What Your Loved Ones Can Expect While You Grieve

I was going through some old messages looking for something quite specific. What I found was a message that I had sent to a few special people about 8 weeks after my son’s death. It helped me to explain my thoughts and feelings and also let some of these people know where my head and heart were at the time. I’m sharing it in hopes that it may help others.

Namaste,
Sandy

Good morning,

I was visiting a site this morning and found the helpful post that is below. I apologize for not knowing who the author is, but I still wanted to share.

This sums up and explains more clearly than I possibly can the ups and downs, clarity and confusion, interest and lethargy, etc. that have been occurring. You have been very patient and I’m afraid that if we are to continue to ‘hang out’ together I’m going to need to beg for more patience.

While I have searched, researched, read books, visited websites, etc. I cannot seem to find a guideline for moving through this time with any sort o grace or even a way to minimize the bumbling.

I’m working on not being short-tempered. Trying to hear what is said and not interpret (often in the wrong way) what is said to me. I am very aware that I often do not hear or read what is actually said or written. It’s almost as though something in my brain is filtering, but the filter is faulty.

My patience is short and my energy is very limited. It surprises me every time, but there it is. I have no idea how long this will last. It may be over by 2:17 pm this afternoon, that would be my preference! But I suspect these things may hang around or at least visit from time to time for quite a while. Only time will tell.

I want to thank you for the patience you have shown, I’m very aware of it even if I am not always able to thank you as I should and would like to do. Please know that the gratitude is there. It’s deep and it’s real.

I’m still in here, but it’s a bit murky and foggy and I’m simply finding my way one step at a time.

I have no doubt that I will resurface entirely at some point. Until then, I’ll keep bobbing up and I want you to know how much I appreciate having you around when I do.

Namaste,
Sandy

What Your Loved Ones Can Expect While You Grieve 

My grief process will take much longer than you want it to.
You can’t fix this for me by doing anything but you can just be there for me.
I will be in a sort of fog for at least 3 months. When the fog lifts, I might get worse.
I will have periods of doing okay, then I will feel despair again.
I will be exhausted. Grief is hard work.
My desire, creativity, and motivation will be gone for quite awhile.
My ability to experience joy may also be absent.
I will have a range of emotions from irritability to inexplicable rage and it may be targeted at you. Please forgive me.
I am vulnerable, I feel brittle, and I do not feel resilient.
I can’t take too much stimulation. I probably won’t feel like being sociable.
I know you miss the old me, but I’m forever changed by the loss of my loved one.

It will feel as though I haven’t made any progress. However, I am slowly healing with occasional normal setbacks.
I will heal. Please be patient, loving, and understanding.

What if Signs from my Son are Different than I Expect?

What if the strongest signs are the very absence of things I would expect?

I’ve been thinking about this. When we lose someone we love we look for signs that they are in spirit, that they are well and still connecting with us. We eagerly anticipate smells, sounds, songs, dreams and so much more. When we experience these things our hearts are comforted. I’ve had some of these experiences and I am incredibly grateful each time. Another reminder that someone I love is okay.

But what if things are a bit different?

So many write about sleeping with a shirt or another article of clothing that their loved one wore, allowing the aroma of their loved one to comfort them as they go to sleep. But after my son died, there were no aromas in his room.  None. Nada. Zilch.

In fact, even on the day he died, I remember standing in his bedroom and telling others that it was his time because he was gone so very completely.

His bed pillows – no aroma at all. His sheets and blankets – nothing. He wore cowboy boots – again, nothing. He showered every day after work and put on cologne, but there was no hint of that cologne in his room either. How was that possible?

Again and again, I come back to this fact. The memory of smell is one that our brain holds onto for years, we’re wired that way. Smells can take us back to our childhood. Close your eyes and just think about cookies or fresh grass. I am willing to bet that a very stong part of your memory is what those things smell like. Smells are usually very difficult to eliminate, which is why odor-neutralizing sprays are a huge business. Yet there was no aroma remaining in that room what so ever.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that was the first sign that Mikey sent. A sign that it was his time, a sign that it was okay that he left the planet. He left totally and completely, not even leaving behind a smell.

Namaste,
Sandy

Q&A series: What can I do when I need something?

