July 20, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Ask the Therapist

Irene Rubaum-Keller, LMFT
Irene Rubaum-Keller is a licensed psychotherapist who has practiced on the Westside for over 20 years. She specializes in treating people with eating/weight/body image issues as well as motherless daughters. In addition to her private practice, Irene has been on staff at UCLA’s Risk Factor Obesity clinic for the past 15 years where she works with some of the most esteemed leaders in the field of obesity research and treatment. She has published numerous articles in professional journals and for the popular media and currently writes a weekly weight loss blog for The Huffington Post. Her television appearances as an expert guest include: World News Tonight, Penn and Teller’s Showtime Original Series, 9 on the Town, UPN, KTLA and NBC news.

Dear Irene,

I recently lost my brother to suicide. He was only 40 years old. This happened over Thanksgiving weekend and I don’t know who to turn to. I have been OK and then suddenly feel really sad, even depressed. I’m not a depressed person, so this is unfamiliar territory for me. I am also not one to go to a therapist but maybe I need to. Can you give me some insight into how to handle this type of loss?

Thank you in advance for your answer.

Grieving

Dear Grieving,

First of all let me say I am very sorry for your loss. I have lost a brother as well and sibling grief is largely ignored in the psychological community. When someone close to you commits suicide the grief is complicated. You are called a “survivor†. This is different than if you lose a loved one to an illness, for example.

It is entirely normal to feel fine and then find yourself feeling very sad during this first year. It has only been a few months for you, so you will need to be accepting of the process right now. There is no right way to grieve. We all do it differently, but we all do it. Even animals grieve.

There is individual therapy if you need it. As a member of the Westside Bereavement Council I not only provide grief counseling myself but am well connected to other excellent grief therapists both here and in the valley. For group therapy there is Didi Hersch community mental health center where they have groups for survivors of suicide. There is also Our House in West Los Angeles. Our House is an excellent bereavement center that provides group therapy for all types of losses.

If you feel like you could use some support right now, I encourage you to seek it out. If not, be aware that what you are experiencing is normal. With time it will change but you will always miss your brother. I am so sorry.

Dear Irene,

Thank you for this column and giving us a place to ask questions anonymously. There is no one in my life I can share this with so I hope you will answer me.

I am doing really well right now financially but everyone around me, including my boyfriend, is having the opposite experience. My boyfriend is constantly miserable lately as he is in the real estate business and it looks like his entire company is going under. I recently got a raise and a big bonus, well earned by the way, for a job well done. While I am proud of this, I still haven’t told my boyfriend or close friends. I feel like it would just make them feel worse.

I have no one to celebrate this with right now and am feeling sorry for myself. Thank you for answering me and giving me some guidance.

Guilty

Dear Guilty,

What you are expressing is called “survivor guilt†. It is the same feeling you would have if you were one of the only survivors in an accident, natural disaster, etc… Of course there are others who are still doing well, even in this economy, but it doesn’t sound like that applies to anyone close to you.

Although it may seem like your success would make others feel worse, it shouldn’t. It is actually hopeful and if they really love you, they should be proud and happy for you. Your success was earned and deserved and I hope you are proud of yourself. Also, your financial well being does not take that away from anyone else. Your friends and boyfriend will most likely be doing better in the near future. In the meantime, you could throw a party for them all to celebrate. You would host it and it might just take everyone’s mind of their problems for awhile.

If the party idea is too much, at least go out and treat yourself to something you really want. You deserve it. Congratulations!

If you have questions for “Ask the Therapist†please submit them to Irene at www.eatingdisordertherapist.com.

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