Tag Archive for: bereavement therapy

True North with the AFSP in the Out of Darkness suicide prevention community walks

“Out of the Darkness” Fundraiser with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

As a society, we struggle with repressed emotions, feelings of hopelessness, and sadness to a worrying degree, and as a counseling practice, we see it in our own patients consistently. We provide assistance and care to those suffering, who walk in the dark – that’s why we felt that it was pertinent for us to form a team and partner up with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in their “Out of Darkness” Community Walk, taking place on November 5th, 2022.

We pledged our team to fundraising, and have set our goal to $250 with the intent to honor those lost to the darkness, but also to support those we see, those we love, and those we work with who struggle and grapple with this concept daily.

To donate, join, or support our team, you can visit https://supporting.afsp.org/team/297815. There, you have the option to donate to a specific member or the entire team, download checking forms for donations, or register to join the team.

The Community Walks have been going on since 2004, and we’re proud to be able to participate this year to band together with others who fight against suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the largest private funder of suicide prevention research, and their evidence-based programs implemented in local communities across the country reach millions of people every year, so we’re excited to contribute to their work as we continue in tandem with ours to provide a helping hand.

Together, we hope to open all the avenues of communication around suicide and to rid the negative stigma around getting help when you need it so that it doesn’t have to become a last resort. If you’re looking for a safe place to start your journey out of the darkness, we’re always here at True North for you, and you can contact us or call us at 502-777-7525 anytime.

If you you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, chat online at 988lifeline.org, text TALK to 741-741 for a texting option, visit a medical or emergency building such as Urgent Care, your local fire or police department, or talk to a trusted person in your life so that you don’t have to struggle alone.

We’re all in this fight together, and we want to be here for everyone in every way we can be!

out of the darkness

Out of the Darkness

Hank Buckwalter, his wife, Chelsea, and Rommie and I participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk this past weekend at Waterfront Park.

It can be emotionally overwhelming to be in a gathering of people that are celebrating the lives and passing of their loved ones. I listened as the “Honor Beads” were given to the family members and friends of those who had taken their lives. They celebrated these beautiful humans that saw only one solution to the pain they were experiencing.

I lost a friend of 47 years this year to suicide. He was in a lot of pain. At his memorial service, an acquaintance commented, “I can’t believe Jeff took his own life.” I forgive him for his insensitivity. As much as I miss Jeff, our laughs, our High School pranks, our wonderful conversations on his deck near Hikes Point, I understand why he took his own life. He was in pain.

I struggle with the legality and morality of suicide.  Having said that, I will do everything in my clinical and personal power to prevent others from taking their own lives.

People need hope and when they lose hope

 they see very few solutions to their problems.

I wrote a blog a year ago about hope. Here is what I said:

People come to therapy because they have feelings of hopelessness. As a young therapist, I was inspired by Moltmann’s admonition, to be an instrument of hope. At the very heart of therapy is the goal of helping people find hope, because without it they cannot live. I believe that hopeful people inspire hopefulness in others. A hopeful therapist has many tools and strategies for helping people, but most important they inspire hopefulness. I believe they infect people with their hopefulness. They engage in a Therapy of Hope.

If you have thoughts of suicide, even fleeting thoughts, contact a therapist. We have included the suicide hotline number on our website. Call it and make an appointment. In Kentucky, all therapists are required to take a workshop every three years on suicide prevention. Make the call.

After the walk this past Saturday, Hank and Chelsea, and Rommie and I went to First Watch and had breakfast together. We reverently celebrated life.


Friday Waypoints- 8/30/19

“Get Woke!”

I’ve been hearing this a lot lately. It means something like, “open your eyes” or “don’t be naïve!” As a Social Worker, I am always mindful of social injustice, inequality, exploitation, and abuse in our world. I’d like to think that I’m “woke.” But of course, I have lots of room to grow. 

I was watching a news report this past week about the impact that sugar had on the lives of millions of African-Americans during the years of enslavement. This past Spring, my wife and I visited two plantations outside New Orleans. We left there thinking that thousands of humans were exploited, abused, and killed on these sites. I got “woke.”

I get “woke” when I see young African-American teens pulled from their cars because of the color of their skin. 

We live in a country that needs to be “woke.” It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We simply need to humbly admit that at times we treat others as a means rather than an end. And then, treat everyone the way that we would want to be treated. That’s what it means to be “woke.” 

