This question has been presented to me several times lately, so I’ve been wrestling with it in my mind. I wish I had a simple, clear-cut, and perfect answer about what you can do when you see no end to your grief storm. I don’t have a quick, easy response, but I hope I can help to provide answers and suggestions to those who find themselves in this place.
Circumstances of grief arise in all of our lives for reasons that do not involve the death of a loved one. Sometimes, as devastating as death can be, I truly believe there are situations even more difficult to deal with than the death of someone who means everything. Death brings finality into play. The outcome is certain. How you’ll deal with everything death brought about is a questions mark, but there’s no question that what happened is irreversible, and you have to figure out where and how to go on from there. That was my situation.
The questions and concerns I’ve been asked about have to do with extreme grief related to circumstances that have been going on for some time and there’s no end in sight.
On-Going Grief Circumstances – No Resolution in Sight
One situation is similar in a way to someone whose loved one is suffering from a disease such as Alzheimer’s—in that their personality has completely changed. Your loved one is still alive, in a compromised state, yet their disease has caused emotional and cognitive changes that have altered their personality so they are nearly unrecognizable. The disease and its effects are ever-present. Your loved one seems like a stranger. You see no end to your grief storm.
Another situation involves a parent dealing with the profound grief of a child with an active addiction. In this case, your loss is ongoing and ever-changing. No end is in sight, and final resolution is impossible and uncertain. You’re waiting, praying, hoping, questioning, fearing, wrestling with guilt—and so much more. Again, there’s no end to your grief storm. What can you do?
While neither of these situations has reached a final resolution, the individuals facing each one are surely grieving. I encourage you to begin to face your grief, even though your situations are still evolving. Many of the things you are grieving are no different than someone who is grieving a death. You’re grieving what you’ve lost; you’re grieving the future; you’re grieving the end of dreams and relationships that are no longer what they were. You may be dealing with denial, anger, guilt, regret, forgiveness, resentment, sadness, and acceptance.
When you see no end to your grief storm, I think the answer is to step into the grieving process:
- Don’t try to deny or avoid your grief
- Allow yourself to face and feel all the emotions of your grief
- Talk about who or what you’re grieving, your situation, and your feelings
- Connect with other people who are going through a similar circumstance – and refuse to isolate yourself
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help
- Journal about all the things you’re wrestling with – your frustrations, fears, challenges – everything inside and around you!
- Don’t forget about the joys still present in your life
- Change what you can and begin to adjust to the things you cannot change
- Find ways to bring hope alive and create meaning in different ways in your life—whether it is by supporting other people because of what you’re going through; working for positive changes in drug awareness; advocating for Alzheimer’s or brain tumor caregiver’s support; or your own idea
- Transformation is possible in your own life because of the adversity you’re facing—so discover and embrace the qualities in yourself that you’ve developed because of the way grief is strengthening and deepening you
Doing Something Positive, Transformative, and Hopeful
Angela Lunde, in a blog post about using grief over Alzheimer’s loss to transform yourself, says “And although we do not fully get over all of our losses or our grief, we can change our relationship toward them. Grief, according to my teracher and mentor, Lyn Praschat, Ph.D., is the most powerful untapped resource for human transformation.”
Lunde goes on to say, “Each of us has the opportunity to transform our grief, yet the transformation does not come without anger, pain, loneliness, and sometimes terror. I see this transformation unfolding when caregivers begin to work on what they can change and begin accepting what they can’t.”
I think a key to handling these, and other very difficult circumstances when you see no end to your grief storm, is to take what are truly heartbreaking situations and bring something positive and transforming out of them.
Someone I know is starting a blog to help other families who are dealing with the effects of a brain tumor that steals a personality away; perhaps another would get involved in the war against prescription drugs that are killing our young people; maybe another would help with support groups related to their situation. Something good can come from the most heartbreaking situations, and that good can bring hope to all involved.
Doing something will fight against feelings of helplessness which are not uncommon among people in such circumstances.
Sometimes the best thing any of us can do is to get outside of ourselves and our pressing problems, and when we do, we find hope for ourselves and help for others.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject …
© 2013 Judy Brizendine
Related articles and websites:
Amazing Grief – A Healing Guide for Parents of Young Addicts
Alzheimer’s Organization – www.alz.org
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation – www.alzinfo.org
Mayo Clinic – Alzheimer’s blog