Grief, it hit s you when you least expect it, like a punch in the stomach. It happened to me last week, I had a few days off work and decided as well as catching up with the necessary ,I could use the time to indulge myself as well. I had been promising myself for months to revisit a local art gallery I enjoy and so I did, it was wonderful, even though I am not arty in the least. Walking back to the car ,wham came the punch, I had last walked this way with my son and the familiar feeling of loss and helplessness engulfed me once more. I wanted to weep.
When you have lost your children , that is all it takes. Another trigger for me is seeing girls behaving in a similar manner to how my daughter used to when she was living at home. The excitement of a 10 year old, brings me up short . I do try to avoid situations where I can , but it is not always possible especially during the school holidays. I could do with a set of blinkers.
Apparently grief is a cycle encompassing: denial,anger,bargaining,sadness and finally acceptance , it is not a smooth cycle more like going over a bmx track on a penny farthing (excuse the pun). You get stuck, you ricochet between one emotion and another. Acceptance seems a very long way off. Its a messy business.
Not just about death
Grief is not just about death. Humans are creatures of habit with expectations, and sometimes barely hidden fear. When our safe worlds are rocked whether by death, losing our job or the unwelcome end of a relationship, or anything else that is of particular importance to us we grieve. If the bereavement, in what ever form , seems particularly callous or unfair , the deeper the grief. The resilience of the bereaved will also play a part, some simply will not just get over it, if they have suffered multiple losses or life had already been felt unsafe.
We all use coping mechanisms, before we get to acceptance, this isn't happening, if only I do so and so it won't happen. Anxiety and depression are also common during the grieving process. I will keep busy so I don't have to think. Or if I stay under the quilt nothing else can happen. I just have another drink, another child , complain ,demonstrate, raise money for charity it will blot it all out for the moment. The other prevailing emotion is anger, behind that aggressive person ,normally there is a great deal of pain. A parent apart from their child, can be stuck in the cycle seemingly forever.Over and again our minds go back to the place of What If. Until finally after what seems a lifetime we may, only may eventually reach the oasis of What Is.
It has taken my own Mum,the best part of fifty years and she is still angry with those who unlawfully took her son.One of my avoidance strategies has been self education, finding out what I can about how my family got to this point. It has served two purposes, keeping me busy so that the my head stays relatively clear of what if thoughts, and giving me insight .
For the mother apart.
Some of the most in depth grieving I have ever seen, is those whose relatives have been presumed murdered but their body has never been found. Torture I think is an apt way of describing it. In a similar way the mother apart has no rest , if she feels her child is at risk. Rather than abandoning their child , most mothers apart I know have been victims themselves, often of domestic abuse. Their grief is very real, as they too do not have any information about their child, cannot keep them safe or explain what has happened. It is like being in a state of limbo. For instance , I could not be at my daughter's bedside as she came round from an anaesthetic. It goes against every instinct as a mother. Not only are they grieving, but they are unable to talk about it, due to the stigma, as a woman, of not parenting your own child.Shame keeps them quiet, though in many cases they should not feel ashamed. Dealing with the practical implications, such as homelessness, court proceedings etc also interrupts the healing process.
Accept the feelings, if you can't accept the situation at the moment. Be kind to yourself and seek help. The most effective help, I have found is to find others that have been through the same situation. It stops the isolation of the situation, lessens the shame and gives hope that there is a possible end. Another solution , which I found personally useful is CBT, this can actually be accessed online in many areas. It help to stop the washing machine head.
Sources of help: