Experience Borne of Personal Grief


I have been going through a grief process from the sudden, unexpected loss of my husband.  I didn’t realize there was such a thing as grief spasms and a grief process and I knew far less how to deal with suicide.  There isn’t much understanding of grief in this society.  Many well intentioned people think we should “just get over it” and get on with our lives. 

Grief is very painful and at times the pain is intolerable.  It is a mixture of many emotions that come and go, sometimes without warning.  Grieving is the period during which we actively experience these emotions.  How long and how difficult the grieving period is depends upon our relationship with the person who dies, the circumstances of the death, and the situation of the survivor(s).   Grieving is a process we all must travel through. 

 There is no escaping it.  Experts describe the grieving process and those emotions of grief in various ways.  The most commonon described reactions include:  shock, denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance and growth.  Some of us experience the grieving process in this order.  Although most often a person feels several of these emotions simultaneously, perhaps in different degrees.

When death comes suddently, as in an accident or suicide, shock is often our first response.  We may be numb or like a robot, be able to go through the motions of life while actually feeling little.  At the same time, physical symptoms such as confusion and loss of appetite are common.

Shock and denial are natural ways of softening the immediate blow of death.  Denial can follow soon after the initial shock.  We know our loved one has died, but a part of us cannot yet accept the reality of death.  It is not uncommon to fantasize that our loved one will walk through the door, as if nothing has happened.  

Anger is perfectly normal.  It may be directed at the deceased for leaving and causing a sense of abandonment, or at the doctors and nurses who did not do enough.  People of faith may feel anger at God for allowing so much pain and anguish.  Anger may also be directed at ourself for not saving the life of our loved one.   

Few survivors escape feelings of guilt and regret.  “I should have done more” are words that haunt many people.  Were angry words exhcnaged?  Most people are very creative in finding reasons for guilt.  So many things could have been done differently “if only I had known.” 

Sadness is the most inevitable emotion of grief.  It is normal to feel abandoned, alone and afraid.  After the shock and denial have passed and the anger has been exhausted, sadness and even hopelessness may set in.  We may have little energy to do even the simplest chores.  Crying episodes may seem endless.   These are grief spasms.

I want you to know that time alone will not heal grief.  Acknowledging our loss and experiencing the pain may free us from a yearning to return to the past.  Acceptance does not mean forgetting, but rather using our memories to create a new life without our loved one. 

Grief is a chance for personal growth.  Some survivors seek meaning in loss and get involved in causes or projects that help others.  Some find a new compassion in themselves as a result of the pain they have suffered.  They may become more sensitive to others.  Some find new strength and independence they never knew they had.

Getting over a loss is slow, hard work.  In order for growth to be possible, it is essential to allow ourself to feel all  the emotions that arise, as painful as they may be, and to treat oneself with patience and kindness.  Personally, I choose the quote of Winston Churchill as my mantra, “If you feel like you’re going through Hell, keep going!”   Give into it — even give it precedence over other emotions and activities, because grief is a pain that will get in the way later if it is ignored.  Realize that grief has no timetable; it is cyclical, so expect the emotions to come and go for weeks, months, or even years.  While a show of strength is admirable, it does not serve the need to express sadness, even when it comes out at unexpected times and places.

It’s important to take time to seek comfort from friends who will listen.  Let them know you need to talk about your loss.  People will understand, although they may not know how to respond.  Also important remember to forgive yourself for all the things you believe you should have said or done.  And forgive yourself for the anger, guilt and embarrassment you may have felt while grieving.

Bereavement groups can help us recognize feelings and put them in perspective.  They can also help alleviate the feeling that we are alone.  The experience of sharing with others who are in a similar situation can be comforting and reassuring.  Sometimes, new friendships grow through these groups. 

What grief is not?  Grief is not a mountain to be climbed, with the strong reaching the summit long before the weak.  Grief is not an athletic event, with stop watches timing our progress.  Grief is a walk through loss and pain with no competition and no time trials.

Just remember:  Grief is normalYOU are normal.  Surrender to the process which follows significant loss.  I’m still surrendering to mine.  Still grieving and still trying to be kind and gentle with myself.  Over time, I’ll share with you and let you know how it goes.  We are endeavoring to travel down a new path, a new life.  This is truly the hardest thing in life we have ever had to do and we will get it through it. 

