Grief and a heavy sense of loss - what to do?

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
I'm feeling a deep sense of loss at the moment.

I think this is partly (mainly?) related to grief around my mum dying nearly two years ago. I wrote a bit about it here at the time: Death - My mum died last night.

It was completely out of the blue. She had felt a bit under the weather for a few days (though I didn't know that at the time) and then one evening got up from watching TV, popped to the bathroom, suffered a massive heart attack in there and died instantly. It was so sudden. Shocking. Devastating.

I talked a lot with my therapist at the time...mainly the facts of what had happened and then the experience of dealing with my family (my dad, in particular) in the aftermath.

I don't talk about my Mum. I don't even think about her on my own for long because it's too painful so I stop.

Every now and then, my therapist will mention her or will bring up that we haven't properly talked about it....about the emotional impact on me of her dying, especially because the way it happened was so shocking and sudden. I just tell her that I don't want to talk about it.

I have been missing my Mum a lot over the past few months. Also probably stirred up because it would have been her birthday last week, which felt hard.

There are also some other things:

– I recently had a rupture with my T. I felt angry and upset with her. Then we had a good conversation about what had happened and the anger disappeared. And, instead, I felt sad. Like I had lost something. Couldn't quite put my finger on the feeling or why I was feeling it...but it was something about loss, I think...

– I had Coronavirus more than two months ago. I don't actively have the virus now and have improved since the start. But I am still not fully recovered, still struggling to completely clear up subsequent lung infections, still feeling massively fatigued etc. I'm self-employed and decided to cancel all my client work this week to just try to properly rest. So, I guess loss of health, loss of energy, feeling physically vulnerable, impact on my business etc are also key at the moment.

– I guess Coronavirus/lockdown has also brought losses for all of us in some way, whether that's financial, business, lifestyle etc.

– My dad isn't a particularly compassionate, expressive or emotionally intelligent person. He seems to be missing the empathy chip! I don't doubt that he cares about me. But he is no good at providing emotional support. He never has been. But Mum was, so it didn't really matter. I think my current poor health has really shone a light on my dad's short-comings. At a time when – even before I caught Covid – I was already aware that I was really missing my mum at the moment. So, in shining a spotlight on how my dad doesn't really do 'overt care' I suppose the current situation has also shone a light on the loss of my mum. I keep getting upset with him and his silence thinking, 'Mum would have sent a card' and 'Mum would have kept in touch' and 'Mum would have said soothing things' It's not like I expect Dad to do those things. It's not even that I want him to start doing them. It's not that him sending a card would have then felt ok. I'm realising today that it's probably about realising how much I miss my mum at the moment. It's not really about him. It's about her. (Though he could also do a lot better!)

– We had a suspected terrorist attack here in the UK at the weekend. It was at a place I know very well – I lived there for years and it is still somewhere I go quite a lot for work and socialising (pre-lockdown!) Three people were killed. They were all gay. I knew one of them pretty well – I only discovered that he was dead when his photo came on the evening news a couple of days ago. I am shocked and heartbroken. My town, my community (my local LGBT) and my friend.

So...yeah...a lot of loss at the moment. And that feeling is heavy, heavy, heavy. It feels too heavy to keeping holding. But I don't know where to put it to lighten the load?

I don't even know what I'm posting for/what I'm asking here really...just, I suppose, what do you do with grief...with such a heavy and deep sense of loss...what does 'processing' it really mean or look like (perhaps in relation to therapy)? How do I lighten this load? I feel so tired and so sad.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I'm so sorry barefoot. Sorry about your mum. Sorry you were unwell with covid. Sorry about your most recent loss in your friend at the weekend. I too have seen the photos. It's such a sad and awful thing to happen.

You are dealing with so much loss. It's no wondering you are fully feeling it.

Sending hugs if you accept them.

