Orca who carried her dead infant is not alone – many animals grieve

The orca has been seen carrying the dead infant since July

By Michael Marshall

Over the last few weeks, many people have been deeply moved by the story of a female orca who spent over a fortnight swimming with the dead body of her calf, apparently grieving. The story is a dramatic illustration of something that has become increasingly clear in recent years: many animals grieve for their dead.

The orca is called Tahlequah and belongs to a pod known as J, which roams the north-east Pacific Ocean. Her baby died shortly after it was born on 24 July, according to the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Washington.

Tahlequah proceeded to carry the body for at least 17 days, during which time she covered 1600 kilometres. On Saturday 11 August, the Center reported that she was no longer carrying the body. Instead she joined her fellow pod members in chasing a school of salmon, and seemed “remarkably frisky”.

Among certain kinds of animal, such grieving behaviours appear to be quite common.

Living together

Grief seems to be most common in highly social animals that live in tight-knit groups. This makes sense: social animals would come to value their friends and family, and accordingly would feel a loss when they die. In contrast, animals that live solitary lives and do not care for their offspring would have nobody to grieve.

Orcas fit the bill: being a kind of dolphin, they are highly intelligent and live in groups. Indeed, there have been previous instances where orca mothers were seen carrying the bodies of their dead infants. The same is true of many other cetaceans, the group to which orcas belong and which also includes other dolphins and whales. Bottlenose dolphins have been seen lifting the corpses of their fellows above water, as if trying to help them breathe.

There is also growing evidence that African elephants grieve. They pay particular attention to the bones of elephants, compared to bones of other species, and become agitated if they come across an elephant’s corpse.

Perhaps more surprisingly, pig-like animals called peccaries have also been observed seemingly grieving for a dead group member. A 2017 study tracked a herd of peccaries after one of their number died and found that they visited her body repeatedly, generally either alone or in pairs. The peccaries sometimes simply stood nearby, and at other times they nuzzled the body, tried to pick it up and even slept next to it.

Monkeys like us

Some of the most extensive evidence for animal grief comes from primates like monkeys and apes: our closest living relatives.

In one remarkable incident, a female snub-nosed monkey fell from a tree and cracked her head on a rock. Her partner, the alpha male of the group, sat with her and gently touched her. After she died he spent a further five minutes with her, pulling gently at her hand as if trying to revive her, before leaving. His behaviour suggests that he understood something of the finality of death.

Chimpanzees have been seen carrying the corpses of dead infants, often for weeks. In one instance, a captive chimp called Pansy died, after which her fellow troupe members first cleaned her corpse, and then avoided the place where it lay. This behaviour resembles a funeral ritual.

Grieving does not seem to be universal among primates, but this may have to do with the environments in which they live. In hot and wet regions, corpses decay and become unpleasant very quickly, forcing the animals to abandon them. In contrast, monkeys called geladas live in cold places where decay is slow, and have been observed carrying corpses for up to 48 days.

And animal grief can take surprising turns. In some instances, apes have stopped carrying the corpses of dead infants – and eaten them instead. Such cannibalism seems to be moderately common in chimpanzees, but rare in bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans.

Complete Article HERE!

6 Ways to Help Someone Who Lost a Loved One to Suicide

Family members and close friends of someone who dies by suicide are at increased risk of suicide themselves. Here’s how you can help.

By Sarah Klein

There’s a common estimate that every suicide leaves behind six survivors who are the most affected by the death. Not to be confused with suicide attempt survivors, who have taken action toward ending their own lives, suicide survivors or suicide loss survivors are friends or family members of someone who died by suicide.

Suicide loss survivors are themselves at an increased risk of mental health conditions and suicide in the future. One study found that people who knew someone who died by suicide in the previous year were 1.6 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, 2.9 times more likely to make a suicide plan, and 3.7 times more likely to make a suicide attempt than people who did not know someone who died by suicide.

Family members may be genetically predisposed to suicide, while friends and peers may be influenced by the behavior of a person who died by suicide—or distraught by the “emotional destruction suicide leaves in its wake,” says John R. Jordan, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and the author of several books and articles on bereavement after suicide.

To address this increased risk, experts in the field of suicide practice something called suicide postvention. “[Clinical psychologist] Edwin Shneidman coined the term to mean what we do after a suicide has happened to help people who are loss survivors and help reduce their risk of suicide,” Jordan says.

