On Grieving Part 2

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 11, Number 10

In response to a number of requests, our E-Letter this month again holds just one article containing Dr. Kimmel’s experience with grieving.

On Grieving Part 2

It has been six weeks since our family member passed away. I have received many positive comments about our last E-Letter as it seemed to have touched a nerve with a lot of people. I have also been asked to write about my experience with the grieving process and my reactions to what people have said to me. I have decided, much like Sheryl Sandberg’s heartfelt letter about the death of her husband, to write about my own experience. I do so with the intent that my grieving process can help, educate, and support others.

So here goes: as some of you know, it was my wife who passed away on September 7. It has been an extremely difficult time for myself and my children. I find myself not in denial but in disbelief. I know that it has happened but I just can’t believe that it has happened. This is a very strange feeling, to know one thing but not believe it. It is like a splitting in two that will eventually resolve in acceptance. What makes this difficult is that I don’t want to accept it. Yet I have no choice and this sense of powerlessness can be overwhelming. Death has forever changed me and my children and yes, it will happen to all of us as this is a part of life.

Going back to work has been extremely helpful. It gives me a purpose. It allows me to be distracted from my hurt as well as it gives me satisfaction knowing that I am helping others. In some ways, experiencing what I have experienced has made me older, wiser, and more understanding of the fragility of life. I could have given into the feelings of emptiness and loss that were overwhelming at time. But I chose not to. Yes, the loneliness can be very powerful and perhaps the most hurtful part of death. Many friends have stepped up to ensure that I am not lonely or alone. However, there are those moments of loneliness that one cannot escape and moments that we must suffer through. I know that I will be okay which helps me to get through those feelings of loneliness.

I want what I had with my wife but know that I can’t have it anymore. Plans, projects, trips, and future events that were planned have now all been changed. There is no more “us” but “me”. There is no more bouncing ideas off my wife for her opinion. There is no more “what would she say” about whatever. What had seemed to be very important before now often seems to be meaningless or unimportant. And the future remains unclear because it is unplanned. So, for right now, I choose to go on as I did before… working, keeping the home going, and strengthening the relationships with my children.

I have also realized that people don’t know exactly what to say to me. Their most frequent question is “How am I doing?” How do you answer that? I know they mean well but how can I be doing? I am grieving. What do I tell them? Do I want them to be upset and worry? I believe they truly care and are probably hoping that I will tell them that I am getting better. But my response is often that I am managing okay and going on with the grieving process.

I recognize that many people are uncomfortable not knowing what to say and when they try, they often say something that may be ridiculous. I understand that some of them are also hurting or are fearful of saying the wrong thing. Some just don’t know what to say. In response, statements of ”I am sorry for your loss” or “is there anything I can do for you?” can be quite helpful. And sometimes just saying nothing but being there or giving a hug says a lot more than a thousand words. Communication does not only have to be verbal.

People have also told me that I will be okay with time. Again, I know they mean well but what is okay? I will never be the same again. I also don’t want to hear that I will create a new normal. I liked the old normal but can’t have it. Maybe the best a person can say is “I don’t know what to say but I care for you and care about you.” This message of empathy can be very supportive and helpful.

I am grateful to not only those who have offered their condolences but those who have stepped in to make sure that I am taking care of myself. I am grateful to those who continue to call me and want to spend time with me. And most of all, I am grateful to those who have incorporated my wife into their lives by adding some of her favorite activities into their lives. This will ensure that in some way, she continues to live on.

Till November…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this E-Letter to your contacts and friends. Copyright © 2016 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.