Monday, January 2, 2017
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience
Death came to my home this year on December 24th and took one of our young friends from Australia who was visiting with us. He was part of our extended family who were here for a white Christmas and my 70th Birthday. Boges went skiing on the 24th and was injured, he said by a Snowboarder, who knocked him over and hurt Boges already injured knee.
He was in pain and because he had very strong medication for his previous knee injury, he many have taken some medication. Boges came home and he was in bad shape; he had been drinking as well to ease the pain. I spent the night talking to him about life, and he kept apologizing for his inability to walk or to carry on a cohesive conversation. We put Boges to bed around 11:30 and he went to sleep. The next day around 10:30 his partner Dan and I went to wake Boges up. We could see that he was in distress, there was no pulse and he was colder than the inside of my freezer. He had died in his sleep. As of yet, we have no word from the coroner as to cause of death. Boges was 40 years old.
All of us were in deep shock. I called 911 and told them that that a young man had died. The police arrived shortly after and they were polite and understanding. A Victim Services officer arrived shortly after the police and she explained the process so we would know what would happen next. The coroner arrived about 45 minutes later and the investigation started. Just before the body was removed Dan went to see the body of his friend to say goodbye. Shortly after that Dan had to talk to Boges ’ mum. It was a very hard conversation, we were lucky Victim’s Services were still here when the phone call happened. The Australian Consul phoned later that night to see how the Australians were all doing. Both Victim Services and the Consul have been helpful to our Australian family in their time of distress.
Death of a loved one at any time is difficult, but at this time of the year, it is doubly hard. After the police, Coroner, and the Victim’s Services left, we started to focus on the children in the household. They were all upset, we answered their questions and were honest in how we all felt. We then changed the focus of the day to the arrival of Santa Claus and the celebrations of the next day.
Children are very resilient, although they are still upset, they focused on the good times they had with Boges and they fact he wanted them to have a good time while they were here in Canada.
There are five stages of grief denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. Everyone grieves differently
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 age, 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 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but many people have generalized them to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of a loved one or a break-up.
Michael Lindemann, former chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital defines grief as:
sensations of somatic distress occurring in waves lasting from twenty minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, and an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscular power, and an intensive subjective distress described as tension or mental pain.
Intensive subjective distress. Yes, exactly: That was the objective description I was looking for. The experience is, as Lindemann notes, brutally physiological: It literally takes your breath away. This is also what makes grief so hard to communicate to anyone who hasn't experienced it.
One thing I learned is that researchers believe there are two kinds of grief: "normal grief" and "complicated grief" (which also called "prolonged grief"). Normal grief is a term for the feeling most bereaved people experience, which peaks within the first six months and then begins to dissipate. ("Complicated grief" does not—and evidence suggests that many parents who lose children are experiencing something more like complicated grief.)
The five stages of grief:
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.”
As my extended family, my family and myself experience these emotions as we have just suffered a loss, it helps to know that our reaction is natural and that we will heal in time. However, I have told my loved one’s that not everyone who grieves goes through all of these stages—and that’ it is okay. Dan was full of life and there will be other friends who will write a proper obituary for him but for me, at this time I am focused on my family, my extended family from Australia and their well-being. For all of those out there that suffered the loss of a loved one recently, our hearts go out to you and to yours.