Grief - The Shock of It All
The NewsWhere were you when you found out? Were you standing up? Sitting down? Were you right with your loved one? I remember the phone calls. I remember where I was sitting - working - laying. One of my closest friends told me about Dad's death. She did so with so much reluctance and compassion. She knew I had heard about the death of my Aunt (my second Mom) in a shockingly matter-of-fact way. I recall Judy saying, "Kate, I wish I were there, my friend. I wish I could say this in person and hug you... Your Mom called and she said your Dad .............." I felt numb. The next call was five years later, while I was in session with a client. My supervisor buzzed me out of a couple's session to let me know I had an emergency phone call. It was the paramedics. "We have your Mom here. She's had a heart attack. We don't think she's going to make it...." I was able to say, "Please tell her I love her......" I knew they were taking her to the hospital. She would not hear me say it. I felt numb. The last of my family members was a call at 3:30 AM. "Kathy, it's Toni. Kurt died this morning at 1:00 AM. I've been trying to reach you, but...." I felt numb.
Shock and DenialShock - Denial is the first stage of the Five Stages of Grief in the Kubler-Ross model. If you've lost a loved one, whether a parent, friend, child or spouse, you know the shock of it. You just go numb. Your brain cannot process the news you will not speak or hear from your loved one again. You might say things like, "I still can't believe she's gone." "I knew he was sick, but I really thought he was going to pull through." "I feel like someone is playing a cruel joke."
What Shock Looks LikeThe shock looks like a numbness or a confusion. Your brain often goes on emotional overload. You know when you go to the funeral or memorial service and people report the survivor is "doing really well?" This is often times Shock. The reality of living without the person they loved has not fully entered into the brain of the survivor. Some people will experience peace. As a friend, I would NEVER recommend you question the peace. As a friend, I would also be prepared and available for the sadness to show up - the grief. And if you are experiencing peace about your loved one dying - Don't question the "peace." Enjoy it. However, as the reality of loss enters your experience, you may feel the sadness creep into your life. Please don't suppress the sadness. This is not the time for a "stiff upper lip." [Tweet "There are no bootstraps when it comes to grief."] Remember? Grief is the way to Joy. Let the sadness come - like labor pains. The Sudden Urges of Grief (SUGs) will sometimes get intense. But, like labor pains, the Sudden Urges of Grief that seemingly come from nowhere, won't last forever. Joy will come through the mourning.
What Denial Looks LikeNo. You aren't losing your mind. You are slowly integrating the loss of your loved one into your daily life. You might roll over in bed to find them no longer there - warming the other side of the bed. You might pick up the phone to tell them about the latest joke you heard - only to realize they wouldn't be answering. You forget for a moment, they were no longer there. The conversation, joke, song shared in the past will fade into a memory.
The Trap of AvoidanceSometimes the denial looks like avoiding the cemetery - or avoiding the room they occupied -or avoiding the restaurant once enjoyed by you and your loved one. While it is vital you pace yourself in this journey of The Soul of Grief, it is also important to remember avoiding the grief will only prolong the process. If you find yourself avoiding the familiar places, people, or things that remind you of the pain of your loved one no longer being there - I encourage you. Get a friend/priest/pastor/counselor to help you face the pain and walk through this valley of shadow of death.
The Path ThroughWe're not done. If you are concerned you need to understand more about how all of this icky grief works, don't worry, friend. There's more information and encouragement for your journey. We have a ways to go in this series. And friend, I truly wish I could give you a short cut. There are none. Just remember - The only rule of grief is You Make the Rules.
I'm Kate Pieper, LMFT, your reluctant tour guide for The Soul of Grief. The above is not professional advice. Hopefully, it is information to help you in this maze of grief you may be walking. You can reach me at 530-268-3558 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps I can walk with you through your pain.