Grief is neither linear nor confined to death. If anyone knows that, it’s LeTanndra Thompson, the grief educator.
A native of North Alabama, Thompson graduated from UNA in 2009. She earned a degree in social work and started working at her Safeplace, a local domestic violence shelter. She started working towards her master’s degree at Alabama A&M a year after her. UNA said she did not complete her Master’s Degree in Social until 2020. She is currently completing her second master’s degree in Thanatology, the study of death, dying, and bereavement.
Thompson wears many hats. She is a licensed social worker, stay-at-home mom, entrepreneur, and part-time substitute teacher. She educates others about grief through her business, Renewed Minds Grief Education and Grief Support Services. She received certification in grief education through the David Kessler training program.
“My goal is to educate the community about grief and hopefully be able to offer some support,” Thompson said.
When Thompson was 12, his mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her mother died when she was 15. Prior to her death, her mother was in hospice. This was the first time Thompson had met a hospice social worker. She wanted to do it with her own life as well.
“After my mother died, I realized that people didn’t talk about it very much. [grief]said Thompson. “No one asked me about my grief. No one really checked on me. I never had counseling or therapy or anything after that. I didn’t know what I needed at the time.” I knew I didn’t feel right, I knew I needed some help as far as dealing with my mother’s death.”
She began educating herself about grief and mental health, trying to find ways to help herself.
“I started looking on the Internet to find out what I needed to do,” Thompson said. “It’s not just about trying to help yourself, it’s about helping others and making them feel more comfortable talking about their grief so they can help themselves and others.” It sparked interest.”
Thompson’s goal is to normalize the grieving process. Grief is a normal, albeit difficult, part of life.
“I think grief is an underlying factor in many of the mental health problems we face,” Thompson said. To think that you have depression or any other kind of mental health problem because of the loss. There are so many losses out there that people can grieve.”
Grief unrelated to death is not unfamiliar to Thompson. In August 2015, while pregnant with her first child, she was diagnosed with: anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.disease It occurs when antibodies attack NMDA receptors in the brain and can cause tumors in the ovaries. Thompson personally has no memory of the months she spent in the hospital, but her husband published a book about his experience.
The disease posed a threat to pregnancy itself. To treat it, she required chemotherapy, steroids and plasma transfusions. Finally, at 28 weeks, an emergency caesarean section was decided. Doctors removed a tumor in my right ovary that was causing my encephalitis.
Thompson experienced bouts of psychosis while under the influence. She was hospitalized for four months and finally she was discharged on December 31, 2015.
“I recovered, but things got worse before they got better,” Thompson said. “My mental illness got worse. I never thought I would go through any kind of mental illness. [The hospitalization] Left me in pretty bad shape. Physically, I had lost nearly 50 to 60 pounds. I was around 150 pounds before I got sick. After that, it dropped to 97 pounds. ”
According to Thompson, the worst part of her illness was the aftereffects. She developed depression.
“As a social worker, I was a little embarrassed. [my depression]said Thompson. “I was like, ‘I’m a social worker. I can’t raise my kids because I’m sick.We learn a lot about depression in school, but experiencing it in person was the most eye-opening.How much you studied in school? It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.”
She saw firsthand many misconceptions about mental illness. The reassurance that she and her son were alive didn’t help as she was still suffering internally. For Thompson, people don’t realize that their mental illness is out of control. Her own depression lasted two years.
“I was never suicidal, but there were days when I hated watching the sun rise,” she said. “I didn’t want to see the sun rise because it meant it was another day I had to get over. I wasn’t suicidal, I didn’t mean to hurt myself, but I was like, ‘God, tomorrow I can’t see. There was a time when I thought, “It’s okay if I don’t wake up.”
Thompson was sad. She was grieving the loss of her pregnancy because she had little to no memory of her pregnancy and was desperate for it. Her son was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where she spent four months. She was also grieving the loss of her job. She had started her dream job as a social worker at a hospice just a month before she fell ill.
“The most important thing was the time lost,” Thompson said. “That’s what people don’t really think about. We think about all these different losses. It feels like four months of our lives are lost.”
Thompson is able to use her own experience to further educate people about mental health and loss. It’s not just death-related losses. She didn’t fall into depression after the death of her mother, but she did after experiencing much loss from the disease.She has everything that makes her feel like herself She even felt a loss of her identity because she lost her stuff.
“I don’t want to go through something like that again, but I appreciate the meaning it gave me,” Thompson said. “I don’t think people are being punished for anything. I believe life happens by chance. With the right support and help, it’s possible.”
She was in the middle of planning Renewed Minds when she fell ill. That gave her even more motivation to educate others. Over time and as she began attending her therapy, she had a better idea of how she wanted to help others.She also realized how difficult therapy can be for people. Did. According to Thompson, therapy is the kind of thing that someone has to be completely prepared for.
In the black community itself, Thompson feels that difficulty is amplified.
“Especially in the black community, we are often taught that what happens at home stays at home,” Thompson said. “We are taught to be strong. Somebody asked me, ‘What happened to that strong man?’… Grief does not discriminate.” Death does not discriminate. But historically, grief in the black community has been associated with discrimination and other forms of injustice. Grief is already complex, and it is unique to each person, even if they live in the same household and are grieving the same loss. there is. ”
Dr. Larry Bates is a professor of psychology. He has been with UNA for 23 and a half years. He holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Auburn University with a minor in psychopharmacology.
“I think we’re starting to accept that culture has a much greater impact on mental illness than was previously thought,” Bates said. “Culture defines what we call ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’, whether mental illnesses are more or less problematic, whether treatment is acceptable or not, how people with these disorders It makes us believe socially that we can be ridiculed or saved. It’s clear that just because you can treat depression in most clients doesn’t necessarily, perhaps at least not, understand their ways and values without supervision or additional training. ”
Along with culture, race plays a role in the prevalence of mental illness. Certain disorders, of course, affect certain people to a greater or lesser extent depending on their genetics, not just their race. .
“Perhaps the bigger question is what happens when people with mental illness recover from it.” access health services, which may be due to higher rates of mental illness among whites or something else. Asian Americans tend to have lower prevalence of mental illness and less access to mental health services. whether the actual incidence of the disorder is low; whether therapists are biased for or against making certain diagnoses for some races; or unacceptable, or something else that we don’t see yet.”