Separation and Loss Services: Helping Victims of Violent Death

Separation and Loss Services at Virginia Mason has made a big impact in the Seattle area and throughout the world. For more than 30 years, it’s been a trusted resource for people who have become emotionally disabled by complicated grief.

Violent death, whether the result of suicide, murder or accident, is traumatic for survivors and their communities. Those who are grieving may struggle to find peace until the death is explained and justice and order are reestablished, to the extent possible.

The Separation and Loss Services team (from left), Laura Jeffs, Fanny Correa, MSW, and Ted Rynearson, MD

The Separation and Loss Services team (from left), Laura Jeffs, Fanny Correa, MSW, and Ted Rynearson, MD

The Separation and Loss Services team provides a wide array of resources for the community including critical incident stress management; individual and group interventions for the bereaved; court support and advocacy. They also sponsor clinical training in the treatment of complicated grief and encourage the ongoing development and verification of innovative treatments.

Leading the program is psychiatrist Ted Rynearson, MD, an expert on coping with grief after violent death. Clinicians from around the country come to Seattle to learn more about Dr. Rynearson’s treatment model called “Restorative Retelling.” This model seeks to help survivors move beyond the mental reenactments of how their loved one died, to celebrating the memories and finding new meaning in their life.

The team includes Dr. Rynearson; Fanny Correa, therapist; and Laura Jeffs, crime victim advocate. They use a multi‐disciplinary approach collaborating with other community providers, criminal justice professionals, health care providers and faith‐based organizations to serve the needs of their clients.

Financial support for this program is provided by Virginia Mason, donations and a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. If you know someone who could use this help or if you would like to learn more about the program, call (206) 223‐6398.

Don’t Let Dark Days Cancel Winter Fun

Winter skyWinter is upon us. It’s dark when we go to work and dark when most of us get home. Some of us get the winter blues and find it takes extra effort to stay positive. For others, the impact is more devastating.

These people have what is known as seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. SAD is a form of depression and a recognized psychiatric disorder. The disorder begins in the fall and ends in the spring, negatively affecting sleep patterns, appetite and the ability to concentrate. SAD sufferers can become despondent, even suicidal.

Some people suppose that SAD is a reaction to cold, but it’s actually a reaction to reduced light. Our biological clocks are set for a 24-hour cycle, and they need sunlight to stay on a regular cycle. Early morning light resets our clock, keeping it on a 24-hour cycle

There are several treatment options for SAD sufferers: exercise, light therapy and for more severe symptoms, medication.

Adding exercise to your day can make a big difference. Don’t let bad weather be an excuse. The next time you’re at the mall, walk from one end to the other and see if you don’t feel an improvement. Exercise is a natural stimulator of many important “mood” hormones, including serotonin and dopamine. Don’t think of exercise as a chore to lose weight or prevent heart disease “someday.” Fifteen to 20 minutes of exercise each day will restore the feel-good hormones like serotonin that are reduced when there isn’t enough sunlight.

For light therapy, the individual sits or works near a light therapy box or lamp. The bright light mimics natural outdoor light and increases brain chemicals linked to mood and other SAD symptoms.

Both bright light therapy and dawn simulators, an alarm clock that mimics the rising sun, have been shown to be effective in treating SAD. Antidepressants can also be used to treat the disorder, but the best treatment may be physical exercise.

Is winter getting you down? Tell your Virginia Mason provider how you are feeling. Together, you can find a solution for your winter blues.


Be a Quitter, Join the Great American Smokeout

Do you ever wish you could get that tobacco monkey off your back?

This monkey is breaking the smoking habit today.

Enjoy fresh air again and stop spending money on cartons of cigarettes by joining thousands of other Americans who are making a plan to quit smoking as part of the Great American Smokeout today, Nov. 15.

No matter how old you are or how long you’ve smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who keep smoking. Ex-smokers enjoy a higher quality of life with fewer illnesses from cold and flu viruses, better self-reported health and reduced rates of bronchitis and pneumonia.

If you want to stop smoking, consider enrolling in a program that offers help and support to increase your chances of success. The Tobacco Quit Line, funded by the Washington State Department of Health, provides free cessation services to all residents over the age of 18. Call toll-free (800) QUIT-NOW (784-8669) for more information or to get started.

Additionally, your employer or health plan may offer the Quit For Life Program. Find out more by calling toll-free (866) QUIT-4-LIFE (784-8454).

Aging: It Doesn’t Have To Be a Balancing Act

You know the feeling of unease; you’ve called Aunt Gracie for the third time and she still hasn’t answered the phone or returned the call. You wonder, “Is she OK? Has she fallen?”

Families with older relatives and friends who live alone are right to be concerned. One in three older adults fall each year. And the incidence of falling increases with age.

The good news, according to Lesley Weinberg, a physical therapist with Virginia Mason, is that falls are preventable and not a normal part of aging.

“Maintaining independence and remaining in one’s home environment is a goal that most of us strive for,” she says. Both the American Geriatric Society and the British Geriatric Society recently revised the recommendations, and below are the essential steps you or your family members should take to prevent falls:

  • Review medications with your physician every year.
  • Have your vision checked regularly. Avoid using bifocals or trifocals when walking.
  • Take adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium to support bone health. Consult your doctor to discuss specific amounts.
  • Pick proper foot wear: shoes with low heels and support in the heel as well as adequate amount of room for your forefoot.
  • Drink enough water. Recommended amounts are eight to 10 glasses of water per day.
  • Keep a safe home environment. A safe home includes proper lighting, installation of handrails and grab bars as well as keeping clutter off the floor.
  • Get regular exercise. The U.S. National Institute of Health recommends exercise programs for seniors that include:

Endurance training
Strength training
Balance exercises
Flexibility exercises

Your Skin: Pale Is Better Than Extra Crispy

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re sun starved. When the sun pokes out of the clouds, we love to stay outside walking, gardening, or just sitting and enjoying a nice glass of wine with friends. But we’re not always as diligent about applying sunblock as we should be. As a result that “healthy glow” is going to result in more wrinkles and freckles and less protective collagen.

Ultraviolet light radiation (the sun) is the number one cause of photo aging as well as skin cancer.

“Protecting yourself from exposure to this ultraviolet radiation is the first and most important thing you should do for your skin health,” says Janie Leonhardt, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist with Virginia Mason.
Every day you should wear a sun block on the face, ears, neck and forearms with an SPF of 30 or greater. And don’t forget your lips. Make sure the sun protection you’re using protects you adequately from both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation. You’ll know you have the right product if it is a broad-spectrum sun block, such as those containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Other helpful tips to keep your skin looking healthy and youthful include:

  • Apply sun protection 30 minutes prior to exposure and reapply after water exposure or every three to four hours.
  • When possible, avoid midday sun exposure.
  • Wear sun protective clothing with broad-rim hats and full-length shirts and pants when enjoying outdoor activities.

If you’re really serious about protecting and preserving your skin, see a dermatologist to get a professional evaluation. Dermatologists are experts at interpreting the changes that have already occurred and creating a personalized approach to the treatment of these changes.

For skin cancer prevention and treatment, Dr. Leonhardt recommends that everyone get a yearly full body skin examination by a dermatologist. You should also perform monthly self-skin exams. Any spots growing and changing in size, color or shape, should be evaluated as soon as possible in the office.