Help and Understanding for Disenfranchised Grief
I remember coming home from the hospital after my son’s craniotomy. We were definitely working through a traumatic time in our life. I’ll never forget the incredible outpouring of love from all over the nation during this time. Family, friends, friends of friends, strangers, churches, hundreds and hundreds of people lifting us up in prayer. We felt the very tangible support through it all. Cards and gifts poured in for weeks to months after. Everything from money to ice-cream sundaes. And the food? Endless and soothing to the soul. All of these things: the visits, the calls, the encouraging words and prayers — they held us up.
We are made for relationships and community.
We are made for relationships and community. Even when life is going along wonderfully, we find ourselves drawn to others who lift us up, make us smile, and bring us a sense of unity. We all know grief to some extent, and most of us have experienced the amazing support that comes during those times.
But what about the grief that goes unnoticed?
Stigmatized Life Events
There are some life events that cause indescribable pain, yet, due to either stigma or shame, there is no community support, no cards, and no casserole.
- Coming home after burying a family member who overdosed on pills.
- Finding out your spouse has been watching porn or has had an affair.
- Getting a call from the police that a loved one is in jail.
- Calling in to work because of the bruise on your face left by your abusive spouse.
- Coming home to an empty house because your drinking drove your family away.
- Leaving the funeral of a family member who committed suicide.
These are just a few examples of heartaches that aren’t talked about openly. Because of this secrecy, the grieving process can turn into complicated bereavement if not attended to. There are added feelings of guilt, shame, confusion, defensiveness, anxiety and unanswered questions. The extremely uncomfortable opinions and judgments of others, often subtle, unspoken, and implied, can become the enormous elephant in the room. Suicide, abortion, addictions, overdose, divorce, sex addiction, self-harm, obesity, incarceration, and mental illness are all examples of stigmas in our society. Grief and suffering are hard enough without the attached judgments and perceptions of others.
The extremely uncomfortable opinions and judgments of others, often subtle, unspoken, and implied, can become the enormous elephant in the room.
When You Feel Like There’s No Point: Making Meaning of Life
There’s this thing called “existential crisis” — a fancy term for “How on earth do I make sense of my world now?” A crisis can make you question the very foundation of your life. Before this happened you had plenty of answers to questions about life and understood the world around you. You knew where your place and purpose was in the world. Life was mostly predictable and fair. Now, you question nearly everything, including the very existence of God.
Making Sense of Loss
All of these things are normal. As humans we have an innate desire to make meaning out of everything. We seek logical reasoning because it brings a sense of safety to an unsure world. Great time and energy are often focused on trying to make sense of a secret loss to decrease feelings of helplessness or powerlessness. Trying to find meaning for something that is almost impossible to comprehend is courageous and healing, however, it’s very challenging. You may not fully understand the reasoning behind the loss, but you can become more tolerant of the ambiguity behind it, which will help in your healing process.
Trying to find meaning for something that is almost impossible to comprehend is courageous and healing; however, challenging.
When Grief Lasts a Long Time: Complicated Grief
Everyone grieves differently. However, if your symptoms of grief continue to impair your function at home, work, and/or school after 6 months of the loss then you could be experiencing complicated grief. If you are feeling shame, guilt, or embarrassment from a loss that is stigmatized and surrounded by secrecy, know that there is no situation and no person too far gone that can’t be restored.
Watershed Counseling Wants to Help You with Grief
If you continue having sleep disturbance, eating disturbance, exaggerated startle behavior, phobic anxiety, intense shame, rage, horror, fear, isolation, numbness, meaninglessness, avoidance of reminders and even thoughts of self-harm, please reach out.
No matter the circumstances surrounding your grief, the therapists at Watershed would be honored to sit with you in your time of distress and together, work toward healing. Call us at (601) 362-7020 or send us a message to make an appointment.