. [00:27:05] Speaker A: As I said earlier, this is just such a heavy topic. It's a needed topic. Everyone will grieve at some point, something, if not more than one. So I really appreciate all this work that you're doing to bring that out to the world so people can understand and process it better. [00:27:23] Speaker B: Yeah, it's my pleasure. It's so important, and I'm so grateful for platforms like yours that actually welcome talking about stuff that isn't easy to talk about, but it's part of the human experience. It's something that everybody actually deals with. And so it's so important to not feel like you're alone in it. And that's what maybe one final thing I'd like to say, right. Is that grief can feel very isolating. And so I just encourage you that even if you don't feel like it, try to connect and try to be in places where you're able to get support for that grief, whether it's groups, whether it's therapy. Listen, I'm obviously a big proponent of therapy. I think it's beautiful and important whether it's other loved ones, it sometimes isn't what we feel like doing, but it's good for us. And so, again, even platforms like this help people feel like they're not so alone in it. So thank you for doing that. [00:28:23] Speaker A: Yeah, the group thing, like the support group thing, I'm a big advocate of that as well. I agree. The connection, know you're not alone and that others are there to understand. And I always say you want to be with someone, you feel safe crying, screaming and laughing. [00:28:40] Speaker B: Absolutely. Absolutely. So good. [00:28:43] Speaker A: Well, thank you, Dr. Ariana. I'd love if you could tell us where we can find you. I know many people are going to be interested in you and want to learn more from you. So if you want to share how we can find you, read about you, whatever you want to give us, of. [00:28:57] Speaker B: Course you can find me on my website, Dr. Brandellini.com. So d r a brandolini.com. And I have a bunch of resources on there, even some mindfulness resources. If you don't know where to start, you can connect with me there. You can also find me on Instagram. That's a pretty easy way to kind of, I put content out all the time about different life issues. And so my Instagram is at Dr. Ariana answers. So Dr. Ariana answers. And that's probably two good places to find me. [00:29:33] Speaker A: Perfect. I think those are great places to start and they can reach out further if they need to. So I love it. [00:29:39] Speaker B: Yes. [00:29:40] Speaker A: Thank you so much again for your time, for being here and really expressing the grief cycle and more in depth about the grief as it's an aging population and we're all going to go through it. [00:29:52] Speaker B: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure for it. [00:30:00] Speaker C: Well, that's it for the team this week, and thanks for joining us. If you've enjoyed the content, remember to subscribe and to share this episode on the app that you're using right now. Your reviews and your comments, they really help us expand our reach as well as our perspective. So if you have time, also drop us a note. Let us know how we're doing for tips and tools to clarify your parent project, simplify communication with your stakeholders, and verify the professionals that you choose. You can find us on YouTube, follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Thanks again for trusting us. Until our next episode. Behold and be held. [00:30:33] Speaker D: Thank you for listening to this parent projects podcast production. To access our show notes, resources, or forums, join us on your favorite social media platform or go to parentprojects.com. This show is for informational and educational purposes only. Before making any decisions, consult a professional credentialed in your local area. This show is copyrighted by Family Media and Technology Group, Inc. And parent Projects, LLC. Written permissions must be granted before syndication or rebroadcast.

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