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Grief Caught Me This Time

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Guest Guest_Barb_*


I have always ben retty good at out running grief for the most part. I have been through a lot of loss. I have lst 2 brothers, a baby, 3 grandparents, firends...my best pet friend. And I have always been able to fairly quickly move beyond the grief. It is always there below the surface but it stays out of my way for the most part. Usually I can just dismiss it and go on.

But tonight I found out that my Grandmother has colon cancer and we don't know yet if it has progressed beyond the colon. I am shattered. The grief will not be pushed down this time and it angers me.

I hate the grief and I hate the emotion. It is deep and it is isolating. It is grief for loved ones lost to death and it is grief for broken relationships. It is overwhelming and it is unwelcomed.

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I'm so sorry that you’ve already experienced so many losses in your life: the deaths of your brothers, a baby, your grandparents, the death of your beloved animal companion – I can only imagine how overwhelmed you must feel. It's not surprising to me that, because you've been hit with one significant loss after another, probably with little opportunity to process each of them separately and individually, you now find yourself in what I would consider grief overload. You say that you’ve always been able to move quickly beyond your grief, to move it out of your way, to dismiss it and go on, even though a part of you recognizes that “it is always there below the surface.” With this latest news about your grandmother, however, you find that your usual ways of dealing with grief are no longer working for you, and you’re angry about that.

The simple fact is that, when we are hit with one major loss after another, we may not take the time we need to mourn, to work through and come to terms with each of those losses. Unfortunately, when we cannot give it the attention it demands at the time of our loss, our grief really doesn't "go" anywhere, and it doesn't get resolved – it simply goes underground and waits for us to take care of it. With each successive loss, the unresolved grief grows larger and larger. As soon as we are hit with just one more loss, or the threat of a loss (such as your grandmother’s colon cancer), or even the anniversary of a past loss, that event can trigger all the grief reactions we've been suppressing for a very long time – like the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. This is not a sign of weakness – it is a normal reaction to a very abnormal situation. Since your losses have come so regularly and so close together, I would expect that you are still in a state of shock and disbelief, not even ready to begin the work of grieving. That's not necessarily a bad thing – denying the reality of what is happening can be nature's way of cushioning all those blows because they are way too much for you to take in all at once, and it's the only way you can continue to function on a daily basis right now. It may even feel as if you must take a defensive posture, keeping yourself in a state of heightened alert to guard against the next onslaught of very bad news that surely must be waiting just around the corner. Certainly when someone close to you dies, it brings home to you that if it can happen to that person, then surely it can happen to you, too. With all of this going on, with your assumptive world turned completely upside down, is it any wonder that you feel so overwhelmed? Please don't underestimate the impact of each of these losses you've endured; any one of them is significant, but when they are cumulative like this, they can lead to a complicated grief reaction.

Since you have access to the Internet, you have a world of information, comfort and support at your fingertips, and I’m pleased that you found your way to this forum. I also think it’s important that you have someone to talk to in person about all of this, so that your feelings about each of your losses can be explored, expressed, worked through and released. There are all kinds of resources "out there" in your own community aimed specifically at those who are grieving – you just have to make the effort to pick up your telephone and ask for the help that you need. Call your telephone operator or public library and ask for the numbers for your local mental health association or your local suicide prevention center. Either agency will have good grief referral lists. (You need not be suicidal to get a grief referral from a suicide prevention center.) Use the Yellow Pages and call hospitals and hospices near you. Ask to speak with the Bereavement Coordinator, Social Worker, or Chaplain's Office to get a local grief referral. Many hospitals and hospices provide individual and family grief support to clients for up to one year following a death, and offer bereavement support groups to the general public at no cost. If one grief support group doesn’t work for you, keep looking for one that feels right to you. As overwhelmed as you feel, you are in need of support, comfort and understanding, and I hope you will think of this as a gift you can give to yourself.

At the very least, I encourage you to do some reading about grief so you'll have a better sense of what normal grief looks and feels like, as well as what you can do to manage your own reactions. This alone can be very reassuring. See the listings on my Articles ~ Columns ~ Books page for some suggestions. If you go to the Links: Bereavement and Loss Sites page on my Grief Healing Web site and click on the categories listed there, I think you will find some very helpful sources of information. Another alternative is to subscribe to an online e-mail course; you can get a sense of the one I've written at The First Year of Grief: A Guide for the Journey.

I'm also attaching to this post a wonderful parable that I think you'll appreciate. (See below).

I hope this information proves helpful to you, my friend, and I hope you will let us know how you are doing.

Wishing you peace and healing,[attachmentid=20]


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  • 4 weeks later...


You certainly have had your share of losses and I feel for you deeply. I had lost people over the years and thought I had grieved for them at the time. When my dad died (a year ago this month) I grieved not only for him, but for everyone else I had lost too. It was like a snowball effect, remembering every death and grieving all over again. I think overwhelming is the word that describes it the best. But I have a feeling that once you feel the grief and face it and all that stuff, you will ultimately fight your way out of it and feel better, or different. You will be healed, so to speak, in a way that will allow you to cope with it all.

I wish you the best,


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