While I was Grieving-They were too

While I was grieving, others were grieving too. My daughters were grieving the death of their brother. My husband was grieving ME. Where was I in this? Caught up in my own grieving!

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DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) spends a good amount of its “Interpersonal Effectiveness” module on getting what you want from others, but it seemed like I was pretty good at doing that. What I wasn’t good at was giving to others that are hurting as well.

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My grief immobilized me. I was despondent, hopeless, despairing.
Meanwhile, my husband was trying hard to navigate around me. He was hopeless, despairing as to how to help me. Walking on eggshells as they like to say. Would I try to commit suicide again? Would I stay in bed all day? Would I keep coming home from work, hours early, to sit and stare?

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He was grieving our life together. Grieving the things we used to do together, dining out, shopping, concerts. I didn’t want to do any of those things anymore.

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My daughters were hurting. They lost their brother and now they were watching their strong mother fall apart. Would they lose Mom too? Their brother was gone- just gone. How could that happen- that someone could just disappear? And when did they see him last? What had they said and why didn’t they know it was the last time? What would they have one differently?

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My sisters and brother were far away in Minnesota, unable to see my day by day destruction but catching glimpses of it through phone calls. They knew I was getting help, but to what extent? How could they help me? Should they get on a plane and head South? Should they put their lives on hold and get me through this?

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Research suggests that when you are grieving you will most likely experience both physical and mental health issues and you will be less able to cope socially. Believe it or not, there are not people who are “stronger” than others. Even so called “strong” people will find themselves having problems coping in difficult situations.

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It was described to me once as an analogy with a rain barrel. Stress builds up with everyone like drops of water in that barrel. If you are not relieving your stress, the barrel just keeps filling up. Maybe your barrel is almost full and some seemingly small bit of stress overflows it, sends you off the edge so to speak. So, it’s not a matter of some people being stronger than others, their rain barrel just isn’t as full.

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I had no idea how full my husband’s barrel was because I was oblivious to all this. My daughters needed a Mom. My family needed me, but I didn’t see it. It was Me, Me, Me– and by the time I did see it, it was hard for me to do anything about it. Then my DBT class began to work on Interpersonal Skills. In my homework, I had to think about listening and understanding others. I realized that I hadn’t even thought about it.

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By this time I had begun to use the Bible with my studies and was trusting God with all my heart trying to break through. I came to a verse from Hebrews:

“Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love…” Hebrews 10:24

I have children who are alive! What is going on with them? We are not close anymore, because I push everyone away! What does it say about a mother who thinks constantly about her dead son and not of her other kids? I don’t mean to say that I ignored them or that I wasn’t there for them when they were in trouble-but I wasn’t there for them! Nor was I there for my husband either, as he struggled through the bleakest hour of his own life: caring for me, thinking he was going to lose me. My youngest daughter was fretting over possibly losing her mom- her touchstone.

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Psalm 127 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

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In DBT, we are taught to look at another person’s perspective and acknowledge their emotions, thoughts and behaviors. And to seek to understand the other person’s suffering and difficulties. My goal in class was to “Stop people from worrying about me” and to “Make an effort to find out how they are doing.”

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It begins with describing a situation in which I was non-judgmental and then used validation, in my daughter’s instance it was acknowledging how my grief was taking a toll on her and telling her how I understood that she was going through pain too. Afterward I felt grateful that my eyes were opened to her pain- and my husband’s and other daughter’s as well.

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For the first time, I really saw what my son’s death and the aftereffects was doing to my family. I pledged to myself that I would be more mindful of them. That I would make an effort to really see and listen to their difficulties without passing judgement on myself for being so self-consuming.

2 thoughts on “While I was Grieving-They were too

  1. The last sentence is so powerful. To not pass judgement on yourself. If you accept guilt then it becomes just another hill to overcome.

    I am trying to do that as well. To create positive change in my relationships moving forward while not feeling guilt for what I failed to do in the past.

    God erases our transgressions, like when Jesus wrote in the sand, the sins written were just washed away. We need to do that in our own lives as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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