Grief is a crazy, hard, deep experience.
Most people don’t understand the far reaching affects.
I was watching a DIRTY JOBS rerun the other day where the host and a team of professional tree cutters were working on cutting down giant birds of paradise and palm trees.
There were several huge trunks to this growth that was very visible to the eyes.
Once the trees and plants were cut to the level ground you could seem how many, many stumps that were left, when you really couldn’t notice it before through the foliage.
But under the ground was where the most damage lie.
There were miles of roots that reached under the house, yard and street.
The roots went into the underground of neighbor’s yards.
It would be impossible to remove them all.
People don’t realize how much GRIEF is like that.
There is what is visible to our family and friends- the initial cause of our pain and grief.
But there is also, often, an avalanche of Secondary Losses that people don’t understand the true depth of.
This list below, is NOT ALL ENCOMPASSING, but meant to help create an understanding of the Depth and Breadth of how Grief Affects us and why we don’t just “get over it”.
REMEMBER THAT WE ARE DEFINED AS NEWLY BEREAVED FOR AT LEAST THE FIRST FULL FIVE YEARS. THERE IS TRULY AN INFANCY TO GRIEF AND THE “GROWING” STAGES THROUGH IT. BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. DON’T TRY TO FIT INTO A TIMETABLE OR IMAGINARY SELF OR SOCIETALLY imposed “STAGES”. YOU ARE EXPERIENCING THE MOST HORRIBLE PAIN OF YOUR LIFE. HURTING IS VERY REAL. .
For many, it is so hard to understand why the grieving process seems to last so long for some people and not so long for others.
Family, friends. and even sometimes WE ourselves, want us to ‘get on with life.’
We don’t WANT to persevere through the emotions and pain…it takes a very, very long time and it hurts too much.
Because the Loss of our Loved One is THE HORRIFIC LOSS that is tangible and seen,
too many, sadly, think that it is the Only Loss we experience.
But, truly, it is the catalyst for the avalanche of losses that occur.
It may help us to be more gentle to ourselves if we try to understand the many aspects of our lives that have been affected by our loss. . .this is what makes grief HARD WORK!
Forever Robbie’s mom
The following are just some of the many different losses a person may experience after the death of a loved one:
1. Loss of SELF: The part of our SELF that was given to another in love has been wrenched from our being at the time of death ~ we feel like ‘half a person’ or maybe a non-existent person. ~ we loose ourselves, too
2. Loss of identity: As individuals, we identify SELF by the ‘role or position’ held in a relationship. When the other person is no longer present and the role no longer held, we often lose the feeling of wholeness. We may lose our identity as a parent or a sibling. We no longer have that child or that sibling, and it changes who we are.
3. Loss of self confidence: Because as grieving persons we no longer recognize our personal wholeness, the feeling of inadequacy, uselessness, unworthiness is often strong. It is not unusual for strong confident people to suddenly feel weak, incapable and insecure. Confusion settles in because we don’t understand this change. Just acknowledge that it does exist and does very often happen.
4. Loss of life style: Loss of Income – Financial Stress. Death forces a person to begin a new way of life. The family dynamic changes. Income can change. Relationships change. Sometimes it means relocating from where you lived. Quite often, as all of the other losses take their toll, it makes the earning of income a challenge. This of course, creates a whole new set of stressors and loss. It can become what feels like an endless cycle.
5. Loss of security: Grieving people may wonder about self-sufficiency. Can financial resources meet the needs? OR. . . our relationship with our child or our sibling provided a sense of “the world is safe”. Perhaps we felt protective of our loved one and that, somehow, we feel as if didn’t complete the job; we didn’t protect them enough. How can we feel secure or even protective of ourselves or those remaining close to us? We suddenly feel fear and confused about how to deal with these intense feelings.
6. Loss of feeling ‘safe’: Crisis situations can cause one to wonder whether their ‘world’ is safe any more. . .the assumptions we have about life has been shattered. Anxiety or Panic attacks may surface. We may feel as if nothing is right or safe in the world. What feels like Unreasonable Uncontrollable Fears, may hit hard.
7. Loss of known family structure: The ‘storms of life’ can change the composition of a person’s family, thus creating another level of adjustment. Sometimes we feel abandoned by those who we expected to always be there. Sometimes marriages don’t survive the stress of the death of a child. Surviving siblings often become estranged from their parents. The Family Dynamic can bend and change.
8. Loss of the familiar: This Changed Life is unfamiliar. .The inside of your house may need to become different – it feels different without the presence of your child or sibling. The physical space may need to be restructured or changed. Your routine is different ~ .your whole spirit feels different. This sense of unfamiliarity with ones own life can frequently cause family and friends to have difficulty relating to the person who has suffered the trauma.
