Psychiatrist and therapy are two words that I used to have negative thoughts about.  When I was growing up, I always thought that those two words were associated with people that were “crazy”.  Those that read my book understand what my take of these two words were, even in the aftermath of trying to survive the death of my children.

However, after almost two years of fighting all of the physical and mental symptoms I was having, I decided to go see my general doctor because the anxiety attacks and depression was so bad.  I was starting to think there was something wrong with me.  I remember one of my many visits to my doctor, I was convinced I had a brain tumor, because of the headaches and panic attacks I was having, not to mention the sobbing.  He eventually gave in and ordered a brain scan, which of course came back fine.  Although I was relieved of this, I still had all of these weird symptoms I was still trying to cope with.  He would tell me, “Kelly, you are dealing with grief, depression and anxiety attacks.”  I would respond with “it can’t be, I dealt with the grief when my children passed, I grieved then and I know it’s not depression, not me.”  The whole time I was telling him this, I was gasping for air because I was sobbing so hard.

This went back and forth for months until finally, after a really bad day, I decided to fill the prescription for Prozac that he gave me a few months prior.  I remember taking that first pill and thinking “what the fuck I am doing?”  I knew it was slippery slope, but I was desperate and I felt like this was my last option.  I was dying, I could see it in my eyes.

During that same time I decided to call the Counselor that my doctor also gave me.  I was starting to panic and needed help, now.  I was frantic to get in to see someone, desperate actually.  When I finally decided to call, I was told it will be a few weeks before they could fit me in.  That wasn’t going to work, it had to be NOW.  They were able to get me in the next day with a new counselor, which I was fine with, I just needed help.  When I got there, I sat down in the chair and when she asked the question “What’s going on?”, I completely fell apart and all of this pain that had been building up for the last 18 months was starting to pour out of me.  The Counselor was crying with me and the hour flew by.  I could have sat there for days and told my story.  When I left the office, I had a since of release, small release, but still a release that gave me some breathing room.  I continued on with “talk therapy” for almost two years after that.  Starting out once a week and then moving into every couple of weeks until I felt like I had said everything I had to say.

However, the medication therapy was not going so well, I was still having anxiety attacks and in fact, they seemed to be getting worse.  I kept telling my general doctor about this and he would increase the dosage, which made it worse.  This went on for several months until I was sitting with a friend who used to be a psychiatric nurse.  I was telling him about my experience with the medication and he asked me if I was going to a Psychiatrist or my general doctor for the medication.  I responded “my general doctor, I really don’t want to go see a Psychiatrist.”  He then said something that opened my eyes, he said, “If you have a heart problem you go see a heart doctor, right? So if you have a head problem, you should go see a head doctor.”  Made a lot of sense to me so I made an appointment to see a Psychiatrist that my Counselor (talk therapist) gave me.

During my first visit with her, she quickly said I was having side effects with the Prozac and gradually switched me to a new medication over a few weeks.  Within 6 weeks, I felt like a new person, I was still grieving, but it became more manageable and it allowed me to function again.  The one thing I appreciated about the Psychiatrist I went to is the fact she wasn’t all about prescribing a pill, she said medication is only part of the equation.  She said you need to participate in talk therapy, spiritual therapy (pray or meditation), support groups, diet and physical activity.  I started to implement all of these things into my life and they all worked together.  I don’t think just one of them would have worked, but all of them implemented at one time helped me tremendously.

I have always hated taking medication, still do, but I still take a very low dose of an antidepressant.  I gave up the anxiety meds since I no longer have panic attacks.  My therapy today consists of spending time with my wife, my dog Buddy, biking, running, gardening (new this year but loving it, see photo above from my garden), culinary, projects around the house and anything else that brings me enjoyment.  I was recently on a trip to Colorado and decided to paraglide off the side of a mountain and it was an unbelievable experience.  (Click here to watch the video).  The old me would not have done this out of fear.

The transition to my new forms of therapy didn’t happen overnight, it happened gradually as I was healing from the deep wounds inflicted by the death of my two children.  I started to look at life differently, I started to take it in.  I decided to live life as simply as possible (still working on this).  I don’t rush through my day any more, work is not my priority, making money is not my priority, chasing material possessions is not my priority.  My priority is taking in the moment, my relationship with my wife, my friendship with my dog, helping others when I can and my overall health.  I still have moments of sadness, they will always be there, but I now know they do not last forever.

I was in the car with a couple of co-workers a few weeks back and I made a comment about all of the wildflowers that were growing in the fields on both side of the road.  I asked them if they ever take the time to notice them.  One of the guys says “I never notice them, but I notice that you do”.  I smiled and thought to myself how much I loved the fact others notice the new me.  I truly do take time to “smell the roses”.  I notice the beauty and innocence in animals I never noticed before.  I now see pain in others I never used to pay attention to.  I do carry a since of peace I haven’t had since I was a child.

