This is a tough time of year for me. Many years ago I had a miscarriage that began just before Halloween. My baby died; and every year at this time I am reminded. Two years ago on Halloween my best friend had a “routine” surgery that revealed stage 4 cancer. A year later she was gone. These two horrible events had one thing in common for me…grief.
When faced with overwhelming grief, I often find solace at work. While I find the distraction of work to be a blessing, it sometimes wasn’t enough to keep the worry and pain from creeping in. I realized I was going to have to deal with everything that was happening, because trying to hold it all in definitely wasn’t working.
The grief of loss is exactly the same. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we are okay and we quickly move on so we won’t have to feel the pain. Only to find that it is simply hiding, ready to attack later on. Like the “boogey man” who hides in the shadows, grief patiently waits for the right time to strike, and then takes us by surprise.
The more I realized that I wasn’t dealing with my feelings, the more I started to feel them. As difficult as this was, it actually made me feel a little better. At least I wasn’t looking for ways to stuff down my feelings, leaving me in a better place to deal with my swirling emotions. When I started feeling vulnerable, I reached out for help. For me, my help comes from my faith. The more I started to rely on my faith, the better I began to feel. Listening to uplifting music seemed to recharge my battery every morning. I would find myself thinking of the songs throughout the day, helping to replace some of my painful thoughts with positive ones.
We don’t know what the future will hold, but we can stop the “boogey man” of grief from chasing us- by facing him . I’ve realized that I cannot make it through difficult times on my own and I’ve asked for help. Find a rabbi, priest, pastor, support group or close friend you talk too. Don’t be scared by your grief and pain any longer- reach out for the help you need.
HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Jeff Ferris. Jeff is the founder of RehabCentersInNJ.com, New Jersey’s premiere recovery service. He is partner with a network that has helped thousands of people get back to the road of substance abuse and mental health recovery.
Grief is hard for anyone to deal with, but for a mother, it can be crippling or even deadly. There is no feeling that is as devastating as losing a child.
Many people know that it’s not the way God intended it. Children outlive their parents, but few know the real pain of a mother who’s in it.
It’s sad when other people pass away, but it’s just not the same as when a woman loses the baby that she carried in her womb and loved from day one.
I write this to let you know, as a WARNING, a mother can be susceptible to drug or alcohol abuse. This isn’t a stretch of the imagination, I know. But I wanted to bring comfort and let you know the alternatives, so that when you have better days it won’t be drowned out with artificial stimuli. Instead, the better day will be a step in the right direction to make the best of your time here on Earth.
It’s logical to think you just want to turn the pain off
When you lose a child, all the dreams and plans that you had for the child are shattered within seconds.
The reality of lost dreams cuts to the core of your soul. It is so sharp and piercing that your mind fills with thoughts such as, “What can I do to just make this pain stop?”
Substances Can Work Like an on/off Emotion Switch
It’s actually quite easy for someone to turn to substances at that time, especially if they don’t have any support from others. They may not intend to abuse such substances. The initial ingestion may just be an honest attempt to dull the excruciating pain.
Unfortunately, both alcohol and drugs, even prescription drugs, can grab hold of a person quickly in terms of physical dependence. Narcotic painkillers, for example, often hook legitimate patients before they even finish their first prescription.
Imagine the temptation of a woman who loses a child in a horrific surgical process and then realizes that the very pills that the doctor prescribed her could eliminate her emotional pain. Wouldn’t she be tempted to just keep taking those pills forever?
That’s just one real-life example. That particular woman didn’t develop a substance abuse habit, but it would have been easy for her to do just that- and it wouldn’t have been her fault in the least. Grieving women who do fall into these traps deserve some understanding.
If you are someone who is suffering from this issue right now, then you deserve some love. There are supportive people in the world who understand your pain precisely, and there is a way for you to get your life back on track
Alternative: What You Really Need as a Grieving Mother
The devastation that you’re going through needs a specific kind of attention. You have to enter into two battles: one that will help you with the loss of your child, and one that will help you with the substance abuse.
Many times, people try to offer condolences, and they don’t help because they end up saying the wrong things. What you need is a group of people around you who have grieved in a similar fashion and have come through it in good spirits. I’m glad sites like this exist to help you relate and let you feel like you’re not alone. However, a page on a site can’t fulfill our need for companionship, especially in devastating times.
You need people who understand how heartbreaking it is to have a life inside of you and have it ripped away from you at any stage. For your recovery, you can use a variety of resources. A full-blown rehabilitation center will give you the highest recovery percentage, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go that route.
