Last night I had a scary dream. I cannot recall the mechanics of it, just vague impressions and feeling anxious when I woke up. I haven’t had a bad or distressing dream in a long time. Maybe I was due for one.
I was thinking about something this morning, about my emotions being all over the place right now. I tried to think back to when I was very young, and how I coped with fear and loss then.
I realized that I have been translating and then transcribing those feelings into words for as long as I have memory. Writing was the way I coped. It was where I put sadness and feelings of fear.
Because when I was a child I never felt that, if I fell, there would be a soft place for me to land.
I truly like to look at the glass as half full, and most of the time I manage to do that. Which I see as a true accomplishment toward happiness.
But losing Abi has dulled the joy I usually feel upon awakening each morning.
Grief has a way of alternately dulling and then sharpening every day normal feelings.
I can be going through my day, feeling peaceful and relatively happy. Until there is a sharp edge of memory that jolts me.
It is like running your finger over the smooth edges of the top of a jar. Suddenly your finger stings. When you look closely at the jar, you see there is a nick in the glass and your finger is bleeding.
In the case of grief, I see that blood as tears. Blood flows from a cut in your finger. Tears sometimes flow from a stab to your psyche.
For some people, grief does not abate with time. It is called “complicated grief.”
We know that grief does not follow calendar years. It comes in drips and spurts no matter how long it has been since the loss. There are reminders. There is sadness.
But if that grief keeps moving onward into a deep dark hole from which you cannot escape, this is when grief becomes an illness.
Said a psychiatry professor at Columbia: “People who meet the criteria for complicated grief do not necessarily meet criteria for either depression or post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Katherine Shear, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. “If you didn’t have this disorder [in the DSM], then those people would not get treatment at all.”
Grief is as natural as breathing when you suffer a loss. You can’t escape grief.
Many doctors believe that complicated grief stems from adjustment disorder, which is when you show a long and intense response to a stressor.
Risk factors for CG/Complicated Grief:
Research suggests people are at more risk of developing CG after a loss if they have a history of child abuse, neglect, or child separation anxiety and insecure attachments, or if the loss occurred in a violent context.
CG doesn’t have any identified biological causes. Like depression, it may happen because of:
- body chemistry
- your environment
Summing up, grief is our way of adapting to loss. It is natural; and if you didn’t grieve, that would be unnatural.
Don’t confuse normal grief with the more serious illnesses mentioned in this post. I simply added them for the sake of education.
As for myself, I already have PTSD and dissociation listed on my medical chart. I imagine grief exacerbates those conditions.
If your grief is prolonged and getting worse over time, you might consider seeking medical help.