My partner lost both her parents during this pandemic. When we were with her mum in her last moments, the chaplain said something that has stuck with me. "these hard last few days are not her whole life. She has lived many lives, felt many things, and this is part of all of that". Something like that. It gave me comfort because it was so intense watching her pass away and gave is comfort to remember a whole life lived (even though a lot of that life was very very complicated, there was happiness amongst all the rest).
Don't know if that helps you.
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
I sort of want to email something about this to my T:

So, in shining a spotlight on how my dad doesn't really do 'overt care' I suppose the current situation has also shone a light on the loss of my mum. I keep getting upset with him and his silence thinking, 'Mum would have sent a card' and 'Mum would have kept in touch' and 'Mum would have said soothing things' It's not like I expect Dad to do those things. It's not even that I want him to start doing them. It's not that him sending a card would have then felt ok. I'm realising today that it's probably about realising how much I miss my mum at the moment. It's not really about him. It's about her.

Because we have been talking about my Dad and how he isn't being very caring/sensitive at the moment... When I called him at the weekend he didn't even mention the terrorist attack in my town and when I mentioned it and asked if he'd seen the news he said he had but was then just quite 'oh well...could happen anywhere' about it...

But it feels pointless to keep moaning about him and how useless he is about this stuff and how his silence has always been something I struggled with even when I was a kid and he'd go for days ignoring us all and we didn't know why... But what's the point in me keep saying that he hasn't been in touch/he has said something insensitive etc?

The thing is if I email this to my T I feel very strongly that I would want to finish the email with 'Just putting this out there and letting you know...but I don't want to talk about my Mum.'
So, that makes sending it rather pointless anyway, doesn't it? 'I'm telling you this....but I don't want to talk about it!'
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
I'm very sorry, @barefoot. In 2008 I lost 12 family members and friends. I mostly just glided through that year and didn't much deal with any of it.

what do you do with grief...with such a heavy and deep sense of loss...what does 'processing' it really mean or look like (perhaps in relation to therapy)? How do I lighten this load? I feel so tired and so sad.

I lost my 17 yo cat last week. Both of my cats are family. Parts of some days are ok, but I break down a lot...and I feel very tired and very sad/depressed.

One thing that helps me is this idea of memorialization. Doing something to lift her up to the universe, to make sure she and everyone else knows how much she was/is loved. That can be as simple as her photo around or doing something in her memory - planting a tree, donating to a favorite/relevant charity, writing a poem about her. I allow myself whatever feelings of grief come up. I recognize them for what they are and allow them to pass in their own time. I also journal, although that has been something I haven't quite been able to do yet.

Grief with immediate loss often does bring up the unfinished grief of other losses. I think recognizing it and honoring the loss in whatever way you can is immensely helpful.
 
My view is that you should send that email & it's fine to add that you don't want to discuss your mother.

Sometimes T isn't about finding specific answers to things. The work is much more nuanced than that?

Sometimes, it's just about unloading a whole lot of 'why is it so...' Or, this is my experience, opinion Or, I'm so struggling with this right now... Unload it. Discuss & leave it. Perhaps we'll return to it but perhaps not. It doesn't matter so long as we express it for now because it sounds, to me, like that's simply what you need to do.

I also think that Covid has struck at your mortality. Perhaps more than you completely realise for now. When we are sick & feeling vulnerable we may look for comfortable, loving things & people to help soothe ourselves. To some extent that was your mother?

It hurts to want & miss her? When you do the grief is too big to handle all over again? There is no comparison to her brand of care and love and the loss you feel is very real.

Your father sounds very stoic and impenetrable. Just like mine was. It seems that your mother was very strong, probably the stronger of the pair?

I'm so sorry - I really hope you can discuss your dad with T & get a handle on why he cannot cope with emotional stuff so he shuts it down.

Loss & grief are such profound features of life. We don't give them much thought until they visit us & then surprisingly we learn that they're with us forever one way or another now.

Get well @barefoot - one day at a time right?
 

Changing4Best

MyPTSD Pro
So sorry about all your losses. :-(

I miss my mom and dad too. I put photos of them up all around my home. I had saved some cards mom had sent me, so I keep those handy too.

Maybe something your mum gave you or that was hers and you inherited might help?
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks for your kind words @Movingforward10 And I'm sorry for the loss of your in-laws too. I can imagine losing both so close together – and during lockdown too – has been very hard for you and your partner.

In 2008 I lost 12 family members and friends. I mostly just glided through that year and didn't much deal with any of it.

So sorry to hear – 12 people in so short a time is heartbreaking.
I don't think I've been 'dealing with' my mum dying. But, to be honest, I don't even really know what that means? What would I be doing if I was dealing with it or processeing it or whatever?

