Grief is a normal reaction to any loss

Grief is our normal reaction to loss of any kind. Whatever you are feeling is normal and natural for you.

Drawing on local expertise, the following column is written by Ruth Barry, a qualified psychotherapist. Ruth works with palliative and bereaved individuals and families referred to the Comox Valley Hospice Society in addition to her local private practice.

Grief is our normal reaction to loss of any kind. Whatever you are feeling is normal and natural for you.

David’s wife Sylvia dies after a five-year-long experience with breast cancer that spreads to her liver and spine, causing pain that requires intensive medication. The pain is controlled but both are exhausted by the experience. When Sylvia dies David is both relieved and devastated. Conflicting feelings are normal and common.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, well known for her study of the emotions in the terminally ill – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – gets often misunderstood. Many assume these stages only apply to the grieving process. They do not.

How someone feels and how they heal depends on the nature and intensity of the relationship with their loved one, their own personality, and past experiences of loss.

It is more helpful to talk about common responses to grief.

For example, forgetfulness: two weeks after Sylvia’s death David finds himself standing in the supermarket aisle completely confused about what he came for.

Numbness: often misinterpreted as denial. A physical and/or emotional feeling commonly experienced soon after a loss. It will pass.

Waves of emotional energy: highs and lows of emotions in quick succession. Disrupted eating and sleeping habits – either too much or too little.

Or you may not experience any of the above. We are all unique, and most of us have the ability to integrate our experiences of loss into our understanding of life, and in time to re-engage with it.

But sometimes we get “stuck” or traumatized by a death experience.

Mary reluctantly comes to see me, persuaded by her worried 38-year-old daughter, but unsure herself why anyone should be concerned. She tells me between heart-wrenching sobs that her husband Larry died suddenly in her arms of a heart attack.

They met at age 16, married four years later, and were inseparable for 46 years. In her words, “He treated me like a queen. He did everything for me. There is no life for me without him. ”

She tells me that every morning she lays out his clothes for the day as she has done all their married life and she waits for him to come home. If she ventures out she hurries back for fear she’ll miss him. She talks only of the past and what she has lost. Larry died three years ago this August.

A part of her knows he is gone – she gets irritated when I say that he is not coming back. She just refuses to accept her new reality.

Her daughter is right to be worried.

Without acceptance of our losses, we lose our spontaneity, our openness to the possibilities of life, and the capacity for any potential future happiness.

Mary’s story is just one example of complicated grief. A history of depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, or post traumatic shock associated with the death, can turn normal bereavement into complicated grief.

The Comox Valley Hospice Society provides palliative health care and support to people who are dying, faced with terminal illness, or faced with the grief of losing a loved one. Please call 250-339-5533 or visit www.comoxhospice.com.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Comox Valley Sports Centre re-opened in the summer. Photo supplied
Comox Valley Sports Centre Commission chair commends staff efforts in challenging year

Comox Valley Sports Centre Commission chair Daniel Arbour delivered a year-end report… Continue reading

The Lamplighters wants to end its lease with the village. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Briefs: Cumberland agrees to end hall lease with Lamplighters

Council aims to add more daytime meetings in 2021 for seniors

A rendering of the proposed window covering and sign for the business planned for downtown Cumberland. Image, Village of Cumberland report
Cumberland approves location change for cannabis permit

Site next door to the one planned seen as more financially feasible

The DPAC is holding an online forum on Nov. 30 for candidates for the upcoming school district byelection. Screenshot DPAC poster
Online forum for Comox Valley school board byelection is Nov. 30

Six candidates have filed papers to fill the trustee position in Area C

The Food Share program volunteers pack supplies for food-insecure families. Screenshot, CCSS website
Cumberland council OK’s money for food program

Community school group asks to use unused money to help families

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Bank of Montreal, located on Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. (Google Maps)
Heiltsuk man files human rights complaint against Vancouver police, BMO after bank arrest

Pair remains distraught after employee falsely reports fraud in progress leading to their arrest

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

BCHL
BCHL pushes back season start due to provincial health orders

The delay is minimal, just six days, for now. But the league is open to starting up after Christmas

Most Read