Postvention tactics can include professional measures, like therapy sessions or meetings with a support group. But help can also come from family and friends. If you know someone who is a recent survivor of suicide loss, here are expert-recommended ways you can help.

Be present

“Even though this is changing, suicide is still a very stigmatized death,” Jordan says. “Losing someone to suicide can be tremendously isolating. Many people either don’t know anybody or don’t know they know somebody” who was close to someone who died by suicide, he says. Help break down those isolating walls by being there for your friend or family member

Kim Ruocco’s husband died by suicide in 2005. A Marine Corps pilot, he came back from what she describes as a “pretty difficult deployment” in Iraq with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Their sons were 8 and 10 at the time.

Ruocco, who has a master’s degree in social work and is now the vice president of suicide postvention and prevention at the Tragedy Assistant Program for Survivors, says she took comfort in people simply being by her side. “The people who were most helpful to me could be in my presence and tolerate my pain and didn’t have to say anything,” she says. “There are no right words really, but it was really comforting to have someone who can be with you with that much pain.”

Deflect feelings of blame

Grief is never easy, but grief in the wake of suicide can be particularly complicated, says Mara Pheister, MD, an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who has researched suicide prevention and postvention. “There’s the sense that it is a little different than the grief involved in losing someone in general. There can be a lot of guilt, a lot of what if,” she says.

Because a suicide loss survivor may already be blaming themselves for not doing something differently, comments like, “How could you not have known?” or “Why didn’t you stop him?” are particularly unhelpful, Dr. Pheister says. “That’s not something that needs to be said.”

Other survivors may be working through feelings of blame surrounding what turned out to be their final interaction or conversation with the person who died, Ruocco adds. “Help them understand that suicide is a multi-factor event that comes together on a kind of ‘perfect storm’ day,” she says, and encourage them to try to let go of that kind of guilt.

Let them dictate how much detail to share

Although it can be uncomfortable and scary to talk about suicide, avoiding the topic altogether might make a suicide survivor feel like you’re pretending nothing happened. Don’t shy away from talking about suicide—but don’t pry for details, either. Listen to how the survivor is talking about it and take cues from them. “Be there for them if they want to talk about it,” Dr. Pheister says. “It depends on what the person feels like bringing up themselves, what they’re okay talking about.”

That includes how you talk about the person’s death, Ruocco says. “Everyone is different in what kinds of words they want to use in connection with their loved one’s death,” she says. “Listen carefully to how the survivors are talking about the death and use those words.”

When in doubt, ask for guidance. Say something like: “I can only try to imagine what this is like for you. Would it be helpful for you to talk to me, or would you rather not talk about it?” Jordan says. However they respond, treat the person with compassion, as you would anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one, he says.

Celebrate the life the person lived

Put aside your curiosity about how the person died and instead share stories of how they lived. Funny stories of her husband or memories she may not have heard before were most comforting, Ruocco says.

“Use their loved one’s name, remember who they were before they struggled with whatever their issues were, acknowledge that the death doesn’t define them,” Ruocco says. “Talking about the life they lived is incredibly helpful.”

Reassure the survivor their feelings are normal

Alongside the guilt that a survivor might be feeling, there could also be sadness, self-doubt, anger, helplessness, and a wide range of other totally normal reactions, Dr. Pheister says. “Depending on how much the person [who died by suicide] was struggling, the survivor might [also] feel relief, which then induces more guilt,” she says. You can help by reinforcing that these and many other emotions are all well within the range of normal reactions to suicide loss. For example, help them “recognize that relief is the natural response to the removal of stress,” Dr. Pheister says.

Talking about how a person is feeling—and that it’s okay to feel that way—might help stave off some self-judgment and self-doubt, Dr. Pheister says.

Help them embrace their grief

Survivors often expect to grieve for a set period of time and then get over it, Ruocco says, which isn’t always the case. “Grief and loss become a part of who you are; people grieve their entire lives,” she says.

With time, grief can certainly become less painful—but it may still linger, she says. She counsels survivors to think of it in a somewhat more positive light. “Grief is love. You grieve because you loved someone. See it as a connection with a loved one.”

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Complete Article HERE!

Grief Massage Therapy Sessions Help Clients Cope

Grief might live in the heart, but it affects the body, too, contributing to pain and tightness.

