Friday, April 6, 2012

G is for...

GRIEF

     One of the first people I interviewed for my master's thesis, which is now my book, was a grief counselor at a hospice program in Colorado.  Her job scared me. I couldn't fathom going to work each day and having to deal with so much sadness. I had a hard enough time dealing with the office politics at my own boring day job at the time, so the thought of this woman's daily interactions with grieving people made me nervous.  It's not that I have ice water running through my veins, it's just that I have a tendency to absorb the emotions of those around me like a sponge. I naturally assumed that to do her job effectively she would have to put some sort of emotional safeguard up between her and the patient.  Like most people who make assumptions, I made an ass out of me. This woman told me that the day she stopped feeling was the day she would have to quit. 

     Grief is a funny thing.  Not ha-ha funny, but curious funny.  Even if you've never experienced a loss, you've probably heard of Kubler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief, which has been debated recently.  What I've learned through my journey into death is that there is no expiration date for grief, nor is there a right or a wrong way to grieve.  Some people want comfort, while some people want to be left alone to figure it out for themselves.  Recently there has been a movement to classify complicated grief as a mental disorder.  I think that's totally wrong, but that's just my humble opinion.

I have yet to experience a major loss, so I don't know how I'll grieve or how long it will take to "recover," if there is such a thing.  (Don't even get me started on closure.)  I've experienced two miscarriages, the death of five beloved pets, and I've had a few relationships end badly, so I've gotten a taste of those emotions, but I'm not sure I've felt the full wallop yet.  I know it's nothing I can avoid.  It will happen.  How can it not?  

I'm human.

17 comments:

  1. I'm sorry for your losses. I had a miscarriage too, and it's something you never really get over.

    All we can hope for is that when we do experience a major loss we'll have a support network around us to offer us all we need to get over the grief.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences again. This blog always deeply resonates with me.

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    1. I'm glad to hear it resonates with someone:) I've never been afraid of dying, but very afraid of experiencing grief over the loss of someone I love.
      It took me a long time to realize I had more experience with death than I originally thought. Our society doesn't really allow women to openly grieve for babies lost before birth. There's always a pat on the back and "You'll have another one." Like that somehow makes it all better. So, thank you for addressing your own miscarriage on this forum and I too am sorry for your loss.

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  2. I think those emotions are essential in being human. Great post! It made me think, so thanks for posting.

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    1. They are, they're just not much fun when you're going through them.

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  3. Grief is a good topic. Unfortunately I've dealt with it too much in my life. I did study the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief for a paper I was writing and I found them to be pretty accurate in my life. Shrug. Everyone is different and everyone will deal with emotions in their own way. I think it comes the closest without being too specific or too general.

    I was writing a paper on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and how it is the greatest example of a woman's loss shrouded in a man's world of science. Still proud of the paper.

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    1. I've seen the various cinematic interpretations of "Frankenstein" but I've never read the book. Now I'm totally curious. Did Mary Shelley lose someone and write this book? Or was it anticipatory grief over the thought of losing someone she loved? That's really interesting because at it's heart, the story is about reincarnating the dead.
      Hmmmm.

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  4. The idea of grief being a mental disorder makes me feel slightly sick. It's funny, because (in my failure to correctly remember the alphabet) I put up a post on H for Happiness yesterday that basically says our obsession with being happy is not an awesome thing. Hearing that someone would go to the length of saying that people who feel intense sorrow have something wrong with them only makes me more convinced that I'm right on the money with that one.

    Thank you for sharing your loss.

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    1. I'll have to swing on over to read your post. There was a book that came out about Happiness and how the quest for happiness totally messes with people. I can't remember the title and when I went to Amazon, I couldn't find it, but man are there tons of books on achieving happiness.
      Yes, happiness is good, but without grief or sadness to measure it against, it has no real meaning. So as humans we should strive to experience all the emotions on the spectrum.

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  5. ...also, I just went and read the article you actually linked, and I found it incredibly moving. Thank you!!

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  6. I've lost my brother which was tragic! There will always be a hole in my heart where my brother and bestfriend once held. My kids are the only reason why I get up everyday. Grief is a great healer tho. Without it we would all walk around stone-cold.

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    1. I'm sorry about the loss of your brother. Grief is a necessary stop in the spectrum of our emotions. I think that's why our society doesn't want to acknowledge death or prepare for it because it brings out feelings that we don't particularly welcome, but they are necessary. If anything, the emotions of grief remind us that at the times we aren't experiencing them that we should be GRATEFUL.

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  7. Great post, and this is a takeaway line: "...there is no expiration date for grief, nor is there a right or a wrong way to grieve." Got *that* straight. My little brother was killed at age 14 in shooting accident in 1967. I think about him almost every week and have my whole life. Also, I'm a nurse, and I differ a bit with the hospice worker. I think there is an emotional safeguard to dealing with the sick or dying. By that I mean that we care , but don't let our emotions get the better of us. I worked by the caveat, When emotionally wrought, you become part of the problem. But ceasing to care? Yes, I'd have to quit.

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    1. I have total respect for those who work in the nursing profession. In all the times I've been in the hospital, it's always the nurse who attempts to make me feel better, not the doc. After I had my second miscarriage, the doctor was so matter of fact about it and left the room. It was the nurse who patted me on the arm and said she was sorry.
      Thanks for commenting. The loss of someone young, like your brother, especially in an accident has to be the hardest loss to deal with. In my book, one of the people I end up following lost his two year old son. The boy choked while eating dinner. The father became an EMT out of that experience. I was so afraid to talk to him about that night, like I felt if I brought it up that it would make him feel bad. I discovered that he wanted to talk about it. He will never forget his son and he doesn't want to pretend it didn't happen.
      I think that's another thing that happens after a tragic death--people will ignore it. Not because they're mean or cold,but because they don't want the parents or siblings or whomever to have to relive it. How did people you know handle the death of your brother?

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    2. People never really know what nurses do until they need one. ;-)
      I agree, the death of a young child has to be the worst. People react differently. I've read that a lot of parents end up divorced. Mine didn't but the fallout was bad.
      My two older siblings had already left home, my parents were--understandably--scored to the bone with grief, and I was left hanging. It was 1967. The world was about to go mad (Just watched When You're Strange--documentary about The Doors-- last night). My, 1968 was crazy! My parents managed to stay together, but I got lost in the shuffle.
      They bought a sailboat and left for a 20-year adventure that kept them in the present moment. Probably what kept them sane.
      I married badly, had two wonderful children, and divorced ten years later. I went to nursing school to support myself and my kids and lived a s single parent until they left home. It was hard.
      Looking back, I know I couldn't have asked my parents for their attention, they were too shattered, but it would have helped if we had all had counseling or something. That death was a game changer in so many ways.
      I love your blog and will definitely look for your book when you get it published. Fingers crossed.

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    3. Thank you! Death is a hard sell in the publishing world, probably even more so because I'm not an expert and I'm not dying. Well, we're all dying, but I wasn't facing death with a harrowing tale to tell. My book is what happens to an extremely anxious woman when she decides to face her fear.

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  8. Grief is such a terrible thing. Thanks for blogging about it.

    Good luck with the challenge!

    Dianna Fielding
    sociologyfornerds.com

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!