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Am I Still In Shock?


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I have this odd question: how long does the shock last?

It's been about a month since my dad passed away. I think I am still in shock. I feel very strange sometimes, and at other times, a bit normal. Part of me feels like I should be crying more, and since I am not, what is wrong with me? But I am trying not to judge myself. This website and a meeting with a counselor before winter-break have been helping me.

I do still think I have judgmental tendencies though, that I am putting on myself.

I read this article, and Marty's great advice:

Self-healing (It's the initial stuff, not "friend in grief" purple box).

So, like this girl, I feel like I should be crying more. I have broken down in tears, but I am able to function and do stuff. In the article, Marty says:

"Some may interpret the initial numbness of grief as a sign of indifference toward the one who died or even denial that a death has occurred."

That's how I feel. I feel like I am indifferent. Then, when I read this part:

"Regardless of the circumstances, a person in mourning can look and feel quite off balance, especially when that first wave of shock and disbelief wears off. "

When I read that, I began to wonder...am I still in shock? And how long does shock last? I think that is a stupid question, to ask how long, because there is no way to put time on shock. It lasts however long it lasts with each individual person.

But I have this crazy urge to know WHY I am not going crazy and crying...like if it's not shock, then what is it? Am I a monster? Is it my religious belief in reincarnation that is helping me? What is going ON?!

I really, really feel like I don't understand myself.

I can't even seem to articulate my raw feelings in my journal. It's scary to be so confused about myself. Usually, writing works for me...but sometimes, lately, I just can't articulate the crazy jumble in my brain.

Help! :(

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Chai, dear ~ What you are experiencing is entirely normal. The following is taken from my book, Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year:

Emotional Reactions to Loss: Shock

When you sustain a sudden and severe injury, nature’s initial reaction is to send your body into a state of shock. When you’re hit hard with an emotional injury as severe as the death of a loved one, it is just as natural for you to shut down emotionally and turn off inside. It’s as if the magnitude of the loss, the fact that your loved one is gone forever, is too much to take in. As you begin to absorb what’s happened, your brain goes on automatic pilot. Somehow you do what needs to be done, but it feels as if you’re just going through the motions, like some sort of robot or automaton. There’s a sense of unreality, as if you’re watching yourself in a movie or a having a bad dream. You may feel frozen, numb, stunned and disconnected, unable to feel anything. You may be short of breath, confused and feel unable to cry or to speak.

Suggestions for Coping with Shock

  • Realize that shock is nature’s way of cushioning you against the full impact of loss. It’s a temporary protective mechanism that allows your mind to catch up with the brutal reality of death. Like an emotional anesthetic, it numbs the pain and enables you to move through the funeral and some of the other tasks you must complete in the initial days of mourning.

  • Understand that as the numbness subsides, you will begin to experience more fully some of the other grief reactions as they emerge. This can happen days, weeks and even months after the death.

  • Expect the numbness to wear off gradually, as you mobilize your inner resources and gain the strength you need to accept and absorb the reality of the death. How long this takes will vary, depending on your individual characteristics and your situation.

  • You may find yourself dreaming about the person who died, forgetting your loved one is gone, or thinking you’ve seen, smelled, heard or touched the person. This is your unconscious mind trying to undo what happened, to re-write this unacceptable story.

  • Realize that others may misinterpret what’s going on with you, and may conclude that you’re stronger or feeling better than you really are on the inside.

  • Don’t feel you have to maintain a brave exterior. Holding onto your emotions takes more energy than releasing them.

  • Acknowledge your own need for safety and try to find it. For example, ask a friend to stay with you if that is what you need.

  • Allow others to nurture you — lean on them, physically and emotionally, and ask for the specific help you need.

  • If you don’t feel up to sorting through and distributing your loved one’s clothing and other belongings, it’s all right to wait until you’re ready.

  • Be patient with yourself— experience whatever comes without criticizing yourself.