You could sign up for outpatient rehabilitation, 12-step programs or counseling services that address your specific needs. If you’re a private type of person, you could perhaps get one good friend who will hold you accountable for your actions, encourage you, pray for you and do beneficial activities with you while you go through the difficult stages of recovery.
Self-help is not out of the question or ineffective by any means. You can fight the battle alone, but it is always better to have at least one other person in your corner.
Other in-home things you can do to help cope is:
- Drink Caffeine – it’s better than narcotics
- Try Art Therapy – any hobby will do, something to help build creativity
- Prayer – Giving yourself to a higher power can bring comfort and tie you into a community of good people
You’re a unique individual with unique circumstances, so your resolution may not be the same as someone else’s. You may want to contact a referral service or an anonymous hotline so that you can get someone who can refer you to the best resource for you. No matter what you do, remember that time and faith heal all things.
If you are not on narcotics then you are ahead. Sometimes we don’t care for much psychological babble about “grieving processes.” However, counselors and strong friends and family are the best thing for anyone grieving.
Please consider getting help. Professional or not, reach out, this is your time of need and good people are there to help.
I hope all goes well with you.
The past few months have been trying ones for me. On top of the “normal” stresses of life with a family and career came devastating news at home and at work. Three of my co-workers’ wives were struck were serious illnesses within weeks of one another. At the same time, my beloved Mom was diagnosed with a traumatic illness of her own. But it didn’t stop there, my dear friend and neighbor was then taken to the hospital by the rescue squad, finding out that she needed major surgery.
The weight of all of these tragic events has been pressing on me. A few times I found myself sneaking to the ladies room at work, afraid I may cry some very public tears. While I found the distraction of work to be a blessing, it sometimes wasn’t enough to keep the worry and pain from creeping in. I realized I was going to have to deal with everything that was happening, because trying to hold it all in definitely wasn’t working.
The grief of loss is exactly the same. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we are okay and we quickly move on so we won’t have to feel the pain. Only to find that it is simply hiding, ready to attack later on. Like the “boogey man” who haunts our dreams, grief patiently waits for the right time to strike, and then takes us by surprise.
The more I realized that I wasn’t dealing with my feelings, the more I started to feel them. As difficult as this was, it actually made me feel a little better. At least I wasn’t looking for ways to stuff down my feelings, leaving me in a better place to deal with my swirling emotions. When I started feeling vulnerable, I reached out for help. For me, my help comes from my faith. The more I started to rely on my faith, the better I began to feel.
I still have a lot of difficult times ahead. While some of my friends and family are getting better, others have life-changing decisions to make. I don’t know what the future will hold, but at least I’ve stopped the boogey man from chasing me. I’ve realized that I cannot make it through this on my own and I’ve asked for help. Don’t be scared by your grief and pain any longer- reach out for the help you need.
Last night was the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower. I am always intrigued by space and the heavens, so I stood out in my front yard at 11pm last night, hoping to see something special. As soon as I picked a spot away from the porch lights I saw a blazing “shooting star” directly in front of me. It was big and shimmering- bright and slightly orange falling across my neighborhood sky. It was so exciting that I immediately wanted to see another one. I stood in the yard for almost an hour, spotting some small streaks and momentary bursts of white trailing shimmer, but nothing like the beautiful burst I had seen in the beginning.
After going back inside, the lure of seeing another meteor like the first one took me back outside. As I stood gazing at the sky, now getting a crook in my neck, I had a strange thought. The amazing star I saw streaking across the sky when I first came outside reminded me of my first pregnancy. It was joyful and mesmerizing- a new experience that was exciting and big. Until it ended. Until I found weeks and months after it all began that my baby’s heart never started beating. My incredibly beautiful star had gone out. The shimmer was gone.
I waited to try again, prolonging the possibility of that 2nd shimmering star. Anxious, afraid, unknowing. And when I finally did become pregnant again, the star wasn’t as bright as the first one. Fear creeped in and my blazing light was a smaller streak now. But I still had hope.
When I stood in the yard for the 2nd time last night, not one streak appeared. I didn’t want to give up to easily- I really wanted to see one more. Finally, I decided I had to go in- my eyelids were giving out- it was well after midnight now. As I slowly worked my way back to the front door one more star trailed above my head with a white shimmer. I smiled. It was just like the hope I had to try one more time…wait a little longer…have some faith. And just like the final star that streaked above as I was giving up, my healthy baby girl arrived- shiny and perfect. And it was even more unbelievable another star appeared and my 2nd baby girl brightened our world.
Last night was such a great reminder that we all need hope. Whether you are waiting to see a shooting star or to find love, or to stop hurting or to have a baby. We have to keep our hope alive, so remember to look up.
