Griefland authors Bacon Miller

Book Review: Griefland

Griefland; Intimately Familiar.

“Rachel is dead. If I said it out loud, the reality of this would spill into the world, become part of the moon, the stars, the thread running across the floor, connecting all of us, connecting every person to some moment of shocking loss. It would be real.” ~Nancy Miller

Griefland is the place where you meet two women who “get it.” They ooze the pain of personal and painful loss in its raw form. They cling. They expunge through words in the moment. in the same breath, they hold the grief and loss forever. It is a story from heart and soul. Devastating. Intimate. Hopeful.

My husband used to describe meeting someone who really connected to the same point of view as “going to the same school together at different times.” Co-authors Nancy Miller and Armen Bacon went to the same school of loss together – the one that was the death of their daughter Rachel and son Alex respectively. Both died of a drug overdose. Both young and in the “should” have their-whole-life-ahead-of-them age. Four years apart. Same school, different time. Miller and Bacon went to the same school.

What struck me greatly about Griefland, An intimate portrait of love, loss and unlikely friendship, is that the school is grief. This grade is grouped by both the type of loss and the relationship. Like in a paired mentor program, their e-mails were the curriculum to explore, teach and learn from each other. From the experience, genuine friendship and love emerged.

I can relate to Miller’s and Bacon’s communiqués of loss as a widow even as I wept as a mother. I am in different classroom but of the same school.  As often as strong support comes in its greatest form through a common relationship loss, Griefland reaches out and touches in the universality of death’s aftermath: Chaos; Thoughts of the racing mind; Aches of the physical body; Questions for the confused spirit. Griefland honors their very personal stories and individual joy in remembering the personality of each child and the inability to fulfill the parent’s expectation for dying in order – parent before child.

The Portrait of Friendship is an important theme in Griefland, and in healing after loss in my opinion. The sharing aspect of what pain and grief feels like in the moment is a critical shift into life out of the death and grief.

“Death, in its devastation, has forced us to re-create ourselves. This rediscovery period is a passport to experience the world through a new lens. We have accepted the invitation.”

Miller and Bacon go on to offer the “gifts” found underneath the heavy dark, cloud of child loss. But like them, you must go through the story before you find yourself able to begin to accept the invitation of gifts.  Anyone suffering loss will find hope in the pages of Griefland. If you relate to the loss is of a child entering adulthood, you’ll ache deeply in sympathy for your own story. If your loss comes with guilt that you did something wrong you might find the words to be a little less harsh on yourself. Whatever the circumstances, how comforting to know you are not alone.

Coming up

Meet author Nancy Miller Griefland at Navigating Grief

 

Have you read Griefland, An intimate portrait of love, loss and unlikely friendship? Please share your comments.

Would you like to order your copy? Use the link to Amazon books to order today. Copies also available at Navigating Grief Discover Create Share Center after January 16.

 

 

Navingating Grief Through Time

Grief in Time

Counting Days, Weeks, Months and Years of Grief

Time is one of the most difficult concepts of sorting through “what’s normal?” in grief. Words like “move on,” “get over it,” and “it’s been long enough now,” often come as unwanted advice related to the speaker’s sense of grief in time. For the bereaved, time is marked by the calendar – seasons, last year, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and special events. Grief swells not only during milestone dates for the loved one, but also with the passage of dates for the closest people in his or her life, such as your own birthday. No wonder that the pain of grief doesn’t seem to end in the years following a significant loss. There are always new dated reminders through time. Each one is counted: the first, the second, and on and on.

BC and AD

If you are a parent, you may be familiar with the reference phrase BC, “Before Child.” The change and transition into parenting is marked by the day you bring home your new life. What you could do as an adult couple in terms of freedom to move at will is suddenly gone. When life gets hectic or overwhelmed by parenting activities, or spontaneity is overruled by responsibility, then “Before Child” is the reference. You’ve had to adjust your mind to consider the needs of a dependent being. The recognition of that change and the secret code among the parents who know is “BC” – how you could behave before child: there was a time when life was different… Often noted in lightheartedness, nevertheless, BC is recognition of a major change in the lives of the entire family.

The same may hold true for you in your loss with the phrase AD “After Death.” You mark time based on “since my loved one died.” Now instead of the welcomed or chosen change this one is thrust upon you. As time marches forward the marker is After Death. Time is about what is missing, who can’t enjoy, he or she would have liked… Often this too is a secret code among those who know deep loss. But rather than in a lighthearted fashion, loss is heavyhearted. The impact of this change and the subsequent transition is just as huge and life-changing as a birth. But in American society, generally speaking, there is little patience for death. There is little patience to speak of it, to mourn for long periods or to recognize the major change a death creates for those left behind.

With birth comes a child, tangible proof to tell us change continues. In death there is emptiness, a void. Death is “out of sight, out of mind” to the outside world. Yet, for the bereaved, reminders are all around.

So how long do you grieve?

Time is in the eye of the beholder. There is active grief – from moment of loss to public mourning to a place of deep, personal adaptation – and there is life long grief, that is, loss – the continued gratitude or acknowledgement for having known your loved one and the fleeting bittersweet memories of wishing he or she was here. How long you might experience active grief is related to the many factors of your individual relationship, circumstances, and chosen path to “do something” about grief, whether on your own or in support programs. Your time on grief might also have to do with your own personal makeup and philosophy as well, including earliest memories of death. The time of active grief does differ for everyone, even people who grieve the same loss. This point alone can be the friction among family members about the way one grieves.

