Integrated Behavioral Health and Addictions Counseling advisor and faculty member Fiyyaz Karim talks about how to cope with grief and loss.


Video Transcript

KMOJ: Please welcome to our Morning Show microphone an individual who's a resident faculty member in the Master of Professional Studies in integrated Behavioral Health and Master of Professional Studies in Addictions Counseling programs. Say good morning to Fiyyaz Karim, who's also a lecturer. Good morning.

Fiyyaz Karim: Good morning, thanks for having me.

KMOJ: Glad to have you along with us and this is a good time, but do you experience right now, is this a time of the year when, with everything that's going on in relationship to holidays and so forth, with employment, that there is more grief, more feelings of loss than any other time during the year?

Karim: I would say so. I think this time of the year is a very big trigger for a lot of grieving that's going on, whether it's a loss of a loved one or breakups or unemployment, as well though, too. And I think even, you know, with unemployment, even if individuals don't, you know, adhere to some of the different holidays around this season, just the exposure to some of those messages out there can be, you know, a grieving process in itself.

KMOJ: On a society level or a city level, is there loss or grief even associated when your sports teams don't do very well?

Karim: I would joke about that in my grief and loss class as well. I think there definitely is a grieving process, because we form attachments and these relationships to sports teams, so when they don't do well I think there is definitely a grieving process. You'd see very similar sort of reactions in the way that we grieve or we mourn, you know, the loss of specific sports games as we would with any other sort of loss.

KMOJ: Everybody, we're talking with Fiyyaz Karim. He's a lecturer and he specializes in the area of grief and loss, and with the work that you've done in unemployment, is there a point when, you know, we talk about job fairs ad infinitum here at KMOJ, and there's one today as a matter of fact with Hennepin County. Does there get to be a point where there's a shift, when people have been unemployed, that they're at a point of giving up because of grief and because of loss?

Karim: I think you see that a lot of times with more long-term unemployment and that's, you know, that's kind of more of the alarming piece is the long-term effects of unemployment, so those who have been unemployed for let's say six months or more where, you know, that sense of security definitely, you know, rises up more as maybe benefits are running out and you know just this fact that, will I find a job you know, will I find a job in the profession that I have these skill sets and education, will I find a job that's going to satisfy you know my financial security overall as well though, too. So I think there definitely is where... that's the area that I've really focused on is because I think we have a lot of great resources like the job fairs that you talked about, but I think one thing that we don't really focus on is the mental health impact of unemployment and that grieving process, you know, the emotions the impact on identity, because I think that's a very big piece with the job as well, because for example, you know if we're making small talk and I'm getting to know you for the first time. One of the first things I'm probably gonna ask you is what do you do you know, and I'm referring you know I'm asking you about your profession. So what is that like for someone that is not able to answer that, is going through you know recent job loss?

KMOJ: Do you help people through that? Is there a standard type of answer that a person who is in between opportunities should be saying or you suggest that they say? To not only present themselves well to a prospective employer or somebody that they're meeting, but to help them with their own mental health.

Karim: I think just communicating where they're at I think that's the big thing is. When we grieve a job loss we tend to isolate ourselves and we tend to kind of refrain from having those discussions and that dialogue altogether. So I think just being upfront and saying "this is my situation, this is what I'm going through," and I think that way you're facilitating a dialogue so you're able to get that support that you need though too. Because I think that's another big area that's really impacted with job loss is that lack, you know, not getting that social support, because we isolate ourselves and, in doing so, then we strain those relationships with family and friends. So I think you know, looking at ways that we can foster and facilitate that dialogue about job loss.

KMOJ: So what do we do? We're talking with Fiyyaz Karim who's a lecturer and he specializes in grief and loss. So how do you overcome that, how do you stand the other impacts from having lost employment to mitigate some of the other things that could happen, and what are some of those other things that could happen?

Karim: I think a big one is sense of security, so you know wondering if you're gonna secure another job, you know the finances might be in one identity, the social support just overall, our self-esteem and the impact that it has with our self-esteem. A lot of times with unemployment we have a lot more anxiety and fear, guilt and shame are very big as well. And because of that we tend to ruminate, you know, we kind of overthink these things and because of that, that impacts other areas of our life though, too, just physical symptoms. Because a lot of times when we're thinking or overthinking about these things it's usually at night, and because of that then it impacts our sleep as well. And if it impacts our sleep then the next day we're feeling very tired and lethargic, maybe more irritable. So I think it has the ability to really impact a wide array of different areas in a person's life.

KMOJ: Would you say that grief lasts forever? I mean, is there ever a time where you're not grieving, even if it's been years and years? I mean does it ever just go away?

