When a loved one dies, by suicide, or a sudden illness or accident, something especially not expected, grief is usually understood now to be complex and complicated grief.
What that means is that people experiencing complex and complicated grief stay for very long periods of time, essentially in the acute phase, the first phase of grief. This means that people are so traumatized that they are not able to process grief the way that most do when someone elderly dies, even though that is not to be minimized at all. In that scenario of loss, people are very bereaved and in tremendous pain and grief, feeling, equally like their world has just been turned upside down.
Complex and complicated grief, and in fact, most grief, is not something that we heal from. It is not something that we “just get over” or that even after years, we are not still to one degree or another living with.
I have more coming on this topic but for a different reason than what I am talking about in this blog post. Complex, often called, Complicated Grief, is common in many circumstances of loss and bereavement. Especially, sudden loss of a loved one who dies by committing suicide, or someone who has a fatal accident, for example.
I will also have another post coming soon about how some loss in life – when no one dies can also be experienced as complex and complicated grief and what that means. I am currently writing a book on this as pertains to these losses we can experience of loved ones while they are still living. (More on that coming soon).
Our world today, really doesn’t deal with death. It doesn’t deal well with other types of loss and/or death as well. Loss of a partner, to a break-up. Loss of a family member where no contact is necessary or people are angry with each other for something they often forgot from years ago, or a pet’s death.
No matter your loss, when you are grieving and you are bereaved the world can’t wait to tell us to “get over it, already”. Some people actually say that. Others don’t say it out-right but they tend to act toward the bereaved and grieving as if they should just not talk about the loved one who died or the pet that died or the loss of a husband, wife, boyfriend/girlfriend who cheated or abused them but didn’t die.
I have experienced a lot of support. I have also experienced a lot of lessening of some of that support as the 6th month mark since my late partner committed suicide approaches – it will be 6 months on June 27, 2019.
I don’t think anyone has done this to hurt me. People who have been and in their own ways, a few friends, still trying to be supportive (not that I am in any way expecting too much from them or talking too much to some about this complex, complicated grief I am in. It is some people in our lives own inability to face what we have had not choice but to face and that we were thrust into by sudden losses especially.
Grief, is devastating and so painful for anyone who has loved, has empathy, and compassion. Perhaps Narcissists and psychopaths know nothing about feeling or caring or loving or empathy so they would not know at all how we feel.
I have learned in these almost 6 months of indescribable grief that disappearing, for period of time, into silence and solitude soothes soul in its sweet sorrow. I have learned the following:
“As we feel more and more invisible and swallowed whole by our complex complicated grief, re-living the acute phase as if our late loved one just died, and we are at the beginning again, what I’ve learned, is, just watch me disappear – I just disappear sometimes in the company of others or all on my own. I feel myself disappear inside from a deep place.
It is necessary and in my experience healthy in complex complicated grief, for short periods of time, to just let yourself disappear within the grief and the pain, the longing and the heartache. Be with what you are feeling and what you know.
Be with the grief and the unimaginable pain, let it wash over you, as you disappear, leaning into the crescendo of the waves of it all, for short periods of time. Let the only sound you hear be your own whaling, crying, heaving, and be otherwise in the silence of who it is that is no more. That loved one that you ache for, long for, miss more than my words can do justice here.
Silence, as complex and complicated grief goes on has become a safe soulful place and emotional safety for me to feel it all and to not have to worry about helping others who don’t know what to say when I really don’t have the energy, at times.” (© A.J. Mahari)
Others, because most of society doesn’t support or encourage, at all, talking about death, dying, and grief, we have terms like “passed on”, “passed away” “losing someone”. Even these terms are a negation of how anyone grieving is feeling. Like in the case of you having your loved one commit suicide, like my late partner did and what, he or she as in my case are not “lost” to us. Sure in a way, but I think you know what I mean. They committed suicide. They died.
Due to this societal reality of what people obfuscate with regularly because for most of society today that has become a cultural norm. What is the direct consequence of this?
I’ve learned this in the last almost 6 months myself, it gets very quiet around you. Very, very, quiet.
It is already far too quiet when your loved one has committed suicide or died suddenly in another unexpected way. Then friends and if you have family, they don’t know what to say. People try. They keep trying.
If you have experienced a sudden death of a loved one I am writing about this here to say to you, please don’t take this personally. Don’t take it as your friends or family don’t care. Though when one is bereft in such grief and pain there isn’t energy to extend much to others, often, it is important to just let others be how they are.
You will hear lots of well-practiced and often heard trite phrases and not a one of them will help you. People mean well though.
