Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Difficult First Night

It's 4:30 in the morning and I cannot sleep.  Spankee is laying next to me, nestled in to one of his favorite blankets.  His eyes are still open and I swear that at times I see his chest moving up and down.  God, this is so hard.  I want him back so badly.  At moments I wonder if I made the right choice, and then I remember him crying in the night, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for how easy he made it for me to know when he was ready to go.  But now, the real work of letting go has begun and I am stuck. Stuck in the "why him", "did I do everything that I could", "was he being punished for something that I did", "did he know he was loved".  On and on these thoughts pierce through this haze of grief and I cannot stop the tears from flowing...


Anonymous said...

Healing Your Grieving Body:
Physical Practices for Mourners

by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

This article is in your hands because you are in mourning. You have been "torn apart" and have some very special needs right now. Among these special needs is to nurture yourself in five important ways: physically; emotionally; cognitively; socially;and spiritually.

When you are in mourning, you usually feel under-rested and overwhelmed. Your body is probably letting you know it feels distress. You may feel you have no strength left for your own basic needs, let alone the needs of others. Actually, one literal definition of the word "grievous" is "causing physical suffering." Yes, right now your body is telling you it has, just like your heart, been "torn apart" and has some special needs!

Your body is so very wise. It will try to slow you down and invite you to authentically mourn the losses that touch your life. The emotions of grief are often experienced as bodily-felt energies. We mourn life losses from the inside out. In our experience as a physician and grief counselor, it is only when we care for ourselves physically that we can integrate our losses emotionally and spiritually.

When you experience a life loss, you feel a great loss of control. At a subconscious level, you may not want to lose any more control by sleeping. So sleep problems are very natural in the face of life losses.

Muscle aches and pains, shortness of breath, feelings of emptiness in your stomach, tightness in your throat or chest, digestive problems, sensitivity to noise, heart palpitations, queasiness, nausea, headaches, increased allergy symptoms, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain, agitation, and generalized tension-these are all ways your body may react to losses that you encounter in life.

Yet, it can be difficult to slow down and care for your body when you are surrounded by common societal messages that tell us to be strong in the face of grief. Have you had anyone tell you things like, "Keep busy," "Carry on," or "You need to put the past in the past"? These and other similar messages often discourage you from practicing physical self-care, which, by contrast, is needed because it invites you to suspend. In actuality, when you are in mourning, you need to slow down, to turn inward, to embrace feelings of loss, and to seek and accept support.

As you know, your body is the house you live in. Just as your house requires care and maintenance to protect you from outside elements, your body requires that you honor it and be kind and gentle to it. The quality of your life ahead depends on how you care for your body today. The lethargy of grief you are probably experiencing is a natural mechanism intended to slow you down and encourage you to care for your body.

To practice physical self-care doesn't mean you are feeling sorry for yourself; rather it means you are allowing yourself to have courage to pay attention to your special needs. For it is in physically nurturing yourself that you can eventually allow yourself the time and loving attention you need to journey through your grief to discover a fullness of living and loving again.
Taking care of your physical self during this naturally vulnerable time in your life is essentially about personal guardianship. It means accepting personal responsibility for your own special health needs as part of your need to self-nurture.

Someone who loves you very much. said...

Helping Yourself Heal When Someone Dies

by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

You are now faced with the difficult, but important, need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death and the person who has died. It is an essential part of healing. You are beginning a journey that is often frightening, painful, overwhelming, and sometimes lonely.

Express your grief openly. By sharing your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Ignoring your grief won't make it go away; talking about it often makes you feel better. Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. Doing so doesn't mean you are losing control, or going "crazy." It is a normal part of your grief journey.

Experiencing loss affects your head, heart, and spirit. So you may experience a variety of emotions as part of your grief work. Confusion, disorganization, fear, guilt, relief, or explosive emotions are just a few of the emotions you may feel. Sometimes these emotions will follow each other within a short period of time. Or they may occur simultaneously.

As strange as some of these emotions may seem they are normal and healthy. Allow yourself to learn from these feelings. And don't be surprised if out of nowhere you suddenly experience surges of grief, even at the most unexpected times. These grief attacks can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. They are, however, a natural response to the death of someone loved.

Feeling dazed or numb when someone dies is often part of your early grief experience. This numbness serves a valuable purpose: it gives your emotions time to catch up with what your mind has told you. This feeling helps create insulation from the reality of the death until you are more able to tolerate what you don't want to believe.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you fatigued. Your ability to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired. And your low-energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Nurture yourself. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Lighten your schedule as much as possible. Caring for yourself doesn't mean feeling sorry for yourself it means you are using survival skills.

You may find yourself asking, "Why did he die? Why this say? Why now?" This search for meaning is often another normal part of the healing process. Some questions have answers. Some do not. Actually, the healing occurs in the opportunity to pose the questions, not necessarily in answering them. Find a supportive friend who will listen responsively as you search for meaning.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after someone loved dies. Treasure them. Share them with your family and friends. Recognize that your memories may make you laugh or cry. In either case, they are a lasting part of the relationship that you had with a very special person in your life.

The capacity to love requires the necessity to grieve when someone loved dies. You cannot heal unless you openly express your grief. Denying your grief will only make it become more confusing and overwhelming. Embrace your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. be patient and tolerant with yourself. Never forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever. It's not that you won't be happy again. It's simply that you will never be exactly the same as you were before the death.

The experience of grief is powerful. So, too, is your ability to help yourself heal. In doing the work of grieving, you are moving toward a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in your life.