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

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

Compassion and the Importance of It

I came across this article on LinkedIn: Compassion at Work: What is It?

We all could have a different definition of compassion, but this is the scenario I came up with to describe its meaning;

“Compassion then, is empathy with action.” Imagine being in a meeting with a colleague and all of a sudden they tear up or make a comment that someone they were very close to just died. Compassion is acknowledging this statement and offering to have lunch together to discuss further. Over lunch, you find out it was their best friend from high school that died. You listen patiently, you suggest that this colleague maybe put their thoughts down on paper…you become a person that cares…

I am a social worker who works as a case manager with older adults. I work in a social services department with 30 other staff who perform various roles from Intake to case management to group facilitators, mental health case manager, transportation, supervisors, etc…We are a team and not just a department. Our ages range from young 20’s to late 60’s, mostly women.

Compassion, empathy, caring are in us already or we would not be in this field. “When leaders model and reinforce values that encourage employees to build closer relationships, workplace empathy will increase. Leaders who demonstrated compassion were more likely to foster employee engagement, motivation, and productivity.”

Now, this makes sense to me. We cannot just go to work and focus on work. We support one another as staff, we learn about each other’s personal lives to the extent we choose to share and we become friends as well as colleagues. To me, this fosters compassion and makes the work environment happier, peaceful, caring. Staff wants to go to work and be at work and when relationships between colleagues are good, the work performance is better. Compassion further flows into relationships with clients and their families.

To me it is win-win!

Thoughts? Examples to share regarding compassion?

Aging/Gerontology, End-of-Life, Grief/Grieving/Bereavement, Humanity, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Creating a Network List for the areas of Death, Dying & End of Life……

It is evident that discussions and training programs on the topics of death, dying, and end of life are few and far between. This needs to change as the older population is aging and soon will be bigger than the youth population. My goal as a social worker/case manager is to change this. This is my area of interest and is not an area most want to delve into. There are many of us out there trying to get the ball rolling”’……

Contact me if you are one of these individuals. I  would like to create a page on my website listing professionals who work with or are somehow involved in the areas of death, dying, end of life, Death Doula’s, and/or provide training on this topic to professionals.

Aging/Gerontology, Education, End-of-Life, Humanity, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Social Isolation Amoung Seniors….

As a case manager that works with older adults/seniors in a private community centre, my role is different than a social worker or case manager in a government system.

People choose to be involved with our agency in some way whether through the Wellness Centre, taking courses, volunteering, playing cards, socializing in the cafeteria, attending a group or being involved in the Social Services department.

I have approximately 75 older adults that I personally work with. My contact with them can be only at the centre, through home visits, phone calls, visits in the hospital or rehabilitation, meetings, case conferences, etc.

I also co-facilitate a group for seniors each week and the group’s participants are Holocaust Survivors.

Some of my clients are very private, withdrawn while others are social, active in the centre where I work, volunteer and have more energy than I do! (That is how I want to be when I get older!)

For those that choose to be private, have only a few close friends or for those that have no where to go and are isolated-their life is very different.

This article resonates with me as this should not happen!!

What happened to neighbors saying hi to one another, being friendly, checking up on one another? What happened to the communities of long ago where the younger generations looked out for the older generations!

No one should die alone. No one should lie dead for a month in their home before someone notices!

When I first moved to Canada and my then-husband and I lived in a small upper duplex. We had a senior woman living below us who was extremely private and in the 4 years we lived there, I think I physically saw her in person maybe 3 times.

I heard her, I smelled the cigarettes she smoked and I heard her TV blaring.

One day I realized it was quiet in her apartment; no TV, no radio, no smell of cigarette smoke.

I knocked on her door-no answer. I tried this for 2 days and then being a social worker, professional instinct kicked in, and I went to the janitor of the small apartment complex. The police were called in. Her door had to be broken down and guess what? She was dead. She had fallen and hit her head on the side of her dresser. She had no family that I knew of. No visitors. She had her food delivered as she was not very mobile.