The societal gold standard that grief lasts one year is based on the calendar and traditions: walking the path through each and every first since. A year marks four full seasons of personal space to feel and live the transition for what was, to what is. Religious or family ceremonies often recognize the one year passage. Yet, widows and widowers often discover an unexpected “second year is tougher” reality. Child loss can leave an open wound for many years. There are studies and anecdotes to support that rather than a year, the bereaved themselves report two to five years as a more reality-based adjustment time period. Even so, many people note resiliency in the face of loss in the six months to the year marker. Complicated or prolonged grief over long periods, including severe depression, is diagnosed for less than 20% of people (on the high end), with 10-15 % more likely. Grief spills out as a complexity of accumulated past and present emotions. How do these varied responses help you view your sense of what’s normal?

That leaves a wide range of “normal” time of grief, that is, how long you respond to your loss.

Not everyone needs nor wants help during the time of  active grief. However, short term or long term community and/or private support is often a great relief as it underscores just how normal your grief and feelings of loss might be, months and even years later. Trying to assign a time period to grief and loss only adds one more “should” to your list of getting “over it.” The real questions are: are you coping better over time (in spite of the pain and sorrow)?  Are you finding outlets so your grief is dynamic, rather than static? Are you noticing increasing moments of happiness (or is it all grief, all the time?)? Are you healthy or is your body taking on the grief unknowingly? On the roller coaster of loss and time, the majority of people experience lessening of the pain and associations of loss across the timeline. If your level or sorrow and pain or ability to function does not change or actually increases since the death of  your loved one, seeking out the support of a professional grief coach or therapist can provide you an objective viewpoint.

You might be surprised to know that there are many people who worry about if they are getting over the loss too fast as those who think they might be taking too long (or someone else tells them they are taking too long.) Here is where you can check in with yourself. What do you think? Do you want to be in a different place in life since your loss? Are you actually avoiding any feelings instead of grieving?  Your instinct about whether you have grieved “long enough” or still have “more grieving to do” is usually right on. First, just listen. Listen deeply. How much time it takes to adapt to this major change in your life is subjective. After all, you are the expert on your grief.

What’s your story? Are you taking long enough time to grieve, or are you in in  a hurry? What expectations do you or others around you offer about how much time grief, mourning and loss lasts?  If you were (are) a caregiver before the loss, has the time of illness affected your sense of how long you’ve grieved?

 

Awakening in 2013 Grief Reflection

My Awakening in 2013

December 31, 2013. Ah, happy New Year time!

I can’t awaken on December 31 and not do at least a quick writing of the year in review. I actually feel the pull for a long blog post,* simultaneous to the pull of wanting to complete my to-do list of the day. Choices!

Awaken has to be the word for 2013 for me. Awakening of my entire being! OMG. A year ago I was in a lot of fear for the year. I had to face the first calendar year change without Dave. Boy, did that get to me. I wasn’t sure my own body would hold me up; I hobbled with arthritis in both hips. I was considering another head surgery for my inner ear. I was a physical mess and wondered if I had given my all and really would need to just roll over and, and what? Die? Play dead? Wait until I needed the next surgery to “fix” me? It was a passive and painful time without much to look forward to, even amidst personal growth and self-encouragement.

I didn’t know then what I do now – It was a moment of suspended fight, flight or freeze. And I chose the path to fight. What a great decision, and more importantly, a great commitment to awaken the inner me.

And I took a risk to change.

Short list of “Wins” for the year:

  •   I took a chance on me: To own the belief in myself. I would have normally given that task to Dave, since he did it so well.
  •   I took a risk to get out of limbo by flying to a foreign country. A “pivotal moment” in my life path – do I sit (freeze) and wait for my ear to worsen, or do I challenge my physical and emotional capacity (fight). I had to know the answer for myself, and I won this fight.
  •   I have consciously reinvented me for today. The results are evident! LOL.
  •   I reclaim my intelligence, left to wither under stress of caregiving and doing, walking through life a bit numb for a few years. This is a fabulous awakening. (Mind!)
  •   I reclaim my physical wellness through tough and painful choices in nutrition, deep body manipulation and alignment, minute focus on exercise/movement, and energy healing.(Body!)
  •   I reclaim, or more likely, created (I am creating) my connections to past, present and future people, nature, and universe in a very intentional direction. (Spirit!)
  •   I have learned to love me in a deep understanding and I look forward to life as it unfolds. I simply feel better, give myself more room to forgive, be grateful and accept my own humanness – and that of others.
  •   I have found my passion in coaching, and the privilege for sharing the vulnerable time of grief with others.
  •   I am proud to be building the new Discover-Create-Share Center. Something not even on my radar when 2013 began.

2013 has been a phenomenal year of my own doing. Literally and figuratively. The actions are a blueprint for my life forward. 2013 has been a year of my walking “Life by Design” that I point to as a coach for finding the path through loss to the other side of grief. It is surreal to me that I inspire (so I’m told), that I see a healthy woman look back in the mirror, and that my choices and decisions are easy in the filter of what’s best for me.

2014 is to be a continuation on this journey through healing – not just from Dave’s death, but in all my relationships with the world; foremost is the relationship I have with me. I have more plans and vision than I can possible implement. But them again, I didn’t think I would travel so far in 2013. Anything really is possible!

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* Originally posted in Joan’s Writing  & Support Community journal December 31, 2013. Community friends and members can see shared journals as they are written.  Join now to start your own writing and healing after loss.