A year ago, my best friend lost her younger sister who had bipolar disorder. In addition to processing her death by suicide, her family had to continue to run a business, needing assistance from community members to pay the bills for funeral costs. When I received the tragic news, I was in graduate school. As I attempted to process the loss and what that loss meant to those I cared most about, I grew distracted, my memory suffered, jokes about death and bipolar disorder triggered me in class, and I felt a constant level of sadness. I felt guilty for feeling the way I felt for longer than a week and struggled to find ways to best support my best friend during such a painful loss. Grieving felt like an independent study with a large workload.
“Grieving felt like an independent study with a large workload.”
I am not even an immediate family member and I had plenty of wonderful resources and a network of friends and family supporting me built into an educational system I could pay for.
If you have lived long enough you have lost someone in your life. You know the pain. Grief weighs heavily on family and friends, manifesting in different ways for different people–sometimes arriving in intense waves of sorrow, other times hanging over us for longer periods of time. On top of attempting to manage these feelings, those experiencing bereavement are asked to organize–to function. We put forth a specious sense of a time limit on grief, expecting those who have lost someone to return to work after five days, to be over it and joyful when they show up to gatherings, and we put pressure on ourselves to be productive soon after a loss in our lives. “If you think of our society now, everything is quick hurry. We don’t realize that the body takes time to heal and so does the mind. Grieving is a lot of work and it takes a lot of energy,” says Reverend Wanda Y. Parker, BSN M.DIV, a therapist at Bereavement Services at Ingalls Hospice (Pallay, 2014).
Taking the time to heal is a privilege that not everyone affords. If this is difficult for middle and upper-class individuals, the lack of space and resources to grieve is three times as much for those who are low income.
I cannot imagine losing those closest to me with little financial resources to pay for hospital costs, funeral services, or my own basic needs. The average North American funeral costs between $7,000-$10,000 dollars and this range grows with inflation (Parting.com, 2016).
For low-income individuals meeting basic needs remains front of mind all the time. Navigating our mental health system in order to find the appropriate counselor proves daunting. This assumes someone has access to a computer or other resources to search for one. Then the questions become: Does the counselor take insurance? When can I reasonably find time to see this therapist if I am looking for a job or working multiple jobs? Despite these barriers, receiving mental health services functions as a feedback loop, assisting individuals in meeting their emotional needs so they can function, and in return, better meet their basic needs, and hopefully, move beyond just meeting their basic needs.
“At Metro Volunteers, we match mental health professionals with those who lack access to mental health services.”
At Metro Volunteers, we match mental health professionals with those who lack access to mental health services. Our process involves a brief intake for clients with no extra hoops to jump through. Volunteer with Metro Volunteers and serve as a pro bono mental health professional for those in need the most, experiencing depression, anxiety, loss, relationship issues, and other concerns.
By Caryn Oppenheim, Mental Health Program – Denver