Tyson: I'm sorry for what you are going through. Grief is often a complex and solitary condition. Sadly, we each eventually find this out on our journey through life. Even if a death is expected, or welcomed, grief can be overwhelming and prolonged. Sudden death especially is in its own category of hell for those left behind.
My family has gone through two major losses in the past four months, the latest one just three days before Christmas. I was still massively hurting from the first one, especially as it was the first Christmas after the loss. I felt numb in a way over Christmas after news came of the second loss, not having much energy to react strongly then in the way I would have done otherwise, although it is hugely painful.
I find it difficult to express how I feel to anyone in my world, especially as, despite "knowing better", I think after four months I "should" move on, or whatever. I would never tell someone else to do so but expect it of myself, or think that others would say that so I avoid expressing to them how I feel. Four months can be like yesterday though. I'm solitary in that way, keeping emotions and feelings largely to myself. As if it matters what others think. As if I have to measure up to some imagined standard they may have.
It helps me to read "how-to" material, although that's not everybody's preference I know. I prefer the solitary nature of that. I've attended a grief group in the past as well as a few sessions with a counsellor after multiple losses but for me neither was that helpful for various reasons, although still I would recommend that people try those avenues if they feel they could benefit from it or that they need help in their situation.
Several articles about grief that I've come across recently have been of some help to me, especially the thoughts excerpted below. (I know it's long - just goes to show there's no easy quick-fix).
The bottom lines are that every loss is unique, explaining why grief can be so lonely; recovery is a process and takes time; but time can indeed heal, at least to some extent; and we can eventually find joy again in life at some point but meanwhile should find ways to look after ourselves. The latter part can be alien to us as many of us are not socialized to think of ourselves first, if at all. But recognizing that we need to care for our own needs first in order to continue functioning effectively and to heal to the greatest extent possible is a crucial piece of regaining or maintaining our physical and mental health and some measure, hopefully a large one, of happiness going forward.
I hope the following links and excerpts are of some benefit to you and to others experiencing grief and in times of mourning. There is a lot of material out there. It can help to hear from others about what has been helpful to them. It also helps for us to acknowledge each other's pain from the many losses we experience as we journey through life. It turns out to be a bittersweet experience but hopefully more sweet and less bitter overall, despite the major bumps in the road along the way, as well as the frank derailments that occur.
I read somewhere recently that “grief can sometimes be overwhelming” and that “each person grieves in his or her unique way”. The latter is what can make a bereavement so lonely. Truly, nobody knows how you feel.
I found this recent magazine article re one man’s grief experiences intriguing:https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/06/the-strangeness-of-grief
The writer meanders in an unexpected direction but I found it a worthwhile read.
“We are never finished with grief. It is part of the fabric of living. It is always waiting to happen. Love makes memories and life precious; the grief that comes to us is proportionate to that love and is inescapable.”
I found this thought helpful in stating a major reason for the pain of grief, and permission, so to speak, to feel grief-stricken – there is a good reason for it in the face of painful loss.
The article goes on - following the death of their brother: “I said to Kamla, expecting some solace from her, “And now we have nothing.” She said, “And now we have nothing.”
Of course, it is unlikely to “have nothing” following a bereavement but it can feel that way – like nothing else matters now and it never will.
The writer states: “My sorrow lasted for two years. For two years I mentally dated everything, even the purchase of a book, by its distance from Shiva’s death.”
I find myself doing this also re my own departed loved ones - marking time passing to exhort myself to “feel better”, as if grief has a time-limit after which you should “feel better”.
I found some articles on a memorial home’s web site useful, as follows:
Helping Yourself at Your Time of Loss (by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.)
“I seem to be falling apart. My attention span can be measured in seconds. My patience in minutes. I cry at the drop of a hat. Feelings of anxiety and restlessness are my constant companions. Rainy days seem extra dreary. Sunny days seem an outrage. Other people’s pain and frustration seem insignificant. Laughing, happy people seem out of place in my world. It has become routine to feel half crazy. I am normal I am told. I am a newly grieving person. – Anonymous”
“Feelings of shock, denial, numbness and disbelief are nature’s way of temporarily protecting you from the full reality of the loss. Especially if you had little or no opportunity to anticipate the death, you may feel dazed and stunned now and in the coming days.