It’s Almost September

Speaking of “Getting Woke,” you wake up and its September. 45 years ago I was standing in formation at Lackland Air Force Base in Basic Training. It seems like the other day. I am amazed at how quickly time flies. I’m sure you feel the same way. I remember asking someone what time it was that first morning, thinking that it was close to noon. It was 8:30 am. I remember thinking that the next 4 years were going to be the longest 4 years of my life. Again, that was 45 years ago. 

The lesson: spend your time doing meaningful things. That means, calling (or texting) a family member right now and telling them that you love them. 

That means, forgiving someone, right now, who has wronged you, telling your grandchildren how proud you are of them, and holding your partner just a little bit longer the next time you hug.

Life is to be lived! I’m not sure who said that, maybe Eleanor Roosevelt. To me, living life means more than just exploring and traveling and spending wisely. It means loving the people that you have in your life right now. Don’t let another day pass holding a grudge or resentment. 

Book I’m Reading- The Making of a Therapist, Louis Cozolino

There is nothing easy about training new therapists. True North Counseling has two new therapist coming on board next month: Patrice Elmore and Sharonda Tunstull! They have been MSW students with us and will now be joining us as new Certified Social Workers. I’ve given them both this book. We will spend the next 3-5 years helping them become seasoned Psychotherapists. It’s exciting and humbling! It’s what I love about what I do!


Friday Waypoints- 06/21/19

Being a Father

I spent some time this past week reflecting on fatherhood. I look into the mirror and more often than not, I see my father. It scares me sometimes, but not because I don’t like what I see, but because I didn’t expect to see Jerry Neese in the mirror. My father was a very handsome man. I loved seeing him put on his suit every morning to go to work. The summer after I graduated from High School, I worked with him as I waited to enter the Air Force later that Fall. I loved going to lunch with him and his staff and I was so proud to be his son. I remember the morning he drove me to the airport to travel to San Antonio to enlist. He told me that he was a little envious of me because of the the new journey that I was beginning. It’s a wonderful memory. I do not remember ever have a cross word with him. I never remember a feeling of disappointment from him.

We clinicians describe that as having a strong attachment figure. It didn’t stop at 18 years old. It continued until the day he died at 82. I remember those hugs from a 6’ 4” man. I had to step on my tippy toes to hug my father. We said that we loved each other.

John Bowby wrote, “Throughout the adult life the availability of a responsive attachment figure remains the source of a person’s feeling secure. All of us, from cradle to the grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.”

My life has been a series of long and short excursions from the secure base of my father’s (and of course my mother’s) love and acceptance. And they have been happy excursions!

Thank you Dad for being a loving, gentle and strong father for me and my brothers and sisters.

Electronic Nicotine Organization

I’ve been asked to sit on the advisory panel for Electronic Nicotine Organization. Tom Popescu recently started this organization to address the problem with Teenagers using nicotine vape pens. We will look back on these days and see them as pivotal for preventing this young generation from becoming addicted to nicotine and cigarettes. Support this organization!

Tom Popescu, the President of ENO writes, “Our goals are to: educate youth and adults of the consequences of electronic cigarettes, inform policy makers and help shape the debate, utilize social media influencers to expand awareness, counteract the marketing efforts of vaping and tobacco companies, create a support platform and resources for users who are addicted, and develop a mobile app for on demand counselors for users and research.”

Ten Things Therapists Wish People Knew About Therapy

1. We don’t talk about you to anyone else.

Whether you see a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Licensed Professional Counselor, or a Licensed Psychologist, we are all held to a high standard of confidentiality by our respective professional organizations. If we were to talk about you to anyone outside the “cone of silence” (meaning outside the supervisor-supervisee relationship), we could be brought up on professional charges and have our licenses stripped by our state boards.

2. We’re not going to ‘fix your kid.’

One of the hardest things about working with children and adolescents, from a therapist point of view, is that parents must realize that change has to happen to the entire family system. The analogy is a little crass, but here it goes: Fixing just one family member, whether parent or child, is like washing just one piece of laundry, and then being surprised when it smells bad after being tossed back in with unwashed laundry.

3. We’re not going to arbitrate your arguments (or tell your partner that they’re wrong and you’re right).

When doing couples therapy, I make it very clear that I’m not on one partner or the other’s side. I’m on the side of your relationship, until you tell me otherwise. (Then we’re working on a new goal.) I’ve often told couples that they can argue at home—therapy is a place for them to learn how to do things differently.

