Friday, January 24, 2020

Examples of "The Rules of Grief"

I’ve been thinking that I should expand and explain and give examples about the rules of grief.

It seems to me that grief is an evolutionary function that works like vomiting for illnesses.  It serves the purpose of getting rid of toxins so healing can occur.  Number 1 and 2 on my list of hated things to do are throwing up and grieving It is possible to control both with the result that recovery is compromised and relationships are damaged.

For example, The wife of one of my clients was diagnosed with rectal cancer, which is brutal in the treatment and the recovery.  They have four adult children and an elderly dog.  He is a in the insurance business as a salesman and manager. She is a busy housewife and mother.  She had the surgery followed by many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Everything seemed to be going fine.  She was recovering and his practice was thriving.  The kids were all a way at school and the dog brought great comfort and joy.  The problem was that his sinus problems kept getting worse and worse.  Does anybody see any connection?  Let me make a few.

1. They were both scared that she wouldn’t make it.  Loss of certainty
2. They didn’t want to upset each other.  Loss of honesty
3. They really had to depend on each other. Loss of independence
4. They couldn’t’ share their deepest feelings because they had no words. Loss of intimacy
5. They were both disappointed that their lives had been upended in more ways than they could count.  Loss of self esteem
6. They were ashamed of most of these feelings.  Loss of self
7. They both felt utterly helpless, and they were, to make things better.  Loss of power

It took a lot of talking and digging to surface these loses.  It is hard when for a lifetime we are taught to be stoic and never give in.  The hardest part was to help him with the deep shame that he should have these feelings when the stakes were so high, let alone if at all. After several weeks of pushing and prodding he began to make some of these connections on his own.

A major hurdle for my client was to even entertain the idea that, perhaps, just perhaps, his wife might have some of the same feelings and concerns that he had.   To be able to talk to each other about these unusual internal secrets was an act of great courage.  As they were slowly, painfully able to begin talking and sharing with each other, his sinus problem kept getting better and her recovery progressed more evenly. 

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