Archive for August, 2008

Good Grief

“Take some alone time for yourself.” “Stay busy.” “Call me if you need anything.” “I know how you feel. My grandma died last year.” These are actual quotes that I’ve been hearing from people for the past two months.Everyone means well, but unfortunately absolutely none of this is helpful. Reading several books *has* helped though. In this blog post, I hope to articulate exactly what I need while grieving, demystify the grief process and explain why we’ve all been poorly socialized regarding grieving.

It’s no secret that my last blog mentioned my two suicide attempts since my mother died, and apparently everyone goes stark-raving ape shit crazy when one mentions suicide. My research shows, however, that suicide hotlines are the FIRST resource/referral on nearly every grief-related website! It’s not uncommon. It’s not insane. It’s not something that “only white people do.” It is a normal and common response to loss (both divorce and death). I’ve heard everything from “What the hell is wrong with you?” to “The next time you wanna do something stupid, call me and I’ll do it for you.” Let’s see…when I’m suffering from a loss and confused about my feelings, do I want to hear that the way I’m feeling is wrong or stupid? I’ll take “Hell, no!” for $200, Alex (a little Jeopardy humor–stay with me).

These comments were not only damaging and unproductive, they made it a hell of a lot harder to feel safe grieving around “loved ones.” My online community was more helpful and supportive than some of the people I see everyday. The funny thing is that it wasn’t actually posted for support from others. I never expected anything but to let it out. Writing is an outlet for me. I was using it to talk myself down off of the ledge–to sort out this manic character inside of me who shoved handfuls of Vicodin and Tequila down my throat while the logical part of me sat helplessly in a corner of my mind. This wasn’t like in high school when you took three or four pills and called someone to save you. This was some all new shit! I wasn’t in control. I’m lucky I woke up! Perhaps if someone else were grieving at the time, reading my blog could help normalize the feelings for them like my self-help books have been doing for me–then maybe they wouldn’t feel so alone and out of control.

Unfortunately, most people are socialized to grieve alone. We are told to suck it up, have a “thick skin,” replace the loss and get on with life, because “time heals all wounds.” This is all bullshit. When your dog died and your mama bought you another one to help you get over the loss, that was poor socialization. When you lost your first girlfriend and everyone told you it didn’t matter because there were “other fish in the sea,” they were conditioning you to replace the loss. Whether you replace it with alcohol, anger, new pussy, drugs or jet-skiing, you’re still not dealing with the real issue (Make note that “anger” was in there with the coping mechanisms. We’ll discuss that again later).

Another fun fact is that time does not heal anything. It’s what you do with the time that matters. If a person breaks their arm, they don’t sit around waiting for time to mend it back together. They get it fixed. A broken heart is no different. A griever should confide in a best friend or elder, go to group therapy, write in a journal/blog, throw some eggs at the wall — one really has to do whatever it takes to let the emotion out.

Anger, according to one of the grief recovery manuals I’ve been reading, is *not* a symptom of the loss. It’s a cover up. It is simply an easier emotion to let out. People feel more powerful and strong when they let out anger. I have always been this way. I’d rather punch you in the throat than cry in public. Crying is perceived as weak. I’ve been poorly socialized too, ya’ll! Lol! But, I’m going through the process. It make take 6 months to soften the blow or it may take the rest of my life, but I will deal with it *actively.*

The process is *not* those five simple stages that we’ve all heard about from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. First of all, those were meant to describe the stages of the actual patient who is dying. Second, they don’t even accurately depict that. There are no stages! There is no easy format to move through. We’re all different and each person’s relationship to the deceased was different. It *does* work in cycles though. I may be fine all this week and depressed next week. I may even finish all the grief work and still suffer horribly on holidays. Only time will tell. I said it will *tell* not *heal.* 🙂

Now that I’ve demystified the process and told you how we’re all screwed up in the head like those broads on Desperate Housewives, let me tell you what I need while I’m grieving so that ya’ll can stop coming up with your own stuff (’cause it’s really bad).

1. If you see me crying in public, give me a thumbs up. Let me know I’m still “Supa” when crying. It’s human.

2. Keep checking on me! Call–even in February of 2012! Don’t wait for a grieving person to call “if they need anything.” We won’t! We’ve been conditioned to grieve alone, remember? “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.”

3. Don’t respond to my blog by calling me horrible names and adjectives. It takes a lot of courage to be this vulnerable and naked on the internet.

4. Don’t be afraid when I say the word “mother.” Don’t get all serious and creepy when I share memories. She’s dead. We all know that. I have to get comfortable talking about her in her absence.

5. Hug me. I *will* make strange faces at you, but I like it. I really do. People don’t touch enough.

6. Smile a lot.

7. Don’t sugarcoat it with words like “passed away” and “gone home.” She’s dead and that needs to be clear.

8. When you do call me or see me *DON’T ASK ABOUT THIS TOPIC FIRST!* Let me bring it up if necessary. I may not feel like talking about it that day.

9. Do not put me on blast! I’m really shy (despite the obscene jokes and loud mouth). Shoot, I’m still trying to psych myself up to kiss HT in front of ya’ll at the wedding. I don’t like people witnessing my human-ness. Lol! I’m just serious. 🙂

10. Take a chill pill. If everyone else is calm and supportive, then I can feel safe to grieve properly. You don’t have to have a story ready. You don’t have to say anything. You can just sit there and stare at me. I’ll be fine.

I didn’t quote the main source of this insight, because I’ve actually already lent the book to a friend and didn’t want to screw up the quotes. I’ll simply list all three of the books below in case you know anyone who’s going through this.

Main Source:

The Grief Recovery Handbook, By John W. James and
Russel Friedman (Second Edition)

Other Good Sources:

Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman

Remembering Mother, Finding Myself by Patricia Commins

 

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