Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dealing with Grief and Sorrow Part 2

            According to the stages for recovering from grief and sorrow, the first step is denial (number one by itself according to most lists), shock, and/or isolation. Of course, different people encounter each phase in a different order than others might. But, whether the first stage occurs immediately or months later, those who suffer loss will suffer from denial, shock, and/or isolation sooner or later. Often, the different “stages” revisit a person more than once, even for many years after the loss.

            I didn’t deny my husband’s death because he fought to live for years. In fact, his passing was a relief in many ways since he had suffered for over a decade, and the suffering increased month by month and day by day. However, when my baby died, I couldn’t believe the news. An unexpected death increases the likelihood of denial. The mind has trouble accepting the news. Every time I slept, I dreamed I held my baby girl because my mind couldn’t or wouldn’t accept her death.

            Even an expected death results in shock for the people left behind. Loss of a loved one is traumatic, and the body reacts to trauma by armoring itself against the emotional and physical pain: shock. We may react at first with great “wailing and gnashing of teeth” and then withdraw inwardly behind the wall created by shock; or the shock may set in immediately. Whichever way we react, shock numbs us temporarily. During this stage, we are also vulnerable to illness and depression because we don’t care enough to eat or meet our other physical needs.  For the first few weeks, I vacillated between shock and tearing pain.

            Some “experts” include isolation with this phase of grief. We may isolate ourselves, a part of shock, or we discover after the first flurry of concern, others return to their lives and aren’t concerned as much about us. Isolation is an aspect I didn’t expect and have a problem accepting. If I were more physically able, I would go out, join groups, visit friends, do more. However, one journey to the store and I’m wiped out for days. Those who say, “If I can do anything, call me,” don’t always mean what they say. They really don’t expect us to call. Even friends who want to listen will tire of our calls. Friends and family will check on us at first, but soon their busy lives take their attention and time. For me, I no longer have Robert to listen to me, to talk to me. Even when he was hospitalized and I couldn’t visit, we talked several times a day. Now, I hope to receive a phone call or a short visit from friends or family, often waiting a week or more with none. I fight against isolation becoming a permanent part of my life. I need to find ways to become less isolated. I can't wait on others.

            We never completely recover from grief and loss. We learn to live with it. 

            More about the process in Part three, coming Tuesday, May 19.


Holly Jahangiri said...

The isolation is hard. People want to be able to fix things (quickly) or they feel uncomfortable, awkward, inadequate, sad - and they avoid the grieving. They feel superfluous. Oh, sure, some don't really expect you to take them up on their offers of help or a listening ear, but even for those who DO mean it, they're sometimes simply at a loss, too.

It's hard to have to take the initiative when you're the one grieving. One of life's little paradoxical conundrums. But if you do, you'll be happier in the long run. Ask for what you need. It'd be nice if people were mind-readers, or always very thoughtful and mindful of the needs of others, but the fact that they're not doesn't always mean they're not willing to do what you need. Give the clueless some benefit of the doubt; after you've asked a few times, and not received, make note. Those are your fair-weather friends. Not horrible people, just not the ones you can count on in a crisis.

Holly Jahangiri said...

And you take care of you - get out when you can: stay involved in your business, your writing club, your church; volunteer; or learn a new skill or hobby.

4RV Publishing said...

True, people aren't mind readers. I don't know about the experiences of other people, but I did ask and for the most part made to feel as if I were imposing.

Those who do help, won't unless asked, maybe. Those of us dealing with survival feel as if we ask too much when we have to ask over and over.

I don't know of a solution, but I do know I will be more compassionate in the future.

4RV Publishing said...

Getting out becomes another problem when not well. However, I know I need to find a way to break the isolation wall, that no one else can.

Holly Jahangiri said...

Yep. No one can break it for you. I know that even mild depression coupled with my natural introverted self could result in my being a shut-in, if I let it happen. Up to a point, I'm fine with it - but even I need groceries. ;) Seriously, even if you just get out in the yard when the sun comes out, it'll help a little bit. Sunshine, your garden, the birds... don't sit in the dark. Keep the lights on, the windows open, as much as possible. Get dressed. Shoes and all. Make it a rule, unless you're really, truly sick enough to stay in bed.