Monday, March 2, 2020

Does Information on The First Year of Grief Still Apply in The Second Year?

Sometimes too late is just in time.  ~ C.J. Carlyon

A reader writes: I wrote to you a while ago about the loss of my dad in an accident and issues regarding my brother who was unable to save him. I am so grateful for your detailed suggestions and I have taken your advice and have seen positive results with the conversations that have evolved with my brother. I look at the Grief Healing Discussion Groups forum daily and even have my mom reading the posts. They help us both. Sometimes, I would like to write something myself but since my mom reads them, I am afraid that she would know it was me and it would make her feel worse if she knew of all the junk going on in my head.

Well, even though I promised that I wouldn't write you again, I have become desperate to the point where I am not sure of what to do next. I feel like I am getting worse and I am stranded alone on an island. My wonderful husband is not being treated very well by me, my friends probably think I went off the deep end and I don't even care. I can't wait until the kids go to bed at night so I can stop pretending that I am happy. I am a runner and can barely get up the energy to even go on a run. I feel like I am crazy and I can't even admit it to anyone or it will really be true! I am wondering if this is what depression is like and just thinking that scares me. I see commercials on TV about depression and I don't want to get it. I am so scared that I am going to snap and be of no value to anyone. I am sure you get the point. 

Here is what I am contemplating now. I was going to order your book Finding Your Way Through Grief: A Guide for The First Year, and was wondering if I am too late because it has been 8 months since my dad died. I am way into the first year. Would it not be as effective? Should I be doing something else? I really thought I was doing ok (in a relative sense of course) but I am not doing ok. I can't stand being in my own skin sometimes.  

I guess my question is:  Will the information in your book still be effective or should I do something else?

Also, I have to tell you that I have read hours and hours of posts in that forum. My heart is so touched by the compassion that you demonstrate when you respond to the people. I am sure you are aware of this but one of the few things that helps me trudge through this nightmare is believing that mourning CAN enrich life and give new dimension to our emotions by comfort that is received, mourning and comfort are linked. One elicits the other: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted"(Matthew 5:4). I have been  waiting as patiently as I know how. I think maybe I have to stop waiting and start doing.

I know I am rambling, if any of this makes sense and you have any suggestions, I am listening. Thank you.

My response: Your letter warmed my heart ~ thank you so very much for your kind words. Like you, I learn so much from reading the stories of all the wonderful people who make up our Grief Healing "family." The work I do on our Discussion Groups site is truly a labor of love for me, and I can assure you that I take from it ever so much more than I give.  It touches my soul and makes my heart sing.

I remember our earlier correspondence, and I'm pleased to learn that some of my suggestions were helpful to you. I'm also pleased that you're finding our online site helpful as well, although it is unfortunate that you're not able to participate more fully in our forums by posting in them and receiving feedback in turn from others. It sounds as if you're struggling with some issues that need to be expressed, but you need a private place where you feel anonymous and safe enough to get those feelings out. None of what you've shared with me sounds abnormal, given the circumstances surrounding your father's accidental death ~ the sorrow, anxiety, lack of energy, and all-pervasive sorrow. What it sounds like to me is that you have no place to take your grief.  Even though you spend time reading the posts on our site, that is not the same as participating actively in the discussions that go on there. When you write out what you are feeling ~ you, personally, I mean ~ the very act of writing it enables you to get it out of your mind and heart, and onto your computer screen. It's a powerful way of unburdening yourself. By holding back from posting your own messages, you're also depriving yourself of obtaining the supportive responses of others, because no one is actually writing directly to you. Have you thought about using the Private Messaging system there? 

Please keep in mind that grief is not an illness, although it certainly can feel like that at times, especially if we keep our feelings and reactions bottled up inside. That, more than anything else, may serve to explain why you're feeling the way you are right now. In a way, you're trying to do your grief work, but vicariously, through only reading the stories of other people and responses to them, rather than telling your own story and receiving feedback that is relevant to you alone. Might you consider joining an "in person" grief support group, perhaps one that is aimed at daughters who've lost their fathers? You might check with your local hospice, church or mortuary to see what grief support services are being offered in your own community. See also some of the resources listed on my site's Death of a Parent page.

You've asked if information in my book would be "effective" ~  and of course, by now I think you know me well enough (having read some of my posts on our site) to know how I would answer that question. I consider mourning an active rather than a passive process. If we are willing to do the work that is required, grief can be understood, worked with and managed. And since there is no specific time frame, it is never too late to do the work of mourning. Don't put too much stock in the title of my book ~ what you will learn certainly is applicable beyond that first year. I think the more you learn about what is normal in grief, the better prepared you are to deal with it and manage it ~ so yes, of course I think my book will be of benefit to you, regardless of where you are in your own grief journey. It contains information that I think everyone should know, and it includes lots of specific suggestions for managing your own grief reactions.

As I suspect you already know, I am a firm believer in learning all we can about this very important experience, because none of us is immune from loss. When you really stop to think about it, life is one series of losses after another ~ some more difficult than others, to be sure, but losses nonetheless. This death of your father will not be the last time you are faced with coping with significant loss in your life. It seems to me, then, that if life is filled with loss, then it behooves us to learn all we can about grief and how best to deal with it.

I also believe that effective grief work is not done alone ~ so I urge you to do whatever you can to find a safe place where you can talk about what you are thinking and feeling ~ whether that is writing in a journal, or talking with a trusted friend or clergyperson, participating in a support group, or joining another online discussion group, where you won't be recognized by other family members.

So yes, by all means, read my book ~ and please do let me know what you think of it ~ but recognize that there are many other active, participatory things you can do to help yourself heal, too. My hope for you is that you will think of these as gifts you can give yourself, because you are worth it and you certainly deserve it.

Afterword: Thank you for responding to my letter. I have read your reply many times. I have so much gratitude for your insight and thoughtfulness in responding. I almost feel like I have won some sort of contest and finding you on the internet is the prize. I am sure that sounds very strange to you but I don't even know how else to say it. Well, here's the thing.........I ended up reading your book.  I have found that it really can apply not only to the first year but at any time......thanks for pointing that out! It is so awesome.  I really, really enjoy reading the information. And even more than that, I feel that it has already helped me sort out some of the stuff in my head. My mom and I are both reading it. I have noticed a difference in her as well. Just realizing that I am not "crazy" is the biggest relief. When you said none of my issues seem abnormal, that made my day. In all reality when I go back in my journal,  I can see on paper that I have made progress. It isn't like things are the same as they were 8 mos ago. My grandma (my dad's mom) actually journals. She recently told me that she wrote in a journal every day for 5 years after my grandpa died. Although it is such great advice, when you are in such a takes someone to actually make the suggestion before you do it.  Then you think.....why didn't I think of that!  That along with so many other things.  

About the forum.....I know that it probably would be a benefit to participate more fully. But, that's ok. I have always been hesitant to pour my heart out anyway. Reading and learning and running and praying are more my speed I guess. I really do gain so much from what the others have to say. It is amazing how that works. I recognize that  "participating" in something would be good and I actually might do that. I feel so slow getting on board with all of these helpful suggestions!

Your wisdom....what a wonderful gift to all of us.....because as you said  - none of us are immune from loss. Or as my mom says it "None of us are getting out of here alive!" I can't believe she actually says that!

Take good care Marty and thank you again.

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