“Trust that these feelings are normal and necessary. They serve as psychological “shock absorbers,” giving your emotions time to catch up with what your mind has been told. You may also find yourself crying (or laughing) hysterically, having angry outbursts or simply feeling foggy and unable to think.
“These are common feelings… Continue to ask others to help.”
[After the funeral] “Feelings of sadness and despair may grow stronger.”
“Believe in your capacity to heal.”
“… early in your grief journey, it may be hard for you to believe that you’ll get through this. You will. Over time and with the support of others, you can and will learn to reconcile this loss. Although your pain may get worse before it gets better, in the coming months and years the intense feelings of grief will soften.”
12 Insights into Grieving After the Death of Your Loved One (by Therese A. Rando, Ph.D., BCETS, BCBT)
“The journey through grief is different for all of us … we all take our own path.”
“Someone you love has died. This presents you with one of the most challenging experiences any human being can face—coping with the loss of your loved one in your life. In this article, you will learn about your grief (experiencing your reactions to the loss of your loved one) and your mourning (making necessary readjustments to ultimately fit that loss into your life).”
“Learning how to grieve healthfully and to mourn so that you can learn to adapt to life in the absence of your loved one, is no simple task. It often requires more work, takes more time and is more impacting than most people anticipate. These 12 insights will help you better appreciate the true realities of your own particular bereavement, respond more effectively to what you encounter in it and have more appropriate expectations of yourself along the way.”
Insight #1: Grief is personal and unique.
“Your grief is as personal and unique as your fingerprint; no one else will have the same bereavement experience as you and there is not one “correct” way to respond to loss.”
“There are literally 37 sets of factors that influence any individual’s grief. They combine to make your own bereavement distinct from everybody else’s—even different from that of others in your own family who are mourning the loss of the same person! Although one person has died, you and every other individual mourning that person actually experience different losses. This is because no 2 people can have the exact same relationship with another individual, and it is the loss of that specific relationship that is mourned when the person died. Also, it is because no 2 people ever bring to a situation the same strengths and weaknesses, the same past experiences or the same social and cultural conditioning.”
“Everyone’s grief is determined by:
“The nature and meaning of their particular relationship with the person who died.
“Their own personal characteristics and life history.
“The specific aspects of their loved one’s death.
“The social situation surrounding them.
“Their physical state.”
“Given all of the things that determine a person’s reactions, you can see why there is absolutely no way in which anyone else could grieve or mourn in the very same way as you. For this reason as well, there is no one correct way to respond to loss. While there are some common processes that people must undergo to learn to live healthfully with a major loss, everyone will go about these in their unique fashion.”
“Do not let anyone tell you how you need to grieve and mourn.”
“Be careful about comparing your experiences with those of others.”
Insight #2: You are dealing with more than one loss.
“With the death of your loved one, you experience so much more than merely one loss. The losses that go along with or develop as a consequence of your loved one’s death are known as secondary losses.”
“They are not necessarily secondary in terms of their importance to you, only in terms of their being dependent upon the death of your loved one. Secondary losses, like any other losses, can be either physical (for instance, the loss of a house because you cannot afford to live there anymore) or psycho-social (for example, the loss of a relationship). Part of mourning your loved one means identifying and mourning the inevitable secondary losses that develop for you as a consequence of your loved one’s death.”
“The loss of the roles that your loved one specifically had played for you (for instance, spouse, best friend, sexual partner, confidant, cook, co-parent, travel companion).”
“The loss of meaning and satisfaction in the role you played in your loved one's life.”
“The loss of all of the hopes and dreams you had for and with that person.”
