Thursday, September 30, 2010

good grief...

When I knew Keith was approaching death I Googled the stages of grief:   

1) Denial and Isolation
2) Anger
3) Depression
4) Bargaining
5) Acceptance

There were about a million websites devoted to this topic, but what about the stuff no one talks about?  I would have found it very helpful to read something about the phenomenon that happens to food during crisis or tragedy.  Nobody told me that everything I tried to eat would have no taste.  As far as I was concerned, it was crumbs in my mouth and that was about it.  Nothing sounded good and it all got stuck in my throat.  I knew it was bad when my cupcake friend offered to bring me cupcakes and I couldn't even do that.  It just didn't sound good.  I was then faced with people saying, "Judy, you need to eat.  You need to take care of yourself."  What they didn't understand was that I tried, I really did, but it's hard to eat when every type of food sounds about as good as eating your own vomit. 

Another thing no one told me was that no matter what I would take to induce drowsiness, sleep would evade me.  Sleep was not my friend.  I remember thinking, "What do you do when one Ambien just isn't enough."  I didn't take two, but I didn't sleep either.  If I did nod off then I would wake up shortly after seeing Keith's body after he passed.  I couldn't get his image, specifically his hands, out of my thoughts.  I would wake up and then be haunted by the same images that caused me to wake in the first place.  Nobody told me that my dreams, nightmares, and reality would all blend together forming the perfect funk which eliminated sleep.

How about when your brain becomes mush?  What stage of grief does that fall under?  I forgot things, couldn't come up with certain words and was generally just less intelligent.  I was about as sharp as mud.  Probably about as clear as mud too.  It's similar to pregnant brain, but WAY worse.  

I am happy, however, to report that food regained its taste and that Ambien is now working.  I still struggle with the mushy brain syndrome, but I think it's slowly getting better.  I guess what I took away from the stages of grief is that everyone grieves in their own way.  There is no textbook answer to surviving a crisis and grieving appropriately.  I think it's just hard when we get hit with something no one talks about or if our grieving sounds different than the "typical" grieving.  I was reminded of this the other day when I received this email from one of our friends:

I’m thinking about Keith a lot these days.  It’s strange because before he died I didn’t think about him as much.  In fact I really wanted him to be made whole and was relieved when he passed.  It’s like that relief is passing and now I just flat out miss the guy.  I really didn’t expect to feel this way.  I thought about it a lot last night just trying to understand why I’m thinking about him so much more now than when he was in the hospital and I think it has something to do with anxiety about forgetting or losing him completely. I keep seeing the same image over and over of Keith throwing his head straight back laughing at something someone said.  I’ve seen it a thousand times over the years and it’s like I’ve grabbed that image and my mind is replaying it over and over to keep from forgetting it.  

We are all missing Keith and it doesn't matter if our grieving falls into one of the stages of grief or not.  Depending on your relationship with the person, you will grieve differently and it will be done so in different ways.  The important part is that we allow ourselves to do it in however long it takes to get through it.  I think the real tragedy would be for someone to close off the opportunity to grieve for their loved one because without grieving appropriately it will always remain difficult to access the good times and memories of the person - the times that you're grateful you had and the memories that you'll never forget because they're written on your heart.  

If you must grieve, experience good grief.  Because the person you loved and have lost would want you to focus on the good times you had, not what could have been.


Tiffany said...

I am grieving the loss of my brother. He died in May, one week after his 32 birthday. Unfortunately the past decade was full of tragic and maddening events so the good memories have been incredibly difficult to find.

I was surprised with the amount of guilt that has accompanied my grieving. I was relieved when he died, because it was the end of something awful. Sometimes I will see someone who reminds me of the better qualities of my brother and I get lost in the "what could have been" thoughts. Deep down I never gave up hope that he would recover and be the person we knew he could have been.

I have recently accepted that the only truly good memories I have of my brother are a few from when we were children. Those memories are so far away though, so I feel like I have to work extra hard to keep them in focus. It is exhausting.

However, as time moves forward and I continue to visualize my brother as a happy little boy, with no cares in the world and without the demons he seemed to constantly battle as an adult; I am finding sweet comfort.

The love I feel for the image of my brother as a little boy almost comes from the same place where I love my 18-month-old son. This maternal love has allowed me to smile more when I think of my brother. I am grateful for the short reprieve from the usual "bad grief" I typically feel.

You are right, the grieving process is complicated and different for everyone. Thank you for articulating yours, it has given me an opportunity to think through mine.

TMW said...

Judi, as I am reading through your posts, I am touched, first, by the blatant honesty of your blog. Thank you for being honest. Your being honest has opened my eyes to the fact that I have not been honest with myself. Second, I realized that there is no formulated plan of what you are suppose to do. We each have a journey and only God knows the "plan" for that journey. My expectations may not be His. No, I did not lose a spouse. I would not even dare to say those dreaded words of "I know what you are going through". But my grief is for a father... and now caring for my mother... and being the one that is supposed to be up and encouraging all the time. *sigh* We all have our burdens.

I am comforted by the thought that you see your life coming back together. I feel mine slipping slowly away. And your life coming back to some sort of normalcy gives me a hope.

Thank you again, friend. That is what you have been, although you have absolutely no idea who I am. You have been that sweet friend that I go to visit online and I feel your words and comments as though we are talking directly to one another. You have comforted me my friend. And once again, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one with mush for a brain. For months I asked, what day is it? I still request everything in a text or email. I have to say I love texting. People keep it short and usually don't say anything too insulting that way, although it has happened. ok, too late for me.Blessings.