Pages

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Grief and Mourning

A month or two ago, Ian started talking more and more about Heaven. Asking questions about what was there, stating he was ok going there. This led to some interesting conversations with our Gilchrist Social Worker, helping us to prepare more for the inevitable. 

I have been doing some self-help reading regarding healing a grieving heart. Throughout this journey, I have been grieving on and off for the child I dreamed of having and the dreams he would have, which have led to different dreams. In addition, the book HEALING A PARENT'S GRIEVING HEART by ALAN D. WOLFELT, PH.D. was given to Brian and I. This led me to HEALING YOUR GRIEVING HEART FOR KIDS and HEALING A CHILD'S GRIEVING HEART. All have given me insight to some things which we have already dealt with as well as things which we will face in the future.

LEARN THAT GRIEF AND MOURNING ARE DIFFERENT
Grief is what you think and feel inside when someone you love dies. When you're in grief, you're grieving. It is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we experience when someone we love dies.  

Mourning means letting those thoughts and feelings come out somehow. It is the outward expression of our grief. Mourning is necessary for healing to take place. Wolfelt refers to children as "forgotten mourners." Because though all children grieve when someone loved dies, we (as a society, as families and often as individuals) rarely encourage them to mourn.

According to Wolfelt, there are 6 needs of mourning:

NEED 1: Accept the death; acknowledge the reality of the death. This is the most difficult thing to acknowledge and accept, do it bit by bit. And it will take time. 

NEED 2: Let yourself feel sad; feel the pain of the loss. You need to feel sad, but still have to remember that you have to laugh. Go for a walk, read a book, watch TV, talk to supportive friends and family about the normal things of everyday life. 

NEED 3: Remember the person who died. When someone loved dies, they live on in us through memory. It's good to talk about the person, look at photos, watch video. Remembering the past makes hoping for the future possible. 

NEED 4: Accept that your life is different now; develop a new self-identity. The way you defined yourself and the way society defines you is changed. You will need to re-anchor yourself, to reconstruct your self-identiy.  Part of who we are is formed by the person who passes away. No one can "fill in" for the person who dies. Supportive relationships - yes. Replacements - no.

NEED 5: Think about why this happened; searching for meaning. When someone we love dies, it is natural to question the meaning and purpose of life, the why? Losing a child does not follow the natural course of life, these questions are particularly painful when this happens. Don't try to have all the answers to all the questions about the meaning of life. It is ok - even desirable - to admit that you struggle with the same issues. 

NEED 6: Let others help you, now and always; receive ongoing support from others. Per Alan Wolfelt, in Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart..,"As mourners, we need the love and understanding of others if we are to heal. Don't feel ashamed by your heightened dependence on others right now. If the death was recent, you may feel the need to be around people all the time. You may need to talk about the death often. You may need help getting meals together, doing laundry, completing paperwork. Don't feel bad about this. Instead, take comfort in the knowledge that others care about you. Unfortunately, our society places too much value on "carrying on" and "doing well" after a death. So, many mourners are abandoned by their friends and family soon after death. If the death of your child was long ago, you may have experienced this abandonment firsthand. Keep in mind the rule of thirds: one-third of your friends will be supportive of your need to mourn, one-third will make you feel worse, and one-third will neither help nor hinder. Grief is experienced in "doses" over years, not quickly and efficiently, and you will need the continued support of your friends and family for weeks, months and years. If you are not getting this support, ask for it. Usually people are more than willing to help-they just don't have any idea what to do (and what not to do)." In Healing a Child's Grieving Heart, he says "Grief is a process-not an event. Children, like adults, will grieve long after the person has died. The grieving child needs your compassionate support and presence not only in the days and weeks following the death, but in the months and years to come. As they grow and mature developmentally, children will naturally grieve the death on new and ever deeper levels. If you can help the grieving child mourn as the need arises (even years after the death), you will be helping her grow into a healthy, loving adult."

It is important to realize that the steps above will not happen in a particular order and may happen more then once. 

While reading this information, I have realized we have been grieving for a long time...even though Ian is still with us. We have been grieving for the dreams we had for him, we have been grieving for the younger Ian (the one who would hold our hand walking while trying to keep up with his friends, the one who would get himself out of bed and sit and slide into our room because his walking had started to regress, the one who would stand in the corner and yell at his speech therapist as loud as he could for her to hear him across the room, for the one who had his friends over playing the way boys play with their friends, the one who will graduate from high school, will have his first girlfriend, graduate college and walk down the aisle to his future wife and have his own children). While grieving the dreams we had, new dreams surfaced....the one for him to continue his schooling, the one for him to be able to go to sleep away camp, the one for him to have a wonderful quality of life with the time he has left, the one for him to be as pain free as his journey continues and the one for him to be at peace with his journey. Number 6 has been one which we have been doing on and off over the years with and with out the help of our village, I know some of you have been doing this as well....we know some don't realize we need these things now and have been going through all of this yet but we do and have. The support you have all given us has been wonderful and appreciated. I am asking for continued support over the years. I am asking for those who would like to come over and hang out to please do so...come play on the Wii with Ian, come watch a movie with us, come sit and chat about life in general...those are the things we need now. We rarely get out with Ian, someone is always home with him...the weekends tend to be the time when we could use the most help. We look forward to continuing our journey....

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Harry Blacker
A very good read. Love & prayers to all!

Anonymous said...

Jill Pelovitz
So well written Marci. I admire your strength and your ability to feel. You find a way to celebrate your son and your family through both challenges and triumphs. You are wise enough to seek support and at the same time you educate and support the rest of us. Though our situations are different the feelings and realities can be so similar sometimes. I took something from this so thank you for sharing. As always your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Marlene Ettlin
You are all amazing. All of you.

Anonymous said...

Dara Schapiro Schnee
Marci I am so moved. Beautifully written. I learn so much from reading your posts. Always thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Vivian Chait
You are a very strong woman. It is good that you realize the need of your village and how important that is to your family!

Anonymous said...

Nancy Polack Kaplan
This is a beautifully written and we can identify with a great part of it. I think we grieved more than mourned and I think if we had mourned more we would have progressed along our personal journey better. Better means without destroying a part of our selves. It is wise and brave to ask for help. If we had reached out more we would be in a better place and have more peace of mind. Thank you for printing this. Best of luck in this journey and cherish each moment as I know you do.

Anonymous said...

Stacy Berman Lunenfeld
We all love you and it makes us feel good to be able to help.

Anonymous said...

Lisa McCarville D'Antonio
Love you Marci

Marci Scher said...

Sherie Bober Rubin
Wow!

Anonymous said...

Stephanie Rabinowitz
Ian & Becca are the luckiest kids on earth having loving parents like you, I don't know a stronger family

Anonymous said...

Nuchie Shalom Zirkind
What an article. ... so moved. Gonna make it over for a visit one of these days!

Anonymous said...

Michele Perry Zolezi
Thinking of you and your family..

Anonymous said...

Debbie Frank Bleakney
You and your family are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your journal!

Anonymous said...

Michelle Kampler Schwartz
None of this is easy, but you are doing all the right things.

Anonymous said...

Monique Erdos-Gertner
Love

Anonymous said...

Susan Brooks Cohen
You are truly amazing parents!!!!

Anonymous said...

Carole Miller Glick
Sending you hugs! Ian is so lucky to have you both as parents.