• Quote of the Day
    "You are much deeper, much broader, much brighter than any idea you could have of yourself."
    Harry Palmer, posted by Daniel

David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
38,051
Points
113
Grief: A Mayo Clinic doctor confronts painful emotions
October 10, 2006
by Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

A senseless act of terrorism, a devastating illness. A natural disaster or a tragic train wreck. The unexpected knock at the front door, that early morning phone call, and the somber priest, minister or police officer there to break the bad news.

Sooner or later, each one of us will have that dagger in the heart called grief. How on earth can you ever pick up the pieces, heal the wounds and move on with the rest of your life, and yet not feel like you're betraying the memory of your loved one?

Unexpected emotions
As a medical oncologist, each day I see people with cancer who struggle with death. Each day, I see families struggle with the inevitable end to life ? families who aren't really prepared for the avalanche of emotions that sweep over them when the final moment comes, even when they knew death was imminent.

I know how challenging and devastating, it can be, because it's happened to me.

I had gone on a 10-mile run one frigid winter morning 20 years ago. When I got home, my son, Ed, then 18, compassionately broke the news ? my mother had died.

Even though my mother had struggled with breast cancer and alcoholism, the news struck me like a two-by-four whipsawed across my abdomen. I felt drained of every ounce of vitality. And it took all the energy I had to keep from slumping to the floor.

Even though I see tragedies every day, I was completely unprepared for the feelings of confusion and disorganization that followed my own mother's death.

As the hours evolved into days, it became physically painful to make any decisions. Reserving plane tickets. Dealing with funeral directors. The thousands of little details you must handle after a death were absolutely exhausting.

Easing the healing process
Painful as it was, the experience gave me new insight into what those with serious illness and their families and friends go through. There are no quick fixes for the grief and anguish after the death of a loved one. No shortcuts, to be sure.

But there are ways to make the coping easier:

  • Actively grieve and mourn. Grief combines the inner feelings of loss, sadness and emptiness. Mourning is the external or outward manifestation of that grief. You may wear black, cry or carry a somber demeanor. Both grief and mourning are natural and necessary parts of the healing process.
  • If you don't face your grief, your wounds may never quite go away. Acknowledge the pain and know that it's part of the healing process. Unresolved grief can surface years later as headaches, intestinal problems, psychiatric difficulties, eating disorders or chemical dependency.
  • We grieve alone, but we heal in community. A friend, a confidante, a clergyperson can all help you along the journey of healing after a loss. We need community ? connectedness ? to heal. It helps to have someone to share feelings with or simply to be there when we cry, to share in our sorrow and listen in a nonjudgmental way.
  • Don't make major decisions. Grief clouds our ability to make sound decisions. So when you're grieving, try to defer major decisions. If possible, wait four to six months before making big decisions, such as moving, taking a new job or making major financial changes. If you must make decisions right away, seek the input of a trusted family member or friend for guidance.
  • Take care of yourself. Grief drains our energy. Each of us handles problems in our own way. You may develop a tremendous appetite or not eat at all and lose weight. Try to get adequate sleep and continue to eat healthy. If at all possible, don't be alone during this time. Let others take care of you. Spending some time alone is fine, but isolation can become unhealthy and interfere with the healing process. Your will to live and desire or ability to follow normal routines may quickly erode. That can put you at higher risk of health problems, such as depression, insomnia and heart disease. Consider visiting your doctor to make sure your health isn't being adversely affected.
  • Time helps, but it may not cure. We're told that time heals all wounds. That's not entirely true, of course. Time does have the ability to make that acute, searing pain of loss less intense, to make your red-hot emotions less painful. But your feelings of loss and emptiness may never completely go away. If you question this, ask any parent whose child has died, even if that death occurred 60 years ago.
You may never return to your previous baseline. The death of a loved one changes us forever. Instead, you may find yourself at a new "normal." Accepting and embracing that can help you reconcile losses.

A final thought
In one way or another, we are all in the same canoe of life. You can bob and weave, but you can't forever dodge the pain of grief and mourning.

But someday again, the sun will shine. The day will seem brighter, and your life will go on, even if it'll never be quite the same.
 

Halo

Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2005
Messages
7,475
Points
36
Great article David. These parts especially stood out for me personally:

If you don't face your grief, your wounds may never quite go away. Acknowledge the pain and know that it's part of the healing process. Unresolved grief can surface years later as headaches, intestinal problems, psychiatric difficulties, eating disorders or chemical dependency.

But someday again, the sun will shine. The day will seem brighter, and your life will go on, even if it'll never be quite the same.
 

David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
38,051
Points
113
This was exactly my experience, especially the second excerpt you quoted, Nancy.
 

Halo

Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2005
Messages
7,475
Points
36
Unfortunately I am still stuck in the first part that I quoted with a hope to getting to the second part.

I just can't believe how powerful of a statement that second part is. This part just floored me when I read it.
 

Top Bottom