I Think I’m Grieving Wrong

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            It’s now been 9 months since my dad’s passing. He had a wonderful Hospice group (Capital City Hospice). I almost can’t say enough good things about them. They always treated dad with such respect and great care. They explained things to us, which his doctor didn’t know. Today, nine months after dad’s death, they continue to send me information about dealing with grief. All of their advice seems to have one basic theme. Grieving is normal, and will pass. It’s not like they are trying to rush you through the five or seven (depends on who you talk to) stages. They just emphasize that you need to continue to take care of yourself: rest, talk about it, go easy on yourself, avoid negative habits, etc. They even made the Christian point that, it is kind of like the Easer journey, between death and resurrection.

            This latest flyer suggested that journaling might be helpful in expressing and working through grief feelings. But I have this web site, and know this is a helpful topic for all of us. Sadly, loss is a part of life. Dealing with it is a necessary ability.

            I learned about dealing a little with grief in nursing school. But it’s different when it’s your turn. It’s great to know about the classic stages: Shock/Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression/Detachment, and finally Acceptance. But what if you are doing it wrong?

            I very much hate to admit this, but when dad passed my overwhelming feeling was relief. He hadn’t been himself for years. He just couldn’t deal with his losses. He was a shell of his former self, physically and mentally. I did whatever I could, but it was never enough. I visited and took him out more than anyone where he stayed. I actually felt sorry for many of other residents who seemed forgotten. Still, I felt guilty, because I couldn’t make things better for him. I tried to keep him safe, but he always tested the limits. He fell so often one nurse called him the rubber man. Except he wasn’t always rubber. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to every hospital in Columbus, Ohio with him at some time. He missed mom like I missed mom. We had that in common.

            My grief for her was more of the classic variety. With dad my stages were relief followed, in no particular order, guilt, and anger. I still somewhat wrestle with what I might have done differently (guilt). And while I’m not angry during the day, my dad has shown up in occasional dreams. One of my most frequent dreams is with him driving and me sitting helplessly beside him. He drove way longer than he should have. And I couldn’t get the keys from him. Crystal was (as usual) smarter than me. She wouldn’t get into the car unless I was driving. In another dream he was walking without his cane, trying to cross a busy street. I can’t get to him. Sometimes my dreams do turn funny (sort of). One time, I don’t know how, he was driving and we wound up in the middle of a shopping mall. I’m screaming, and people are darting around. That’s usually when I wake up.

            I have talked to a councilor about this. She helped me realize who got me to realize that everyone’s grief is unique. Part of my grieving took place while dad was still alive. I’m empathetic, and I suffered along with him. I felt bad when I couldn’t give him the answers he wanted or tell him he would get better.

            Lately, and this is why I am writing this, I am transitioning to an acceptance phase. Lately, at least some of my dreams turned happier. Mom and dad are together the way they used to be. With the exception of their last days they both lived good long lives. They were always good to me. They were two of the best parents I could have had. I am lucky to have had them. That’s what I will remember.

            If you are ever in a position of grieving, just remember, it is part of life. Help is available. People have been where you are. You are doing it right. There is no wrong way. It may seem difficult, but reach out to loved ones and professionals. Take your pain to God. He understands your loss and promises peace.

Dad and me in 2012 in front of his Oak Lawn IL. house of 60 years, preparing to move him to Ohio

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