People do want to help but often don’t know how. When kind friends ask what they can do to help, be prepared. Receiving the news that a loved one has ended his or her life or witnessing what happened or finding the body of someone you love is traumatic and confusing. If you can, try to keep a note pad and pen with you. As you think of things that you need, write these down and ask for specific help. Note who will help, what they agree to do, and any details.

These are some of the things you may need help with in the first few days.

  • Picking up out-of-town relatives arriving at the airport
  • Running errands (pharmacy, grocery)
  • Making calls to family and friends
  • Answering the telephone and greeting visitors
  • Helping in the kitchen (note who brings food and type of dish)
  • Occupying children in a quiet room (read stories, draw, games)
  • Walking and feeding pets
  • Making a monetary donation for immediate expenses

In the weeks ahead, you may need some of the same things. These help, too.

  • Brief visits or calls
  • Help with errands and driving to appointments
  • Assistance with shopping or someone to go out to lunch with you
  • Help with household chores
  • Someone who can make small repairs/cut grass
  • Babysitting or transportation for older children
  • Helpful resources and assistance in finding support groups

There are charts for this kind of practical help and other information on Way for Hope’s home page. Visit https://wayforhope.weebly.com/ and download your free digital copy of Hope in the Aftermath of Suicide (Second Edition).

Peace,

Jan

 

Q&A series: When will stigma end?

I wish I could say the stigma surrounding death by suicide will end soon. I wish I could say everyone understands that people experiencing trauma and illness, stress, anxiety, and mental/personality/behavior disorders deserve our kindness and support. Maybe I can’t say that today, but I am hopeful that as survivors of suicide loss speak about the reality and complexity of this type of death, others will take up that message and knowledge.

I do know that many people understand. Already. Right now. And I can say that surrounding yourself with these people will help you as you process deep loss so complicated that medical science does not have a complete picture of how suicide happens, much less how to prevent it in every case.

You can understand. Through reading and seeking support, locally and online, you can find help and hope. Right now. More books and blogs and resources are available today on this subject than ever before. More people are studying the pain that leads to suicidal thoughts, and more researchers are looking at those who are left in the aftermath.

Start here: https://allianceofhope.org/bookstore

Start here: https://forum.allianceofhope.org/

Start now.

When will stigma end? It can end with you. I’m not saying you can control the people around you. No one can do that. But you can end stigma in the most important place of all: in your heart.

Sending Hope,

Jan

 

Is it Wrong to Feel Happiness when Grieving?

Ahhh, the amazing complexities of being human.

So very often I will hear someone say that if they laugh or even chuckle, that they feel guilty. Somehow they feel that if they are not exhibiting intense pain at every moment – that perhaps they are not honoring their loved one.  As you might imagine, I believe otherwise.

I have often shared that on the day I learned that my son Mike was dead, at only 23 years old and by his own hand, there was laughter in my home.

Yes, there was sobbing. The sort that shakes your entire being. The sort of crying that feels as though a permanent trail is being carved into your face. The pain was intense. The heartbreak was real. And yet, there was laughter.

And yes, I was one of the people that smiled and laughed. Many stories of things Mike said and did were shared that day and many times since. Because Mike was a person who loved to laugh, to do silly things, to push the buttons of others – a big part of sharing these stories was once again experiencing the thoughts and feelings when these things first occurred. This brought about longing to once again hug my boy, but it also resulted n chuckles and some outright laughter.

No, sharing these warm memories and even the laughter did not in any way diminish my love for Mike or the grief that I felt knowing he would not walk into the room again, that in fact, Mike had died.

These feelings existed within me at the same time. Along with many other emotions. I felt gratitude that I had been given this special person to love and have in my world for 23 years. I felt worried and even fear for my husband and surviving sons. I felt nurtured and cared for by all of them and the many amazing people who reached out in love.

We can and do often experience many feelings at one time.  At this moment, I’m feeling calm and relaxed. I feel a wee bit of sadness that Mike can’t heckle me about my feelings right now while I’m typing this. I know he would have a lot to say.

Even while holding those feelings I am happy and grateful to the amazing teacher and mentor who just interviewed me for business. And I also am a bit worried about someone that I care about who is experiencing a health issue.

Yes, all of these feelings and more are co-existing within me at this moment.  Humans are multi-faceted, complicated beyond comprehension and absolutely capable of feeling many things at one time.

It’s okay to smile. It’s okay to enjoy a meal or an outing, a book or a movie. It’s okay to think about something different and become completely absorbed in that thought or experience.  Even when your grief is very new, raw and intense.

