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Understanding grief


MrKanista
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Hi,

My Grandma unfortunately passed away on Wednesday evening, which was a bit of a shock in a way as she had been doing very well in a program of rehab she was going through following an operation.

I have found myself to be in a strange position with the grief. On Wednesday and Thursday I was very upset and a bit numb or shocked, as well as lethargic and apathetic towards my work and looking after myself.

But today I am worried because I feel quite close to normal. I just feel a little bit down and worn out today but that's it, otherwise I was a bit more cheerful with people and more focused on my life. This feeling makes me nervous, is there something wrong with me for feeling ok so quick, like Im unsympathetic or egotistical, or worse? Or is it just normal for feelings to fluctuate when you have lost someone?

Me and my Grandma were very close when I was little (she was always my favourite person in my family), but in the last 15 years or so we only saw eachother maybe once or twice a year because my parents divorced and moved to different places. And then this year I have been living in a different country. Could that have something to do with it, that it won't be the kind of wrench that it would be if we were a more regular part of eachpther's lives?

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Hi Mr Kanista

First of all, Let me offer my condolences. This can be a very distressing time for all involved.

It isn't odd that you react the way you do. Your body will deal with this sad loss, In it's own way. No matter which way that is?

You may feel very differently, at the funeral. I think that is when it really hits you. It's at these sad times that people, usually family member's, think of all the good times that they had with the deceased. Reminiscing, always thinking of what if? Your Grandma would of cherished them times you had with her.

Sorry I couldn't of been of any help. Just wanted to offer my condolences.

Paula:(

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But today I am worried because I feel quite close to normal. I just feel a little bit down and worn out today but that's it, otherwise I was a bit more cheerful with people and more focused on my life. This feeling makes me nervous, is there something wrong with me for feeling ok so quick, like Im unsympathetic or egotistical, or worse? Or is it just normal for feelings to fluctuate when you have lost someone?
This is very normal, this fluctuation between feeling very upset and numb and feeling okay. If you look at some of the models of grief, like the model due to Mardi Horowitz, MD, you will see there is a long period called Denial vs. Intrusion, where people experience a sense of detachment from the event as though it did not occur (or as though their emotional response is not in proportion to the event) and then Intrusion where they feel very upset, sad, depressed, and sometimes, numb. And then back again in a cycle which goes on for some time.

This pattern plays out differently for each person, but it does have a general back and forth movement.

So you are on track and doing fine with your grief. It hurts - a lot - when you lose someone you care about. Words cannot contain it. And this is why people move back and forth between suppression of emotion and immersion in it. It's like a circuit breaker tripping when things get too hot, your brain cools them down for a while. and then you heat up again. and then you cool down again - and so forth for a while.

Mark

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In April 2003, my father passed away. He was 91; and, in poor health. He had several illnesses, none of which were curable. And, he had been widowed for a second time. I could, and mostly did, explain it away. without a wailing and knashing of teeth.

1 Feb 2004, my wife passed away from a heart attack at home on sunday morning at 530 am. I was the sole witness. That made me the last of my family.

My state of mind need not be described in any detail. It was, indeed, "the year of magical thinking" [ the title of a very good book by Joan Didion]

How did I get thrugh it? I do not know. I did drink heavily. It took away the nightmares and I went to bed before 4 am. Unedifying; but, it did "the job". Would I suggest it? No. I did put an end to that dubious coping tool.

Is there a natural healing process? I suppose that there is. I, basically, am told that there is.

I was told: "the only way through it is through it". I suppose that may be true. There is, after all, no way to avoid the contigencies of life.

But, I did get through it. I expect that I got through it the hard way.

At the end of the day, it came round right. I remarried, moved 1300 miles, sold the old place, bought a new place in a new place. And, I am as happy as I decided to be. Which is good enough.

The point of this? There isn't one. Just a true story of one man doing what he thought he had to do. It came round right.

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Xenophon-

To me, your post illuminates something that I repeatedly stressed in my clinical work with people who were dealing with grief. There is no one RIGHT way to deal with the death (or deaths) of someone (people) you care about.

I worry sometimes about how people react to the literature that is published and discussed regarding the stages of grieving. Even though it is intended as a descriptor so that people can understand and make sense of what is happening to them (and also know that they are not alone or bizarre for having these thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations), many people interpret these theories as a prescription for grieving "appropriately"... and then actually feel worse that they are going about it "incorrectly."

Thanks for sharing your experience.

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Xenophon

That is a moving history. It is just very, very painful when you lose people you care about. and it takes a long time for that pain to work its way out. But over time, most people do find that their pain gets less and less and that they manage to grow a new life. People we love and lose cannot be replaced. However, we can form new and equally unique relationships with new people which have the potential to be wonderful. thank you for sharing your experience.

Mark

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Mark & Natalie --

There is a lot that is written about grief. Some of it, I think, is a personal rumination, whether by intent or not. That is OK. Generalizations may serve as a guide. "This is what many people do." But, people are different.

It is difficult to lose someone you love. It turns your world upside down [ or worse]. As I said, it came round right for me.

The description -- for what it is worth -- is a complex set of emotions that vary in intensity; each person is unique in how that complex works out.

And, the complex varies a lot; some days, anger predominates; another day, sadness predominates; other days, the emotions argue with other over dominance. It is a cauldron within one's own mind.

What are the emotions? Just about all the painful ones. For myself at any rate. It does cool down, come off the boil. For myself, it is mostly worked out.

After the worst was over, I read Didion's book. "The Year of Magical Thinking". It is an excellent personal inquiry of a terrible year.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Xenophon,

You are quite correct about the literature being very generalized and that the experience of grief is extremely individual and unique for each person. I also agree that Didion's book is excellent in describing her own trials and tribulations during that year.

Allan

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