FAILING TO RECOGNIZE GRIEF CAN BE FATAL

The week started with an appropriate Mega article by Dr. Anupam Dey, but during the week we failed to touch the areas pertaining to the week’s topic: ‘Grief Management.’  It seems,  we missed to understand the intensity and after effects of grief, clearly, which is most important for all of us,  before expressing our heart out as a snippet.

Grief and grieving are the natural responses to a major loss, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, failure of a relationship, divorces etc. Loss can cause feelings of grief, sometimes when you least expect it. Grief is not just feeling sad, it can be excruciating and very painful. In some situations, normal grief can lead to a grief disorder, which can require professional help to overcome. But recognizing grief and being a support at the right moment is very essential. 

So many times we the people around a person, who’s a victim, need to be very sensitive towards that person and how he or she feels. I can give few examples where we may  become insensitive at times.

  • When we hear about somebody’s separation or divorce we immediately concentrate on what he or she would have done,  that they reached this stage, instead of how they feel right now.  
  • When we hear about somebody’s death due to liver problem we ask, “was he drinking?”
  • Sometimes when we meet a grieving person we try giving suggestions and advises which are useless at that point of time.
  • Sometimes we loose patience on the person who keep crying relentlessly. 
  • Sometimes we try to avoid the talk about grief or loss when the person concerned tries to talk or discuss about it.

The examples of our insensitivity are unending…

Few important tips for all, if we really want to help a person in Grief:

 – Stop judging the situation and the person in grief but acknowledge his/her loss right away….

– If possible show your tenderness and compassion by hugging softly, holding hands or touching tenderly…

– Be patient and listen without thinking of your precious time when a person in grief keeps on talking, crying and feeling restless…

– Don’t utter a word of suggestion or advise…

– Do everything that helps the victim, like preparing meal, washing and cleaning or buying few things for the person in grief…. Because grief paralyses and make life slow and stand still.  

Lastly, in case we fail to recognize the extent of pain in a person or realize that we are not fit for the work then better let’s not get involve in helping the grieving. Because if we attempt and fail to be sensitive then we might cause more harm.Seek professional help. We all need to remember that,  A Desiring & Compassionate Heart and  A Listening Ear can really be helpful for a person battling grief.

Stay Blessed!!!

PEACE IN THE FACE OF GRIEF

When I received the news of the death of a colleague’s relative, I had a sinking feeling. He was all of 37 years and left behind a young widow and a daughter of two. He had been battling with tumors in the brain for the last 4-5 years. He had firm faith in God and was a fighter. Everyone was praying for his recovery – for a miracle. But, God in His divine wisdom chose to do what is best.

There was not a dry eye at his funeral service. But, there was peace too! Peace – because there was hopehope that death is not the end of life, that death does not separate us from our loved ones forever and that we would meet our loved ones again after our journey here on earth is over.

Grief is a normal response to the death of a loved one. I’m sure all of us have experienced the death of loved ones in some form or the other. Most of us would not like to recall that phase of grieving. But what if you had the hope of meeting the dead person again? What if you had the assurance that the person has gone to a much better place? Would you still beat your chests and weep as if all is lost?

“What no eye has seen,

What no ear has heard,

And what no human mind has conceived” –

the things God has prepared

for those who love him.

Imagine going to reside in a place of unfathomable beauty, peace and joy! No sorrow, no pain, no hunger and no strife; only eternal bliss and continual joy. Is this not the state of affairs we all so badly want in this world? So, then if we have the assurance of a loved one going to such a place, should we not rejoice instead? The idea may sound a bit weird to many. But, this is the level to which we all need to rise.

We all will lose our dear ones to death and our dear ones will lose us to death. No matter how many health insurance policies we avail – none can sustain us for eternity. No matter how many financial security measures we put in place for our loved ones, they will still miss our presence. But, the hope and assurance of meeting again and spending eternity with each other gives peace and solace to the aching heart. And this is not unexplainable peace – it is peace explained! For those who love God and have put their trust in Him and in His eternal plans can only experience this peace in the midst of heart-wrenching grief.

H.O.P.E. – HOLD ON PAIN ENDS

Let me put this in her words …

“My husband is from a rich family. My father never gave a chance for him to complain about anything. The house that we live in, the car, each and every piece of furniture were gifted by my father.  My husband never had to worry about finances. Both of us are financially independent. But, my husband used to demand more and more money from my father for no reason. He doesn’t love me, all he loves is the money I bring in. How more greedy can anyone be?  The most horrifying of all was when I was forced to abort my child. I was rushed to a private hospital,  had no clue what was happening, and before I could realize I lost my child. He doesn’t want a girl child. Each and every person of my family is part of this sin. He used to torture me physically and was also abusive many times.  I hardly slept peacefully for a few days in our 3 years of marriage. It was horrible. Even after multiple discussions between us, things never got better. I couldn’t stand anymore. I wanted to part ways from him.”

