By Tracy Lee
Special to the Sun
The problem with grief, well actually, there are many, but the one I shall attempt to address today is that not only is grief an assault on your heart, but it is also an assault on your self-esteem. Loss, when it is someone with whom your identity is attached, attacks the very core of who you are. Your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-identity are all suddenly called into question, internally. Suddenly, you don’t know who you are, what your purpose is, or if you can even survive in the new reality of your life. It is an all-out attack on your survival.
We have seen in the past that one person’s death can cause another’s. For instance, consider Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, Carrie Fisher; a case of mother and daughter dying just days apart. Some call this “dying from a broken heart.” In actuality, that assessment is not off-base. The stress of losing someone with whom you have attached all that you are, all that you do, your very soul, and even your purpose in life, brings on such damage physically, that yes, the heart may fail, and life may end.
Fortunately, most survivors will indeed survive the death of a loved one, and most survive with a healthy, albeit painful, grief recovery. There are those, however, between 20 percent and 30 percent who will suffer extreme complications and, if not treated, may within a short period, suffer death themselves.
If you are a mother whose life, above all else, is loving and caring for your children, your self-identity is probably based on being a mom. The loss of even one of your children may be enough to rob you of your self-value and crush your self-esteem. If the loss were brutal, as in murder, or genetically based, your recovery will most likely be riddled with physical and psychological issues. Were you my client, in this type of case, before the funeral even happens, I would suggest counseling. This scenario is more than you should ever bear, especially without help.
If you are a marriage partner, let’s say for 20 years or longer, your primary identity is most likely that of a spouse. The loss of your spouse is the involuntary dissolution of your marriage. In this type of loss, not only has the baseline of your identity been destroyed, you may find yourself in a critical jam financially. Losing your marriage partner could cause the loss of your home, your social standing, your income, and many other things. Widowed partners generally recover without the complications suffered by parents losing a child; however, facing the rest of your life alone is a very daunting reality. Statistically, 20 plus widows out of 100 will need the assistance of a grief counselor.
Your identity is your reason, your focus, and your purpose for living. Once your identity is gone, quite often, your self-value is gone. Each day that your self-value is absent, your self-esteem falls deeper and deeper into hopelessness and self-loathing. You are left with emptiness, fear, anger, sorrow, sadness, loneliness, and a host of other horrible issues battering you to the brink of death. If you do not do something to help yourself, you may not make it out of this pit of devastation.
This point in your existence is where your clergy, church family, and friends try to assist you and your family to recover from your horrifying nightmare. Unfortunately, once you slide into complicated grief or depression, the likelihood of recovery is absent without the assistance of a trained grief specialist or mental health practitioner. Even your medical doctor can only treat the symptoms caused by your grief. His medications will not address the underlying cause of your illnesses, and therefore, they will remain. Once your self-esteem has been stolen from you – you must seek help.
Neither your certified grief counselor, licensed grief psychologist, nor drugs will cure your grief. You must understand that grief will be a part of you as long as your love for the decedent remains in your heart. Your grief specialist will merely seek to direct you to a place where you can manage, and live healthily, within your new reality. Even after your therapy sessions have concluded, grief will revisit you from time to time, especially during significant events such as holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. It will also resurface with certain aromas, locations, music, tokens, and sounds. Grief is unpredictable. It is a relentless beast.
Self-medicating and illegal drugs exacerbate the loss of self-worth and hopelessness. They steal away and destroy your future. Please do not disrespect yourself with them and rob yourself of your potential to recover. Whether you know it or not, you matter. You have wisdom and love to contribute to the lives of those about you.
Merry Christmas, dear readers. Even though you may not know me, you and everyone suffering loss and grief matter to me. It is my life’s quest to assist the bereaved and lighten the burdens of grief. If you are suffering during this holiday season, I implore you to reach out to those around you. Nurturing friendship and diligently seeking the companionship of Christ will be your greatest comforts this season.