Let’s talk about grief

Cathy Brownfield

Someone said to me, “Grief is not something anyone really wants to talk about.” Ah. The topics we really don’t want to talk about rank right up there with banned books which are my favorite reads, always prompting the question, “Why?”

So, let’s talk about grief.

From the time I reached the age of beginning to understand some grown-up things I was told, “Death is as much a part of living as birth.” And, “Life is not fair.”

I was 13 when my grandmother, Emma, passed away at Christmastime. I was told I was her favorite granddaughter. We were close. When she died, I insisted on going to the funeral events. Mom tried to protect my brothers and me from things she didn’t think we could understand. Like death and dying. I did understand. She was my grandmother and I wasn’t ever going to see her again. I went.

My grandmother, Elsie, was ill for some months, nearly a year, with leukemia and dementia. Mom cared for her mother, getting up every two hours through the night to turn Grandma so she would not get bed sores. What I saw was that we could very well lose both of them because all of Mom’s attention was on her mother, not herself.

Age doesn’t exclude anyone from grief. Grief is a natural reaction to loss. It doesn’t apply just to death. It can be anything that upsets your normal world.

You may recognize the name, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She authored On Death and Dying, which was published in 1969. It still is considered an important book today. She explained the stages of grief. Everyone doesn’t experience all of the stages, and they don’t come in any particular order. Grief is an individual thing, each of us experiencing it our own way. We have to take the time we need to work through our losses until we are ready to accept what is and move forward.

Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Cleveland Clinic further breaks down grief to the various kinds: anticipatory, abbreviated, delayed, inhibited, cumulative, and collective.

Anticipatory is when you have not yet experienced the loss, but you know it’s coming. I watched my mother’s declining health, the progression of Alzheimer’s, taking her memories and her life skills from her. She was a gifted, intelligent woman with the most generous heart. I measured her decline by the patterns she crocheted. She sought the most complicated afghan patterns. I cannot tell you the depth of my grief the day she said, “This is the most complicated pattern I have ever worked.” It was the common granny square.

Abbreviated grief is passed quickly because you already have grieved so much. Delayed grief. You have a lot of responsibilities so your grief process is delayed. I didn’t feel that I had time to grieve just then. I had to be strong for my family who also were impacted by the losses.

Inhibited grief is when you may not realize you are grieving, you aren’t sure how to process the situation. Cumulative grief is grieving more than one loss at once. It’s difficult enough when there is one loss. How do you process more than one at a time?

Collective grief involves groups of people affected by major events that impact populations, communities, like pandemics, natural disasters, mass shootings and wars, those things that change what “normal” is, making it very difficult to understand how the future in front of us will be changed. How do we get to the other side of it all?

Grief is something we all experience at some time. We have that in common. We can be kind and supportive of each other because we all understand grief is a natural reaction to loss.

Family Recovery Center has professional staff who are ready to listen when you have no one else to talk to. The goal is for the health and well-being of all. Contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the website at familyrecovery.org. You can find Family Recovery Center at Facebook. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.