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Nobody's ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty of people have died from unbottling them.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Grief Respite

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 30, 2017

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As C.S. Lewis once observed, grief feels a lot like fear—it’s just as unsettling, consuming, and uncontrollable—but it does also cause some fear, namely that the grief will never end. You can’t make it end, of course, no more than you can change the way it hurts or prevent loss from happening in the first place, but you can remember that the loss would not exist without love, and that there is meaning in loving relationships that is never lost, no matter if the person you loved is no longer there. And that meaning can sustain you through hard times, no matter how long they last, no matter how scared you feel.

-Dr. Lastname

I lost my beautiful, 23-year-old son this year in a horrific accident. I keep replaying this accident over and over again in my mind. I have two other biological children and a stepchild, but I still feel the loss of this son to an excruciating degree. I am continuing to grieve very heavily to the point that I feel disconnected. My goal is to find a way to ease my horrific grief and emotional pain.

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No parent wants to outlive one of their children, and your friends and family, eager to help you through this tragedy, have probably shown their love by urging you to talk and share your feelings, either with them or a therapist and/or a support group. If those recommendations didn’t work, they may have told you to try different or more intensive therapy, or just to try something else entirely, from meditation to travel to joining the sisterhood.

Unfortunately, no amount of their love or your effort is guaranteed to ease your pain; grief, like death itself, is often beyond everyone’s control. It’s unique for each person and, though emotional support and talk are helpful, sometimes they have little impact on the pain. Even if you can’t make it better, however, you can avoid blaming yourself for not being able to alleviate the grief and making your situation worse.

If you’ve not only reached out to people and tried to accept help from them and therapy but resisted the urge to get relief from negative behaviors, like isolation or drinking, then you’ve already done all the obvious, time-tested things to help yourself. If they’re not providing relief, it’s easy to assume that you’ve done something wrong or failed to deal properly with your feelings, especially given your negative state of mind. The truth, however, is that your inability to heal is just another unfortunate element of this larger tragic situation; life has dealt you a devastating blow that you happen to be particularly sensitive to. What’s important is that you’re still trying to go on, be a parent, and do your work while bearing terrible pain.

While you may not be able to speed your recovery, there are ways of managing grief that you can explore while recovery proceeds at its own pace. If seeing a therapist hasn’t been helpful, you may be able to use a different kind of therapy called CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and look for a good CBT coach who can help you combat the negative thoughts that grief, and its close relative, depression, normally put in your brain. Then, even when pain continues, you can fight the false thoughts it stimulates, like any false guilt or regret regarding your relationship to your son and events leading up to his accident.

While your pain is from grief and not depression, antidepressants may help since medication doesn’t necessarily make that distinction when it comes to the source of mental anguish. Unfortunately, antidepressants require long trial periods (four weeks or so), each one has no more than a 60% chance of helping you, and no one knows which one is best until you try them out, one at a time. If the pain is persistent enough, however, these trials have a very good chance of being worth it.

Even if nothing helps you feel better, remember that you help yourself every day just by getting up, taking care of business, acknowledging the importance of friends and family, and fighting the demons in your head. Don’t think of yourself as a passive vessel for grief, but as a grief-ridden person who is carrying on, trying to be a good parent and taking care of her promises and obligations.

Your success is not measured by relief—though it will eventually come—but by how much you continue to be the parent and person you were with your son and to pursue the values that you taught him. That’s one way to give meaning to his loss and be an example to your other children, not just of how to live with the terrible pain but how to be a good person overall.


“I can’t bear how I feel and it feels like there’s no end and no escape. I know, however, that grief is overwhelming me with negative thoughts about my future and that, every day I go on with my life in my usual, positive way, in spite of this pain and those crushing thoughts, I am rescuing my life and showing my kids how I live up to my beliefs.”

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