I am deeply grateful for the blog post made by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, Founder of the MISS Foundation, in response to the recent flurry about what is being identified in a current NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) blog. as "complicated," "prolonged" and in my opinion, abnormal grief, (a "condition," if you will). See Dr. Cacciatore's post here: http://drjoanne.blogspot.com/2015/02/

I have never lost a child. I have never even had a child for reasons beyond the scope of this post. I missed that joy. I cannot even imagine how it feels or what it is like to walk through life having lost your child, be s/he an hour old or 35 years old. But I do know grief too well. I cannot and will never compare the loss of my beloved husband to a mother and/or father losing a child of any age. But, I also resent it when anyone proposes the following:
"The hallmark of complicated grief is persistent, intense yearning, longing, and sadness; these symptoms are usually accompanied by insistent thoughts or images of the deceased  and a sense of disbelief or an inability to accept the painful reality of the person’s death...the urge to hold onto the deceased person by constantly reminiscing or by viewing, touching,  or smelling the deceased person’s belongings... often feel shocked, stunned, or emotionally numb, and they may become estranged from others because of the belief that happiness is inextricably tied to the person who died. They may have a diminished sense of self or discomfort with a changed social role and are often confused by their seemingly endless grief."                NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) blog.         
Symptoms? A word associated with "disease"?  "Stunned, shocked?" Just how long are we allowed to feel stunned? What are the social norms we "must" honor? How long does society allow we who grieve to have a "diminished sense of self"? How sad that this comes along at a time when so many are working so hard (and making headway) in changing the way society looks at and deals with loss and grief. The losers here are the bereaved themselves.

It has been close to five years since the bottom fell out of my life; since dreams of growing old with my beloved spouse came to a halt because four years of daily losses caused by Alzheimer's (the disease of 10,000 good-byes) destroyed our life together. The upcoming anniversary reminds me that I will spend the rest of my years without my partner/spouse/best friend and colleague. Every day brings with it reminders of this loss and I live in a society slow to change their lack of comprehension and respect for traumatic loss or almost any kind of loss or pain or grief.

There is not a day that passes, five years later, that I do not think about, feel sad about and wish for my husband's presence. I guess that means I have complicated grief. Oh, well! It happens when I hear our favorite Mahler symphony come on public radio as I am driving along thinking about something else. It happens often when I cook dinner alone when we always cooked and ate together. Do I fall on the floor in tears? No, but tears may fall. Anyone who has lost a spouse with whom they felt a deep love, oneness and joyous life knows the list, the long list, of what was lost when that spouse died. A parent certainly knows it about the loss of a child. Dreams shattered. Future shattered. So much shattered.

I resent it when professionals (or anyone) decide that my (or those of my clients or any bereaved person) normal feelings and responses to such a loss are a medical issue, abnormal (prolonged, complicated, whatever), and that I (or other bereaved people) need treatment vs support (even treatment by meds that are sometimes harmful). I resent it when professionals negate the reality that we grieve a significant loss forever or when they deny that traumatic loss is defined by the traumatized person who needs only (in most instances by far) to be accepted, heard, felt and supported not judged to be "sick," "symptomatic" and in need of "treatment".

As a bereaved spouse, I choose not to pretend to "move on" (whatever that means) in order to avoid judgment. Maybe it means I forget the many many years and sacred moments spent with him. I refuse to tell others I am "fine" to avoid judgment when I am feeling sadness at a given moment or on a given day. I am where I am and I encourage those I support to do/be the same.

Support? Of course everyone who has experienced a loss needs support...we all need support as we deal with the losses life brings....

I have worked with people in psychotherapy and grief counseling/support for 40 years. So did my husband. I have sat on the floor of my office holding mothers in my arms as they wailed their pain because their child died. I have sat with widows/widowers as they weep even twenty years following a loss. I know people who love touching their spouse's jacket that still hangs on the back of the bedroom door...five years after they died. I am one of them. Accepting the loss of someone who was one with us, be it a child or beloved spouse or someone else is a process...and what does acceptance really even mean. So unique is it! It takes as long as it takes, whatever it is, and that is normal.

Again, I beg you to know that I believe losing a child is the worst of losses, if we dare compare. How can we, really? I know that if I lost a child, I would grieve forever and it would take a long, long time before I could even begin to regroup and go on with some kind of new normal...whatever that may mean. I don't even have words for that. I also know I will grieve my husband's death forever. And I am just fine with that. It bespeaks our love.

I thank you, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, for being who you are, for knowing what you know and for supporting so many who grieve and who are there for others who grieve. I thank you for being a key person is changing the way society looks at and responds to loss and for training others to do the same.

 


Comments

02/21/2015 12:12pm

Bravo, my dear friend and colleague. Bravo. ♥

Reply
12/19/2015 10:45am

This Overcoming Grief: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques by Sue Morris is a self-help book helping, teaching and guiding readers through the painful process of moving on and then establishing a better routine of helpful ways. This is an interesting one.

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/21/2015 12:28pm

Thank you, Marty. I am honored to be your friend and colleague.