4. There are times when therapy isn’t appropriate.

If there is domestic violence between the couple or ongoing abuse in the family, it isn’t appropriate to provide therapy services to the unit. (It is possible, however, for individuals in those situations to receive therapy services.)

5. Therapists go to therapy.

Some training programs actually require therapists-in-training to see their own therapist. As a rule, therapists of all varieties view mental health checkups as being just as vital as physical health checkups, if not more so. With the things that we see and hear, if we didn’t engage in appropriate mental health self-care, most would leave the profession within a few years.

6. We’re affected by your stories, even when we don’t show it.

As a helping professional, I wouldn’t still be in the business if I didn’t genuinely care about people’s well-being. I’ve cried with some clients, and I’ve cried after some clients have left. Some of the stories that I’ve heard of unimaginable heartbreak and horrific abuse have also included some of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit. It’s this balance that keeps me doing the work.

7. Therapy is hard.

If you’re “doing therapy” to its fullest potential, therapy (and your therapist) will challenge you, make you uncomfortable, and stretch you toward a life worth living. If you believe that therapy is a passive experience, or that all the work of therapy happens in the therapy room (not outside in your real life), you are probably going to be disappointed in the results you see.

8. Not all therapists are the same.

Much of the research about the effectiveness of therapy is now showing that it’s not necessarily the background, credentials, methodology, or training of a therapist that makes the difference—it’s the connection between the therapist and the client. It’s hard to be vulnerable and make progress with someone you don’t feel safe with, or that you don’t feel understands you in a pivotal way. That being said, just because you didn’t make the progress you wanted with one therapist doesn’t mean that therapy isn’t for you—it means that you may just not have found the therapist for you.

9. Most therapists aren’t pro or anti-medication.

I view medication and therapy a lot like buying a house. The house is therapy, but medication is the funding. Can you get an adequate house with so-so funding? Sure. But could you get your dream house with access to all the funding you need? Similarly, you can have Scrooge McDuck piles of money, but if you can’t find the right house, it’s not going to get you anywhere.

10. Change is possible.

The philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesos asserted that “Change is the only constant in life.” Without change, we as individuals and as a species would cease to exist. No matter how overwhelming your problems feel, change is possible!

Things Not to Say to Someone Who Has Experienced A Pregnancy Loss

You can always have another.

Firstly, you don’t know that for certain. Secondly, they wanted this child. The prospect of another somewhere down the road doesn’t mitigate that loss.

Now you have an angel watching over you (or God must’ve wanted your baby in heaven).

While this may be comforting to some people further along in their healing process, it can also be incredibly hurtful. Even if someone finds comfort in their faith or religion, most will still feel that they would be happier if their baby were with them here on earth.

At least you didn’t know your baby.

For many pregnant people, their babies became real the moment they saw that second line or received a call from their doctor’s office. The idea that this death should affect someone less is false. A loss is a loss.

Did you do something you weren’t supposed to?

Someone who has experienced a pregnancy loss will probably already be asking themselves this. As I wrote in a previous blog on Pregnancy Loss, most miscarriages are for unknown reasons. Often, reproductive medicine physicians will not suggest an autopsy or tissue sample for fetal abnormalities until the third miscarriage. So just…don’t say this.

I understand how you feel.

Even if you have also experienced a pregnancy loss, everyone grieves differently. Grief is a journey, and if the loss is new, they may be in a very different place than you are.

So what can you say instead?

I’m sorry for your loss.

I care about you.

If you’d like to talk about it, I’m here.


Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197

Grief and Grieving

Grief is a peculiar thing in some cultures. In the United States, the majority (white, Protestant) culture struggles with grief. We expect grief to be contained in practice, time, and scope. When people spend “too long” in their grief, we pathologize them. The criteria proposed for Persistent Complex Bereavement are culturally bound, but we know that the majority culture already pathologizes any culture outside what it considers to be the norm.

  • Intense and persistent yearning for the deceased (How are we defining this? Is it not typical or to be expected that we miss our loved ones?)
  • Frequent preoccupation with the deceased (What’s defined as preoccupation? Is talking to the deceased daily through prayer a preoccupation? What about visiting the grave site? What about ofrendas?)

