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Loss, Grief and Depression

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Yesterday a 17-year-old boy was killed in an auto accident.  He was a well liked, active member of the local high school and a very loved son and brother of a local family.  Today the community who knew him is full of grief.  

Grief is a necessary aspect of life.  Whether it is mourning the loss of a person after a lengthy terminal illness or grieving the sudden loss of a child, there is no timeline for grief.   And there is no one way to grieve. Culture and circumstances contribute to how that grief is expressed and how the survivors cope.  

But how, then, do you tell when too much grieving is opening the door to depression?  How do you know when the magic line is crossed?  With so many variables – the personality of each individual, the circumstances, the strength of the relationship with the deceased, the opportunity or lack of to say goodbye and tie loose ends – it can be difficult to draw the line between grieving and depression.  

A principal factor that can send up red flags is if the outpouring of support from family, friends, and community are turned down and the people grieving isolate themselves, feeling disconnected from others.  Turning down any offers of help can be a risk factor in bridging over into depression.  Also, if you or others grieving have struggled with depression in the past, one significant death can be the trigger to letting depression loose.  

Bereavement follows no form, no schedule.  It ebbs and flows, emerging at different times, triggered by a date or a smell or a random thought. If you are in the midst of grieving, there are some things to remember.  

First of all, expect to feel depressed.  Loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and sadness are all part of the normal grieving process.  Also, expect this to ebb and flow, feeling good one day and plunged into deep grief the next.   Most important, build and use a support network.  Let others take care of you from time to time, whether that is a lunch out or helping to clean the house or just sitting and talking. 

Most of all, remember that if you have thoughts of suicide or experience serious weight loss or are unable to perform daily functions such as getting out of bed or going to work,  consider getting additional professional help to make sure that you have not crossed into clinical depression.   We all need extra help at times and it is the wise person who seeks it when needed.  

Saying goodbye to a loved one no matter the part they played in our lives is difficult. Taking care of ourselves during the grieving process is an important step in the healing process.  

– Bernadette

Loss in a Time of Love

My husband has a brain illness. He has been diagnosed with depression and bipolar and suffers from occasional anxiety attacks. He takes several medications. Recently he suffered a concussion and that played havoc with his medicine and with his ability to respond. Suddenly, he can only focus on one thing at a time. He moves slower and seems to have to think quite a bit before responding. His sense of humor, although there, shows itself very rarely. He is given to more obsession since the accident and he is frightened of going to places that might have steps.

While all of this is understandable, I miss the man I knew.

It became evident to me the other day when I responded to a friend asking how my husband was. As I told her what was happening, I realized that I was grieving.

All of us who have to deal with brain illness in our lives know that we grieve some time or another at what is happening to us and our relationship with our loved one. We have to look to a new normal, a new way of responding, a new way of loving. And it is hard. We know what we had. We know what we lost.

And yet we see glimmers of goodness. Last night as my husband and I talked in the kitchen, we were able to laugh together at a silly incident during the day. We were also able to share our pride in our son at learning of his new job. And he was able to voice during the night that he needed me to hold him because he needed to feel my love. Those are precious moments I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Brain illness is wicked and full of a range of emotions for the caregiver. But where there is anger and frustration and grief, there is also peace and joy and love. We know the courage that it takes to open our hearts to another. Keeping that heart open no matter what is a true act of love.

-Bernadette