“Importantly, secondary losses can also occur in what is known as your assumptive world. This is the unique set of expectations, assumptions and beliefs that you formerly had held about life, the ways it works, spiritual matters and the existence of your loved ones. With the death of your loved one, you lose all of the assumptions, expectations and beliefs that had been based upon your loved one being alive (for example,
“he’ll always be there for me if I need him” or “she will make me a grandparent”).”
“Other more general, but still quite important, elements of your assumptive world that didn’t concern the existence of your loved one also can be undermined or violated by your loved one’s death. For example: your belief in God, your security in the world, your expectations about life being predictable and fair.”
“These are additional secondary losses you must deal with over and above the actual loss of that person.”
“Over time, identify the secondary losses that come to you as a result of your loved one’s death so that you can mourn them—they are part of your bereavement.”
“Work to revise your assumptive world insofar as elements of it are no longer valid or have been shattered because of your loved one’s death.”
Insight #3: Don't underestimate your grief.
“The depth and breadth of your acute grief reactions to the loss of your loved one should not be underestimated.”
“Any grief response expresses one or a combination of 4 things:
“Your feelings about the loss and the deprivation it causes (for example, sorrow, depression, guilt).”
“Your product at the loss and your wish to undo it and have it not be true (such as, anger, “searching” for your lost loved one, preoccupation with that person).”
“The personal effects caused to you by the assault of this loss upon you (for instance, fear and anxiety, disorganization and confusion, lack of physical well-being).”
“Your personal behaviors stimulated by any of the above (including, among others, crying, social withdrawal, increased use of drugs and alcohol).”
“You can experience your grief:
“Psychologically in your feelings, thoughts, wishes, perceptions and attempts at coping, through your behaviors, in your social responses to others and through your physical health.”
“Acute grief in the early days, weeks and months often surprises mourners because it can be so unexpectedly intense, can make you feel very different than before, may overtax your normal coping mechanisms, can sometimes leave you feeling totally numb, typically involves so many more aspects of your life than you would have expected.”
“For instance, you might be surprised to find that while you may have assumed that you’d have many emotional reactions to your loved one’s death, you didn’t anticipate that you’d have difficulty remembering what you needed at the grocery store or even how to get there. You can be stunned to discover that your normally clear thinking has diminished, your usual sunny disposition has temporarily disappeared, your concern for others has evaporated at this point or that your decision-making abilities are gone for now. The job or personal activities you’ve been engaged in for years might now seem strange and may require much personal effort, if you can muster it at all. These and an infinite variety of other reactions illustrate that with the death of your loved one, for a period of time your world—and your experience of being in it—is different than ever before.”
“Remember that this is a process and not a state you will stay stuck in. Give yourself permission to express your reactions in ways that work for you.”
“Recognize that your reactions may be quite diverse and different than you had anticipated, often making you feel very different than your usual self.”
Insight #4: Grief does not solely affect your emotions.
“Grief does not mean that you will only be sad. It is a myth that grief solely affects your feelings. Grief is a “whole person” experience, and you probably will notice it affecting most, or all, areas of your life. Some people can cope better in some areas than others (for example, you may be able to control it when you are at work, although you might have more difficulty doing so on the ride home). However, there are plenty of mourners who have difficulty across the board in all parts of their lives.”
“It is also a myth that sadness is the only emotion you will experience. There are a great many other feelings that can come with the loss of a loved one.”
“Other feelings that you may have could include: Anxiety, helplessness, feeling overwhelmed, fear, longing for your loved one, anger, impatience, guilt, depression, frustration, loneliness, feelings of unreality, abandonment, fear of going crazy, relief.”
“You also might experience: disbelief, confusion, impaired concentration, disorganization, feelings of unreality, numbness, obsession with your loved one, tension, avoidance of things associated with the death, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, spiritual distress, impaired concentration, restlessness or agitation, a sense of meaninglessness.”
“Sometimes you may feel disconnected from others with whom you’ve previously been close. At other times, you can wonder
“what’s the use?” and wish that you could die too. While these are not abnormal in the abstract, if you seriously consider suicide or fail to take appropriate care of yourself in such a way that you put yourself at risk for death from illness or injury, then you must seek professional assistance.”