As you know, this issue just gets under my skin. Professionals and otherse must stop medicalizing grief and begin to accept it as a normal human experience, especially now when so many of us, like you and Joanne and so many more are working so hard to educate and change attitudes in this society. Thank you for your support.

Reply


Pain will not go away instantly, it may require time or worse it may take forever to be gone. Losing a child or spouse is the worst thing you can ever experienced in your life, it's like waking up each day without a reason to do so. The agony and pain of living your life while the reason of you being alive is already dead is incomparable. Sometimes, we tend to say that we're fine in front of the people asking us how are we so that we'll no longer need to explain how we feel because telling them how broken we are is no help. People who are grieving because of the lost of their loved ones needs nothing but a support. They need someone or a group who can understand them and will torture their tantrums about losing a child/ spouse and later on who will encourage them to move on and will make them realize that the life will not stop by for them just because they lost someone significant to them. We will all lose something or someone but that doesn't mean that we also have to lose ourselves in the process of accepting their lost.

Reply
Jan
02/22/2015 1:25am

Mary, this went straight to my heart. I've read much rubbish about 'complicated' grief by supposed professionals. They just don't know anything about it. I'm one of those who touches jackets and objects belonging to my beloved as I pass, who thinks and longs for him every day as I try to carry on a life alone. I do my very best as he would want, but I will never be healed from the loss. I will grieve for ever, but I don't share my feelings much with those who don't understand.

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/23/2015 6:47pm

Thank you, Jan. I missed your post for some reason. The important thing is that each of us who grieves allows ourselves to own our feelings and pain. Thank you for your words.
Mary

Reply
02/22/2015 8:52pm

Well said, Mary!
I hope many people pick this article up and share it, throughout the grief healing community and beyond. Your words— perhaps because backed by righteous emotions—ring true. I concur with Jan: just a few days ago, even as I am trying to do more clearing, I had out Doug's jacket and put it on for the first time since he left. It was healing for me to be able to do that. We need as long as we need on this grief journey.

All grief is complicated. I don't think there is such a thing as "simple grief" for anyone. And if we try to make it simple, we do not learn the lessons, grow in spirit, gain wisdom, or live from the depths of our heart.

Thank you so much for your wonderful statement.
iloilo

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/23/2015 7:52am

I totally agree, ilo, because each of us is unique and each relationship is unique....nothing is simple. The trend towards medicalizing grief just has to stop. And disallowing people whatever time they need to grieve is just plain wrong. We grieve these huge losses forever and however we choose. Thanks, ilo
Peace
Mary

Reply
Anne Gorman
02/23/2015 7:25am

Thank you, thank you. This needed to be said, Mary. We are not sick. We are grieving and don't need pills to "fix" us.

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/23/2015 7:54am

Nor do we need the norms of a society that has little to no ability or in many instances willingness to comprehend or deal with grief in an humane and sensitive manner. Thanks, Anne.

Reply
02/24/2015 7:15am

Beautifully said- if only we were in the majority- baby steps. I walk with families every day- from hours of their grief to decades- the triggers that move them back in the depths of their grief journey are part of who they are and we need to support them in the valleys and the successes of their grief journey..

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/27/2015 10:57am

I totally agree with you, Lori. As the week went on, following my post, this whole issue of "complicated grief" just kept reappearing and in one piece I read, there was reference to how difficult it is for the author (a proponent of CG) to make this known when so many (those of us in the grief community, I assume) are in disagreement. Frustrating. But we are making headway.
Thanks for your comment, Mary

Reply
Colleen Angel
06/12/2015 10:13pm

Mary, I have been enjoying your personal FB posts and just found this site today. Thank you for saying what so many have felt for so long, but may not have had the words to express it - or the courage to be open about it.
I was astonished recently when a counselor asked me about my quietness during a seminar about a month after my dad died. She said one day I seemed sad and quiet, another day I was happy and outgoing. When I told her my dad had died just a month before that she seemed surprised that I could be happy one day and sad another. We were speaking about this 3 months after his death, and she wanted to know if it would still affect me if I worked with people who were in the grieving process. I was more than a little surprised. I know absolutely it will "affect me," and provide for me and others a broader understanding and supportive focus for their personal work. Fortunately I have connected with a group of people who have also lost loved ones, and we do support each other's happy versus sad moods - on a day to day, even a minute to minute basis.
I'm unsure if these topics are just not covered in training programs for counselors - perhaps not, or perhaps not well enough.
When I contacted my insurance company to ask if grief counseling would be covered, the response was - "you could see a psychiatrist."
I'm so sorry for people who have been unable to connect with others who can support their experience of their loss(es). I really hope we are moving toward a clearer and more compassionate understanding for the bereaved that becomes culture wide.
Again, thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Reply
11/16/2015 2:34am

Whenever you do something for any other person, you wait for a good response from him. But if you don’t get a suitable response from him, you feel very sad and don’t want to do something again for that person.

Reply
05/16/2016 5:07am

The wise person cannot feel awful and always waiting for the best in his or her life. The educated person can never live the hand of hope and keep trying until success in their dream.

Reply

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply


Personal Growth &
Grief Support Center