Some relationships are so bad, that separation feels better than trying to make that relationship work. But, why do break up’s hurt so much, even when the relationship no longer feels good?

What I understand is, more than the broken relationship, what effects more are the shattered dreams. The dream of a happy family, having a loving companion is now shattered. Even before the partner arrived into our life, the dreams existed and the dreams still hold very well in future. “Would I find someone with whom I can realize those dreams with ??“ – there is no definite answer, it may or may not happen.

A decision to end a relationship is the life changing decision that one makes. It really becomes very important to understand what the effects would be, even before arriving at a decision.  The initiator or the receiver of a separation decision go through a wide range of emotions and often very different from one another. This is very natural.

All losses end up in grief, but loss of a relationship brings in a variety of losses in one shot….  fear, insecurity, loneliness, changes in the way our friends and family treat, societal pressures, an array of questions to answer ( not only for yourself but also to others ), a feeling of rejection, guilt. 

When we encounter any of our friends or family going through a divorce or separation, it becomes really important to be sensible.  The matter itself is very sensitive and so may be our friend. Having patience, giving them the time to open up, letting them have their privacy and don’t bombard them with questions. We might have a thousand questions as to why and what has happened, but so they may be.  

It is our responsibility to provide them the support they need to be able to deal with their agony.

  • A person going through a separation just needs a non-judgmental ear. Be empathetic.
  • What they need is our care, support and most importantly our time. They might be feeling very lonely and it’s very important to make them feel loved.
  • Don’t say anything stupid, ” He is an ass hole”, “It is never meant to  be”. It would only make them feel more miserable. If you cannot say something sensible, stay silent. 
  • Nobody is a super woman or man; they may not be able to handle the same work load or routine for some time. Comfort them that it’s ok to not to be perfect and not be able to catch up with routine all the time. Observe their routine and help them ease it a bit.
  • Offer help in picking up their kids from school or grocery shopping.
  • Invite them for a Sunday brunch; this is a great way to deal with their Sunday blues.
  • If they live in a different state or a country, pick up the phone and place a call. We are so busy texting and emailing, that we forget how good it feels to hear a friend’s voice saying, “Hey! I have been thinking about you. How are you doing?”
  • Let them dwell to figure out what their passions are and help them find ways to fulfill them. Join the class your friend wanted to enroll into, and he/she would be happy to have them enrolled along with your company.
  • If your loved one becomes distant or cold or says something mean to you, don’t take it personally. People going through a divorce are not themselves. Forgive and forget, and let them know you are here for him or her.

Grief out of a separation can be enormous, but there is nothing to be worried about. These intense feelings would ease out with time.

No one would find their prince charming or sleeping beauty and happily live ever after.  In reality, people make mistakes, they change with time, the stresses and strains of everyday life causes some marriages to fail. These occasions, while painful and hurtful, don’t have to be disastrous, and can actually be opportunities for growth and new experience. It’s a chance to reflect, learn, grow, and move on.

GRIEF OF A MOTHER IN A WOMAN

Mother – embodiment of love, pure love and sacrifice. Won’t elaborate more as no number of words can ever describe what a mother means.  It’s every woman’s heart yearning to be a mother.

So was mine.  And God did answer my prayers.  But my boon didn’t stand longer and I had a miscarriage.  My dreams shattered.  But I am fortunate enough to be blessed with the gift of motherhood again, now I am a happy mother of two.  But not every woman is fortunate. I personally know women who had more than two miscarriages.  And the deep sorrow that follows can never be explained in plain words.  It’s not about the physical pain but the psychological trauma a woman – a mother undergoes.  The child may be unborn for the world but it’s very existence can never be ruled out in thoughts, dreams, deeds and words of a mother.

To add to all the pain of a mother undergoing this crises situation the question that rubs salt to the wound is “when will you become a mother?”, “still no child?”.