“Additionally, you can expect that your behavior will be affected for a while. Among many possible reactions, you may find that you respond to others differently than you had before. Your behavior could be more disorganized and you might have little interest in those things that were formerly of concern to you. You may cry or, on the other hand, have no ability to shed a tear. You could have sleep problems and appetite changes; develop temporary problems in your personal, social and work functioning; and become physically run down or have specific medical symptoms that indicate stress, depression and anxiety. A lack of feeling of well-being is common. You should be aware that the loss of a loved one leaves you susceptible to illness and injury. As a result, you will need both to monitor yourself and take care of yourself, including getting proper medical care.”
“Expect that you will be affected in all, or many, areas of your life.”
“Make sure you have proper medical assistance with those reactions that are medical in nature and seek mental health assistance if you are suicidal, self-destructive or worried that your reactions are abnormal.”
Insight #5: It takes time.
“Your acute grief entails your having to gradually learn the reality of your loved one’s loss, and to appreciate that you cannot grasp that fact or its implications without sufficient time and experiences to “teach” you. Intellectually, you may know right away in your head that your loved one has died. However, it takes much longer to truly recognize this reality and internalize it to where it is something you can understand.”
“Even if it is not a sudden death, but particularly if it is, you have to learn that your loved one is no longer here through your experiences of bumping up against the world in their absence. This means that grief and mourning focus not only on your feelings, but also upon your comprehending that your loved one has died and your ultimate making sense of that reality.”
“Each time you want and need to be with your loved one—to see, touch, hear, taste or smell that person—and you are frustrated in your desire to do so, you “learn” once again that your loved one is dead. In acute grief, each pang of grief, each stab of pain when your expectation, desire or need for your loved one is unmet, brings you yet another “lesson” that your loved one is no longer here. You want to resist it and have the “lesson” not be true. Like a habit you don’t want to relinquish, you don’t want to let go of having your loved one in your life.”
“After countless times of experiencing an unrequited need to be reunited with that loved one, you learn not to need that person in the same way as before. This is not an all-or-nothing event. It is a process in which you have fluctuating abilities to grasp the reality of the death. This occurs until at some point it becomes a permanent realization for you, despite your wishes to the contrary.”
“If your loved one died suddenly, get yourself assistance in coping with the personal traumatization you experienced and the extra reactions you have.”
“If your loved one died from an illness, develop an accurate appreciation of how illness can affect those left behind and look for ways to rejoin the world if you had spent much of your time care-taking.”
Insight #8: Your grief will not proceed in a fixed sequence.
“Your grief reactions will not necessarily decline consistently over time or be over in a year, and will not fail to come up again once they subside. Despite popular notions otherwise, there is not a standard series of stages through which you must pass in your grief. Certainly, some reactions do precede others (for instance, if you do not acknowledge the reality of your loss, then you have nothing to mourn). However, for the most part there is not a rigid sequence that unfolds. Along with this, it is not true that grief reactions necessarily diminish in intensity in a straight line over time.”
“Depending upon the circumstances of your loved one’s death and your own situation as a mourner, your grief can fluctuate enormously. It may have ups and downs, twists and turns and absences and presences of different reactions as time moves forward. Often mourners can incorrectly believe that there is something wrong with them when they feel worse after feeling better for a while. Many times, this merely reflects their coming out of their shock, their increasing awareness of the reality of the death, or the fact that others are not offering support as they had earlier.”
“Even after your acute grief reactions are long gone, there may be many times in the future when certain experiences catalyze what are termed "subsequent temporary upsurges of grief" or STUG reactions. These are brief periods of acute grief for the loss of your loved one that are stimulated by something that underscores the absence of your loved one and/or resurrects memories of the death, your loved one or your feelings about the loss. Everyone can expect to have some of these in life after the loss of a loved one. While sometimes they can signal problems, far more often they merely are part of the normal living with the loss of a beloved person.”
