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Karen

What Happens To Us? - By Marie Allen (Psychotherapist)

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TALK GIVEN BY MARIE ALLEN - PSYCHOTHERAPIST TO THE CEREBRAL ANEURYSM SUPPORT GROUP NOTTINGHAM - May 1st 2008

 

1. What happens to us emotionally when we are traumatized by loss of any kind. The stages of grief are:

• Shock – This is a natural initial response; we feel disconnected and may even be quite calm, as if watching what is happening from a distance. Unconsciously we are evaluating what has happened - Action; calmness, blank, as if in a trance, dreamy (often assisted by drugs)

• Denial – “It can’t be happening”- Action; trying to ‘get back to normal’, avoiding facing reality.

• Anger – “It’s not fair, no-one understands what its like, why me God?” – Action; lashing out at those closest, dumping anger on others.

• Bargaining – “Ok God just let me do this…. If I am good/do it right, then I’ll get better? – Action; trying to control everything, looking for a way out.

• Depression – “Why bother, I’m doomed, this is forever” – Action; throwing in the towel; eating food, alcohol etc., that you know cannot be good for you, retreating from the world and other people, feeling hopeless.

• Acceptance – “It’s ok. I’m Ok. I don’t like it but I’m alive” – Action; re-engaging in life, appreciating small things, finding reasons to be grateful, allowing sorrow, finding a way forward.

 

These stages are ‘coping mechanisms’, allowing us to take time to process what has happened. The stages are not necessarily sequential – most of us move in a cycle from one to the other in any order and we may spend longer in a stage than any other, depending on our character traits. So one moment you may be depressed, then bargaining, then angry, then denying again. We may have long periods of acceptance, only for fear to arise again and trap us in anger at our sense of being an unwilling victim. You may notice that you are more reactive than normal – small things upset you out of proportion, you feel panicky and anxious most of the time, needy around people.

However, it is not a good sign when we are stuck in this cycle, it is evidence that we are not processing what has happened and a sign that we are still avoiding reality.

 

2. How it affects relationships.

Unfortunately we may find ourselves caught in the trap of needing others to help us and not feeling we have the right to ask. We fear we will be judged stupid or lazy or not doing it right and so on. If we have always looked after and protected others emotionally it will feel very scary to be looked after. If we have never openly and honestly expressed our feelings, this is a tough challenge indeed! Whatever patterns have been operating in our relationships will be highlighted with a vengeance now, resulting in despair and thoughts such as –

 

• Why isn’t he/she there for me now I need them?

• I can’t tell him/her the truth about how I feel, it will do them in.

• I’m on my own with this.

• If I just pretend a bit longer, it will all work out.

 

It is very common for the spouse or close relative to also go through the stages described above – but that doesn’t help you! Unless you can find a way to talk about it, and get support (both of you) from someone other than each other. At this time it isn’t possible for two grieving people to be there emotionally all of the time for the other. Your partner/spouse/relative/friend will begin to feel overburdened and resentful, because they too are coming to terms with this unexpected and shocking change in you and in their lives.

 

They had an expectation, as did you that you would be growing old together in a particular way and all that has been shattered. They will be afraid too. It is absolutely vital that you find a way to talk about it. Open and honest communication is the only thing that will work. Even in relationships where honesty, openness and acceptance of feelings have been a foundation, there will be rocky times. All change brings up our fear – when we don’t know what is happening to us or what might happen next – it can feel like an earthquake has occurred.

 

3. The spiritual aspect of this illness – why me? Finding a refuge in what has meaning for us, a way to carry on living rather than focusing on fear.

In truth an earthquake has occurred and you will never be the same again. You may recover physically to some degree, but emotionally the rug has been pulled from under you. All your certainties have gone. You thought you knew your body; you thought it was strong, that this kind of thing only happened to other people. This is why your confidence is in shreds. One minute you are going on with your normal life the next minute – wham! Where do we turn and to what do we turn when things like this happen?

 

It feels we have to trust hospitals and doctors to save us and make us better – and they do their best with what they’ve got – but that is limited to the physical, mostly. They cannot mend our confidence; they cannot give us a way of finding meaning in what has happened, only physical explanations. Traditional sources of comfort have all but disappeared. Nowadays few people have faith in the Christian Church (and if they do and can find solace there, that is good) Most of us are lost in a culture that does not value the spiritual (by that I mean belief in a higher power).

