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Friday, March 11, 2011

STUG, what in the world is that!!!

'We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'  
President Ronald Reagan, January 28, 1986, in his speech after the Challenger tragedy.
How so true for all our loved ones, for all those who have died, even the forgotten are never truly forgotten, someone somewhere remembers, even if they don't know their name.  Many us pray for those who have been 'lost' to death regardless of our religious beliefs, in the hope of helping all souls who death has taken from us make their journey to Heaven, Shanti, Nirvana, Slumberland, Spirit Land or into the afterlife.  

In my last posting I spoke to the types of grief individuals experience, and how they impact us as grievers.  I would like to take it a bit further.  For some of you, if you were around at the time of the Challenger tragedy, these simple opening words in this post brought back memories, evoked a response, you might have even been watching the event, you remember.  If you were at all connected to any of the crew on board, you might even feel a sadness, a longing.  

Grief is our internal feelings, those feelings and thoughts we keep in our hearts, those emotions others do not see, the rambling thoughts we often do not share.  Grief, however, is not to be confused with bereavement - which is the outward display of our feelings and emotions. 

Bereavement is what the world sees, our external demonstration of what we are feeling internally, this is what we see after we have been told of the death of a loved one, during the ritualistic parts of a funeral, and so on.  

As time passes most of us become grievers, internalizing what has occurred, finding the strength within, and learning to accept the new 'normal' in our lives.  We find ourselves having less and less episodes of externalizing our grief, we have left our bereaved self behind to take on the role of griever.  

4 1/2 years have passed since Rachel's death, and yes I very much grieve for my daughter every day.  There is seldom a day that she is not on my mind, and some days more so than others.  Events, locations, expressions, and so much more can trigger thoughts of Rachel, my dad, my grandparents and other deceased family members.  Some bring a smile to my face, others leave me sighing, and still others will bring a tear to my eyes.  

Occasionally I will find myself truly crying, unable to stop myself, often these episodes occur when I am alone, but once in a while I will have a meltdown while speaking to someone on the phone, or in a crowded place.  As many of you know, I recently came back from vacation, it was enjoyable, but it also held so many memories of Rachel, of what she enjoyed and what she held dear.  So needless to say the last couple of weeks have been emotionally charged.  Just last week I found myself crying uncontrollably while driving home.  Granted I had had a long day, I was tired, but yet something triggered thoughts of Rachel, and would just not let go.  Luckily I was alone, and I let myself go with it until I exhausted my tears.  

I experienced STUG - Sudden Temporary Upsurges of Grief.  Yes there is a name for this type of reaction, for this type of sudden heaviness, for this type of grief, an overwhelming need to externalize what is bubbling up inside.  This grief comes from out of nowhere, totally catches you off guard and unprepared.  I have found myself going from laughter to sudden burst of uncontrollable crying, which leaves me drained and confused.  

Yes you are normal, this is very much a common occurrence, and since grief stays with you, you may find it occurring from time to time.  Will it diminish in time, one may only hope, but from what I have seen, heard and read, it can resurface at any given time.  Especially if we experience a loss of something that is linked to our loved one, a favorite piece of their furniture has to be thrown away, your deceased loved one's pet dies, so many things can trigger this sudden grief.  

When these episodes occur, it is best to run with it if you can.  If I am alone, like I stated before, I let myself be in the moment.  If I am with others, I try to find ways to control the outburst, or take myself away from the scene, hopefully while no one notices.  

These upsurges can be difficult for others to understand, especially if it has been years since your loved one died.  They may feel that you are losing it, that you should be over it already, that you definitely should have moved on.  I am fortunate that I have some people in my life who not only understand, but let me be, let me cry, don't try to stop me, or walk away.  For those who do not understand, I exercise patience and realize that they may me uncomfortable with my sudden outburst, the unwarranted tears, and my expression of grief.  

If you have a friend or family member who occasionally experiences 'STUG' moments, let them be, allow them to vent, let them know it is okay, even if you don't understand what is happening.  If you experience them yourself, be good to yourself, let the tears flow, let yourself be in that moment.  These episodes often end as quickly as they start.  My drive the other day was less than 5 minutes, and before I had gone just a few blocks, I had felt my emotions welling up, I had cried, sobbed and was composed again.  Because I had allowed myself to cry when I needed to, I was okay, I felt a sense of relief, of unburdening, and it was good.  

If you feel what you are experiencing isn't normal, ask someone who has gone through it before you.  You will be very surprised to find out that anything goes when you are grieving, and what may not seem normal, is very much normal indeed.  There are no rules when it comes to grieving, so to quote Captain Barossa (Pirates of the Caribbean), 'There more like guidelines anyway.'   So just remember, anything goes and always allow yourself the space to grieve, and if at anytime it is more than you can handle, always seek help, do not try to go it alone if it seems to difficult for you.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

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