To Grieve Alone

Published by Chapster on 2005/7/1 (7749 reads)
On May 18, 2005 Mike met with Dr. James Griffin, Station Director for KEOM - 88.5FM to tape one of their daily Community Focus segments. The following is the script from that interview.

Q: So, Mike, what are we talking about today?

A: Today, I thought we would talk a little about grief and it's uniqueness. The other day I was visiting a website that had the following words from a grieving mother: “This is now. I am angry at God. I will not talk to Him. I have asked Him for what I believe He has the capability to do and He has NOT answered me. So, for now at least, I will remain angry at Him. I also believe this is something that is between me and God. I do NOT need someone who has not lost a child, to tell me how wrong I am for being angry at God.” She then offers quotes from well-meaning friends who nonetheless offended her by telling her that she should not be angry. This illustrates the idea that grief is really something that is unique to each of us and requires each of us to process in our own way. Many folks will take comfort from their spirituality. Others will find the death of a loved one to be a sign that there is no value in spirituality. Sadly, many of the people in the latter group receive only chastisement from the former, and their grief process is only deepened by it. We all find different ways to make sense of loss.

Q: Does this apply to other areas of the grieving process as well?

A: Yes, it does. For instance, some spouses have told me that they have never cried over the death of, say, their husband: They might say, “I'm just worried that something might be wrong. It's not that I don't miss him. Of course I do. We spent 61 years together. You can't spend that kind of time together with someone and not love them dearly. But, for some reason, I just haven't been able to cry. Am I wrong for that?” We try to reassure them that they will cry if and when they need to. There are no hoops through which we must jump to grieve correctly. We only need to grieve, to contemplate our loss and to make sense of it in our way.

One gentleman said: “You know, after a big loss, I just go into my room and spend about three days in there, crying. It worries the heck out of my family. But, when I'm done, I'm done. And, I feel better.” This illustrates the unique quality of grief. His grief was absolutely normal.

Q: How do we know when grief has gone from being individual to something we should be concerned about?

A: People become concerned about their grief for many reasons. Most of them feel concerned over a sense that they are not meeting a timetable, or they perceive a lack of support from friends and family. Others fear that they have not expressed their grief in some way. While these can slow the grieving process a little, they are not signs of complicated grief. Mostly, the person just needs reassurance that there aren't any hoops they have to jump through to justify their grief.

On the other hand, there are reasons to be concerned when we see the following signs: When a person has grief that has not changed in a long period of time - such as years, and there has been no improvement in ability to function in life; when a person begins or continues patterns of self-harm or potential self-harm, such as drinking; when a person displaces their anger into other pursuits such as work, without processing their grief in any meaningful way, such as those who are workaholics; when extreme and prolonged physical symptoms accompany grief; and when there is some accompanying chronic depression or other psychiatric symptom. Any of these are indications that follow-up with a professional is desirable, if not essential.

Basically, Grievers should know that grieving takes time, is work, is very individual, and that it is natural to heal. There are numerous things that we can do to help. Journaling is perhaps the best thing we can do. Support groups can also be a very helpful intervention. It might be helpful for our listeners to hear the words of Samuel Johnson: “While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.” That's good advice for broken hearts.

Tags: loss   grief   bereavement   sorrow   loneliness  

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