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Changed For Good


The baby steps are really tiny right now.  I can’t say each day it gets better because each day I find something new to cry about or miss him in ways I cannot fathom happening and yet they do.  This isn’t about just grieving you see.  It’s about knowing that God didn’t call Martin because it was his time.  My darling Martin succumbed to his demons, for which I know he now regrets.  And even that is so very difficult, knowing I cannot console him, hold him in my arms and tell him everything will be alright again. 

As humans I think we want to hold ‘someone’ accountable for mistakes.  Although we can’t and we shouldn’t here.  Was I angry at Martin for doing this?  Oh my God, yes.  That fateful day I found him slumped on the sofa, I remember crying out things that I’m only now realizing I actually said.  Things like:  How could you do this?  Come back to me.  You can’t go now, I need you!  Please, please don’t go.  You promised we’d grow old together.  At first, I even remember thinking since his body was warm, that I could revive him … I remember slapping his face and believing he’d come out of it and awaken.  Then realizing I had never before struck Martin – yet I thought I was doing a good thing in order to awaken him. 

Those things we do in panic mode are generally not logical are they?  How many of us create more of a frenzy because we cease to have the ability at the pinnacle of a state utter disbelief and fear to stay calm in the storm?  I did … I now feel that I had those two little angels on my shoulders, the good and the bad.  And within me, I fought and struggled between spouting out words to Martin or taking him in my arms doing whatever is needed to let him go.  The toughest thing anyone should have to do. 

 

Yesterday, at the Celebration of Life ceremony for Martin, everyone there helped release Martin from some of the guilt and also helped him feel the love and the good impressions he left upon us all.  The gifts of butterfly plants and bushes in remembrance of our love for butterflies will ever be a joy for me and I believe Martin’s spirit as well. 

I thank everyone for all of your thoughts and prayers, help in coordinating the Ceremony for Martin and overall for your friendship, kindness and love.  David Groeller’s chosen song, I’ve Been Changed For Good, was remarkable and clearly spot on for me. 

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason   

Bringing something we must learn And we are led

To those who help us most to grow If we let them

And we help them in return

Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today

Because I knew you!

 

 

I have been changed for good because of Martin.  No doubt about it at all.  I believe he never knew, or at least didn’t believe, that he touched so many lives in such dramatic ways for good.  He loved his father so but apparently wasn’t able to get through to him.  He loved his mother so much, he bought her a home and helped remodel it.  Even his first wife who died of cancer, he loved so dearly.  He tried to help her grown children – and was hurt in the end because of their lack of caring about people other than themselves.  Martin didn’t seem to be able to get close enough to people to feel their real affection and love for him.  I think the demon(s) hid them from his sight.

It is amazing to me that he loved me so!  It is even amazing to me now that I realize how much I love him too.  I don’t know when I’ll truly be able to let him go … I honestly don’t think I ever can.  But I read something this morning as to either letting it go or leaving it at the altar.  Profound words … think of any or all of our major difficulties.  People say we should let them go.  Isn’t that such a gut-wrenching, difficult thing to do at times?  What if we knew we could leave them at the altar and feel safe going forward that we do not have to carry their burden any longer? 

I am forever indebted to Martin, forever in love with him and forever missing him.  He did change my life in those girlie ways Ana spoke of yesterday, and in so many ways I cannot even pretend to tell you about.  As difficult as life was for him, and death … he freely chose to help me through the awful ordeal of losing my dearest sister, Judy.  Can you imagine how hard that was for him to do? 

I loved him so very much … I love him still today … I am forever changed and forever in love with my darling Martin.

If ever you are fearful of letting someone know how you feel, please please remember this … do not hesitate to tell them.  Even if you think there’s a chance they will not reciprocate your love.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is what you feel and what you do!  This much I am certain about. 

I love you dear friends … I don’t know what the future holds for me.  I only know my life has been a wild ride and for three short years, I got to share, enjoy, celebrate and live my life with the man of my dreams.  I am so fortunate indeed.

And yet, I miss him so very much that a huge part of me has died too …