 

It’s a tough call to begin to explore what has meaning for you when you are struggling with an illness and trying to cope with disability, relationship difficulty and depression. But find refuge we must if we are to turn this around and find a reason to continue with our life and live it as fully as possible.

 

Most of you will have experienced much relief and solace from simply being able to share with others what you are experiencing. That is a beginning. When we can feel safe and accepted with kindred spirits, that is where we can take refuge, lick our wounds and begin to rebuild our lives.

 

It only when we reach the final stage of the grief process that we can move forward – and there will come a time when you are mostly there – because it’s only through acceptance that you can move forward. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is liberating to let go of wanting something that is not coming back. Hoping and wishing and regretting only causes emotional pain, focusing on ‘should-have-dones’ is pointless.

 

Suggested reading:

Why Me? Why This? Why Now? - Robin Norwood

Who Dies? - Stephen Levine

Conversations with God - Neale Donald Walsch

Close to the Bone: Life Threatening illness

And the Search for Meaning - Jean Shinoda Bolen

 

Suggested (safe) practices for managing feelings:

Counselling – try and choose a Practitioner who can deal with feelings – not all of them can!

Relate is an organisation available for couples to work through problems.

Meditation – excellent technique for calming the mind and lowering blood pressure.

Guided meditations or visualizations – can be as effective as meditation.

(There are many types of meditation, try them out to see which works for you)

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Karen

I read your thread and realised that I have had my eyes closed..I can see me in this posting....a tear fell but I feel like I can

keep going now and not ever give up.....but I still say Songs n laughter are good for us...lol

Thanks Karen

WinB143 xx

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Karen, Thank you. When I read that I once again feel I went from SHOCK to Acceptance. I do not know if past life experiences ( of mine and others close to me with worse problems) have anything to do with it, I don't know. But sometimes I wonder if denial will creep it!!!!!! I feel I had so much wonderful support from first off my husband who is still wonderful to this day. He expects me to only do what I feel I can and never makes me feel bad. Which adds respect and trust etc..

Thanks again Karen for all you do for us and have done in the past. Your name should be "Karen -maker of glue who holds us together"

Kindest regards, maryb

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I am new to this site after brain bleed in March and that explains it all....I have lost all confidence in my body now, i thought stuff like this happened to others!!!! You never ever know what is round the corner and i will never take anything or anyone for granted!

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This is great!!! Thank you for posting this, Karen. I don't know how I missed this before - well, I miss a lot of things and find them later :lol:

Think this is a good one for family members and friends, too.

Carolyn

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Most of you will have experienced much relief and solace from simply being able to share with others what you are experiencing. That is a beginning. When we can feel safe and accepted with kindred spirits, that is where we can take refuge, lick our wounds and begin to rebuild our lives.

That's what I feel like about this site. Yes I have had to walk this line on my own but never alone since I joined BTG

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This is the first time I've read this, and, well, wow! I go along with life in hope for better days. They do come and they do go. I do have spiritual faith and it is a comfort as this site is as well. I feel like there comes a time when people just do not want to hear it anymore.

Thank goodness everyone here does not mind.

I

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On 01/08/2012 at 15:47, Karen said:

TALK GIVEN BY MARIE ALLEN - PSYCHOTHERAPIST TO THE CEREBRAL ANEURYSM SUPPORT GROUP NOTTINGHAM - May 1st 2008

 

1. What happens to us emotionally when we are traumatized by loss of any kind. The stages of grief are:

• Shock – This is a natural initial response; we feel disconnected and may even be quite calm, as if watching what is happening from a distance. Unconsciously we are evaluating what has happened - Action; calmness, blank, as if in a trance, dreamy (often assisted by drugs)

• Denial – “It can’t be happening”- Action; trying to ‘get back to normal’, avoiding facing reality.

• Anger – “It’s not fair, no-one understands what its like, why me God?” – Action; lashing out at those closest, dumping anger on others.

• Bargaining – “Ok God just let me do this…. If I am good/do it right, then I’ll get better? – Action; trying to control everything, looking for a way out.

• Depression – “Why bother, I’m doomed, this is forever” – Action; throwing in the towel; eating food, alcohol etc., that you know cannot be good for you, retreating from the world and other people, feeling hopeless.

• Acceptance – “It’s ok. I’m Ok. I don’t like it but I’m alive” – Action; re-engaging in life, appreciating small things, finding reasons to be grateful, allowing sorrow, finding a way forward.

