Monday, April 19, 2010

Grief and Mourning Part III of III - Starting to Move Forward

Hello Friends:

In my first post, I talked about how I had done some grieving of my losses in the past, but still felt there was more to do. And I didn't want to do it. In the second post, I put up a few reasons why we might resist grief and mourning, and what I thought my own hang-ups might be. So here's the third post, where I'm going to talk about the process of grief, and how I'm starting my plan to mourn and move on. Right. I'm sure it'll be just that easy ...

Anyway, we are all familiar with the canonical five stages of grief, which some people say are more like seven, or twelve, or whatever. The wisdom on stages of grief these days is that there do appear to be "places" one finds oneself, like denial, or anger. We seem to move through these places in one way or another as we grieve, but it is never the same. Some people visit one or two stages, and then are done. Others visit the stages in a random order, back and forth, then around again, up and down, with no apparent pattern. Eventually, they also are done. So there is no real predicting.

For myself, I find the idea of stages of grief a little frustrating, since I want to do things "right," and there is no right. Still, I found a site here that talks about these stages in a way that was actually helpful to me. This page lists seven stages; shock, denial, anger, guilt, sorrow and depression, acceptance, and then engaging with life. I found it most useful for the inclusion of "shock." Interestingly, because of the CPTSD, I sometimes find myself still there, still in shock, feeling as if something terrible has just happened. Creepy. I can imagine how that can be keeping me from moving forward with my grief, although I'm not exactly certain how to move it from "now" to the past.

One of the more useful things I found was an excerpt from a book about how to help someone else with grief. You realize quickly that these are the things you need to be doing for yourself. Rewording, some of the advice might look like this; grieve at your own pace, seek company, seek emotionally safe environments, don't judge what you say or feel, be patient with yourself, try to find some humor in life, honor losses with memorials/rituals, and seek others going through something similar. I find myself finding humor right here, since all this sounds like the whole reason I started blogging in the first place.

I'll admit that sites with any overtly religious content make me wary. But there is a site on 'devozine' that I thought very interesting. This is actually targeted to teens dealing with trauma (9/11) but I read some very useful stuff on their site describing trauma and grief. I thought the description of trauma, below, was insightful.

"What is a trauma? Loss occurs any time we feel restricted or diminished. Trauma is a loss that is outside our world view, an experience that brings up feelings of terror, horror and being out of control. An experience will be traumatic for us if it involves injury or death in ways that do not seem to be a natural part of living. Also, events that have a deep personal meaning for us or experiencing a number of losses may move us into feeling overwhelmed."

This site made a suggestion about the nature of grieving, what it does, and how to use it to honor our losses, and then move on. I've taken just some of the sentences here to shorten the piece. "The way we heal our experience of loss is called the grieving process. The feelings and issues of grief help us to understand what the loss means to us and what we need to be healed. Because we don't just grieve for the fact of a loss, but for the meanings and implications of that loss, spiritual issues always arise in grief. Find a symbol. A symbol is an object, word, place vision etc. that stands for a meaning other than its obvious or usual one. Choose a symbol to help your grieving. It could be a color, a piece of clothing, an object you carry in your pocket or anything that will provide comfort."

I really resonate with this idea. I've decided to go ahead and do it. I'm going to choose a symbol that gives me 'permission' to grieve, but that does not require it. I'm going to try to use this symbol to make sure my subconscious knows I'm allowed to grieve, to mourn, but it can do it on it's own time table and in its own way. So this symbol will now be my compromise. I can be sad if I want to, or not, as necessary. Meanwhile I can move on with other aspects of healing.

The symbol I've chosen is the "weeping seraph," above. I'm not entirely sure what it is about crying angels that appeal to me. There is something both sad and soothing about them. One of the things about losing someone that always bothered me was people saying things like, "you shouldn't be sad, they are with God/Jesus/Buddha/in the place with infinite beer/with the angels/etc." I had this idea that heaven was dancing and happy that so-and-so had died. I did not like that image at all. Seeing weeping angels actually makes me feel better. I think the angels do mourn, they don't go straight to the dancing. There is the sad part first. The despairing part. The part of utter despondency, when even the knowledge of future happiness cannot take away the pain. This seems right. Not that I want them to be stuck there, or to be stuck there, myself. But it seems proper to honor the loss. And this image makes me feel more like a loss is being appropriately honored.

I might even buy a small version of this statue to keep around as a reminder. The message is that grief is good and okay, whenever necessary. But it is also okay to keep moving forward.

That at least is the plan for the moment. How do you grieve your losses? How do you honor them? How do you move on?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: / CC BY 2.0


expwoman said...

I resonate with the idea of a signal that it's ok to mourn but not required, since my ocd goes off on the idea of doing things "Right." I just remembered that when I was 19 I wanted to be a grief counselor. I read a lot of books on grief hoping this would help with my own sadness. I've used the idea of "letting it be there"--not forcing the grief out, making some room for it--this image has helped me grieve. Your crying angel is a powerful image.

The Blue Morpho said...

Hello expwoman - You wrote "since my ocd goes off on the idea of doing things "Right."" - I hear that loud and clear! And the idea of 'making room for it' is exactly what I mean. I'll just have to see if it works. I'm glad it seems to have been useful for you in your life.

Marj aka Thriver said...

What a fabulous, helpful post! Grief is such a huge issue. Thanks for all the links.

therapydoc said...

Wow, nice job here, so well said.

The Blue Morpho said...

Hey there Marj - Thanks for reading and thanks for the kudos. Glad the links were useful. There are so many places to look for grief resources, but it is harder to find things targeted towards CPTSD related issues.

The Blue Morpho said...

Hello therapydoc - Thank you for the comment; doing this research and then the writing is my own therapy. I'm glad if it can help anybody else, too! Just having people read it is validating, and helps me feel more like I'm part of a community of folks all going through the same sort of process.

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