I have come to realize and understand that the best way to continue grieving is in silence. Even when I have a friend or more visiting, I much prefer a hug, an empathic look of care, just their company, maybe talking about something else, to the awkward often said and heard well-meaning but not helpful trite phrases that people most often have been taught to say.
Complex and complicated grief is not the same as grief. I’m not trying to compare but the painful process of each, in its own time, sees us moving ever so slowly toward learning to live and grow around the pain, around missing that loved one, growing around the grief in a way that will not ever go away.
Growing around that grief that will, for each, in his or her own time and ways, ,will yield a way forward that doesn’t include ever “getting over it”.
Complex and complicated grief taking a much longer time to grow around it – one never truly gets over it.
It is so vital that each grieving person understand that it is more common than not, after time especially, that others are not able to understand where we are still at with our bereavement. What is most important is that each person in complex, complicated, or in grief period, knows that there is no measure of how you “should feel” or “how you should cope” and there is no finish line. The time it takes you to grow around the pain and the empty space where that loved one was in your life and in your world is what you need to know you have the right to give to yourself and let be your process.
It is more important that you understand than that others understand.
Seeking support from a local or even online bereavement group is the best way to be able to sit in silence with another person who truly knows how you feel.
Complex and complicated grief is most often the result of a loved one dying by committing suicide or many other ways that people unexpectedly and often far-too-young suddenly die. The world spins. The trauma and pain is palpable within the haze, fog, and overwhelm of emotion or the absence of it at times for some.
Be kind to yourself. Understand yourself. Disappear inside for brief periods of time, and believe that you can find your way to that place inside, silent, silent amid your loud crying, yelling, anger, screaming, reeling, feeling as each must, in that place inside.
Seek also support. I have friends that, from time to time, sit with me, and we say nothing, I often have tears rolling, pouring down my face, my whole body hurts. Some of the best support I now understand so much more about, as I navigate my way though the 6th month since my partner committed suicide, is the love and connection with another, friend, or family member (in my case no family) or group of friends in which nothing is spoken, but empathy is shared, compassion is palpable and when I ask a hug is available.
I learned this the hard way, first, in my trauma and grief, the sheer overwhelm of it all, I so thought I needed everything from others in my life. If we stay in that mind-frame of expectation we can get angry at what is a perceived (or may be an actual) lack of “support”. It is important as difficult as it is emotionally, to realize that others don’t know how we feel. They care. They will express that care and loving support in their own ways. Sometimes we may feel it. Early on, I couldn’t feel anything of the sort. It takes time.
I don’t know about you, but, there wasn’t enough support on earth that could help me feel like I could breathe after that night, that trauma, her suicide. No matter how kind people were and how kind and supportive their words were, albeit they were those oft repeated platitudes, with love and care, I could not be consoled.
That’s when I learned two things:
- I needed to seek support of someone (and I did) that has not only been where I have been and still am, but that could offer professional support.
- Disappearing into myself, that dark, world-up-side down, spinning ubiquitous unforgiving under-toe of unmitigated uniform and wild horror of heaving nothingness that hurt like hell, and sometimes, still does, needed to be balanced with time spent with others. Sometimes friends and not talking about how grief-stricken I was and still am. Sometimes, crying on a friend’s shoulder, no words. Other times, the support of a professional grief counsellor, a person who has also been and continues to deal with her own complex complicated grief and just knows how I feel.
People’s words cannot be measured or judged as that they care or they don’t care. We have to find a way, from the great abyss of agonizing heart-break to grant to those who love us the space to do the best they can and have that recognized for the gift that it is, though it may not ever fit into that space of all of our pain, longing, heartache, grief and dark nights of the soul, a wilderness thrust upon us to navigate ever so gently, ever so slowly.
Initially, and for each individual, it will be in your own time, that you can begin to, for seconds to start with, be with the pain and feel it in seconds that don’t totally overwhelm. When this starts to happen for each person in complex and complicated or any type of grief, is highly individual. As time passes, maybe a minute, then minutes at a time and so on.
And, I, myself have found, that in between the periods of disappearing into myself, into the silence – the silence of sitting with loving support – remaining in silence, the stillness of silence, I am able to be in times of strength and calm, in which I help others, which is my passion and career, is a gift in and of itself. Being present to the grief, in those times, makes space for the work I do with clients, in those times. I have found that ebbing and flowing with the grief, gives respites of time to help others and to look outward, not being in that active swallowed by the grief place, that I re-visit often, but, can also, come back from when I want to and/or need to. Mindful radical acceptance in flow.
© A.J. Mahari, June 19, 2019 – All rights reserved. Please do not re-post without link and attribution. Thanks!