Life After Losing a Loved One: Grief
I thought I knew grief. I had met its acquaintance in 1990 and 1991 when I lost two cousins, one from a long-term illness and the other unexpectedly. Then, in 1992 I experienced grief on an intimate level when my brother, Donta, passed at the age of 19. Unfortunately, my relationship with grief continued in fall 1993 when my nephew passed a few months after birth. After my grandfather passed in the spring 1994 my relationship with grief became distant once more, but not for long. It would eventually return when death came to claim an uncle, three close friends, three aunts, and one very close family friend.
Bereavement, or grief due to the passing of a loved one, can lead to immense emotional and physical anguish. Grief takes on many forms. Ralph Ryback, MD shared 5 types of grief in a 2017 article in Psychology Today:
Anticipatory grief occurs before the passing of a loved one.
Traumatic grief occurs when a loved one passes suddenly, unexpectedly, or violently.
Grief pangs are described as short, temporary periods of very intense sorrow and yearning for a loved one who has passed.
Unresolved or complicated grief can resemble Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is described as “lingering pathological or traumatic grief” and often requires professional counseling.
Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder (PCBD) occurs when grief during bereavement induces such great emotional and psychological suffering that it begins to impact an individual’s daily functions.
Some forms of grief, however, are not associated with death. Loss of identity, safety, autonomy, and dreams or expectations are all events that can cause grief (Epstein, 2019, Psychology Today). I have experienced this type of grief as well. I remember when I learned in 2007 that I would not be able to have children how overwhelmed I was with sadness. I felt as though I had lost part of my identity as a woman. I experienced the same feeling again in 2016 when I had to have a hysterectomy because of complications from endometriosis and fibroid tumors.
And, with all my personal and intimate experience with grief, nothing prepared me for the grief I am currently experiencing. On April 8, 2019 my mother, Geraldine, passed away. This has been a different experience with grief. It was anticipatory, but traumatic. I experience grief pangs more frequently than I have with any loss. I have accepted that I must sit in this pain-know grief on this new level. I have accepted that no amount of chocolate, sex, shopping or sleeping will numb the pain. I have accepted that the woman I was prior to my mom’s passing is gone. She will never return.
I am trying my best to adjust to this new normal, but it’s hard. I know I will never fully recover from losing Geraldine. I have accepted that the only way to be whole again is when I close my eyes for eternity where I will once again see her. Only then will my grief truly end.