Guest Author - Rev. Jaclin Meade Scott
After the loss of a loved one, or when coming to grips with your own impending death, it is expected that there will be grieving.
There are other times, however, that something happens. You may describe yourself as ‘bummed out’, ‘depressed’, ‘anxious’, ‘disappointed’ or just ‘not handling it well’. You are convinced that you’ll get over it. Hardly anyone recognizes that the event is causing true grief, the same as after a death, needing the same work and attention. You don’t think of it because no one has been buried. And yet the effect is the same.
It is the death of a dream. And grief is grief. Not doing the tasks related to it leaves it unresolved, and that’s not a good thing. See other articles on the BellaOnline Bereavement site for explanations of this. In the meantime, explore the following scenarios.
When a baby is determined to have birth defects, it is devastating and confusing to the parents. They had many plans for this child, and visions of participating in routine childhood development. Now that has changed dramatically. The child they dreamed of, in essence, has died. This is great cause for sorrow. And yet a different form of the child lives. Can the parents love this child? Will the child ever love back? Should they do everything medicine has to offer, or let nature take its course? Guilt often drives the decision process here, unfortunately. One mother, whose son lives in a vegetative state going on 30 years, bravely admits now that she shouldn’t have allowed that last surgery on her infant. She felt guilty then, and wanted everything done. She feels guilty now for the sentence she passed on her son. The smart parents find a support group and counseling. Others carry this monstrous burden of grief the rest of their lives.
Serious injury, especially head trauma, is much the same. The person lives. The person they used to be has died. The ‘new’ person’s character may be drastically changed, and maybe not for the good. This isn’t easy for anybody. At times the injured may express a wish that they would have died in the accident. At times, the family may silently agree. The life that had been planned is gone. It requires the same grief work.
Dementia takes our loved ones from us long before their bodies give out. They can’t do many of the things they used to. They are no longer anything like who they were before. Finally, sadly, they don’t even recognize their own families. Yet they must still be cared for, protected, visited. As this horrid condition drags on for years, we may have trouble remembering them as we knew them. We’ve lost them. This is traumatic. Yet the grief process doesn’t start until the actual, physical death.
Many women start thinking about motherhood while still schoolgirls. They talk about the number of children they want, even choose names. When a woman is told she can’t have children of her own, those babies have died for her. Her dreams have died. Our society doesn’t think of a miscarriage as a lost child, but more as a medical event. The end. Women may busy themselves with alternatives and never actually address the sorrow. It is all but guaranteed that men don’t. Thus we have untold numbers of walking wounded among us.
Conversely, the same effect is had with teen pregnancy. Giving a child up is brave, but she is still losing the child. Keeping the baby is certainly not how she planned to spend her youth. Innocence dies, and the life plan that went with it. Much heartache there.
Disasters caused by Nature certainly change things for those affected. The old life has died. Even if an improved version rises from the ashes, the old days are mourned.
A broken engagement, cancelled wedding or bad marriage is devastating. We are advised to get over it. We rarely see the issue as bereavement, but it is. The getting over is hard work. Left undone, we begin to mistrust relationships, if not avoid them altogether. Not a healthy way to live. If your child goes through this, you grieve also.
Broken promises lead to broken hearts. You may think you missed “just” a game, school play, birthday or anniversary. But a little of the relationship dies each time this happens. Suddenly it is buried and gone. This surprises many, because the death was so gradual. Physical and mental abuse, drug and alcohol addiction does this also.
You get the idea. Even common life events like moving, job change, an institution closing, robbery or fire, financial change, repossessions – all create sorrow.
Sorrow is another word for grief. Recovery takes hard physical work. It’s never too late to begin the process. Healing can only have positive effects on you and those around you.