facing grief and loss all alone can be daunting

An Ideal Grief

You might recognize yourself below. Grief and bereavement are strangely universal experiences and painfully unique. Whatever you are feeling during your process (and it is a process, not an event) this grief is something that will change you in ways you can’t predict. There’s no wrong way to do it. There are right ways to find support through it and real help from trained professionals who have gone through it and know how to sit with you in it, walk with you through it, and support your healing. You are not alone. You don’t have to grieve alone. Call 513-530-5888 or email me at bethluwandi@gmail.com. Group is forming now. Individual work is ongoing. All of it is healing. 

Humans are amazing. YOU are amazing.

From this perspective, that is, standing in today glancing back, it’s a wonder you survived. It’s a wonder you are surviving the weight of this grief.

You even think like that some days, glancing back. And I mean glancing. There aren’t many days you want to stare into the moment you learned (or watched) your loved one pass from this world into the next.

Next followed the fog of ceremony and people pressing you and somehow you moved through the fog and said words to people to comfort THEM all while wondering if your heart was in your body or your brain really attached to any kind of self you used to know. It was a blur. I know.

Your head ached with tears or the numbness of holding them in.

You wonder sometimes if you’re actually breathing now.

And some days he is all you can think about. She is the air and the soft sound and a smell next to you wafting out of nowhere just when everything was moving along like clockwork, like normal, like life again.

You see his face in the crowd. Hear her laughter in the theater.

A song, a scent, a memory.

A dream wherein you forget…

then remember on waking, pained all over again. Your brain brings you up to date on a reality you question and wrestle over with God or the Universe or the Powers That Be, trying to resist cursing them all. And then, yes, do curse them all. It’s unfair.

You feel hollow. Like your carcass and body are empty, the rest of you someplace else.

Yet you’re determined. You will get through. You will move on. You will heal. You are a strong person.

And you do. You do work. You do move. You take the kids to soccer. You hug people or you avoid touching anyone. You read to her and watch him give his speech and show up for the talent show and field the hushed questions from others who ask “how are you doing?”

“Fine,” you say, smiling, sometimes wanting to choke the pitiful look off the asker’s face, sometimes avoiding the deep wells of sympathy afraid you’ll either want to scratch them out or fall into their warm pools, wailing. And you focus on whomever might be hurting more because that’s easier. Diversion. John has a nervous stomach. He got in trouble at school. Mary isn’t sleeping.

They have a therapist. Not you.

You keep up with the tennis club, the softball team, the yearly trip with the friends even when the whole time the topic that cannot surface as anything deeper than surface talk floats dangerously in the middle of everything. It’s light interest. How are you doing and how are the children doing and how are mom and dad doing. It’s easier that way.

No one truly understands and if you had to talk about it, these would not be your people. The kids are in therapy and Steven is on antidepressants which is best because he’s away at college now and you are all good. You are doing as well as can be expected. Everyone marvels that you are holding it together so well.

You sleep. And drink. Then decide not to drink since it makes you cry and ache.

You sleep and smoke. That feels like nothing, like the stench of smoke and there’s relief in feeling nothing. Oh, that’s why people smoke, you realize and wonder if you want to be a smoker again. Probably not.

But you don’t want to feel. To process. To unpack this. There are things no one needs to know.  Those who invite reflection or suddenly bring him up or recall a story with her in it or call and want payment on an expired insurance policy or whip out her photos without warning make you want to scream.

You’d spend all day telling stories and looking at pictures if you wanted to.

And time passes. You’re doing well.

Did you go a whole day without being sad? How could you do that so soon? What if someone finds out you didn’t even think of her today? You went a whole day without crying over him, without that dull ache under your ribs. Is this what it feels like to heal from grief? Is this getting better? Is this what getting better looks like – forgetting and guilt?

Then the song floods out of the car stereo. You thought you didn’t have to change the channel this time but as you let it play tears stream and bricks return to your shoulders. You thought you could control this. But another reminder surprises you, even this long after. As bad as you imagined it would be, you could not have imagined this.

You are not alone. Now may be the time to reach out. Find a therapist. Find a group.