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Massage therapists Leslie Freeman and Annie Murphy created Bereavement Massage Therapy to help clients who were going through the grieving process.

“As we thought about ourselves and our past clients who had suffered losses, and shared their experiences with us, we remembered the stiffness of muscles, holding patterns in joints, their feelings of being at loose ends, a lack of grounding and vitality,” Freeman explained.

Freeman practices the technique at her Sarasota, Florida, office.

 

This type of session is part of a growing trend that recognizes massage therapy as an effective means of addressing stress and sadness, and helping clients find peace on the other side of the session.

Massage Consoles

Research reported in Science Daily found that receiving massage therapy for eight weeks after a loved one’s death helped them cope.

“Eighteen people, aged from 34-78, who had lost a relative to cancer took part in the study. They all said the massages provided consolation, helping them to balance the need to grieve and the need to adapt to life after the loss of their relative,” the article noted.

According to Freeman, Bereavement Massage Therapy is a distinct method that combines various modalities to address grief, and is not to be confused with end-of-life massage therapy.

Where the intent of end-of-life massage is to ease the transition of the dying from one realm to another, Bereavement Massage Therapy focuses on reconnecting the grieving client to their body.

To do this, the technique uses flat-hand vibration, gentle rocking and comfort holds to loosen and calm disconnected areas. Bereavement Massage Therapy also incorporates such techniques as reflexology, polarity, Swedish massage and craniosacral techniques.

“When a loved one dies, it’s like you crash and you have all these pieces,” said client Mirta LeCuona. “You don’t have an integrated body. With [Bereavement Massage Therapy], it’s like you start to put your body together. It’s like a wave around you that puts you back together.”

Freeman stresses that Bereavement Massage Therapy does not eliminate the grieving process or fix all pain issues. “Grief is a journey that each person has to take in their own time,” she explained.

Nor is it intended to fix pain issues, although pain relief can be a side effect as the client’s muscles relax.

Instead, Bereavement Massage Therapy is used to give the client a sense of balance during a time of upheaval. People who have received sessions report a sense of feeling lighter as a result.

“Afterward, I felt very calm and at ease, as if a weight had been lifted off of me,” said client Deb Fillion.

Before the session, the intake is key. “Our intake form is a little bit different than the average intake form that asks clients about injuries or illnesses or medications taken and that sort of thing,” said Freeman.

“We ask about appetite, sleep patterns, anything that the client wishes to tell us. We want to get an idea of what’s going on with them during the illness or loss and afterward.”

Putting the Pieces Back Together

It was while working with hospice patients that Freeman, who has a background as a certified nursing assistant, felt inspired to create Bereavement Massage Therapy.

She found the experience of working with the terminally ill extremely rewarding, but acknowledged that her deep inner reservoir of empathy presented an obstacle for that type of work. With 17 years of massage experience, and the hunch that her empathic energy was leading her elsewhere, she decided to meditate on a path forward. As she sifted through her memories of loss and its physical effects, she received a message.

“I clearly heard these words, ‘Work with those who are left behind. You were,’” she recalled. “And I had this vision of putting humpty dumpty back together again.”

With this vision in mind, Freeman sought out a collaborator. She approached Murphy, telling her, “‘I want to tell you about this idea I have and I’m looking for someone to help me put it together. So take your time thinking about it.’ And she took about three minutes and said ‘I’ll take this journey with you.’”

Consistency

Bereavement Massage Therapy uses a combination of established massage modalities—reflexology, hand-and-foot massage, Trager work, craniosacral techniques, polarity and more—to create groundedness, lightness of being and balance.

Using the same sequence of these modalities for each of the three sessions is a key component of Bereavement Massage Therapy.

“Usually, with massage therapy, pretty much every session is different,” Freeman said. “One time it might be to fix a shoulder, the next time it might be to just de-stress.

“Doing something in the same sequence, in the same way, was very different for me, but it gives a comfort zone for the person who’s already torn apart emotionally. They know what to expect and they find solace in routine,” she added.

Freeman also takes the client’s breathing into account.

“It’s easy to hold your breath for a long period of time when you’re anxious, or to breathe too fast,” Freeman said. “So we work the lung areas [via reflexology] on the feet and the hands, and the heart areas too, to bring those areas back into balance.”