I don’t know how many could agree with what I said but why bearing a child becomes a very important matter of discussion right after first year of marriage of a couple.  Then wherever that married couple goes to attend functions, ceremonies this question follows them – “any good news?”.  I failed to understand why matter of personal decision acquires status of common issue.  Matter becomes worse for working women, because she is always labelled as “selfish, career oriented” who doesn’t want to be a mother soon.  What if her decision to be career oriented is a matter of compulsion and not choice.  She might put on a brave face but the amount of pain she is feeling, no one knows.

And if a woman is having difficulties in conceiving because of medical issues, then she is subjected to more trauma and societal pressure.  She is called different names if you know what I mean.  So important is bearing a child in one’s womb that people won’t even mind breaking off the marriage for that sake.  But the sad part is no one questions the male counter part if he is having any medical issue. The entire burden has to be beared by woman. Grief is so deeply rooted in such cases that could possibly lead into depression.

The issues discussed above are beyond human influence but what about the cases where a woman is deprived of blessing of motherhood intentionally. I am talking about killing of a female child in womb itself knowing its orientation.  How cruel is that?  Male or female, both are equal for a mother then why she is subjected to such trauma as if she determines the sex of the child?

In all of the aforesaid situations the sorrow, the pain felt by a woman is beyond comprehension for any soul except the mother herself.

What could be done in order to console and comfort in such emotionally draining and demanding situations. Since no words could act as medicine, it’s better to stay silent on that issue.  If words are silver then silence is golden. Talk to the lady about her interests, household chores or anything else under the sun except kids if it hurts her.

Respect her space, period.  We are no one to decide what age is apt for pregnancy for any woman.  We should mind our own business and let them theirs.

And finally “Adoption”:   Yes you heard it right.  For any woman who for what so ever reason can not enjoy the motherhood biologically adoption is the solution.  I know what I am talking about is a very bold step and still a taboo.  But nevertheless it could give all the happiness a woman aspires for as a mother and could give a child a home and a hope.  Because parenting and feeling of being a parent is more about responsibility and love and it has nothing to do with DNA structure.

Do think about it.

TIME HEALS

I can never forget that morning of 30th April 2015. It was 9:20 am and I was still very sleepy because my 3 month old baby had kept me awake till 3 am. With a struggle I woke up because it was time to feed him. I was almost done feeding him when I heard screams from the other room. It was my Mother in law. I initially thought that she got injured but then she continued to scream and cry, I almost skipped a heart-beat when I tried to make sense of the words coming out from the other room mixed with screams and cries. Something was very wrong. A million thoughts crossed my mind in those 30 seconds that I took to dress myself and run to the other room.

I saw her lying on the floor and my Father in law in a state of shock and panic with phone in his hand. What I heard next was something I could not believe – my youngest brother in law was no more. With my baby in my arms, I felt my whole body shaking. How was it even possible? My husband was on the phone and I spoke to him. He confirmed while crying uncontrollably.

It has been more than a year since that horrible fateful day and I have seen all of us go through tremendous amount of pain. It seems there is no cure for this pain. There have been times during last one year when I had felt that my family is never going to be happy. My son’s naming ceremony was just 3 days before we lost my brother in law – that was the last time I saw my family really happy. I have had moments that made me feel that I will ever see them as happy and vibrant as they were then.

Now I believe that time really heals. No matter how intense the grief is and how endless the pain is – time does heal. That emotional shock followed by the huge vacuum that is created by the loss never goes away – but slowly and gradually we learn to live with it. We come to terms with the fact that that vacuum will always exist and we sort of make peace with it. The fact that “Death is ultimate reality” becomes real. We start to value life of our own and that of our loved ones more.

We begin to believe that he (my brother in law) is probably happier in that other world. We look at the stars and wonder if it is true that people who die become a star. At every festival or celebration, we wonder what he would have done for the celebration – we actually feel his presence even though he is not there with us. There are times that we wonder “How come all of us were sleeping so peacefully while he was in such an intense pain”. Sometimes we just close our eyes to look at his face- that smiling face that we will always remember.  Sometimes we just concentrate enough to cut out all the surrounding noise and just listen to his voice. We are still struggling to forgive ourselves for the loss but one day I know we all will make peace with that too – probably when we are near our own deaths.