To me that is wrong on so many levels, but if I had not noticed the absence of smoke, no TV-how long until someone else noticed……

Please as a personal plea from me, be aware, notice when a senior is not seen or heard from, get to know your neighbors. Rebuild that sense of community from long ago…….

Career/Job Advice, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Some Words to Work By

Having worked in the field of Social Services for many years, I can acknowledge quite openly that the way I think and interact with my clients and co-workers has changed over the years. Call it maturity, wisdom, experience, even trial and error, but I like to think it’s a sign of growth and continuous understanding. Many have guided me along.

And so, I would like to pass on some thoughts and advice to anyone interested; whether you are a client, a customer, a seasoned professional or just launching your career, I hope you’d agree that sharing such information might prove a good read and useful. Take what you will, leave the rest, add your own as you choose.

  • Listen attentively in order to determine exactly where your clients are in this moment.
  • Don’t assume the goals you’d have in someone else’s place will be theirs.
  • Be forgiving of those who fall short. Find the positives in what they did and start anew.
  • Surround yourself with positive people whenever you can; you’ll be happier.
  • Trust in your Supervisor when you’re asked to. Leave things with them.
  • Be observant, learn from everyone. Your teacher might be a client with a problem.
  • Build a personal code of ethics and follow your moral compass. It always points North.
  • Share what you can with those at any and all levels who are open to learning.
  • You’re skimming without reflecting. Pause, reflect, consider.
  • Make sure you only hit, “Reply All” when it’s appropriate.
  • If you are in a position of influence, do so with the best of others in mind.
  • Do your best whether you run a corporation or dig ditches. Take pride in your work.
  • If the job isn’t for you, get out without regret over money or benefits. Save yourself.
  • Hope is sometimes all people have; you may in their eyes be that Hope. Think on that.
  • Be consistent with your answers and your actions. That’s your reputation growing.
  • Work productively when no one is watching and a lesser you could get away with it.
  • Be a person of integrity; you’ll come to admire the person you see in the mirror.
  • Humour can lighten many a stressful situation.
  • Smiles cost nothing to give and often have the power to appear on others when given.
  • Be a Superhero and discover your super power.
  • Offer to help a co-worker when you can, learn to ask for help when you should.
  • If you’re lowest on the hierarchy, you influence the people who matter the most.
  • Dress yourself not for your current job, but for the job you eventually want.
  • Be kindest to the people who are most affected by the quality of your work.
  • Even when you are at the top of an organization, you needn’t look down at people.
  • Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.
  • Being asked for help is acknowledgement of your ability to provide it.
  • Do what’s right; always.
  • Be punctual at all times which respects the time of others.
  • Apologize when you make a mistake. It takes two words; “I’m sorry.” Done.
  • When you say, “Good morning,” mean it.
  • If you ask someone, “How are you today?” wait for the answer.
  • No matter how much you know, you’ll never know it all; keep learning anyhow.
  • Every now and then, stretch yourself and try something challenging.
  • Get out into the sun and clear your head. Breathe in some good air. Repeat.
  • Every so often, “No” is the word you are looking for.
  • There’s always a way to say, “Yes.” “Is there the will?” is the question.
  • Re-read your job description at least once a year. Surprise yourself.
  • Thank the person with a note who cleans your office. Surprise them.
  • Be considerate of others who share your work-space.
  • Others have to find their way just as you did. Let them make small mistakes.
  • People are counting on you; don’t let yourself down.
  • Be proud of the scars. You survived whatever assaulted you.
  • Get help before things completely fall apart. Know your limit.
  • Kind words build good working relationships.
  • Be someone to look up to even when you’re at the bottom.
  • Market yourself, promote your skills and abilities.
  • Your next job interview has already begun. Someone is always watching.
  • Get over yourself; others can replace you and maybe do things better.
  • On your very first day, think what they’ll say about you when you retire.
  • Know when it’s time to move on and have the courage to leap.
  • Even in bad times, see the bigger picture.
  • Every so often, get up and watch the day break over you.
  • There is usually at least one other solution than the one that you know.
  • People are entitled to hold their own opinion.
  • As you age, realize things aren’t black and white, right and wrong.
  • You can make a difference, and it always starts between the ears.

