The Arise Podcast

Season 2, Episode 8: Dr. Kimberly Riley and Dr. Jessica Guerrero on Ambiguous Grief and the Election Season

Episode Summary

Danielle and Maggie chat with Dr. Kimberly Riley and Dr. Jessica Guerrero on ambiguous loss, coping with grief, the heaviness that Mondays bring, the divisive political climate and how to find gratitude in the midst of it all.

Episode Notes

Dr. Kimberly Riley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a certified child mental health specialist in the state of Washington. She has experience working with children and is passionate about their behavioral health needs, although she currently works mostly with couples and families in the private practice setting. She loves being a wife and mom to her 3 teenage daughters. She also enjoys traveling to and exploring new places with her family.

Dr. Jessica Guerrero, "Dr. G" is a resident of South Central Los Angeles a city where she grew up. She is a wife and mother of two kiddos, the daughter of immigrants and the first one in her family (on both sides) to receive a Doctoral degree. She earned her Bachelors in Sociology 2005, a Masters in Social Work in 2013 and a Doctorate in Social Work in the summer of 2020. She is currently working as a Psychiatric Social Worker and has been working in mental health with children, youth and families for 20 years.

[Recorded 10/27/2020]

We’re in a season of anxiety & grief — Across political parties, social structures’ etc.

Dr. Kimberly says these are sober times filled with grief, loss and uncertainty. Our current events are causing us grief and we’re having trouble identifying. We are feeling “ambiguous loss” which she names from as loss that “defies resolution and creates confusion.”

1. Identifying Loss & Grief

We don’t know what we’ve lost. We’re still trying to figure out it!  We’ve lost events, people, freedom…

2. Since Grief shows up in different ways, how do we cope with it?

Danielle says it’s hard to get started “grieving” losses because this grief sneaks up on us and it’s unclear where and how it’s hitting us.

We are wanting to have particularity with our grief.

She says we need to move slow. This is a slow process. “Today I feel this… Tomorrow I may not.”

Dr. G says what we are experiencing is rare: for us all to be in a state of grief at the same time. Never in our lifetime have we been through this. She said there is a sense of camaraderie.

She’s seeing an increase in anger in the children she is working with; developmentally they haven’t gained the tools or language to navigate this. Even adults are having a hard time walking along side children. It is a parallel process.

Maggie named this for herself and how much sadness and grief she feels at the beginning of the week—trying to gain the will to do another week at home with kids, schooling them when not trained to do so.

Dr. G expands on the trouble with Mondays: There used to been a marking at beginning of the week, there was a routine and schedule (almost like a ritual) that began the night before in preparation for the week. It’s just not as clearly defined in this COVID season with school and work at home. The days are all blending together. It’s heavy on caregivers/parents.

Be kind to yourself on Monday!

Dr. Kimberly says the unknown over comes us on Mondays. We are experiencing so much!

We have to give ourselves breaks, grace… give ourselves what we need — whether it be highly structured or more fluid.

Danielle says all the little losses add up and we almost can’t recognize them. She thinks that perhaps people are reluctant enter into grief because it will feel like it will drown us.

Dr. G Feeling reluctant to say where the grief is coming from because when compared to someone else who may have it worse. These are little losses can be very significant, so we don’t need undermine our feelings.

Maggie - when we allow ourselves to engage with others in our grief, we provide a space for shared grief, that camaraderie that Dr. G talks about. “I see you. You see me. We’re not alone in this.” Identifying grief then also can lead to being able to identify places where we have gained thing. Pause and reflect, find joy in the midst of seemingly unbearable times. This allows us to come close to ourselves and to each other.

Dr. Kimberly says getting to a place of gratefulness and thankfulness in our grief and loss will remind you that you are still here, and for a purpose. She mentioned how we have reframed funeral to celebration of life as a way of focusing on positive in the midst of grieving.

Danielle how grief, gratefulness and joy can lead to a sense resilience even the midst of on-going loss. If you haven’t engaged your losses or are disconnected with your community then resilience can be harder to come by. She says it’s for this reason we need to look to our communities to engage our grief and loss; to look at other cultures and learn how they engage their loss and grief. This could bring us together.

Dr. G - Even in this divisive political climate, there are some like-minded people coming together. These times can highlight individuals who are supporting us.

Dr. Kimberly Latino’s on horseback for Biden in Nevada. They came together, unified, riding through the city. She found joy from a community group that she didn’t identify with. There was such beauty in this unified moment.
Can we find something beautiful right now? Can we see beauty?
There is something about people coming together!

Dr. G shared about food deserts in Los Angeles and how people are coming together to support one another.

It is like a flower the grows out of the concrete. There can be beauty that comes out of hardship.

Mr. Rogers tells us to “Look for the helper.”

Danielle notes that it helps to talk about grief because it can move us into gratitude.

Maggie names that there is a natural calming and sense of belonging in being seen and witnessed. Invitation to seeing beauty, each other and our humanity.

Danielle says seeing it gives us a feeling of hope.

Dr. Kimberly says we need a place and space to express our grief and our gratitude, it is healing.

Maggie acknowledges that even after the election, we still need each other. We will need to practice presence, and perhaps even without words.

Dr. Kimberly says there will likely be people we don’t want to sit with this holiday season. We start to ask if this was a relationship we even had? I don’t know who I know anymore!

Find the people who we can sit with.

Danielle says people have different capacity. We don’t have to measure up to someone else high capacity for engagement. We need to engage where we are at.

Dr. G says this is like a cleanse — we now get to choose who we continue relationships with, who we invite back into our lives after COVID.

Dr. G is reading: ____
Dr. G is listening to: Song called “Blessing”
Dr. G is inspired by: the movement and activism of our Youth

Dr. Kimberly is reading: Social Media & Handbook for Supervising
Dr. Kimberly is listening to: 90s RnB - Mary J. Blige “My Life”
Dr. Kimberly is inspired by: Youth and her middle daughter who is a ballerina dancing for the first time in tights that are her skin color.