One of my close friends lost her brother in a road accident recently and there is colleague of mine who died in an accident at his home last week. And there are a million other people who lose their loved ones everyday – my only message to all of them is

“Just hang on. Go through this grief because it is not forever. Time does heal. No matter how impossible it seems today – life does get better. Because it is very rightly said that – THE SHOW (LIFE) MUST GO ON”

THE WHYS AND THE WHEREFORES

“Why did this happen to me?” he shot back. His eyes were almost bloodshot. His whole body was shaking, gesturing the disbelief in his soul. I could hear the clock ticking by as a cloud of silence encompassed us. He continued, “Never in my life have I touched liquor nor do I have any bad habits, then why?” From the corner of his right eye, I did see a tear drop fall. “They said, you are on the best around here, can you not do something? Are you really telling the correct thing?” he questioningly smiled at me while tears flowed down like a leaking drain pipe. I nodded in unison only to find him suddenly slouching on his chair, to collapse.

Scenes like this happen at my Surgical out Patient Clinic on a daily basis. He had come with complaints of acidity, heartburn, vomiting and significant weight loss. Investigations revealed that he had Cancer of the Stomach and as a Surgeon I had to tell him this. The myriad of emotions that he displayed came very suddenly, just when I explained him his condition. Youngish man of 38 years, his whole world came crashing down. As a doctor I knew his pain and thought process. His myriad of emotions that flowed through him, asking the “The Whys and Wherefores” is how we define Grief.  Every time grief makes its presence felt in my office, lines written by the Poet Delmira Agustini come alive:

“Suddenly I laugh and at the same time cry

And in pleasure many a grief endure

My happiness wanes and yet it lasts unchanged

All at once I dry up and grow green”

(Excerpted from the Poem, I Live I Die I Burn I drown by Delimira Agustini)

 

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the questionable emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief. For example, you might experience grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, changing jobs, selling your family home, or retiring from a career you loved. Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

In her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying noted Swiss-American Psychiatrist and pioneer of Near Death Studies, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, says that there are 5 stages of the grieving process.

  • Denial:“This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger:Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining:“Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression:“I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance:“I’m at peace with what happened.”

If you are experiencing any of these emotions following a loss, it may help to know that your reaction is natural and that you’ll heal in time. However, not everyone who grieves goes through all of these stages—and that’s okay. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go through each stage in order to heal. In fact, some people resolve their grief without going through any of these stages. And if you do go through these stages of grief, you probably won’t experience them in a neat, sequential order, so don’t worry about what you “should” be feeling or which stage you’re supposed to be in.

Grief is not a medical condition until depression sets in and adds injury to insult and yet Psychiatrists have gone ahead to define a Symtomatology for it. While loss affects people in different ways, many experience the following symptoms when they’re grieving. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal—including feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious beliefs.

  • Shock and disbelief– Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting him or her to show up, even though you know he or she is gone.
  • Sadness– Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.
  • Guilt– You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.
  • Anger– Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
  • Fear– A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
  • Physical symptoms– We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.

Grief though is just a passing phase. It fades away with time but is the first step towards depression. If handled correctly it is a roller – coaster that ends quickly. As a doctor I often have to deal with this and this had lead to a care plan that starts immediately I encounter grief in action.

  • Turn to friends and family members– Family members and friends are superb in doing this. I might be technically better at handling grief but strong family bonding wins over all technicalities. It then boils down to one fact, “Better Relationships lead to better grief handling”. A grieving person should have good inter-personal relationships to handle grief better.
  • Draw comfort from your faith– If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you—such as praying, meditating, or going to church—can offer solace. If you’re questioning your faith in the wake of the loss, talk to a clergy member or Elder in your religious community.
  • Join a support group– Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. To find a bereavement support group in your area, contact local hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, and counseling centers. Look to open up on social media if you can’t open up to anyone. Social Media nowadays has various openings for grieving people.
  • Talk to a therapist or grief counselor– If your grief feels like too much to bear, call a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest help us get through each day and move forward. 
  • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. Possibilities include donating to a favorite charity of the deceased, framing photos of fun times, passing on a family name to a baby or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed by your emotions, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional who can help you cope with your feelings and find ways to get back on track.

It is no secret that we live in a throwaway society and that goes for bereavement too. People don’t want to hear too much about your grief when they are too busy living. It forces them to look in the mirror and confront their own mortality. Thinking too much about grief is maudlin and thinking too much about death seems macabre and wasteful. Let’s choose to examine the open wound of our grief and almost befriend it. It has visited and cast its shadow over our life. We can only live with it. We should be open to what it has to teach us, that when those we love die, they leave holes in our lives that can never be filled. Grief is the fate of us all. Maybe it’s about time we all had an honest conversation about it.

If I should go before the rest of you 
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone, 
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice 
But be the usual selves that I have known. 
Weep if you must, Parting is hell, 
But Life goes on, So sing as well.

Joyce Grenfell