Posted by: jedwardswright | November 1, 2010

On Grief and Loss

We all face grief at some points in our lives.

Our society implies that grief and loss are exceptional experiences. Tragedies are isolated incidents that we hope to God never happen to us. We feel terrifically sorry when others are hurt, but are secretly glad that at least it wasn’t our turn.

Finally, it is.

Maybe we woke up that morning thinking life would go on like always, then the phone rang, and the world came to an end. Perhaps it came after days or weeks of keeping vigil beside a hospital bed, praying for a miracle. One day, he walks out, or the job disappears, or the mortgage is foreclosed, and we wonder how it all could have gone so horribly wrong.

Life is like that, but no one told us. We didn’t understand that, eventually, everyone gets clobbered, so we think that it must be just us – that for some inexplicable cosmic reason we have been centered out for disaster. It feels so alone and unfair.

For people who are already living with clinical depression, grief is a double whammy. Already holding on to the ledge by our fingernails, loss feels like someone stomping our fingertips until they bleed. Falling into the abyss may seem inevitable. 

There are some safety nets out there. As soon as we can scrape ourselves together enough, we need to reach out for help and support. If we have a psychiatrist, we should call that person first. If not, calling our family doctor is the next move…to ask for a referral to a psychiatrist. Hey, we need to get real here. Depressed people go to p-docs at the best of times, so at the worst of times, they are essential.

Counseling is another safety net that is available. If you see a therapist, get an appointment pronto. If you don’t, it is time to consider lining one up. At the very least, someone who has lost a loved one should consider short term grief counseling. When I lost my son, I didn’t go there, and the truth is that I should have signed up. Sometimes we need all the help we can get, and when we are grieving is one of those times.

For practical help with the crisis you are experiencing, check with the United Way or the Salvation Army for starters. If they can’t meet your needs, odds are good that they’ll know who can.

If the darkness is overwhelming you, there are crisis lines in front of the phone book – but if you are really on the brink, call 911 or get someone to drive you to an ER. Grief can convince us that there is nothing worth living for, and that is just a distortion of reality that our depression may reinforce. It isn’t true!

I have survived a bad marriage, a divorce, the death of a child, bankruptcy, the loss of my health, the end of my career, a failed suicide attempt, and the loss of two parents twenty-five days apart. I know, just looking at that list is depressing! What is also true is that in surviving all these things:  I met the love of my life; have enjoyed owning a lovely home; saw my daughter graduate from university, get a good job, and meet the love of her life; watched my grandchildren grow; had two lovely tenth anniversary trips with my hubby; spent three years working on a depression forum with 500,000 members; established two blogs; and, as of today, have seen my writing published in a local magazine. All these milestones have occurred within the same timeframe.

The pain of grief and serious loss is real, and severe, but it is survivable. Reach out to those around you – friends, family, people at your place of worship, colleagues, medical and psychological professionals, agencies, charities, or a caring voice on the end of a phone line.

You can also reach out to someone else – me. I understand the feelings of despair that accompany great loss. Please feel free to reply in the comments section and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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