The wisest thing someone said to me about grief was that the thing that makes grief so hard to deal with (for the non-grieving) is the idea that grief must have a time limit. This is especially true when someone experiences miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. People, often well-meaning, good people, often respond poorly to the news of the death of a child. When someone is grieving, it’s okay to tell them that you don’t know what to say, but that you are there for them. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable, but if your feelings about how someone “should” be grieving gets in the way of you being a good friend/sibling/therapist/coworker, step out of the way and allow that person to connect with someone who is able to set aside their own preconceptions about rituals of death and mourning and allow people the space to have theirs–even if (maybe especially if) the relationship between the griever and the deceased was difficult, strained, or even estranged.

NOTE: I came across an article some time ago that proposes that “autistic grief is not like neurotypical grief.” While I love that this person shared their experience of grieving, it’s important to recall that old saying: If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. And, whether typical or atypical, as long as the mourning is not physically harmful to the individual or people around them, everyone needs to have their own path through mourning.

Grief is a symptom of relationships, not pathology. If humans weren’t relational creatures, 1) we wouldn’t have survived as long as we have; and 2) we would be immune from grief.

Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197

True North Counseling Website

True North Counseling Opens

True North Counseling, a New Therapy Practice Dedicated to Helping Struggling Teens and Their Families, Opens Doors in Louisville, Kentucky

True North Counseling derives its name from the common saying “true north”. The term is defined as “the place where one is at peace with themselves and others.” The mission of the therapists at True North Counseling is to help those who are facing life’s barriers and obstacles. The therapists help their patients overcome these issues through guided counseling. The practice has a special interest in working with struggling teens and their families. The team of therapists incorporates innovative approaches to encourage healing and growth.

Explaining his decision to open this unique practice, therapist and business owner Mark Neese explains, “I have worked for decades helping teenagers and young adults successfully navigate personal problems and life’s challenges. I believe there is a real need in our community for a counseling practice that focuses primarily on this population. That’s why we’ve started True North Counseling. Our team looks forward to serving the Louisville community with a unique and experienced therapeutic approach that builds confidence and inspires independence.”

The True North Counseling team has over 80 years of combined experience working with individuals, couples, teens, and families. True North Counseling offers a wide variety of counseling services to their clients. Those services include Teen Therapy, Individual Therapy, Family Therapy, Crisis Management, and Behavioral Support.

Read more…

True North Therapy

Acting Yourself into a Way of Feeling

Sometimes you simply feel stuck. You feel stuck in a relationship, or a mood, or in a standoff with a workmate or employer. And on top of this, you feel hopeless. The way out involves “acting as if.” The saying goes, “It’s easier to act yourself into a way of feeling than feel yourself into a way of acting.”

In a marital or romantic relationship, this means: If you want to feel romantic, then act romantic. You can rekindle the romantic flames by doing the things that will promote positive feelings. This could include what has become known as the Five Love Languages.

When people experience depression, they tend to withdraw from activities that previously contributed to their wellbeing. One approach to helping them is to encourage them to slowly re-engage in these activities, acting themselves into a way of feeling.

None of this is easy. Relationships are complicated. Feelings are slow to recover from loss or trauma. But little changes can lead to bigger changes and healing. We are there to act as coaches to help instill hope.

True North Counseling therapists have a history of instilling hope in our clients. Our hopefulness comes from seeing our clients use this principle in their lives by acting and feeling differently.

Family Therapy Louisville, KY

Easy Does It!

true north therapyIt disturbs me when I hear clients tell about previous therapy sessions, therapists, or treatment programs that have told them, “This is going to get worse before it gets better!”

Certainly, things might get worse, but they don’t have to. We at True North believe in the “easy does it” approach to therapy. As a younger therapist, I tried the “hardcore” or “double down” approaches to bringing change in the lives of individuals and families. I learned that those approaches do not respect people. And typically, they do not teach people to respect each other.

A slower, kinder and gentler approach to therapy helps people change.

At the same time, focus on maintaining important bonds and positive feelings that they have for each other.

Going slow doesn’t mean that it will take longer to see positive change. Slowing things down often prevents the damage that can take place in a faster, harsher approach to therapy.

We at True North see ourselves as Change Agents. There is a pace and a cadence to change that you and your family can tolerate. We will work with you to find them. We will nurture you through this process, slowly.