What did people do when they experienced grief? They felt probably the same as we do now, but now at least we don’t feel so crazy, misplaced or alone.My grief is overlapping and sometimes I don’t know whether it’s over the loss of my friend or the loss of the person who I was married to due to divorce. I am finding this grieving cycle very tiring; I may hop from one stage to another at any time and find myself wondering if I’m going nuts. It seems not, because I Goggled it and it’s comforting to know that I’m not going mad or am some sort of freak.
How I got to the page is weird, maybe. I searched for words of hope I had read on a poster for people on palliative care, helping them cope with life and their imminent death. Yes, I felt that low, but although I didn’t find the words on the poster I had once seen, I did find a page on grief and the grieving process of loss: Dying, surviving and aging with grace website and here I’ve added what Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book On Death and Dying, identified as the five stages of grief:
And the following list of feelings you may experience, reprinted from DYING: A Book of Comfort, Copyright © Pat McNees, which you can order here.
Don’t be surprised if you feel:
• Shock, numbness, dazed disbelief, a feeling of just “going through the motions,” a sense that part of you is functioning but part of you is not.
• Laziness, fatigue, a sense of depletion.
• Bewilderment, confusion, indecisiveness, clumsiness, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, a reduced attention span. Confusion is especially common.
• A whirlwind of changing feelings, unexpected surges of emotion, of mental chaos and disintegration, the feeling you might be going mad.
• Anger, at the person who died, at the medical establishment, at the people trying to help or console you, at the people who didn’t die, at yourself, at whoever gets in the way when the anger feels like coming out; bitterness, hostility.
• Pain (both physical and emotional), sorrow, weepiness (tears you have no control over – they won’t come when you want them, and then they’ll come at times that are embarrassing), despair, intensely painful feelings of loss.
• Fear, anxiety, panic, agitation, hypochondria.
• A “selfish” preoccupation with your own feelings; a need to be babies, to regress.
• Depression, emotional flatness, apathy, defeatism, thoughts of suicide, a feeling of “What’s the use?” “Why live?”
• Loneliness. A fear of being alone, yet a yearning to be left alone; a need for company, yet no desire to socialize.
• A yearning to see and feel the person who died.
• The sense of a void, a missing part, an enormous sense of loss and emptiness.
• A flood of memories, a restless search for the person who died, a feeling that he or she is nearby or visiting you.
• Guilt, regrets (“if only…”), ambivalence (especially if you had unfinished business with the person who died), feelings of shame about having “unacceptable” thoughts and emotions.
• A mental replaying of the illness, the death, or the life that preceded it; talkativeness, an urge to tell the story of what happened, to talk about the past.
• Sleeplessness, overeating or loss of appetite, weight loss or gain, and a wide variety of physical symptoms to which you are unaccustomed.
• Conflict with other survivors, or the resurfacing of conflicts from earlier in life – a common problem.
• An inability to remember what the dead person looked like; a tendency to idealize (or make a monster of) the dead person; eventually (when you’ve worked through some grief) the feeling that you are absorbing some of the dead person’s personality, that his or her values, qualities, or behaviors are becoming part of you.
• Relief that a difficult time has ended.
• Acceptance, peace, joy.
• Dreams of the deceased; a sense of their presence nearby.
Of course, these feelings and reactions may be applied to any loss. After having read the list, I started to feel better about how I felt. Not happy, but had a better understanding and perhaps more patience with myself. It will take time to get over both losses. (not even counting my puppy, which is another story.)
My friend’s loss was greater; of course, if you can say this about any loss, because the loss of my former spouse, who is alive and well, is just a question of adapting to what was inevitable. (I stopped wearing my wedding ring five years earlier and the only symbols I believe in are those of peace. So, let’s say it was coming.)
No matter what, it’s still a heavy loss after 17 years of sharing a life together. The sudden change is unsettling, not only because it means parting ways, it was the shock of finding what a total stranger I had been living with. From one day to another, he treated me like his worst enemy. Suddenly realizing that 17 years couldn’t even keep things pleasant. I was and am at a loss, and that’s what I’m grieving about. Why having made it so easy for him to move on, makes me such a bad person unworthy of care or compassion. But I’m not squandering time on the “why” really, I am focusing on getting through as best I can.
Google is helping me find articles on things I had no experience with such as losses through death and divorce. A friend is the best bet, but sometimes they are not around and in times of grief it’s hard to burden friends with the ups and downs of the process and they need relief too.
Any loss whether you wanted it, expected it or not, is not something you are ever ready for, and if you reach out for help through Google, let me tell you, it does feel a little bit better and at least you know you are not alone and crazy.