Karim: I think that's an interesting question. With grief, when I'm training students or talking with individuals and working through their grief you know, it's not about getting over the grief, because I think it is a very lifelong thing. And it's more how do we prepare the individual with different coping strategies so that when things do come up that they're able to navigate that. Because I remember doing a training, for example, on unemployment and someone had talked about how they had been laid off 20 years ago and they still have a lot of resentment and anger. This is 20 years later and they've been able to secure employment their field and everything, but they still are grieving over that job loss that happened. So it definitely is a lifelong process, and what we can do is hopefully, you know, my goal is to always give, as I always tell the clients, I'm working with, how do we give them more tools for their tool belt so when those triggers do come on, whether it's you know, the holidays or other times of the year or different things that may be going on. How do we provide them with healthier coping strategies.

KMOJ: It's interesting. We're talking with Fiyyaz Karim who is a lecturer and he specializes in grief and loss. So I'm realistic, is it? I mean I'm at a holiday party, haven't worked in six, seven months and they go, "Hey Freddie Bell, how are you, what do you do?" "Well, I haven't worked in six or seven months, I can't feed my family, and boy, am I excited to see you. I'm really happy today." How do you get there?

Karim: Like how do you navigate that?

KMOJ: How do you get to that level of mental security and even to the point of being able to verbalize it? "No, I'm not employed, haven't been employed for six months and it doesn't look like I'm going to be employed for the next six months, but life is good."

Karim: Yeah, you know, I've talked with a lot of individuals that are in those situations that you've described, those sorts of scenarios as very you know, emotionally and mentally exhausting and you know where they have to practice and maybe come up with some sort of script in terms of how to talk about those situations, as well. And I think one is just coming up with, how do you vocalize, how do you verbalize what's going on with the situation. But then one is you know also looking at ways to ask for help with other individuals, you know, what is the kind of support that you need. Because I think that's a big thing and we kind of shy away from not asking for you know, the support that we need during those times. And I think then the holidays can be a very hard time in having those conversation, but I think one way of looking at it though, too, is because there's a lot of socializing going on during these times that it might be opportunities for networking as well. So that might be sort of the silver lining, you know, when looking at this, is you're you know maybe communicating or conversing with a lot more individuals during this time, let's say family and friends. Those might be opportunities for networking which may bode well for a future job or career though, too.

KMOJ: So are there resources, especially in our listening community that people can avail themselves to, to get some direct professional help to navigate through grief and loss?

Karim: Well, there's a lot of, I mean, community mental health agencies that focus on just the impact, the mental health impact, so the you know the depression, the anxiety symptoms. I think... I always urge individuals to kind of think beyond just you know some of the the counseling aspects as well, because there's a lot of great resources that are very underutilized I think in our society, like the Workforce Center for example. We've done a lot of work with them and collaborated with them, and talking with a lot of the counselors over there, they mentioned about how it's just a service that they wish more and more individuals were utilizing for the job search itself. Because they have a lot of great workshops and they teach a lot of great strategies on how to you know improve your resume, how to market yourself, interviewing skills. But also I think the financial is an aspect though too, might be an issue for individuals, so even seeking out financial counseling. We have a lot of great reputable financial counseling agencies here in the Twin Cities where they can work with individuals and develop a budget, look at the type of debt that you may have and figure out a game plan going forward. I think it's taking a very more of a holistic approach, where, you know, seeking out the mental health and the counseling aspect is one, but then maybe getting connected and tapped into some of these other resources as well.

KMOJ: How can we get more information and maybe even connect with you for folks who'd like more information to go in to a deeper dive with grieving loss and just feeling alone.

Karim: I mean I'm always available to consult, so individuals can always email me at my U of M email address as well: I'm always happy to consult and talk with individuals about this, and I think, you know, knowing some of the resources is definitely a big thing with this. I'm always happy to point individuals in the right direction about these different areas.

KMOJ: All right, I can't thank you enough for stopping in, Fiyyaz, to talk to us about this. You know, this is a really important topic in our community, especially in our listening community, with loss not only employment but loss of a loved one, with the shootings and so forth, families struggling through these types of situations. Your visit today couldn't be more timely. Thank you so much.

Karim: No problem. Can I say one more, one last tip? I think a big thing with loss you know and kind of when you're talking about just how do we cope with it during this time. I think self-care is one of the biggest things when I work with individuals. And I think a big thing, especially with unemployment is just, I always stress the fact that self-care is not selfish. It's something that we need. It's something that is a very, very important thing, especially with unemployment because I think this is an area that many individuals neglect as they're grieving with this sort of loss.

KMOJ: I agree, I like that. All right. Fiyyaz Karim, lecturer and a resident faculty member in the Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Behavioral Health and Master of Professional Studies in Addictions Counseling programs, thank you for being with us.

Karim: Thank you for having me.