Feeling moments of respite, even joy does not mean that you don’t love the person you are grieving with your entire being. It simply means that you are quite wonderfully human.

Namaste,
Sandy

Q&A series: How do I explain to my Children?

Helping Children Grieve – Children and teens of all ages feel the loss of someone important in their lives. See how you can model handling grief and provide age-appropriate activities designed to help you communicate. Take back the time you have with your children. Most of these ideas are tech-free. Easy and inexpensive, they will bring healing to the whole family. 

Picture

If someone significant in your child’s life dies, it is important to realize that children grieve differently than adults. How we help them depends, in large part, on the age of the child. It might be a parent or grandparent loss, another family member or even the death of a friend or classmate. No matter how young or how old a child or teenager is, the loss will be felt, and there are ways to help.

Tell your child what he or she can understand. Honesty is the best policy here because often classmates or adults will mention something within a child’s hearing that is shocking news. Babies and toddlers may just need extra hugs, for while they will miss the person who died, they are too young to understand what death means. Children do not need explicit details or lengthy conversations. This article, “10 Questions Children Ask about Death and Dying” may help you prepare.

The news is best given by the person who is closest to the child. Calm explanations for a loved one’s absence may need to be repeated at different times, always with reassurances that the child is loved and will be taken care of. Hugs and continuing support for all ages will help, but some older children or teens may prefer to talk to friends, write in a journal or connect with other kids going through the same emotions. (See Kidsaid link below.) Give your child time, and let them know you are there whenever you are needed.

Modeling ways to handle grief yourself can go far in teaching children and teens that it is okay to cry, okay to play, okay to take care of self. Follow these suggestions yourself. Find support, and make sure you have private time when you need it. It’s fine to let activities continue if your child wants to participate. If you need more time before resuming your normal routine, ask a trusted friend for help in getting your child to school, birthday parties or sports activities.

You and your family can get through this time of grief and mourning. Your life has changed with the loss of someone dear to you, but you will become stronger as time goes on. You will be able to face the challenges ahead.

Here are a few resources:
The Dougy Center (The National Center for Grieving Children and Families)
www.dougycenter.org

Childmind (Coping with a Parent’s Suicide; also teacher and Spanish resources)
www.childmind.org

​Kidsaid.com (from GriefNet.org and a place where kids can get support and interact with each other)
http://www.kidsaid.com/index.html

Jan McDaniel creates projects for survivors of traumatic loss through Way For Hope. A former journalist and educator, Jan never expected her personal grief to lead to writing about suicide for people all over the world, but that is exactly what happened. Her greatest tragedy became a hope-filled mission to help others through the devastation that follows this kind of traumatic loss.

Q&A What about guilt and blame?

It doesn’t matter how the news comes or exactly how a loved one died, questions surrounding guilt and blame can creep into a survivor’s mind, sometimes returning again and again.

Did I cause this to happen? Could I have prevented it? What would have made a difference?

It is human nature to look for reasons, cause and effect, and others to blame. Even when we know why (automobile accident, cancer, heart disease), our thoughts can tumble toward guilt or blame aimed directly at ourselves or others … and away from the harsh reality of the loss itself.

When the “why” question is not as clear, as in traumatic loss to suicide, these feelings can be magnified, yet there are things we can do to understand why we feel this way and how we can calm these thoughts.

Find support. Get professional help. Remember that you did not have complete control.

We are only human. Trying to help a loved one through extreme challenges is not something love alone can manage. Even mental health experts are blindsided at times and cannot predict suicide with reliability.

Perhaps you had no idea that your loved one was struggling. Connect with others who share similar experiences. People who are further along on this journey will have valuable insights to share. They will listen without tiring.

Every day, millions of people remember precious loved ones they have lost this way. Don’t let the undeserved stigma that sometimes surrounds suicide keep you in isolation.

You are not alone.

Jan’s “Battling Guilt and Regret fact sheet” includes definitions, resources, actionable steps and journal prompts to help you deal with these issues. For even more resources, visit Way For Hope – Resources

Jan McDaniel creates projects for survivors of traumatic loss through Way For Hope. A former journalist and educator, Jan never expected her personal grief to lead to writing about suicide for people all over the world, but that is exactly what happened. Her greatest tragedy became a hope-filled mission to help others through the devastation that follows this kind of traumatic loss.