When I am not sure of what to blog, I like to Google grief survey, and see if there are any interesting new studies done, or in the process of being completed, on grief. I came across Grief: A Brief Survey, for a student who is collecting research for a paper they are writing. I really like their questions, and want to help them on their assignment. Plus, I think answering questions on my own behalf helps me to undestand my feelings and thoughts better.
Below, are all my responses without me holding anything back:
1.) Are you:
[ ] Married
[ ] Divorced
[ ] Remarried
2.) Are you:
[ ] 0-19
[ ] 31-40
[ ] 41-60
[ ] 61-100
3.) Are you:
[ ] Male
4.) Are you:
[ ] Bisexual
[ ] Homosexual
[ ] Other
5.) What is your ethnicity: Caucasian
6.) Describe any experiences of deep loss or grief that you have experienced during your life.
I’ve lost my paternal grandfather Poppop, paternal grandmother Nanny, and my little sister Jennifer
7.) Has someone close to you ever died?
[ ] No
8.) Was s(he)/were they a:
[ ] Parent
[ ] Child
[X] Best Friend
[ ] Lover
[ ] Caretaker
[X] Other: Sister
9.) Have you ever experienced deep grieving?
[ ] No
If yes, please describe in any words that you would like – brief, or detailed, or poetic, or emotional, etc…what grief has felt like for you? Did you feel anger, or remorse, or sorrow, or rage, or guilt, or acceptance, or numbness, or all of the above and more?
Grief feels like a constant tightness in the chest, numbness, and you feel disconnected from the world around you. It seems like you are in a tunnel, and everything around you is speeding by, and you don’t have the energy to desire to pay attention. You feel so many things all at the same time (anger, sorrow, guilt, abandonment), that you are physically and mentally exhausted
10.) How long has it been since you experienced this loss?
26 months ago
11.) Do you feel that you have gained any acceptance within yourself about your loss, or do you continue to greatly suffer over it?
I think I have gained acceptance about Jen’s passing. But, as my Mom says, there is a different between accepting grief and liking it. I’ve accepted that something terrible has happened. And I’ve accepted that my life will forever be different because of it. I still have bad days where I’m very upset and miss Jen a lot, but I am able to think about her more with a smile, and less with tears.
12. How did this loss/grief change your perspective on life, or change your life in general?
I’ve become more cautious, and worry a lot more. I need to know that everyone is safe, and worry when it takes people longer then estimated to get somewhere. I have also developed this complex that I need to accomplish everything I want to in my life ASAP, because who knows what tomorrow brings. This is a double-edged sword, and not always practical.
13.) What did you feel that you needed, during your time of struggle, from other people?
I wish people were mind readers, and knew that I was upset about Jen. Sometimes, is is hard to tell people that you are sad because you miss someone who is no longer here. I also needed a lot of alone time, but needed distractions at the same time. I didn’t always want to go out and do things, but when the mood struck, I really needed to go out and have some fun. I think my friends and family did an amazing job at that.
14.) Were the people in your life there for you? Did they comfort & console you, or did they bother you by trying to remove your suffering through any means (ie, telling you that everything would be okay, or telling you to “get over it” or “deal with it,” or offering advice that bothered you, or asking you to hide your feelings or not cry in public, etc). Please describe these experiences, both positive & negative, here:
Absolutely, there were people in my life who comforted me. Family, friends, and my boyfriend have been the most amazing support system. They never bothered me or tried to remove my suffering. If anything, they wanted to know more ways to help comfort me. On the other hand, there were people in my life who I thought would be there for me, and who weren’t. I’m very lucky that I had a great support system; some people don’t have that.
15.) When you faced loss, how did your body feel? Your emotions? Your thoughts? Your life overall? Did you obsessively think about certain things?
My body was a mess. I gained a lot of weight because I ate my feelings. I lived by the mentality, “I’m sad. I deserve this cake/brownie/ice cream.” My skin was terrible, and Aunt Flo just would not go away. (I later learned from my doctor that too much stress can cause that). To this day, there are times it literally feels like I have on a very heavy backpack that is pulling down on my shoulders. My emotions were all over the map, and I would be very cranky, and snap at people. I obsessed over so many things, it is hard to count.
16.) Have you had any positive growth or realizations in response to this experience?
I’ve realized that if I can get through this, I can truly get through anything. Also, I feel that I can better connect and help others who have experienced loss, because I remember what helped me (and what didn’t).
17.) Did anyone say anything to you or do anything for you during your time of grief that really helped you? What did they say or do?
All the cards I got from friends and family helped so much. The random Thinking of You cards always came when I needed them most. So many of my sorority sisters have done things that have just blown me away, and their selfless acts of kindness keep my spirits up. People donated their hair, lit candles, made monetary donations, sent flowers, and they always send me pictures of rainbows or sunflowers when they come across them.
18.) Did you experience guilt or “If only I had…” bargaining types of feelings?
Of course. “What if I was a better sister?” “What if I told her more I hated that motorcycle?” “Why Jennifer? Why not me?” But you can’t dwell on these questions or you will make yourself crazy.
19.) How did this affect your spirituality and/or existential views? Did you feel comforted by your views (ie, they are with God now) or disturbed (how could God take my love away from me?) or both or something different? Did your views change as a result of this experience?
Whoa, deep question. I would say I feel both comforted and disturbed. But I constantly remind myself that Jen is in Heaven with Nanny, her Poppops, and God, and is having a fantastic time. I have this image of her teaching all the other children in Heaven baton routines, and doing shows for all the other angels. And whenever I hear a new song that I think she would like, I pray that she can hear it Heaven too. I don’t believe my religious views have shifted after her death.
20.) Did certain people remain by your side, and/or did others abandon you or disappear whom you expected would be there? Did people around you seem awkward with your pain, or try to get rid of your pain, or did they openly listen to you or hold you or simply be present with you lovingly?
People absolutely stayed by my said, and some abandoned me. The people whom I hold closest to my heart are the ones who have been there for me the whole time, whom I would not expect to be. I think that the kindness from strangers and acquaintances means so much. People did not seem awkward around me, and if they were, I didn’t notice it (goes along with feeling like you are in a tunnel). They always listened when I needed to talk, and never felt awkward when I cried.
21.) 19. What book(s) or movie(s) or website(s) would you recommend, if any, as something that really helped you to cope with or understand grief/loss in your life?
I am quite partial to my own blog, because I didn’t find anything else that worked for me. I couldn’t find a book on sibling grief that I liked, and never found a website that really worked for me. I watched a lot of Food Network to zone out during my me time.
22.) If you could offer words of inspiration, or consolation, or wisdom to someone who has just lost someone whom they love dearly, what ideas, or words, or stories, or poems, or anything at all, would you share with them?
I would tell them that is sucks like hell now. And the first year is difficult because every single milestone is the first. The first birthday, the first Christmas, the first full moon. They are all important to someone after a loss. But, if you don’t bottle everything up, and are honest and open with yourself about how you feel, you will find what works best for you, and work your way through grief. It never goes away, and there is no magic cure; it just gets better and easier to bear. My favorite poem about loss is The Dash by Linda Ellis, and a beautiful poem given to me by a friend when her Dad passed away. That one is very personal, and I don’t like to share it with anyone but my family.