From emails, phone calls, cards we know we are not grieving alone.
We, and probably a lot of you, are new to this sort of loss. We are finding our halting way. We have now attended two bereavement groups; I (finally) have a shrink. We’re finding help in others and books and want to share some of what we think helps.
Right after Kirby died, I said, “Oh, God,” a lot. It was shorthand for “how the !@#$%^&* can this be?” It was a howl to an uncaring universe.
I also sighed. Turns out this is actually one of the recognized “symptoms” of grief…as if I didn’t know. But it gives me permission to sigh. Previously an expression I found annoying.
I cried then and still cry. A lot.
I have found for the last seven months that having a hankie in the pocket is helpful. Don’t wanna be caught with only hospital sandpaper tissues to hand or, even worse, nothing but a sleeve.
People have talked about and shared pictures. I, too, find that helpful. I have some from her illness, I think because it is the most recent, but also lots of her smiling, laughing, in New York, Scotland, college, as a little kid. I think forgetting is one of my fears.
Cleaning still. Making compulsive order in tiny bits of my life: drawers, closets.
A lovely caring member of Temple Micah sent us this book:
How To Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies. Therese A. Rando, Ph.D.
Both Robert and I are reading it and find it helpful/comforting.
If your preferred style is to read, we think you will find this book helpful.
Hoping for healing.
The following was written by a British woman who lost her daughter, Sarah:
(given to us by a dear friend who lost her sister more than 20 years ago and still grieves…)
Robert says, “Is it just misery loves company?” but I find comfort knowing there is such a range of behaviors, the time it takes/may take,
What did I want people to know?
o Grief isn’t one constant feeling. It comes in huge waves that wash over one.
o The waves decrease in frequency over time but can still be as overwhelming as at first.
o There is a heavy black physical pain that accompanies grief. For me this was like a rock in my chest.
o It is still possible to have moments where one can smile, feel hungry, do “normal” things even early on.
o Grief is exhausting.
o It slows ones cognitive functions (I would never have believed how much this was so)
o I went from being unable to sleep (lurching awake with horror) to sleeping all the time (putting my head on the desk at work to nap)
o An immediate bond with other bereaved parents (it crosses all barriers)
Helpful and unhelpful responses
• Let us talk and let us cry. This is the greatest gift early on.
• If you know the deceased, tell an anecdote (“I remember when…”)
• Don’t say “I couldn’t live with it.” We HAVE to live with it—there is no choice.
• Don’t say, “Have you achieved closure?”
• If you can’t speak, a gentle touch may suffice to show your compassion.
How did we get through?
• Family members had different ways of coping.
• I needed the gym. The mindless exercise helped me.
• Mick stopped exercising for months.
• I did not want to work ever again.
• Mick went back the next day.
• I cooked—it was easy and mindless. Mick stopped cooking.
• We all cried frequently (and did for years—less now)
• We held each other.
• In the early days my cat changed his behavior.
Changes over the first year
• It took me five months before I could see a patient and years before this was easy.
• The academic work was easier. I could do it at my own speed and cry when I felt like it.
• It took me a year before I could do a full day at work.
• I worried less about unimportant things. Our priorities changed.
Reactions of others
• Most people were good—some didn’t cope
• Some people one didn’t expect much from came up trumps.
• “your address book will change.”
• Good and bad things in the early days are remembered with heightened awareness.
• Giving permission to take things slowly helped.
• Letting us come to terms in our own way and at our own speed is important.
• Every I have talked to has an “at least”
• “At least she didn’t die in agony”
• “At least he died at home.”
• “At least he saw his brother’s wedding.”
• “At least we had a body to bury.” (post 9-11)
• Not having a body is NOT the worst thing for us.
• Not having sarah is the worst thing.
• And, in any case one has to deal with the hand that has been dealt.
We thought our hearts were broken when we lost our first born child. Our hearts have healed or at least the open wound has become a scar.