Friday, March 13, 2009

Grief - part 2

Well, here it is, Friday the 13th. Some say a morbid and weird day. My birthday is tomorrow. So I’m doing a lot of thinking today about life (which can be morbid and happy), what I’m giving back for my blessings, what I need to clean up (and ditch), doctor appointments and paps that need to get done, and my goals of relaxation. How different my life is from the women who lived in the time of the Knights Templar who were slaughtered by the Pope on Friday, October 13th centuries ago. As women we have come so far, yet I feel we’ve hit a wall. We are stuck with our “should haves” and not living as who we are.

This is the second installment of the Grief chat. It really is essential to learn how you as a person deal with unexpected issues, where your strength comes from, and where you need support. This is part of living with who you are, and not about living how you think others demand that you live.

This is a fairly long blog, and the final installment will be next week. We’ve already covered shock and denial. Here’s what has happened to me and some of my friends with the middle stages of grief.

Anger: put away the scissors and knives
The next step after denial is a sudden swing into anger which often occurs in an explosion of emotion, where the bottled-up and hidden feelings of the previous stages are erupted in a huge outpouring. Whoever is in the way is likely to be blamed (spouses and mother-in-laws are good targets). The phrase 'Why me?' will be repeated in an endless loop in your head. Then there’s that tiny part that says back 'Why not you?' which just adds fuel to your anger at those who are not affected, or not as seriously so. You are judge and jury on your guilt.
“Internally I was swearing at everyone. I hated everyone. It’s not fair! People can abuse or neglect their healthy kids. Wicked people drive nice cars. I’m a good person, damn it! I don’t deserve this!” ~Sean
If you are seeing any of these anger signs, please know that it is normal and acceptable:
o Directed at spouse “If you had taken better care of yourself….”
o Directed at doctors or nurses “What the F do they know?”
o Directed at self “I hate me. I’m not good enough.”
o Directed at God/higher being “You are purposely causing suffering.”
o Urges to throw, hit, stomp, slam, or rip
o Lashing out by screaming and/or crying
But also know that if you are feeling the urges to physically react, you need to do it in a safe place to a non-living being. Pillows are fabulous to beat up on. You can even draw a face on the pillow case to concentrate your efforts.

Guilt and Bargaining: “I’ll never (blank) ever again if you can take this away”
After the fires of anger have been blow out, the next stage is a desperate round of bargaining. Bargaining is a vain expression of hope that the bad news is reversible. I gave up chocolate, promised to go to church, said I’d be nice to those who annoy me, vowed to never drink another amaretto sour again, and the list goes on. Since my kids still have their disabilities, I’ve “reconsidered” each of those promises I made.
You are trying to bargain because of guilt. You feel that you are at fault and can fix the problem. You’ll be heard and seen doing many of these:
o “I should have…..”
o “What if I had…..?”
o “If only…..”
o “I’ll do (blank) if you can fix my child….”
o Loss of appetite
o Rapid heart beat
o Extreme fatigue
o Heaviness in your chest, difficulty breathing
You know logically that you are not to blame as you wouldn’t knowingly hurt your child if you had the conscious choice. And, if someone hears you making the vow of depriving yourself of good things (chocolate, wine, shoes) in exchange for the reversal of your child’s diagnosis, then they may try to use it to guilt you later on….”I thought you gave that up. Isn’t your child more important?” (Remember that only stupid people who don’t have special needs children say you should just be thankful for what you have. It’s easy for them.) Guilt has a separate discussion we will explore in more depth as it is the bane of mom’s existence at times.

Sadness: I am alone and no one can help me.
After denial, anger and bargaining, the inevitability of the doctor’s news eventually sinks in and you reluctantly accept that your child has a disability. From the craziness of anger and bargaining, I slumped into a ditch of despair. In this deep depression, all I could see was a horrible end with nothing beyond it. But, in turning in towards yourself, you turn away from any solution and any help that others can give you and that is a mistake!
“Admitting you’re depressed is a sign of failure, weakness.” ~Jean
“I was scared to admit I was depressed. I was supposed to be happy my daughter even lived. I felt so dumb and hopeless. There was just so much I lost. I just had this constant anxiety that I was crazy and they’d take my kids away.” ~Jenny
You may express your depression in tears or even a number of passive behaviors, including long lunch breaks and mediocre work performance on the job (when that’s not your usual behavior). As with anger, if you are experiencing any of these feelings, know that you are okay, but seek out help from a therapist.
o Feelings of being abandoned, alone, and afraid
Hopelessness and depression
Endless crying
Little energy
Abuse of alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs (mine was junk food)
Living in the past

I’m not kidding about the therapist. I’ve seen one for years because there is just too much in my life for me to handle 24/7 with complete composure and wisdom. Married women are the highest stat of depressed people on the planet. I can get so caught up in the details that I need a complete stranger (someone not connected to my situation) to see the big picture and give me some outside perspective. I don’t always agree with my counselor, but it’s good for me to articulate my feelings. My logic isn’t always taken in as I feel I gave it. But if I feel in my true gut and heart that what I did was right, I don’t apologize. I have hurt some people I love with my choices but a friend once gave me some advice that I think about often:
I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.

You are not a failure if you are depressed. You are normal. Your expectations weren’t filled and you feel disappointed. Feel your feelings, know that they are okay, that I’ve been there and will always be here.

We have places to go and I need you strong and healthy. Take whatever time you need so you can enjoy the journey we are on.
Love and blessings,

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