Communication without Counseling

By venturing to help clients in such a tender emotional state, there is a danger of crossing the boundary between massage therapy and talk therapy. Freeman clarified that Bereavement Massage Therapy is not counseling.

“There is very little talking by the therapist in a Bereavement Massage Therapy session. It’s only to ensure that the client is comfortable,” she said.

Clients are always welcome to speak during a session, but clients who expect counseling should contact their care providers, such as hospice, a family physician, clergy, funeral director, or veterinarian, in the case of pet loss; or to find licensed mental health care providers or local support groups.

Freeman keeps business cards on hand to easily refer clients to mental health professionals.

Touch for the Spirit

LeCuona had just taken possession of her late husband’s ashes and was about to go into a Bereavement Massage Session.

“I thought to myself, ‘Where do I put [the] ashes?’ This was the first time I was in custody of him, leaving the car. I called Leslie and I said ‘Leslie, I have a problem.’ I asked, ‘If you don’t mind, can I take the ashes of my husband into the room?’

“She said ‘Of course.’ That means it was not only me, it was my husband. Leslie allowed me to do this. It was very important.”

LeCuona sums the experience up nicely. “[Bereavement Massage Therapy] is very emotional. You have to be very centered to do this. This type of massage is not for your body. It’s for your spirit … for me, I felt I was saved. It was my shelter.”

Freeman said nurturing touch is up there with life’s necessities.

“People have needs,” she said. “We need water, oxygen, food. And we need human touch.”

Complete Article HERE!

A mother grieves: Orca whale continues to carry her dead calf into a second day

“It reflects the very strong bonds these animals have, and as a parent, you can only imagine what kinds of emotional stress these animals must be under, having these events happen,” says one researcher.

Biologists say orcas mourn the loss of newborns as any family would. On Wednesday, J35 was still carrying her dead calf for the second day straight. In 2010, L20, photographed in Haro Strait, did the same thing with her dead newborn in a behavior biologists say is a common expression of grief.

By

For two days she has grieved, carrying her dead calf on her head, unwilling to let it go.

J35, a member of the critically endangered southern resident family of orcas, gave birth to her calf Tuesday only to watch it die within half an hour.

All day, and through the night, she carried the calf. She was seen still carrying the calf on Wednesday by Ken Balcomb, founder and principal investigator of the Center for Whale Research.

“It is unbelievably sad,” said Brad Hanson, wildlife biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, who has witnessed other mother orcas do the same thing with calves that did not survive.

Robin Baird, research biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, in 2010 watched L72, another of the southern residents, carry her dead newborn in 2010.

“It reflects the very strong bonds these animals have, and as a parent, you can only imagine what kinds of emotional stress these animals must be under, having these events happen,” Baird said.

“You could see the calf had not been dead very long, the umbilical cord was visible. When we were watching, all the rest of the whales were separated by a distance, and they were just moving very slowly. She would drop the calf every once in a while, and go back and retrieve it.”

J35 is doing the same thing, carrying her calf by balancing it on her rostrum, just over her nose. She dives to pick it back up every time it slides off.

Scientists have documented grieving behavior in other animals with close social bonds in small, tightly knit groups, observed carrying newborns that did not survive.

Seven species in seven geographic regions covering three oceans have been documented carrying the body of their deceased young, including Risso’s dolphin in the Indian Ocean; the Indo-Pacific bottle-nosed dolphin and the spinner dolphin in the Red Sea; and pilot whales in the North Atlantic.

In one instance, a researcher attached a rope to the carcass of a bottlenose dolphin and towed it to shore and buried it — with the mother following, touching the carcass until she could no longer follow into water too shallow to swim in. There she remained, watching.

Some carried their young in their mouths, some on their backs.

Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca, also watched L72 carry her dead calf, following her at a distance in her research boat until the light faded and it was too dark to see.

“Same thing, it was hours and hours,” she said of that whale. “But I have never heard of this,” she said of J35. “More than 24 hours.

“It is horrible. This is an animal that is a sentient being. It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest of its family members. She carried the calf in her womb from 17 to 18 months, she is bonded to it and she doesn’t want to let it go. It is that simple. She is grieving.”