  • Take an active part in planning and participating in your loved one’s funeral, memorial service or other ritual of remembrance.

  • Make no major decisions about your future life.

  • If questions about your loved one’s illness or death arise after the shock wears off, go ahead and ask them — even if they occur to you months or years afterward.

  • The more you review the details of the death, the more real it will become for you. Ask friends to let you do this, as often as you have to, and if they need a break to tell you so. If your need is more than they can handle or endure, seek help from Hospice of the Valley’s Bereavement Office [or from your local hospice organization].

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It strange, but I was trying to remember my time-line for shock and I can't remember exactly when it wore off.

I think it was somewhere between 3-4 months I realized I was no longer numb. I think it started wearing off after a month . After it had worn off, I felt like the shock had actually been protecting me. Does that make sense? Unfortunately, I am a person who didn't deal with their grief, I buried it as far down as I could. I think I couldn't deal with it because I only had one week after my mom died, before I was taking care of my dad and he was dying. I ended up in really bad shape. That's when I started seeing a grief therapist and she helped me so much. It was some of the hardest "work" I have ever done, but I had to learn to let the feelings out and deal with them. I know from everyone here on the site, that all of our grief is different, there is no set time for any part of this. It changes day to day. You mentioned you aren't crying as much as you thought you should be...I remember thinking that about myself and then weeks later I remember thinking, " I can't stop crying".... I learned I couldn't put expectations on my grief. I couldn't compare it to anyone else's. And having never gone thru this, I had no idea what would come next.

Keep trying to journal, it will help. Please don't be so hard on yourself.

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I don't think there is a time line on the "shock". I didn't even realize that I was in shock for probably 6 mos. Then I started thinking back and realized certain things. I really think I did OK at the visitation because I remember if fairly well, especially that I spent most of the night in the bathroom. The funeral is pretty much a big blur. I know there were people there but it was like cardboard people and I really couldn't tell you about anybody other than my immediate family and a most of the pallbearers. I remember seeing their faces when I gave the eulogy. I remember nothing about the meal after other than his family didn't want to celebrate his life the way he had wanted them too. I know it was hard on them too but he said he wanted a big party and a drink on him.

The first several months after that are still a fog. I just know every time I had to call someone (insurance, the company he worked for, etc) that I would cry uncontrollably and sometimes even have to call them back. I'm sure they thought I belonged in a loony bin. Even after the car and house insurance came due in July (7 months later) and I had to call about if it was legal to keep his name on the policy I totally lost it.

The hospice he had calls every month to see how I'm doing and sometimes I still get very emotional.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it has been almost a year and there are some days I still feel I am in shock and just can't accept the whole situation. I don't know if it is that or that the shock has worn off and wants me to accept it and as a hard headed Italian/Irish descendant that I just can't. I don't know that I will ever get over this.

I had posted in a different forum about the necklace my daughters got me for Christmas and that is just how I feel. I have this huge hole in my heart and until we are reunited it will remain.

Hang in there my young friend. Hopefully the more stable times will become greater for you.

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Thank you all for your responses, they are very helpful.

MartyT, I really like that excerpt explaining shock and some symptoms/feelings listed, I feel reading it and noting it down has helped me to better understand myself. mlg, I also feel like I have a hole in my heart. It hurts a lot. AnnieO, I like your encouragement to deal with the feelings and let them out, I think I am taking baby steps towards that, I have been starting to voice to family members some of my worries and stuff, intead of keeping it all in my journal.

Journaling is so helpful! I've been zooming through pages and pages.

I think one big step in my shock experience is, I received (after weeks of waiting) a final recording that my dad did for me on the day he passed away. Even though it has made me very sad (and simultaneously happy), I think it has helped to jolt me a bit away from shock into realization that, this has happened. It really was a jolt, a sudden jolt into crying a bunch...

I know it helps to cry, though, so...at least when I cry, I'm helping myself, I guess. :wacko:

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