9. Loss of the past: As new relationships/friendships are experienced we grieve that NEW friends, although supportive and accepting, cannot have a bond with our past journey and history. . .They simply were not there. We cannot ‘rewind’ and re-experience except in memory. We can’t turn to our loved one anymore to talk about shared memories. It creates a feeling of aloneness and sorrow.
10. Loss of the future: It is frightening for a person who has suffered a loss to think ahead; to think of next year or next month or even next week. There is a fear that whatever future there is will be as painful as the present moment ~.or, also very scary, may be more fulfilling, thus ‘dishonoring’ to the person who died. The ‘picture’ of the future changes when a loved one dies. Some people get ‘stuck’ in the present which does not allow the possibility of a future. Sometimes we are so invested in just surviving this moment that FUTURE seems impossible.
11. Loss of direction: In Grief, we may not feel as if we have a purpose in life any more; nothing seems to matter. We are suddenly catapulted to the ‘new reality’ that we never wanted, never asked for, don’t want to accept. Loss can create fears about this new ‘direction’ in life.
12. Loss of dreams: All plans for ‘spending the rest of my life with the person I love’ disappears in death; plans to see your lost child or sibling marry and have a family are dashed; the death of a child robs a parent of the possibility of grandchildren or being a part of ‘rites of passage’ in that child’s life; retirement plans become meaningless.
13. Loss of ability to focus: The mind seems desensitized to anything but the crisis. All other aspects of life seem insignificant. Decisions take concentration and our minds find it hard to focus enough to make worthwhile and lasting decisions. Even simple things like choosing dinner, what clothes to wear, how to get to a place that you have been to a hundred times before can became a major chore or seeming impossibility.
14. Loss of the ability to see choices: Since our life at this moment was not a conscious choice, there is a subconscious feeling that we have no control over any aspect of our life, creating a sense of futility.
16. Loss of ability to make decisions: Because of the existing insecurity and lack of self-trust, we may find ourselves wondering “What should I do?” about almost anything. When we ask others we can become more confused because everyone gives a different answer. Indecision and confusion are common in grief.
17. Loss of health: The strain of the emotional and psychological work often causes physical problems such as nausea, migraine headaches, muscle knots, back problems, anxiety and panic, and even more serious health problems. Our chemical balance changes. This is physiological and not imaginary. We know that it is important to eat and keep hydrated and exercise but we don’t see the ‘reason’ for it, or just don’t feel like it. Energy is sapped. It is hard to take care of ourselves. We sometimes feel that we are experiencing symptoms of the disease of which our loved one died.
18. Loss of inner joy: When we are in pain; when we are grieving, JOY is a non-existent word that it too often hard to relate to. It is NORMAL. It can take a very long time before we can even think of happiness, let alone joy, again. Things that once gave us pleasure, even our relationship with others or with the spiritually we may have once felt seem gone.
19. Loss of patience with self: Sometimes this is brought on by what we feel other’s expectations of us are. Sometimes we feel that we should be dealing better with our loss. Sometimes we think that we should be further along in our grief work. Sometimes we feel inadequate when the feelings of grief / sadness / remorse / unforgiveness last for an extended time. “I’ve always been strong.” “I should be over this by now.” “I can’t seem to stop crying.” “I used to be the Strong one”~ we hurt ourselves with this lack of patience. We aren’t the same as we were. There is no real agenda, yet we sometimes impatiently try to force ourselves into one.
20. Loss of motivation: So much needs to be accomplished, but confusion makes us very skeptical of doing anything or making any decisions, thus, we often fall into depression after a loss as GRIEF begins to ‘pile up’. Our energy is sapped. We may not care about things that were once important.
21. Loss of feeling close to God or Spirituality: Many grievers struggle with spiritual questions after a loss and feel it is disrespectful to ask the “why?” questions of the Higher Power. Some find ourselves directing our anger toward God and thus seeming to ‘sever’ a once close relationship Belief systems can suddenly be turned inside out and upside down. This ‘spiritual crisis’ can often lead to feelings of confusion, doubt guilt and depression.
22. Loss of Objects – Things Seem To Disappear Frequently. Not so funny, as a result of the confusion, lack of focusing and concentration, the fogginess, all of the physical and emotional effects and affects of The Grief, things seems to suddenly disappear. It feels almost as if the world not only swallowed up our loved one, and our self, but things that belong to us, as well. It may almost feel like a conspiracy of The Universe against us.
24. The address book change It is sad and frustrating, but very true that our address book changes. Some people feel as if our loss is contagious. Or maybe they feel that we aren’t progressing fast enough or that we are maudlin and not upbeat enough. We often feel abandoned by those we felt should have been there to count on, creating a new grief of the loss of those relationships.
Compiled with information shared by
Stepping Stones Bereavement Services
860-646-1113 – Lynn Follett SteppingStonesLF@aol.com
and other sources