I want every grieving parent to know they shouldn’t be afraid of therapy, any and all kinds of it.  Keep your mind open and accept the help that is out there.  Some forms will work for you while other may not.  I let my pride get in the way, which almost cost me my life.  Seek the help you need, this is about you surviving this nightmare.

Tell me about your experiences with “therapy”?

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User Comments ( 16 )

  • Christian

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with therapy and with medication. It’s been 7 years since my daughter died. I thought I was doing well with my grieving and managing okay–getting my career back on track and managing day to day. Then I started having stomach problems, and then a couple of panic attacks earlier this year. I struggled with anxiety and depression before my daughter died, but felt that I was past those struggles. I didn’t recognize the degree of depression I was experiencing. I started talk therapy, which I had tried a couple of times previously. I think it has helped, but I still often struggle a lot. I began taking Lexapro in April. It made my insomnia much worse so I’m also taking Remeron now. For a while it seemed to be working well, never “perfectly,” but it kept me from descending to the severe lows of depersonalization/suicidality that i had hit in April this year. But I’m still struggling a lot–constantly tired, unmotivated, and just feeling low. I’m starting to think that a change in my medication is in order, but I don’t want to risk messing around with it. I hate medication, but now I don’t know if I could manage without it, which, to be frank, depresses me more. I exercise every day and try to eat sensibly. I’ve tried to practice mindfulness too. Sometimes it helps, other times not at all. Most of the time I want to just lay down and sleep, which is also a side effect of the Remeron, It’s gotten to the point where I don’t know what symptoms I have are due to depression and which are due to the medications that are supposed to help ease depression. I’m rambling, but there you go. That’s where I am right now. It is at least some comfort (in and odd way) to know that others in similar life circumstances have also struggled. It makes me feel like less of a “failure.”

  • Pat

    We are 28 months into this life-changing experience. People ask me if it is all getting “easier”. My reply has been “it’s not getting “easier”, it’s just getting more >familiarit is what it isallalways< bring a new set of "fun" to the game. After being (Dr.) addicted to oxycodone and going through that withdrawal…I couldn't face putting a Band-Aid on my depression with SSRI's because I knew inside from past experience with the narcotics that the day would come where I would hit the wall and have to face the music (pain) head on. In short…I read far too many horror stories of folks coming off these drugs with lasting symptoms and lapses in brain function, memory/etc. to step in the door willingly. Then there are the TV commercials. Wow…the LAST thing I needed @ the time was something to make me feel SUICIDAL…cus for a long time there I just really didn't wanna be here as it was.

    Everyone is different though. I can respect that. This includes us…as we chose to smoke marijuana instead to relieve our symptoms. For us, (it is legal here in Colorado on all fronts) marijuana has worked very well….. with eating, sleeping and sexual functions basically unaffected…other than dreaming…which the pot has completely nixed. (I either don't dream…or I don't remember them)

    Beyond that….we have decided that we need a change…..both in scenery and in focus…and as a result we are on a 2 year path to divest ourselves of houses and careers and much of what "was before" and we are prepping for a lifestyle change where we start to focus on what we WANT to do rather than feeling as if we HAVE to do. Many folks look at us like we are crazy…and we are…for chucking it all and starting over at 55…but we think we have the funds/luxury to make it all work…especially if we tone it all down a bit and live more responsibly and forget about the "American Dream" of being in debt and "keeping up with the Joneses".

    In the end we are seeking a simpler life…on some acreage…with gardens…and time to piddle. Screw the rat race. We are only here once. This we now know…. and this is what is driving us fully.

    be well folks. Thanks for the place to vent, Kelly.

  • Kelly,
    I am so glad you were able to get help! You are a beautiful writer and are sharing a message of hope and healing. Have you heard of Professor Child? We’ve developed a film for children who are grieving with the intent of leaving the viewer with a hopeful and healing message.

    I look forward to continuing to read your blog posts and hear more about your journey. Thank you for sharing!


  • Kevin Guthrie

    I just want say that I too started seeing a counselor about a month or so ago. My son Shanon has been passed away for 2 years and one month now. This terrible plague has taken its toll, to the point it’s affected my health. My blood pressure has sky rocketed. I had told my wife that I wanted to consult a medium, which she said that she didn’t believe in. I guess for myself I still search for an answer that may never come. I can’t say that the sessions have helped, except maybe to say sometimes it’s a good thing to be able to talk about Shanon to someone else besides my wife. I really don’t care what others think or what they might say. It’s my journey and not theirs.

    Shanon’s Dad Kevin

  • Matty

    ^ sorry for the grammar and spelling errors above…. I was in “journal” mode…


  • Matty


    My journey has had some similar parallels to your since we lost Riley in May 2011. I had my first panic attack 1 month after she died and I was in denial that I was grieving in such a deep way. Zoloft and xanex were prescribed by my GP and we sought counseling right away. My first counselor was a joke. My second counselor was awesome and we continued to see him until we all mutually felt the sessions could cease. We found out he was retiring, so I prayed to find a new counselor immediately. God answered and I have been seeing him for the last 8 months.