Just this week, I heard someone say that when dealing with loss you have to choose your attitude. He said, grieve and then choose to move on. While that sounds good, it can be tough to do. Guest blogger, Jessica Kane has some helpful advice in dealing with loss, in her article, “5 Techniques for Coping with Death.” My favorites are numbers 3, 4 and 5, but I hope you will try them all.
5 Techniques for Coping with Death
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult challenges that people face in life. According to the National Institute on Aging, prolonged mourning is unhealthy and can lead to anxiety and depression. It is important to take appropriate steps to proactively cope with the grief and pain. Below explains 5 ways to successfully cope with the loss of a loved one.
1. Understand Who Grieves the Most
The National Cancer Institute has detailed research on risk factors for grief and bereavement outcomes. They have found that those who lack social support, have a history of depression, a lower income and are pessimistic tend to suffer more. In addition to this, those who had an insecure or an ambivalent relationship with the deceased tend to experience more negativity and grief. People who tend to cope through overthinking almost always have higher levels of stress and depression. The younger the age, the more difficulty after a loss. Understanding your personal situation and being aware of your risk factors will help with coping.
2. Social Connections
Social interactions are very effective with normalizing emotions, improving mood and enriching overall quality of life. Socializing engages the mind, reduces stress and provides opportunities to bond with others. An active social life can actually improve nutritional intake because people tend to eat more when they are around others. In addition to this, being social can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce the symptoms of depression. Sometimes those who are grieving tend to withdraw, avoid others and become sedentary. However, researchers at the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Institute have found that socially inactive adults are 70 percent more likely to experience cognitive decline and related health issues compared with socially active adults. Being socially active results in excellent emotional and physical benefits.
3. Active Choices
According to the National Institute of Health, exercise and physical activity reduces stress, improves mood and prevents and delays disease. Being active is a key to dealing with the stress and grief while doing something productive. Physical activities can be simple things like gardening, dancing and housework. Exercise can be regularly scheduled specific physical activities such as jogging, cycling and lifting weights. Exercise has been proven as an effective treatment for improving cognitive functions and reducing the symptoms of depression. Exercise also decreases the likelihood of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Even walking 30 minutes a day will improve health and sleep quality while relieving anxiety and depression.
An ancient Chinese idiom says that traveling is better than reading 10,000 books. Many people coping with grief tend to withdraw and fixate on the past. However, travel forces us to be active, adapt to new situations and exposes us to the wonders of the world. Traveling forces us to engage others and experience life. Traveling locally or even internationally are excellent ways to leave the painful comfort zone at home and embrace the beauty of the world around us.
5. Spirituality and Religion
Most people only turn to religion during holidays or special events. However, there are benefits to both spirituality and religion. While there is great diversity with spirituality, yoga, tai chi and meditation have proven benefits for stress release and health. These aren’t just exercises, but actually ancient methods of spiritual practice and purification. Religion can play an important role in coping. While there is limited empirical research on the benefits of religion, studies have shown that religion is very helpful with coping because of the social support. Religion also provides a belief system that helps to understand and cope with death.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.
Every October I remember the child I lost. I didn’t lose my child at the mall, or get separated at a park. I actually didn’t “lose” my child at all…my baby died. Even all these years later, it is still difficult to say it like that. My husband and I had waited ten years to have children because I traveled frequently and I was finally settled and ready. But our “best laid plans” were about to take a horrible turn.
It was just before Halloween and I was 3 months pregnant with our first child. My two sisters had five children between them and I was finally going to join them in growing the family. I had not considered, even for a moment, that something could go wrong. But something went terribly wrong. Over the next few weeks my pregnancy unraveled and my baby, and my hope for a family, was gone. In the empty space where my baby had been was confusion, disbelief, anger, numbness and incredible pain.
Fourteen years have passed. We now have two perfectly healthy, and perfectly wonderful daughters and I smile and get misty as I write these words about them. But I do still think back to the child I will never know. I wonder what my baby would have looked like and sounded like and what kind of person he or she might have been. I still wonder…but it doesn’t hurt as much now. There was a time that just typing these words would have left me sobbing. Time does heal, but it doesn’t make us forget. I do still think about my baby. Especially this time of year. But now, I can wonder and move on, as anyone who is grieving must do at some point.
If you are hurting from the pain of grief, remember that time will go by. The intense pain will pass and one day you will notice that the daggers of grief are now a dull ache. Your life will return to a new version of “normal” and you will go on. Be brave enough to remember the loss of your past and move steadily toward your future.
- Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. You may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but do not be fooled. Understand that a man in grief will find himself in a difficult position- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.
- Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
- Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
- Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to be of service to a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
- Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunder-standing.