Welcome Scott and fellow bloggers. Scott Williams is our guest blogger today. He has an M.A. in Psychology and is a Clinical Therapist in British Columbia. In addition to his work in an addictions and Pain/Fibromyalgia Clinic, Scott volunteers with Hospice, specializing in Complex Grief. Here is his link if you’d like to check him out: http://scott-williams.ca/2012/10/18/im-guest-blogging-today-complex-grief/
For those of you who follow Scott, let me introduce myself, Barbara Tyner. I have a B.A. in English Lit. and I write fiction and children’s literature. My recently published novel, “Wait Here, Wait There,” is about a woman struggling through the grief process after losing her mother. I like to read ‘feel good’ endings and so I write ‘feel good’ endings with a pinch of mystery and romance. Writing this book and going through the grief process myself this past year is what led me to blog and how I recently got acquainted with Scott.
So, enough about me. Here is Scott’s blog for the day and I know it has something for all of us. Thank you Scott for joining us today and sharing your wit and wisdom.
Scott Williams’ Blog:
I facilitate a group at the local hospice called “Complex Grief”. It was designed for that small segment of the population who have lost someone, that may be experiencing complications in their grieving; those few individuals who may also be feeling depressed, or anxious, angry or abandoned. We offer two different kinds of grief groups at the hospice – we have our traditional group on grief and we have our complex grief group. No one signs up for the traditional group anymore.
Very few people, and none I have met, come to the death of a loved one adequately prepared to deal with the intense and complicated emotional and psychological fallout. Death may be the most natural thing in the world but it continues to baffle and dismantle people when it happens to them. I work professionally with grieving people on virtually a daily basis but when it happened to me, well that was another story altogether. I did everything wrong, according to the books I have read. I was suicidal, manic, depressed, angry, despondent, destroyed; usually all in the same day. Professional counseling didn’t seem to help – I knew all the answers but they didn’t seem to make any difference. Nothing helped.
Well almost nothing.
I learned a great deal about myself and my capacity to bear grief. Knowledge helped me process what I was going through and the seemingly insane thoughts bouncing through my mind on a constant basis. I learned that grief and depression feel a great deal alike and that spending hours and dollars trying to differentiate between the two really didn’t help me that much. Many of us begin to feel bipolar during this time, with manic highs (but not good highs) that crash into depressive lows over and over again.
Grief also shares much in common with typical trauma/PTSD responses, especially when those whom we love die prematurely or violently. Chronic illness has also been known to affect our grief response, often leaving us with trauma of it’s own. Feeling emotionally detached or numb, a pervading sense of hopelessness, issues with memory and concentration, difficulty maintaining social engagements and relationships, overwhelming guilt or shame, self medicating and destructive behaviors, problems with sleep, increased startle responses – the list of parallels to trauma seems endless.
I learned that this was perfectly normal.
Guess what, you aren’t crazy. Grieving people regularly struggle with depressive symptomatology. Having gone through it myself I sometimes wonder at the people who do not feel depressed, who can still eat like they are not suffering, who can still work without crying; and who don’t seem fazed by something that seemed to temporarily destroy my life. Grief often also brings out anger, even anger at the departed for a myriad of reasons. It may not be logical, but much of what we feel at this time doesn’t make logical sense. Some of us develop an anxiety disorder, even becoming phobic about things like safety, health, or our children. Many of us, more than are willing to admit it, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs in order to numb the pain. As we often say in my group, “there is no right way to grieve, there is only your way.”
It’s not my job to judge how you are going through the hell that is yours alone to bear. Nothing any counselor ever said to me made a difference, but knowing that I was not crazy, knowing that what I was experiencing was not twisted or abnormal, knowing that I was doing the best I could, did make a small but important difference.
But what did make the biggest difference for me, and may also for you, were those people who didn’t tell me anything, but instead climbed up into my grief and wept along with me, shared my suffering, held my hand, and loved me back to sanity. I pray you will find people with the wisdom and the kindness of tears, and a heart that will break for you, and suffer with you, when no slick advice or profound words will make a difference.