The news of the grieving mother came even as researchers are also tracking a 4-year-old in the endangered orca clan that is emaciated. Hanson photographed J50 on Saturday and documented the classic “peanut head” — a misshapen head due to loss of body fat. Her survival is in doubt.

The southern residents face at least three known challenges to their survival as a species: toxins, vessel traffic and lack of adequate food, particularly chinook salmon. When they are hungry, it makes their other problems worse, research has shown.

Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed a task force on orca whale recovery.

Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for Inslee, said the task force is looking at a range of solutions, both short and long term.

“The loss of this calf is a sobering reminder of what’s at stake,” Smith said. “And it’s why we’ve convened partners who we believe can and will be best able to identify what we need to do in the upcoming weeks, months and years to save these animals.”

For researchers who work closely with the southern residents, their continued decline is painfully apparent.

“I am on the water collecting poop from animals that are not getting enough to eat,” Giles said. “ I don’t know if people understand the magnitude of what we are talking about here. We don’t have five years to wait, we really don’t.”

She said other members of the whale’s family knew J35 was pregnant, because of their echolocation ability, which they use to find food.

“So they must be grieving, too.”

Complete Article HERE!

20 physical, behavioural and emotional symptoms of grief and bereavement and how to overcome them

It’s a different road for everyone, but these suggestions could help…

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The death of a loved one is one of the hardest things an individual can go through, and there’s no set formula for how their grief will manifest itself.

Bereavement affects everyone differently, and at times it can leave you feeling bereft, alone, hopeless or angry.

The Coping with Bereavement guide from older people’s charity Independent Age reminds us that: “There’s no one way of grieving – everyone deals with bereavement differently. There’s no expected way you should be feeling or set time it will take for you to feel more like yourself again.”

And it’s not just our emotions that are in disarray after the death of a loved one, our bodies feel it, too. Like any other form of emotional stress, the body has a physical reaction which can further add to the sufferer’s distress.

With guidance from the team at Independent Age, here are the physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms of grief. It can be reassuring to know that what you are experiencing is normal, and that the symptoms of grief can be far-ranging. However, if you are worried about anything you are thinking or feeling, including physical symptoms, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP.

Physical symptoms of grief

People are often less aware of these, but grief can affect your body just as much as it can affect your emotions. This is related to the stress of the situation. Everyone is affected differently, but you might experience:

  • Exhaustion.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Aches and pains, such as chest pain and headaches.
  • Shaking and increased heart rate.
  • Feeling sick.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Oversensitivity to noise and light.
  • Skin problems and sensitivity.
  • Lower resistance to illness in general.
  • Panic attacks.

Emotional feelings of grief

Your feelings can be chaotic after a death and this can be overwhelming and sometimes frightening. However, this is usually normal and intense feelings tend to ease over time. Emotional symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety – including worries about your own mortality.
  • Relief – for example if someone died after a long illness.
  • Irritability – although family can be a source of support when you’re grieving, family quarrels are not uncommon after a death.
  • Feelings of detachment – these are particularly common in the period just after the death. You might feel detached from your life, but these feelings usually fade over time.
  • Depression and loneliness.
  • Troubling thoughts.

Behavioural impact of grief

Bereavement can also affect your behaviour. Again, you might expect some of these effects, such as being very tearful, but not others. You might experience:

  • Restlessness or hyperactivity – this can be a coping mechanism.
  • Inability to concentrate – you might be preoccupied with the death and go over and over what happened.
  • Disturbed sleep or nightmares – nightmares and flashbacks can be more common if someone has died through suicide or other traumatic death.
  • Loss of appetite or comfort eating – which can of course also cause physical changes to your weight.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP EASE GRIEF?

The Independent Age guide explains that it’s really important to be kind to yourself and do things that help you. This doesn’t mean ignoring your grief – allow yourself to feel sad and give yourself time to grieve and remember the person in your own way.

Allow yourself to also grieve for any secondary losses you may experience after a death, for example, having to move out of the family home or no longer having to maintain a role such as mother, wife, career etc.

1. Talk about it

Talking to others about the person who has died, your memories of them, and how you’re feeling can be very helpful. You might want to talk to:

  • Other people who knew the person you have lost
  • A GP
  • Counsellor – more info here
  • Helpline adviser – more info here
  • New research from Independent Age has revealed that almost half (44%) of the sandwich generation (40-64 year olds) do not feel comfortable talking to their parents about death. However, according to the older generation surveyed (over 65s), 58% think it’s important to open up about death. Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age says:

    “It’s understandable that many people struggle to talk about death and final wishes. As a nation, we need to start embracing these conversations and promote a positive change in how we perceive and talk about this subject. We don’t expect this to change overnight, but it’s time to take action, be brave and talk about death.”