 

These stages are ‘coping mechanisms’, allowing us to take time to process what has happened. The stages are not necessarily sequential – most of us move in a cycle from one to the other in any order and we may spend longer in a stage than any other, depending on our character traits. So one moment you may be depressed, then bargaining, then angry, then denying again. We may have long periods of acceptance, only for fear to arise again and trap us in anger at our sense of being an unwilling victim. You may notice that you are more reactive than normal – small things upset you out of proportion, you feel panicky and anxious most of the time, needy around people.

However, it is not a good sign when we are stuck in this cycle, it is evidence that we are not processing what has happened and a sign that we are still avoiding reality.

 

2. How it affects relationships.

Unfortunately we may find ourselves caught in the trap of needing others to help us and not feeling we have the right to ask. We fear we will be judged stupid or lazy or not doing it right and so on. If we have always looked after and protected others emotionally it will feel very scary to be looked after. If we have never openly and honestly expressed our feelings, this is a tough challenge indeed! Whatever patterns have been operating in our relationships will be highlighted with a vengeance now, resulting in despair and thoughts such as –

 

• Why isn’t he/she there for me now I need them?

• I can’t tell him/her the truth about how I feel, it will do them in.

• I’m on my own with this.

• If I just pretend a bit longer, it will all work out.

 

It is very common for the spouse or close relative to also go through the stages described above – but that doesn’t help you! Unless you can find a way to talk about it, and get support (both of you) from someone other than each other. At this time it isn’t possible for two grieving people to be there emotionally all of the time for the other. Your partner/spouse/relative/friend will begin to feel overburdened and resentful, because they too are coming to terms with this unexpected and shocking change in you and in their lives.

 

They had an expectation, as did you that you would be growing old together in a particular way and all that has been shattered. They will be afraid too. It is absolutely vital that you find a way to talk about it. Open and honest communication is the only thing that will work. Even in relationships where honesty, openness and acceptance of feelings have been a foundation, there will be rocky times. All change brings up our fear – when we don’t know what is happening to us or what might happen next – it can feel like an earthquake has occurred.

 

3. The spiritual aspect of this illness – why me? Finding a refuge in what has meaning for us, a way to carry on living rather than focusing on fear.

In truth an earthquake has occurred and you will never be the same again. You may recover physically to some degree, but emotionally the rug has been pulled from under you. All your certainties have gone. You thought you knew your body; you thought it was strong, that this kind of thing only happened to other people. This is why your confidence is in shreds. One minute you are going on with your normal life the next minute – wham! Where do we turn and to what do we turn when things like this happen?

 

It feels we have to trust hospitals and doctors to save us and make us better – and they do their best with what they’ve got – but that is limited to the physical, mostly. They cannot mend our confidence; they cannot give us a way of finding meaning in what has happened, only physical explanations. Traditional sources of comfort have all but disappeared. Nowadays few people have faith in the Christian Church (and if they do and can find solace there, that is good) Most of us are lost in a culture that does not value the spiritual (by that I mean belief in a higher power).

 

It’s a tough call to begin to explore what has meaning for you when you are struggling with an illness and trying to cope with disability, relationship difficulty and depression. But find refuge we must if we are to turn this around and find a reason to continue with our life and live it as fully as possible.

 

Most of you will have experienced much relief and solace from simply being able to share with others what you are experiencing. That is a beginning. When we can feel safe and accepted with kindred spirits, that is where we can take refuge, lick our wounds and begin to rebuild our lives.

 

It only when we reach the final stage of the grief process that we can move forward – and there will come a time when you are mostly there – because it’s only through acceptance that you can move forward. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is liberating to let go of wanting something that is not coming back. Hoping and wishing and regretting only causes emotional pain, focusing on ‘should-have-dones’ is pointless.

 

Suggested reading:

Why Me? Why This? Why Now? - Robin Norwood

Who Dies? - Stephen Levine

Conversations with God - Neale Donald Walsch

Close to the Bone: Life Threatening illness

And the Search for Meaning - Jean Shinoda Bolen

 

Suggested (safe) practices for managing feelings:

Counselling – try and choose a Practitioner who can deal with feelings – not all of them can!

Relate is an organisation available for couples to work through problems.

Meditation – excellent technique for calming the mind and lowering blood pressure.

Guided meditations or visualizations – can be as effective as meditation.

(There are many types of meditation, try them out to see which works for you)

 

All of the above. A long way to see all of this. I could have used this along time

ago.

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