Grief/Grieving/Bereavement, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

How to Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do | HuffPost — Loss, Grief, Bereavement and Life Transitions Resource Library

A wonderful resource and a well written article about grief and grieving…

Source: How to Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do | HuffPost

via How to Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do | HuffPost — Loss, Grief, Bereavement and Life Transitions Resource Library

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Humanity, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Emotional Intelligence and Preventive Mental Health Care

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

I read the following article ( and the first thing that came to my mind is that the events of Friday and all the other events that have occurred in the world where someone who was angry and full of hate either attacked and injured or murdered innocent people is not about gun control!

Instead, I focus on the next paragraph for the article that discusses Mental Health Care. This is the focus. Society helping society. More services for those that are suffering from either serious Mental Health issues or the episodic depression, anxiety, anger, self-loathing, low self-esteem and negative internal dialogue that is happening for so many.

We need to take a look at why so many people feel this way. I am sure our consumeristic, materialistic, gotta have the latest electronics, more money, more status seeking society is to blame. Or perhaps the unacceptance of those that have physical or developmental challenges to face every day? Intolerance of different cultures, religions and ethnicities?

We as humans need to return to a more basic lifestyle that focuses on family, friends, community- a ‘village’ type of atmosphere where neighbors actually say hi to one another, help one another and watch each others kids. The book, “It Takes a Village” by Hillary Clinton describes this kind of lifestyle.

Acceptance, compassion, empathy, tolerance and respect need to be a focus and taught to youth on a regular basis. By doing so and having these qualities become the norm, things will change…..

EQ or Emotional Intelligence should be taught in every school as part of the core curriculum with older students acting as mediators for the younger students to assist with leadership skills, the ability to identify feelings, to raise self-worth. Imagine the school environment! Teachers and educational staff along with parents also learn these skills and it becomes part of the school environment and hopefully is carried over into the home environment.

To me, youth should be the focus. If we have positive impact on their learning now, change will follow them as they grow up and go through high school, university and into their adult lives after. and are worth taking a look at on this topic.

Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

What is Best for the Client/Patient?

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

So, the holidays are only a few weeks away…. now is a time to think what does a client need? How can we best assist them? Personally, as the holidays are only a few weeks way, I find older clients need more, are sicker or are dying. Is it the time of year? Is it coincidence?

My role as a professional is to assist them in the best way or manner that I can. Besides the fact that I am a MSW, it is just who I am. If I can make a client’s life easier, less stressful, bring a smile to their face; why not?

Many of my clients are 80 plus and overall are in good shape both physically and mentally. We all have our ‘good’ days and ‘not so good’ days. At any time any of us can receive news that health wise things are deteriorating. What do you do? Give up or stand firm?

How do you best assist your client?

What is the tug of war between your personal values and your employer values?

These are all questions to ask yourself and to seek answers…..

First posted at:


Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Who is Your Imaginary Audience?

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

We all have our own imaginary audience who judges us, offers us support, inspires us and criticizes us. This imaginary audience is our own internal dialogue and where would we be without it?

We are our own committee. All of us at some point ask ourselves questions or make internal statements that make us pause, that are critical, that places us under scrutiny. “Everyone thinks I am………” or “Everyone  wants me to……..”

These vague, unconscious statements or questions affects us without our realizing it.  It makes sense when you think about it. Why do people have a fear of public speaking if they have never done it?  or  “I will not be caught wearing hot pink as it looks trashy.” Says who? Pink looks great on some people and why is the color hot pink, trashy’ looking?

So, what are you going to do about your own imaginary audience? Will you continue to listen? Will you all of a sudden notice this internal dialogue? Will you change the dialogue to something that fits your true thoughts? Your true values? Your true interests?

In reality our thoughts control us and our brain believes whatever we tell it-in a sense we are our own critic.

With New Year’s approaching maybe use this time to think about what you want to change in yourself for the 2013 year. A new job? Go back to school? Move to a new city or town? Start exercising? Try a new hobby?  How about be gentler to yourself and start telling yourself and your imaginary audience that you are a good person who can do anything if only you try…….

*First published at:

End-of-Life, Grief/Grieving/Bereavement

Professional vs. Employer Values on Death/Dying and Grief/Grieving

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

I am currently reading a book titled, Comfort by Ann Hood. Yes, I read a lot and as this is an area of interest for me….. this book is about a mother who loses her daughter to a virulent version of strep at age 5. The little girl goes into the hospital due to a high fever and dies 2 days later….I cannot even begin to imagine what this mother feels and is going through, but I can guess the depths of her grief as I am a mother myself.

I have older adult/senior clients who have lost adult children to various illness/diseases like cancer. No parent expects to outlive their children. The expectation is the parent goes first and then the child. It is still a book worth reading as it shows how different individuals grieve and no two people will grieve the same or for the same length of time.

Grief and Grieving along with Death and Dying should be core courses in any helping professional program whether certificate, degree or basic course work. Perhaps it is the time of year as I have had in the past 2 weeks, 2 clients die and 2 have been diagnosed with cancer.

No matter how a professional prepares themself, especially if one chooses to work with older adults, in palliative, hospice or in a hospital/clinic setting, you are not fully prepared. The professional needs to offer a listening ear, empathy and compassion with a client that is ill and the same for the family of a client who has died while keeping their own feelings in check.

Do you attend the funeral, call or send a condolence/sympathy card? What is the policy at your place of employment? What are your wishes as the professional and do they sometimes clash with your employer?

I am curious as to how other professionals who work with a population who is at risk, ill, with chronic health conditions, in palliative or hospice-how do you prepare yourself? What words of empathy, wisdom and knowledge do you offer to the family left behind?

Please feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or let’s get a discussion going on this topic!

* First published at:

Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Poetry and How it Can be Used in Social Work

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

Poetry—- a form of creativity, but it serves another purpose as well. Poetry, like music, is an outlet for feelings and emotions. It is a way to get a point across in a very creative way.

I would like to share some poetry that has had an influence on me both personally and professionally:

“Live each day as if it is the only one you have. Find a sense of peace and strength to deal with life’s disappointments and pain while striving to discover vehicles to make more accessible, increase nd sustain joys and delights of life.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Grant that I may not so much seek to be justified, as to console; to be obeyed, as to understand, to be honored, as to love….For it is in giving of ourselves that we heal, it is in listening that we comfort, and in dying that we are born to eternal life.   – Saint Francis

I think continually of those who were truly great. Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history through corridors of light, where the hours are suns, endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition was that their lips, still touched with fire, should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song. And who hoarded from the Spring branches the desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious, is never to forget the essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth. Never to deny it pleasure in the morning simple light. Nor its grave evening demand for love. Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother. With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields. See how these names are feted by the waving grass and by the streamers of white cloud and whispers of wind in the listening sky. The names of those who in their lives fought for life, who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre. Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun And left the vivid air signed with their honour. – Stephen Spender

“We are each an island. It is your task to bring to your own island what you need to live long and well: love, beauty, diversion, friends, work that sustains, a meaningful life, etc.

It is your life, it is short. Treat your island with regard. Do not let it weed, do not give it over to anyone else. Understand the possibilities. Know the dangers. Keep away the ungenerous and unkind.” – Kay Redfield Jamison

I am share many of you have a poem that comforts you or brings meaning to your life’s work. Or perhaps you are one who writes poetry and you have one to share?

Please feel free to leave a poem that has had an influence or that you use with clients or patients.