I certainly don’t mean to come across as a philosopher or a preacher. The ideas and thoughts above are just this mornings thoughts passed on for you to take in, think about, possibly act on or share.

You I’m sure have your own intelligence, wisdom, advice, and suggestions which are also valuable. And so, I would encourage you to pass that on to your clients, your peers and me. There is much to be said for learning things on your own, trial and error excetera, but advice offered is a valued gift.

By Kelly Mitchell

*Re-posted with permission. Original can be found at:

Career/Job Advice, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Want To Be A Better Listener?

The dawn of a new year is an ideal time to set yourself a goal of learning a new skill, or improving
upon a skill which you already have but have yet to master. If by chance you haven’t really set a goal for yourself, I’d like to encourage you to consider listening better as a personal goal.

Listening is a transferable skill which when you master it, will improve both your personal and professional life, enhance your reputation and will encourage others around you to share differently and more meaningfully with you. That’s a lot of good reasons, especially when you consider there is no costs associated with listening more effectively. No membership to buy and no guilt when you don’t use it either!

Would being seen as a more effective listener be beneficial to you in your workplace? If so, then there is some sense of buy-in for you I hope; something tangible that you can then point to in the future and say to yourself that you will be able to see some personal gain if you acquire or perfect the skill of listening. Buy-in is critical to any self-improvement. Without it, you are likely going to fail because there is no long-term commitment or personal benefit to a goal even if you obtain it otherwise.

Okay so how to become a better listener; that’s the next logical step. One of the simplest things you can do is remove the distractions which are all around us when we are around others. So if someone says, “Can I talk to you for a moment,” turn away from any electronic distractions such as your cell phone, I-pod, I-pad, Computer or tablet, look the person full-on and give them your undivided attention. If the phone rings, let it go to your answering machine and call the person back rather than glancing at the caller ID.

When you are turned and looking straight at the speaker, tell yourself you are making a focused effort to practice better listening and quiet all the inner thoughts you are having about other subjects. Ask the person if you could repeat what they’ve told you just to ensure you’ve heard them correctly because you value what they’ve said and want to make sure you fully understand what they’ve said the way they intended.

People – all people – want to feel that they are heard, listened to and correctly understood. What happens after you’ve heard them moves beyond effective listening. In other words, you make be moved to counter an argument, make a change to the staff schedule, hold fast to your original position in the case of a decision to be made, or maybe even initiate something that you hadn’t planned on because you listened and received new information you were previously unaware of.

Listening has the immediate impact of making the speaker feel valued and important. Consider the opposite in contrast. Suppose you say hello and ask for a moment’s time to someone with their back to you who is on their computer working away and they don’t pause but say, “Hi, sure go ahead.” You notice they remain with their back to you, and keep pounding away on the keyboard. The message you would receive as the person initiating a conversation is one where their words, “Sure go ahead” and their action of still turning away from you and continuing to use the keyboard are at odds with each other. Do you have their full attention? No. Did they give you permission to talk with them? Yes. The result, you may have to repeat whatever you’re saying, but at the very least you will feel secondary to whatever they are doing which they’ve assigned more importance to than you.

Give yourself a good half a year to work on your listening skills. Practice stopping whatever it is you are doing and turning to face people speaking with you. When you eliminate other activities and do this, remind yourself almost mechanically that you are practicing better listening. You will eventually find that the mechanics part of this skill start to become ingrained. You are in fact reprogramming your neural code and learning a new behaviour or improving significantly on one that you may do well sometimes and not so well at other times.

One of the great benefits of listening more effectively is that you will be given information of greater significance. If people brand you in their minds as a good listener, you’re going to be trusted with more relevant information. This new information you receive may help you in the end get to better results in shorter periods of time, increase your productivity and perhaps help advance you in your position or make you a more valuable person on your existing team.

Of course being a better listener and one that is fully engaged in the listening process requires commitment. If you feel yourself wandering away mentally and thinking about other things while someone is talking, you have to tell yourself that what they are talking about is important to them even if it’s not to you. Disciplining yourself to staying focused so they walk away feeling satisfied that you heard them correctly is important so at other times they talk to you openly about the things that are important to you and the work you do.