    Session were every week, then every 2 weeks and now I seem him about once a month. I think it has worked wonders along with spiritual healing, physical fitness, and a better diet… I don’t eat the same shit I used to… I crossfit 4/wk, and I attend and serve at my local church.

    As for the meds, I fought that as well and still do. I hate taking them, but I see and feel the benefit. My wife is my best friend and also a great “barometer” for how I am actually doing v. how I think I am doing.
    If you are on meds, give it some time, but don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor about all your side effects. And don’t be afraid to see a Psychiatrist if you need to…. It’s their specialty!

    I hate all aspects of this journey, but there have been some positive outcomes too as Kelly mentioned.

  • Kirk

    We got into counciling as soon as we could after Ashlyn passed away. I knew that it was going to be an unbelievably hard journey. I also went to my DR and he prescribed me Welbutrin , Abilify and Ambien for sleep. That was in November. Im off everything but the ambien at this point. I as we all do have bad days and ok days but. I can’t say enough for our councilor. He is a friend we never expected to have. He has visited Ashlyns grave and has been there for both of us for so many of our “firsts”. There is no way I could have ever gotten this far had it not been for the things we have done, the sites like this one and groups like Compassionate Friends. One of the other things that has helped so much is the fact that we are still in touch with Ashlyns friends and their parents. Though it would never replace her we do like to get the hugs from her friends. Last week the school she went to dedicated a bench in her memory. What an honor it is to have every parent and child see her name on that bench. It is a healing place for us.

    • Kirk – Thanks for sharing your experience with medication. Its a subject that many keep personal and I get that, but its a topic that needs to be discussed openly.

      It sounds like you have found many tools that are working for you. One question, you start working on the 1938 Ford yet? (I think you said ’38) I want you to share photos as it progresses. That would be a cool thing to post on this site as one of your “therapies”.



  • Nancy

    thanks for sharing lots of simlilairity..I am huge on gardening thru the season its obessive but i need to have it for my mental stabilty thru the winter i thank all the moms who are the “same Loss” boat that i am in and for support and validating me if i didn’t have that i would think i was crazy but it does get lonely how life has changed and how you look and life thru differnt “Lens”

    • Nancy – I have found great pleasure in gardening. I feel at peace when I am hanging out and working in the sunshine. We need to gravitate to the things that bring us peace.


  • Adam Brookhart

    The best decision I made after we lost our son to SIDS was to call a grief councilor. Child loss is something that parents aren’t and shouldn’t be equipped to handle. We also joined a SIDS support group which was very helpful. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to grieving the loss of a child but there are several tools available to help if you are willing to ask for the help.

    • Adam,

      Yes, lots of tools and some will work and some will not, it depends on the person. The key is, don’t stop looking for the tool(s) that work for you.



  • Brandon

    I had the same problem when my son passed away. I was depressed and had anxiety all day. I went to my primary doctor and he just gave me anxiety pills and Zoloft for the depression. This just didn’t work for me. Being a zombie does not help the grieving process at all. I went to a counselor appointed to me by my healthcare provider that gave me 3 covered sessions before I had to pay out of pocket. Well to make a long story short, I canceled my second appointment because it was just not doing any good. She got far to concerned with other aspects of me than helping with my grieving. The only thing that I can truly say that helped me through my grieving was your book. It was the therapy I needed and after reading cover to over several times, I have not needed therapy or pills since. I learned more about myself and my grieving process than any therapist could have told me because you have been there. I appreciate my friends trying to be sympathetic and trying to help me out but they really do not understand the pain at all. You do and put it all out there in your words for all us other dads to see. Your book and website is all the medication I need and can’t thank you enough for doing what you do.

    • Brandon,

      I am truly honored by your words. I do understand it because I have walked the walk, twice. I wish I hadn’t, but I am glad I can find a way to help others through the pain that I experienced. Someone had to step up and talk about the deep dark stuff, so I thought why not me. If people don’t like what I have to say, “fuck’em”. This was for the guys like me that needed a matter of fact way hearing the truth, this isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It’s a “heavy load” that will drop you to your knees, many many times.



  • Thanks for sharing this! It’s so important to remember that we all need something, whether it’s counseling, help from a friend, or whatever.

    I thought I was doing really well and seeking help until things suddenly turned further downward. I’m a student, so the cost is a little different, but a few weeks with a counselor changed everything dramatically for me.

    My counselor had a real gift for asking questions that cut right to the heart of things. When he asked “What if you did fail?,” it led to a great discussion about what it really took to rebuild, and just the time it took to allow time for grieving, even months later.

    • Erik – You are welcome! Its an important topic to discuss. This isn’t something you can do on your own, it takes others to help lift you up on days you need it. We all know there are days we need it.

      I am all for counseling and I am all for firing your counselor if they are not helping and move on to a new one. Find one that you can connect with or a friend that won’t try to fix you and just listen.