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Talking To Your Children About Aurora Colorado Shooting: Studio 5

Information continues to come in this morning after the overnight shooting, at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. It’s a senseless tragedy where the details are tough to take. Knowing this situation will dominate our televisions over the coming days, how can you help your kids make sense of it all?

Ask Julie: My Best Friend Is Suicidal

Q: My best friend is suicidal and I want to know if there is anything I can do to help her. She has already told her parents but they really aren’t doing anything to stop her. I have told a teacher at our school and the counselor but all they do is recommend seeing a psychiatrist. I am really worried about her she almost always has cuts all over her body arms, legs, and stomach. Her mother has been in and out of prison even before she was born. Her mother is also in right now and has been since she was 7. In the past few years she has had a lot happen, she lost her grandmother on her dad’s side two days before Christmas in 2008. Right after that she moved from a big house to a small one and in the process lost connection with her former best friend. Many of her animals outside died and she sat with one of her cats and had to watch it die after it got attacked by a dog. This past year she had her aunt on her dad’s side die and lost a lot of her friends. She also found out that her mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by four different psychiatrists and borderline personality disorder by one or two. We were in seventh grade this year and for most of the second semester she was labeled a whore because of how she dresses and who hangs out with. This past summer is also when the cutting started it started off pretty bad but not frequent. It then went to minor burns and small scratches and then blew up again to bad cuts and they were very frequent. At the current moment she only has scars but is thinking about cutting herself again. I would just like an idea of what I could say to her to get her not to cut anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read this (and respond if you do).

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Ask Julie: Mother-in-law Passed Away and Left Us $50,000 In Debt

Q: To start off I was best friends with my wife’s mother. She took me in and gave me a family. Within the last 2 years both my wife’s mother and grand father passed away. My wife and I lived with them before we got married.

We ended up getting married twice, once in a church and once in my mother in law’s room at the nursing home. She was 46 years old when she died and it happened this past march.

Since then I have found that we have tons of money to pay out in inheritance tax and to her medical bills if we want to keep our house. My wife has stopped doing anything around the house and she won’t go do any of the legal things that need to be done by her.

How can I get her more motivated without hurting her feelings and how can I keep my sanity though out all of this. I don’t really know what to do to get myself motivated to be happier.

A: I am so sorry to hear about your recent family losses and financial difficulties. You’ve both lost two important support people, and while they can’t be replaced, it important for you and your wife to get additional support during this difficult time. While grieving is different for every person, it seems that your wife’s grieving may have turned into depression. Her “lack of motivation” and difficulty functioning may not be something she can control at this point.  Your difficulty being happy is also concerning to me and I recommend that both of you get an assessment for depression by a mental health professional. I also want to encourage you to seek out a grief counselor to help you process your losses, and a grief group so you can talk with other families who are going through similar experiences. To find a therapist and a group in your area click here.

In addition to mental health support, please seek professional advice on your legal and financial matters surrounding your mother-in-law’s passing, if you haven’t already done so. Tax issues and liability for medical bills can be complex and very stressful.

Thank you again for writing.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Ask Julie: Are Panic Attacks Part of Grieving?

Q: I recently lost my dad around Christmastime, so I know I am going through a grief process. One of the things that happened to me recently is when I heard of the Japan quake. Then looking at other news, it was about the supermoon. Then my mind was flooded with all these things in the world and I had a panic attack. I mean I was truly scared and normally I do not think of these things, it lasted maybe a day…all night and the next day . Is that from realizing my own mortality? In the death of my dad ? Or am I maybe just losing my mind … a little?

A: I am so sorry for your recent loss of your father. I don’t think you are losing your mind. The death of a parent is a huge life event and often brings a sense of your own mortality to the forefront and upsets your view of the world. It makes sense that after the loss of your father, the person who is often experienced as the “protector” in the family, you’d feel for a time that the world had become scarier and less safe.

Stressful situations, like the death of a parent, can sometimes precipitate anxiety. While panic attacks usually peak at about 10 minutes, it is possible to have clusters of them. Since you don’t mention specific symptoms I can’t be certain if it was a panic attack or another kind of anxiety disorder. I suggest that you seek out a mental health evaluation to determine whether or not you have developed an anxiety disorder and if so, to get treatment. Also, I highly suggest attending a grief support group. Hospitals,  hospices, and community clinics often host groups to help grieving family members find support by sharing their experiences with others who are going through similar losses.

Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

Josh Powell-How Could Someone Do This To His Own Children?!?: KSL TV News

I was awakened from my Sunday afternoon nap by a text from my older sister about Josh Powell’s murder suicide. I was stunned. It seemed unbelievable! I was heart sick, and horrified. A few minutes later I received a phone call from KSL TV morning news producer asking if I’d be willing to interview Monday morning about this tragic situation. At first, I didn’t want to. I was so sickened by the whole thing. Then I realized that this was an opportunity for me to help my community process this horrific event, and a chance for me to process it myself. I got up at 4:30 AM Monday morning with a prayer in my heart that I might say something that would help someone out there who is stunned by this news. I spent most of Monday morning interviewing on KSL TV and radio. It was an honor to be trusted to speak on this tender and heart-wrenching situation, and it was by far the hardest interview I’ve ever done.

In response to the horrific event, the murder/suicide of Josh Powell last Sunday, many KSL viewers asked “How could a person do this to his own children?” KSL interviewed experts on this topic, I was invited to share my thoughts on this question about this unbelievable act…

Helping our community grieve the loss of the Powell boys

Helping our community grieve & using social media constructively

Powell case raises questions about custody and visitation laws

How could a person do this???

Many prayers to the family at this tragic time of loss. May Charlie and Braden rest in peace.


Ask Julie: How Do I Help My Suicidal Best Friend?

Q: “A few months ago me and my best friends ex boyfriend (who still cares a lot about her) went to our school guidance councilors and told them how my best friend was suicidal. they told her parents and she had to get an evaluation from a therapist. they cleared her and she was allowed back in school. however now school isn’t in session and she’s suicidal again. I know this because she told me that I’m the only thing keeping her alive. a few years ago she was raped by a close friend and then a few days after the rape walked in on him killing himself. she never dealt with this traumatic event and I think it’s one of the reasons she’s suicidal now. we talked a little about it and she told me she feels like she messes everything up and all she does is make things worse. I tried to show her how that’s not true and how a lot of people care about her but she doesn’t believe me. I don’t want to go to her parents again because I dont think they’d believe me a second time. I want her to get help and talk to someone but I don’t know how to do it. please help me.”

A: Thank you for your email. I can feel your concern for your friend through this letter. Even though you might be putting your friendship at risk, I suggest you go talk to her parents. They need to know about the rape and that she walked in on the person who raped her committing suicide. Those are horrific traumas for a teenager to witness and she is in serious danger.  Please watch the video response for more tools to handle this painful situation.

Take good care of yourself
Julie Hanks, LCSW

Ask Julie: How Bad Is It For A Grown Woman To Move Home?

Q: I recently got laid off, and right now my rent is almost due.  My brother thinks that if I can’t find a job I should move home, actually scratch that, he thinks I should be home even if I have a job.

My mom passed away a month ago, and he’s afraid that my father doesn’t want to be alone.  Regardless of the fact that my dad says that he wants his space now, my brother can’t seem to get that.  Also I told him that if I have a job, and can pay my own way, what difference does it make where I live?  He said that I should be at home to save money.  He thinks it will be permanent, and my Dad and I say temporary. I don’t understand that since I am 41, my brother should have no say in what I do and don’t do with my money, but when I try to tell him, he gets all mad at me and says that I am selfish.  I don’t understand why he is doing this to me, he says it will be better for both me and my father, but I disagree, my father yes, but not me.  How do I make him understand that what I do with my finances is my business and as long as I don’t get help from anyone he has no say in it.

A: I am sorry about your job loss and the death of your mother last month. That is a lot of transitions in a short period of time.

It sounds like you are very clear that you don’t want to move home, if at all possible. So my question for you is why do you care so much about pleasing your brother? You are 41 years old and the great thing about being an adult is that you don’t have to have discussions that you don’t want to have, and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.  You can’t make your brother understand your point of view, but you can show him that your finances are not his business by not discussing it with him, and by letting go of trying to gain his approval. What are you afraid of if your brother is mad at you or thinks that you are selfish right now?

It sounds to me that he’s less worried about your money issues and more worried about your dad who now lives alone and just lost his companion. Having you move home may be an easy way to alleviate his worries about your father living alone because it makes sense logically to him. “You’re unemployed so why don’t you move home to save money and take care of dad?” seems to be his message to you. You are both talking about the topics instead of the emotions that go along with the death of a parent and concern about the parent who’s left behind.

I suggest that instead of trying to get his approval or convince him that it’s not good for you to move in with dad, you cut right to the core issue which seems to be exploring together how the two of you are going to work together to help dad through his grief and loneliness, and to make sure that he is safe and taken care of, and how you can support each other at this time of loss.

Take good care of you and yours.

Julie Hanks, LCSW