Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Grief and Loss in the Trenches
As I continue to struggle with the loss of my beloved Danny, I have been thinking more about loss in general, and loss here in the Trenches. You might think that the loss of my dog to death is very different than my clients' losses, but it's not. Loss is loss, as simple as that. So, it was a bit of a surprise when I opened my Washington Post today and found an article by Claire Bidwell Smith talking about the relationship between grief and anxiety. In fact, she believes that anxiety/fear is the missing stage of grief in Dr. Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Here's the deal. When we suffer a loss, whether due to death or divorce, our entire vision of our lives is suddenly drawn into question. All of the security that we so carefully built for our future is either suddenly gone, or we start to question the point of making all of these plans when death or loss can take them away in a moment. We are suddenly confronted with how fragile everything in our lives is and how precarious our futures. We realize how short life really is. It's scary, and we become anxious.
All of these realizations wouldn't be so bad if we had the time and space to deal with our loss. Our society doesn't really give us that luxury. After a few weeks or maybe a month or so of allowing us to grieve, we're expected to get over it and move on with our lives. Our friends and family no longer want to listen to us talk about our loss, so we bottle it up and soldier on. We're expected to pick up the pieces and move on. Too bad that's not how the human psyche works. The stages of grief aren't things on a checklist. They don't occur on a timetable. They evolve. You can't rush them. If you realize that most people don't even fully realize the extent of their loss until weeks after the event, then you understand that working through the stages of grief takes time and effort, sometimes years. It's not something you ever get over, but rather something you learn to live with. Sudden loss is even worse because there is no time to prepare in advance to actually suffer the loss.
Here in the Trenches, there are a lot of folks for whom their divorce is a complete shock. There are others who have thought about it for years, but have never internalized the loss they would feel. There are still others who thought about it for years, thought they dealt with their emotions and then are surprised that they feel so sad, overwhelmed, anxious. It's all loss, and it's all raw. I have yet to have a client who hasn't felt some sense of loss at the end of their marriage. I regularly suggest clients get into therapy. Many do; many don't. Some think I'm saying they're crazy;I'm not. What I am saying is that grief is complicated and loss brings all kinds of uncomfortable feelings to the surface. Those feelings, if we don't deal with them, can make us panic, paralyze us, create anxiety. We can't really move on until we face our grief and work through it. Me? Well, I still think I see Danny all over the house and the office. I miss how his life ordered my days, and how we cuddled at night. His death also dredges up memories of my father's death 5 years ago, and I'm dealing with pieces of that grief too. It's raw and it's painful. It's also human. Thank goodness for my therapist. What about you? Are you dealing with the grief of your loss? It's not a quick fix. Give yourself time and space and be kind to yourself. Here in the Trenches.