2. Books that might help

Many people find it consoling to read about other people’s experiences of grief. This can help us to process our grief and feel less alone in our experience. This could be particularly valuable in the early days after a death, when you might not feel ready to talk to others.

You can try:

1. Cruse Bereavement Care – Recommended reading list
2. The Compassionate Friends – Recommended reading list. The Compassionate Friends also operates a postal lending library.
3. Your local library
4. Your GP may also be able to recommend self-help resources.
5. Overcoming Grief, part of the Overcoming self-help series, endorsed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

3. Take practical steps

It’s easy to stop caring for yourself when you’re grieving, but a few simple things can help to make this period easier:

  • Try to get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat healthily.
  • Be kind to yourself and don’t put pressure on yourself to feel better too quickly.
  • Avoid numbing the pain too much with things like alcohol, which won’t help you in the long run.
  • Try to keep to a routine – it might feel easier to stop doing things and seeing people, but in the long run this can make you feel worse.
  • Try returning to activities you enjoyed before you were bereaved such as going for a walk, listening to music or swimming.
  • Find small things that help you feel better, like buying yourself flowers.

Complete Article HERE!

Grief Resolution

By Tracy Lee

I live in a world filled with grief. My work dictates that I see it every day.

Grief is not universally the same for everyone. Professionally, I have observed that it is uniquely coded into a survivor’s collective history. It is personal with recovery predicated upon one’s abilities, strategies, and skills.

Although some would have you believe it is depression, ADHD, PTSD, a personality disorder, or some other pathological condition, it is not. It is a normal and natural reaction, albeit painful, to significant loss. It carries emotional, physical, and psychological consequences through interference into one’s comfort and health by reducing abilities to concentrate, sleep, and eat. It decreases one’s tolerance levels and coping skills and evokes fear in a multitude of facets. It imposes loneliness, creates insecurity, causes significant and immediate lifestyle changes, and at times catapults one into dire straits. In short, grief is a foe whose significance is based on the survivor’s reliance, depth of love, and/or responsibilities toward the deceased. It is the ultimate adversary to harmonious living. Additionally, one should not treat grief as a pathological condition through self-medicating or prescription drugs as these will only mask the pain, inviting illness to set in and disease to take hold.

Lack of resolution carries extreme consequences. If a survivor has compromised health or engages in a prescribed medical treatment for illness or disease, he/she would be well advised to avoid interference in their regime. A study of widowed persons found that the overall death rate for the surviving spouse doubled in the first week following the loss. Additionally, heart attacks more than doubled for male survivors and more than tripled for female survivors. Overall, surviving spouses were 93 percent more likely to get into fatal auto accidents and their suicide rate increased by 242 percent. (Mortality after Bereavement: A Prospective Study of 95,647 Widowed Persons, American Journal of Public Health 1987)

According to the US Census Bureau (USCB), 13 million survivors enter grief annually. Many of them suffer the pain of grief for 10 to 40 years. If grief-stricken survivors stack up over an average of 25 years, the number increases to 260 million suffering within the US borders. That is 80 percent of America’s population. “Thousands of mental health professionals report that although their clients come to them with other presenting issues, almost all of them have unresolved grief as their underlying problem.” (The Grief Recovery Method, Guide for Loss)

Unfortunately, many confuse Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ study, a.k.a. “Kubler-Ross Model” on death and dying as the “Recovery Road Map” for survivors. The confusion lies in that her study concentrated on the stages of grief suffered by dying persons. She does not apply her findings to the survivor’s experience of recovery. In the blink of an eye, the survivor is faced with a very different scenario of life. He/she must instantly face the financial, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual realities and adjustments of survival after loss. The senseless association of the Kubler-Ross Model as grief recovery by universities and media has led to misinformation and confusion for those suffering grief.