Consider investing yourself in becoming a more effective listener. Do it for you!

Kelly Mitchell, BA

*Re-posted with permission from:

Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Speaking with the Emotionally Fragile

Guest Blogger- Kelly Mitchell, BA

This week and next, I’m meeting 1:1 with 21 people who just last week I spent 5 days with, exploring career possibilities and learning about themselves. The purpose of our individual meetings is to give them feedback on their participation in the process, sum up what they got out of the experience, and what steps lie before them in both the short and long-term.

Among the things they all share in common is that each of these people are currently in receipt of social assistance; getting help with their rent and food while they rebuild their lives. Of those in attendance, what you may find interesting is that quite a few disclosed in the group or to me individually over the week that they are dealing with issues of depression and anxiety either on a frequent or regular basis. So you can imagine how proud I am of all of them for coming out, doing some self-assessments of their skills, abilities, values, and needs with respect to jobs and careers.

I met with one such person yesterday for about 90 minutes. I asked about her living arrangements in order to find out how stable this part of her life is, as stable housing is a prerequisite to finding employment. She mentioned that she lives with her younger brother, but previously lived with an older brother, her mother before that, her father before that, and with both her mom and dad prior to a messy divorce. Having revealed all this to me, I asked her how she felt moving around during that period. And it was at this point that I was glad I had thought to put a box of tissue within reach of her.

All her feelings of being inconvenient, in the way, unappreciated, passed off as a burden and a source of frustration for others flooded out. That one inquiry I’d made touched a sensitive and raw area that on the surface of things was invisible, but internally she was carrying it so close to the surface that the slightest mention of her feelings caused her it pour out.

At a moment such as this, you’ve got to know how prepared you are yourself to have someone break down in front of you in such an obvious trusting and honest way. The key for me personally is that it’s not about me, but about them; and at that moment, it was pretty clear she was in need of a slight pause in the conversation – even though we’d pretty much just begun – to compose herself. She apologized. I get that of course, but why apologize?

At age 25, here she was before me, an emotionally sensitive woman still experiencing the trauma from the messy divorce of her parents and being shuffled around from family member to family member because she was not wanted by any of them until she landed with a younger brother. She’s been robbed of the security and stability of an intact parental pairing and has yet to fully work through this loss.

Counselling of course came immediately to mind as a viable addition to her support team in moving forward. Unfortunately, she mentioned that she is distrustful of counsellors because it was a counsellor arranged by her father that first told her that her parents were about to get a divorce and that it would be very messy. That unfortunate experience has jaded her from giving counselling a second chance. I’m still hopeful that this option for her becomes one she takes me up on, especially when it’s free for her entirely and just down the hall from where we were meeting, so it’s in a place she currently trusts and visits.

We meet people every day in our lives who are experiencing trauma, dealing with anxiety, and depression. Some of these issues become known to us and at other times they are invisible, but we deal with the people nonetheless perhaps never knowing what they are really dealing with and working through.

What makes encounters with those experiencing mental health issues unique from physical health issues is that they are not immediately apparent, and therefore the rest of us might not come to the same conclusions with respect to the behaviours we observe. So while a person wearing a cast gets a, “Gee how did that happen? Let me get the door for you,” the depressed person might get a, “What’s your issue? Smile a little, it wont’ kill you.” And if those with mental health issues did wear identifying labels on their foreheads we might be paralyzed ourselves in wondering how to even start talking to them when we saw 5 or 6 labels on one person alone.

For me personally, I have found that just sitting and listening, opening the door to a disclosure, making no promises of a quick fix, but engaging in a safe relationship where it’s okay to share something personally important works.

People with anxiety and depression can be valuable additions to an employer. They deserve success, happiness, and employment just like anyone else, and in many cases will work with appreciation for the opportunity. Initially they may need extra support, a kind Supervisor as they stretch themselves and what they can do. Just imagine how grateful and committed an employee you’d be getting if they could share their triggers with you and not be taken advantage of or dismissed for doing so.

Something to consider.

*First posted at:  and re-posted with permission.