Insight #9: Healthy mourning does not mean "letting go" of your lost loved one.
“In our society, there is a curious social phenomenon. On the one hand, we have relationships with dead people all the time. We learn about dead people in history, are influenced by them in philosophy and are moved by them in the arts. We celebrate holidays to remember them, dedicate buildings in their honor and visit museums to see how they lived. In virtually all aspects of our lives, we are in a “relationship” with the dead.”
“However, on the other hand we are told that we have to “get on with life” and “let go and put the past behind.” It seems that in Western society it is acceptable to have a relationship with a dead person as long as you didn’t know that individual personally. This is why you could be criticized for displaying a certain photograph of your departed loved one, but it is permissible to have Princess Diana’s face on a memorial plate hanging on your wall. Clearly, there is a double standard. You do not have to forget the person you loved and lost.”
Insight #10: Others will not understand.
“Others will not necessarily understand what you are going through or know how to reach out and support you. Despite the fact that people have lost loved ones from the beginning of time, the human race is not always very effective in consoling and supporting the bereaved.”
“Suggestions: Ask for what you need from others. Don’t expect others to know what your needs are and what your limits should be.”
Insight #11: Do not ignore the children.
“Because children do not respond exactly like adults does not mean that they don’t need to be given information about the death or to be included in the family’s activities and discussions around it. Consistently, people underestimate their children’s needs when it comes to bereavement.”
Insight #12: Many mourners have the wrong notion about what "recovery" means.
“Even if you grieve and mourn in the healthiest ways possible, there will always be an emotional scar that marks the loss of your loved one. Learning to live healthfully with that scar is the very best that a mourner can expect. Like physical scars, the scar of your loved one’s loss reveals that there has been an injury, but does not have to interfere with current functioning. Also, like physical scars, on some occasions there can be pain (for instance, if you bang the scar or the weather is bad), but in general it does not ache or throb.”
“Recovery” after the death of a loved one must be put in quotes to illustrate that it is a relative term. It does not mean a once-and-for-all closure in which you complete your mourning and it never surfaces again. There will be numerous times throughout your life when you experience the reactions mentioned earlier and these can be appropriate and expectable.”
“Closure is for business deals and bank accounts. It is not for major loss, where the heart and mind typically reflect the notion of forgetting our loved one and seek ultimately to learn how to live with our loss and adjust our lives accordingly in the absence of the person who is gone, but remembered. This does not mean that you would have chosen this loss or that you had been unmoved by it, only that you no longer have to fight it. You take it in the sense of learning to live with it as an inescapable fact of your life. Like many mourners, you can determine to make something good come out of your loss. This is another way to make a positive meaning out of what had been a negative event.”
“Look for specific ways in which you can transcend this event. In other words, work to make something good happen out of it.” [Ways in which to make your loved ones existence meaningful and to preserve their memory].
“Ultimately, healthfully integrate this loss and its effects upon you into your life story, but make it one chapter—perhaps the biggest and most profound—and not the whole book, as it can be when it initially happens.”https://www.dignitymemorial.com/support-friends-and-family/grief-library/12-insights-into-grieving-after-the-death-of-your-loved-one
All the best to you, Tyson, and to all fellow RfMers who are experiencing loss and grief. This life thing is definitely not for the faint of heart. You know that old saying that after the storm comes the sunshine. Well, maybe. Sometimes not. Or not all that quickly. But there is hope that it will return. That is all I got - the hope that at some point pain diminishes and enjoyment in life resurfaces. Meanwhile, we have to be good to ourselves. I remind myself that my departed loved ones wouldn't want me to mourn indefinitely. Rather, they would be happy for my happiness and success and good times. Another reason to love them - for their generosity and kindness. Some days all I can say is that I am so fortunate to have had loving people like these in my life. And I hope that in time the memories will be sweet again, not heart-wrenching, and that a smile comes more readily than a tear at thoughts of them. I hope that for all of us.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/04/2020 09:42PM by Nightingale.