Google Analytics

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Can I just stay here?

Vacation, getaways, sojourns...they all describe a break from reality, a time when we can simply forget about things for a while.  If you have not taken one in a while, I strongly recommend you do, it does amazing things for your mental health and well-being.  There are however, some people who live life as if every day is a vacation, they refuse to deal with the situations around them.  They retreat from the world hoping everything will go away.  

There are many a time when I wish I could do just that, live as if nothing was amiss in my world, as if everything was just sunshine and roses.  Yet I wonder, what would I miss out on, what would I not see or understand, what lessons would I not learn and what strengths and gifts would I lack.  We need not only the sunshine but the rain as well, we need the clear skies and the cloudy, we need it all in order to become who we are.  Each storm in our life makes us more prepared for the next one.  

Grief is one of the storms very few of us can avoid, and I have learned that death and dealing with death never truly prepares us for the next loss, but it helps.  Each death is met with emotions, feelings, and it's magnitude is reflected by what this person means to you, and how much you love them.  The death of my father was difficult, after all that's my 'dad,' but my daughter's death goes beyond anything I can explain.  Anyone who has lost a child knows full well what I mean, it is a deep wrenching of our hearts, it goes beyond any pain one could ever imagine.  Yet so many of us survive, so many of us go on, and even if we take a break from reality for a while (I was home a year after Rachel's death); we pick ourselves up, and manage to go on.  

There are as many ways of coping and dealing with grief, as there are people.  Each one of us has our own very unique way of working through the bereavement, mourning and grief.  Some of us face it head on and try to find our way through the entire 'process.'  Others will put on a brave front and hope they don't come crashing when reality sets in.  While still others will try not to deal with it at all, or are not given the opportunity to grieve.   

What causes grief -- Love, dependency, expectations.  The more we loved them the more we hurt, the more we miss them, the harder it is to accept or understand.  Dependency - this person provided for our needs, we could rely on them to be there, they 'completed' us and made us feel whole, loved and cherished.  Expectation - we made so many plans, there were so many places we wanted to visit, so much we wanted to accomplish, all vanished.  This was a person we valued, who meant so much to us, and now we are deprived of their love, their physical nearness, of them.  

Understanding the causes of grief, helps us to understand why so many of us find it hard to move on after the death of a loved one.  It is also because of these causes, that many refuse to deal with the grief at the time of death.  Looking at this and trying to understand my own grief and how others grieve, I decided to outline the different types of grief, and what they mean to the bereaved.  

The types of grief vary, and are dependent on the situation and the individual, and are as follows:** Anticipatory grief - when we begin to grieve well before our loved one has died, or any other anticipated event in our lives, job change, divorce, etc.  We recognize this grief most often when people are dealing with a terminal illness, and everyone knows and understands the outcome.  Ambivalent grief - where the feelings are mixed, there is a conflict within the grieved person; sometimes a love/hate relationship, or anything that can create an inner turmoil.  Latent grief - at the time of the death or loss, the grief is pushed aside, it is lies dormant, hidden, until such time when they feel they can deal with it; generally surfacing long after the event.  Shadow grief - is grief that always follows you, you are unable to find closure, it varies in its intensity, and it can  occur long after the death, and at times is intense with sporadic, intense pain.  Anomic grief - or first time grief, generally seen with children.  Disenfranchised grief - occurs when the situation does not allow the grief to be recognized or acknowledged as true grief by society; such as the loss of a close friend, a life partner, disabled person, etc.  Unresolved grief - is unmitigating grief, it is as intense today as it was yesterday, your capabilities to function are as diminished as when you first began grieving, it won't subside.  

The key is to recognize that we all grieve, we all experience losses in our lives that leave us second-guessing, unsure of our surroundings, trying to simply keep our heads above water.  Recognizing what we are going through as grief, and allowing ourselves to grieve, goes a long way in our healing.  When we give ourselves permission to grieve we free ourselves to express our emotions, thoughts and innermost conflicts.  We face the hurt and pain, and by doing so, find ways to cope and deal with it.  If however, you do find yourself unable to grieve, or recognized yourself as being trapped in grief that seems unrelenting, unhealthy or causes you to be unable to function, seek help.  Asking for help can guide you through your journey, help you understand what you are going through, and guide you to healthy ways of resolving your grief.  As my professor said in class today, 'the only way to over come grief, is to go through it.'  Circumventing it will only cause it to resurface down the road.  'Express don't repress.'  

Grief is natural, it occurs whenever we have loved, whenever we have allowed someone to be important and special to us.  The more we loved, the greater the grief.  Taking a sabbatical, or trying to escape grief, will only last for a while, it will eventually catch up to you; bringing you headlong into reality.  So remember, it is okay to take short breaks, to get away for a while, it will re-energize you for the task at hand and give you the strength you need to go on.  But don't try to take a permanent vacation from grief, because like any vacation, you eventually have to pay the bill, and step back into reality.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

**Notes from my Psychology of Grief class, and Prof. John C. Tormey, thanks for your insights.


  1. Rose Mary, Thanks for the enlightening post. Great analogy about vacation and grief. You really can't escape from grief, you must face it sooner or later. You must make your way through it in your own time and way. I like the phrase, "Express, don't repress." The way you have faced your grief is surely inspirational.

  2. Thank you, Nancy. I have seen in my own life people around me who have tried to keep pushing their grief further and further away, hoping if they don't acknowledge it it will go away. But I am now beginning to see the aftermath of such actions, and how it is effecting these individuals and their lives.

    Tare care, xoxox