Monday, October 15, 2018

In Grief: Coming Apart at The Seams

Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the same journey. And solace comes from understanding how others have learned to sing again. ~ Helen Steiner Rice

A reader writes: I lost my Grandmother last month and I cannot seem to get control of my emotions. I am constantly in tears. I have never been this depressed and empty inside in all my life. I was given time off from work and assured that my job was not in jeopardy just get myself well and my job would be there once I returned. Apparently, I wasn't getting it together quick enough because I was informed that I would be immediately terminated tomorrow if I do not come to work.
Every day is a struggle to get out of bed and face the day, my coworkers have been great but I cannot even look them in the eye without crying. My Grandmother was an amazing person and she suffered alot the last 18 months of her life and never complained. She was the most unselfish, amazing, wonderful woman I have ever known and I know she is in a better place. My brain knows it but my heart won’t accept it.

I have called our Employee Assistance Program twice and I have an appointment to speak with a counselor next week. I hope I make it until then because I really feel like I am inches away from a nervous breakdown. I have no choice but to be at work a shell of myself or I won’t have a job to return to when I am feeling better. I sit at my desk and silently cry when I do go to work. I want this feeling to go away but I cannot seem to shake the void and depression I feel. I understand that it is a part of grieving but nevertheless it is unnerving for someone who is normally a happy, easygoing person.

I finally confided in my Mom today about how I was feeling. I didn't want to burden her with my feelings because I knew she was grieving over the loss of my Grandmother, her Mother. I feel such guilt dumping my feelings in her lap, but I couldn't go on pretending that I was fine when I was quickly coming apart at the seams. She is of course very worried and relieved that I have agreed to speak to someone. She also is completely at peace with my Grandmother's death because she watched her suffer for so long. I long to feel the same peace.

In the meantime I continue to struggle through a day with no tears and a day that I don't feel as if I am losing my mind.

Thanks for listening,

My response: Isn’t it interesting that, if we fall and break a bone, we wouldn’t think we were “weak” or “crazy” or “falling apart” if we didn’t know how to fix it by ourselves ~ yet when we suffer a heartbreaking loss such as the death of a dearly loved one, we chastise ourselves for not knowing how to repair our own broken hearts?

I want to assure you that what you’re experiencing is normal, especially at this point in your own grief journey. Your grandmother died barely a month ago, and as that initial shock and numbness starts to wear off, the full force of your grief starts hitting you in the face, as the reality and the enormity of what you’ve lost begins to sink in. At the same time, you’ve been told that, ready or not, you must return to work, where you’re expected to put your personal problems and feelings aside, put on a happy face, and do the job you’re being paid to do. Such expectations may be unrealistic ~ especially if you have little experience with grief and no other place to take your sorrow and pain.

You say that your coworkers have been great, and I hope that includes your supervisor. You might consider asking for a private meeting with your manager, during which you can acknowledge that you're not at your best right now, but that you are actively seeking the support of your EAP and doing all you can to help yourself get better. I don't know what sort of work you do, but you might also ask if someone in your work group could help you with deadlines and projects, or "shadow" your work for a while, just to make sure nothing important gets missed. Such a conversation will convey to your manager that you are demonstrating accurate self-awareness, practicing adequate and appropriate self-care, and at the same time taking seriously your work responsibilities.(You'll find many additional and useful suggestions on returning to work after a death in the articles I've listed in the Related section below. See also links to the many resources listed on my website's Grief at Work page.)

It helps so much to know what normal grief looks like and feels like, because then you know what to expect in the weeks and months ahead. Then you can plan for your own reactions and learn some practical ways to manage them ~ which in turn leaves you feeling less “crazy” and much more in control.

If you haven't already done so, I hope you’ll pay a visit to my Grief Healing website. Once there, take the time to visit the Death of A Parent page and follow some of those links. See also Marty's Articles on this blog, and click on any one of those titles listed to learn more about the grieving process. Such information assures you that what you are experiencing is normal (even predictable) and gives you hope that, if others can survive such pain, you will find a way to survive it, too.

I also invite you to take some time to read through some of the helpful and informative posts you will find in the Loss of a Parent or Grandparent forum, which is part of our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups ~ and certainly know that you are most welcome to join us there as a member. I know that there you will find some of the comfort, support, compassion and companionship you so desperately need and deserve right now. None of us can take away your pain at this sad and difficult time in your life ~ but we can assure you that you need not endure it all by yourself.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing Newsletter. Sign up here.

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