And of course, come here. You are definitely welcome here.

Call me at 513-530-5888 or send an email. Or scroll down and leave me a comment.

 

 

 

drops of water tears of loss

Grief sucks; this helps

One woman’s Grief Story:

“The other night in my dream, my sister wasn’t dead. She came back into town and had found a way to live with her terminal illness. She had aged in the ten years since I last saw her, but she was obviously healthy.

I couldn’t understand why she had simply gone away to find this cure instead of taking us with her. She left her husband and a daughter too and the husband had since remarried. In fact, he married someone my sister had suggested.

The daughter had been angry about it and still struggled with her relationship with the step-mother. I felt so conflicted after spending years trying to help my niece adjust only to learn my sister had basically abandoned her. And me.

Grief Gets Complicated:

“In the dream, I felt happy to see my sister and very lost. How could she possibly have just gone away and been living elsewhere happily? It was a betrayal, though a soft one, tempered by my relief at seeing her.

I wanted to tell her all the things I’d missed telling her these past ten years, the epiphanies and revelations I had had growing older as a woman, a thing we always thought we’d do together. And yet, it felt hollow thinking that all that time she had, in fact, been a phone call away, not dead and in Heaven or wherever else I’d been telling myself she was all along. She just had not given me her forwarding telephone number.

When I woke up, I felt even worse, remembering she was no where on this earth. We were permanently separated by an impassable chasm, a chasm I didn’t any longer know if I even believed would be bridged after my own death. I carried that empty feeling with me all the rest of that day.

I swear, it has been years since I had one of those dreams where she is alive in it and then I have to wake up and lose her all over again. Every other time I’ve dreamed of her, I’ve been simply happy to see her in the dream. For as far as I’ve come after losing her, I would think these kind of painful things would stop happening.”

This story (used here with permission) highlights some of the realities of bereavement.

Realities of Grief

Even after what seems like a long span of time, the subconscious mind – here at work in the form of a nighttime dream – expresses its anxieties. If you’ve lost someone important, you’ve likely experienced this as well. Even if that loss is through a break-up or divorce.

Dreams, songs, smells, emotional life events…all of these can trigger sadness, longing, and deep melancholy. As in the dream above, they can also trigger more complex emotions: bewilderment, betrayal, or relief tempered by anger and confusion.

It could be that when things like this happen, as my friend experienced, you feel like you “should be further along” or this kind of thing shouldn’t really be happening anymore. You may have expected this kind of thing (and even been told it would happen) during the first year or so after a loss.

But if it has been a significant amount of time since you experienced the loss, this could feel like a senseless intrusion and it might make you wonder if you have “gotten over” the loss.

Helpful Reminders in the Grief Process

Whether you had support when your loss was fresh or you just got through it and it got gradually better, it’s never a bad time to remind yourself of a couple realities that can help you through the grief process.

  1. Grief has many stages that do not occur in a linear fashion. Kubler-Ross’s Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Sadness, and Acceptance don’t just happen once. Perhaps you’ve arrived at acceptance and thought you’d never see or smell or taste any of the other stages ever again. It’s okay. It’s normal.
  2. If you got to a place of Acceptance, you realized this loss was now part of your reality, a portion of your story the facts of which would never be altered. You probably breathed a sigh of relief when you experienced this. If you never have experienced this Acceptance, tell yourself it’s coming. And read on.
  3. Allowing, or letting something be is a technique in Mindfulness that can help with Loss. Briefly described, it happens when one allows pain, unpleasantness, ill-feeling (or good feelings as well!) to wash over one’s consciousness. One sits with the feeling and notices. One experiences how the feeling shifts…and it will. This can be a powerful way to learn that the human experiences of life do not have to wash us under.
  4. If you are past this stage of intensity in your grieving, remember the days when it was worse: when you could not stop crying, when you experienced more sadness than you felt able to handle, perhaps you could barely function. Maybe you were hit with wave after wave of those ill feelings washing over you and it felt like you might drown in them. If you ARE past those days, notice! It isn’t as bad as it once was, is it?
  5. If you are right in the middle of that wave-upon-wave survival, be assured, this will change. It will not stay this intense forever. And keep reading.
  6. If it has stayed too intense, do get some support, whether from a therapist who can give you individual attention and guide you through dealing with your specific experiences, or in a group setting. Being in one or the other does not have to last a long time. Many loss/recovery groups have a specific duration. If you’ve never done this, you will likely be surprised how healing it can be. If any of your feelings seem too big or not safe, get professional help.
  7. If there is a time to take good care of yourself, this is it. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Do things that are important and nourishing for you. It is not enough just to pay attention to others – children, perhaps other grieving family members- although many people do this. Care for yourself as a first priority.