To recover from grief, one must travel through it; not dance around it. We need smaller experiences of loss through earlier years from which to draw. The loss of a favorite toy, the death of a pet, or relocating and making new friends all serve as foundational experiences to prepare us for the ultimate loss of our loved ones. Unfortunately, society has robbed us of many of these foundational losses and recovery experiences. Many have never learned good sportsmanship by experiencing the disappointments of defeat while playing ball against their schoolmates as children. Others have never had to overcome relationship disappointments, as their friends are virtual rather than actual. The point is that our society is ill-prepared for the pain associated with loss. We live in a pseudo-reality filled with desensitizing scenarios of death. At some juncture, however, reality comes our way. One day, we will look at our electronics and feel-good scenarios and realize that whether we are prepared for it or not, we will participate in life based on the terms set forth by eternal laws of truth. That is the day that you will receive an unwelcome wake-up call into the pitfalls of adult realities, responsibilities, and crushing grief.

Do yourself a favor. Put down the electronics, the virtual realities, and the hyped up desensitizing entertainment programs sensationalizing violence and mass death. Doing so will allow you to experience life as it should be, with real joy, real fulfillment, and the ability to achieve meaningful recovery.

Complete Article HERE!

Why is anticipatory grief so powerful?

by

Although everyone experiences anticipatory grief—a feeling of loss before a death or dreaded event occurs—some have never heard of the term. I didn’t understand the power of anticipatory grief until I became my mother’s family caregiver. My mother suffered a series of mini strokes and, according to her physician, they equaled Alzheimer’s disease. I cared for my mother for nine years and felt like she was dying right before my eyes.

To help myself, I began to study anticipatory grief. While I cared for my mother I wrote a book on the topic. Writing a book parallel to my mother’s life was an unusual experience. Later, Dr. Lois Krahn, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist, helped me with the final version. Our book, Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, was published in 2005.

Writing the book made me aware of the power of anticipatory grief and I went on AG alert. I had severe anticipatory grief when my husband’s aorta dissected in 2013. My husband was literally bleeding to death. Surgeons operated on him three times in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding. Every time he went to surgery I thought it would be the last time I would see him.
My grief was so intense I began to plan his memorial service.

Although you realize you’re experiencing anticipatory grief, you may not understand its power. Here are some of the sources of that power.

Your thoughts jump around. You think about the past, the present, and a future without your loved one. These conflicting thoughts can make you worry about yourself. Friends may notice your distraction and think you have some sort of psychological problem. You don’t have a problem; you are grieving.

Every day is a day of uncompleted loss. If you are a long-term caregiver as I was, you wonder if your grief will ever end. Worse, you may wonder if you will survive such intense feelings. You may start to feel like anticipatory grief is tearing you apart.

The time factor can grind you down. Since you don’t know when the end will come, you are on constant alert. Friends may not understand your feelings and wonder why you’re grieving if nobody has died. Explaining your feelings to others is hard because you can hardly track them yourself.

Suspense and fear are part of your life. Because you fear others won’t understand, you keep your feelings to yourself. Grief experts call this “stuffing feelings” and you may feel stuffed with worry, insecurity, and sadness. Uncertainty seems to rule your life.

Anticipatory grief can become complex. Grief expert Therese A. Rando, PhD, author of the article, “Anticipatory Grief: The Term is a Misnomer but the Phenomenon Exists,” says anticipatory grief imposes limits on your life. That’s bad enough, but as time passes, your anticipatory grief keeps expanding. “I’m tired of waiting for my mother to die,” a friend of mine admitted. I understood her feelings.

There is a shock factor. Edward Myers, in his book When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults, says anticipatory grief doesn’t have the shock of sudden death, yet it exacts a terrible toll. As he writes, “If sudden death hits like an explosion, knocking you flat, then a slow decline arrives like a glacier, massive, unstoppable, grinding you down.”

Lack of an endpoint. Although you may think you know when your loved one’s life will come to a close, you aren’t really sure. Waiting for the end can put your life on hold, sap your strength, and prolong anticipatory grief.

You feel sorrow and hope at the same time. Hope may be the most unique aspect of anticipatory grief. While you’re grieving you hope a new drug will be invented, new surgery will be developed, or your loved one will experience a miraculous turn-around. Hope can keep you going.

Understanding anticipatory grief can keep you going too. Joining The Caregiver Space Facebook groups can be a source of support and hope. Remember, you are not alone. You are in the company of thousands of other caregivers, and we can help each other.

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