The reality is that Grief and Loss sucks big time.

It hurts like no other human experience. And yet, it is a human experience. Many people navigate it and continue to live a rich life. All of us are vulnerable to the tenderness of Loss cycling around again when we least expect it. If you haven’t been able to get this far in your process, maybe now is the time to sit with someone who knows how to help.

I’d love to help you through your grief process.

Call. Email me. Scroll down and leave me a comment.

Is it time for help?

Only you can determine if now is the time to get professional help (for yourself or a child.) Your doctor, a family member, or a trusted friend might say so. They could be right and it can be helpful to get “outside” feedback from those you trust. Still, we are so accustomed to “doing it ourselves” or feel we “should” be able to handle this or figure it out that this strong belief can muddy a relatively simple decision.

Definitely get help if you or someone in your care is experiencing or expressing suicidal or homicidal thoughts no matter how “serious” you think they are or are not. Definitely get help if you or someone in your care is hurting her/him-self in any manner, no matter how “mild” it seems. Definitely get help if you recognize that you or someone in your care is hurting other people verbally, emotionally, or physically.

That said, sometimes it’s not that clear. After all, there are multiple things to READ and try on the internet or in books that are self-help and promise a cure. And you haven’t yet tried everything! Plus, you’re resourceful, smart, and have gotten this far.

So when is it time?

Any one (or more) of the following over a span of two weeks or more mean it’s worth finding a real, live professional to lend a hand:

  • your situation keeps you awake at night or
  • wakes you up in the middle of the night or
  • is on your mind first thing in the morning
  • your work feels significantly more stressful than normal or
  • you’ve received feedback that your personal life is interfering at work
  • a friend or colleague has tried to end a conversation when you need to talk
  • you don’t take pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • your children become depressed or anxious
  • your children develop stomach aches or act out at school
  • you’ve been researching solutions on the internet
  • you purchased a self-help book or people are “gifting” them to you
  • people are giving you (solicited and unsolicited) advice about how to manage
  • anything you’re experiencing is uncomfortable enough to make it significant to you
  • you have a question about your specific situation (or a bunch of them)

Life happens to all of us. Loss happens to all of us. Unfortunately, you don’t get a gold star for handling it better than someone else or for NOT asking for help. You also won’t get a gold star for including therapy or coaching as your go-to resource.

You’ll get more than a gold star and you’ll get it sooner.

The rewards of good “therapy” are intrinsic: reversal of symptoms, access to a warm, knowledgeable, and specifically helpful human, validation of your process, skills to manage in the best ways known to man, an ongoing resource for any future disruption.

It can be risky. Growth can be painful. Change is hard. Trust is hard for some of us. Meeting someone new and sharing wounds is hard for nearly everyone. Pain is pain. Grief surely sucks no matter its shape or source.

The way through is not always simple or easy, yet it’s worth trying to find the right trained person.

Your resources of time, energy, and (probably) money are limited, so you want to know you will connect with someone you 1. like  2. trust and 3. know is skilled to help in your situation.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and help you skip to the perfect connection. (If you didn’t already see this, I’ve provided some quick guidance here with links to a couple other articles.)

I know I’m not the right person for everyone -though I wish I could be- so it’s also not a matter of me just saying, “come here; I can help.” But if you hear me saying that to you, well, then do come here and let’s connect!

Most importantly, if any of the above list fits your situation, then it IS time to find a professional someone to help.