Thinking maybe it includes this:

I allow myself whatever feelings of grief come up.

Hmm...

I lost my 17 yo cat last week

Yes, I was very sad to read this in your other thread. Our animals are very much part of our families and can be our best friends too. I know I will be devastated when I lose my two. You were both so lucky to have each other.

One thing that helps me is this idea of memorialization.

I put photos of them up all around my home. I had saved some cards mom had sent me, so I keep those handy too.

Maybe something your mum gave you or that was hers and you inherited might help?

I think I sort of understand these ideas. And yet also find myself resisting them.

I only really have one thing of hers – a piece of jewellery that I can't actually wear. It's in a little box in a drawer. When she first died and my dad gave it to me, I went through a stage of being a bit obsessive compulsive with it...I couldn't open the drawer without opening the box and then being a bit ritualistic about touching it a certain amount of times. It became quite stressful. I have a couple of photos of her up with a bunch of others from my wedding...but it's too painful to consciously look at her.

My mum liked flowers and pottering in the garden looking at her plants. I have some flowers that she dug out of her garden and gave to us and then we planted them back home. They are flourishing! And I do like that they are 'her flowers'. Also, when she died, a friend gave me a plant for the garden. By chance, it flowers around her birthday, which is rather lovely. So, I like these two things....but I worry that they will die because I have accidentally not looked after them properly. So, I like them but they are aso a bit anxiety-making. And, a bit like the photos, if I were to consciously linger on these plants and consciously think about their association with her, the grief would feel overwhelming.

Since she died, we have constantly had fresh flowers in the living room. That is for her. The upside is that these are cut flowers so I know they will only last a short time and I can't accidentally kill them. The down side is that it's an expensive habit! But I'm ok with that.


Sometimes, it's just about unloading a whole lot of 'why is it so...' Or, this is my experience, opinion Or, I'm so struggling with this right now... Unload it. Discuss & leave it. Perhaps we'll return to it but perhaps not. It doesn't matter so long as we express it for now because it sounds, to me, like that's simply what you need to do.

Yes, you're right. Unloading it seems key at the moment. My T actually texted earlier to check in and I said I was struggling a bit and was thinking of maybe emailing later if that was ok. She said it was but also said to let her know if I want a quick chat. I don't. Talking is hard. Writing is easier.

It hurts to want & miss her? When you do the grief is too big to handle all over again?

Yes, so much ?

Your father sounds very stoic and impenetrable

Impenetrable is a good word. He is quite controlling. My sister and niece still live with him – they moved in several years ago when my sister's marriage ended and are still there ten years later! It's a very difficult dynamic for me to observe them together. It was when my mum was still alive too but it seems heightened now. Basically, no one does anything if my dad isn't ok with it. And he controls the emotional temperature too. Because he doesn't want to express anything emotionally, no one else is 'allowed' too either.


I really hope you can discuss your dad with T & get a handle on why he cannot cope with emotional stuff so he shuts it down.


I've spoken to T quite a bit about him. About his lack of empathy and compassion. His insensitivity. His seeming lack of consideration. His poor communication style. His punitive use of silence – he did it when we were kids and still does it now. I don't think I have anything else to say about him...and I don't feel there's anything I can do for things to be different its him, so then it just feels like I'm moaning.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
we have constantly had fresh flowers in the living room. That is for her. The upside is that these are cut flowers so I know they will only last a short time and I can't accidentally kill them. The down side is that it's an expensive habit! But I'm ok with that.
This is lovely. There are some lovely flowers out at the moment. Can you go and pick any in a park or growing over someone's wall? So that you have a constant supply right now?

I've spoken to T quite a bit about him. About his lack of empathy and compassion. His insensitivity. His seeming lack of consideration. His poor communication style. His punitive use of silence – he did it when we were kids and still does it now. I don't think I have anything else to say about him...and I don't feel there's anything I can do for things to be different its him, so then it just feels like I'm moaning.
It isn't moaning. It is recognising your feelings, which are valid, and working through them. We can't change people (sadly - life would be soooo much easier if we could!) , But we can take the time to notice how their behaviours impact us to work out how we manage that in a way that helps us.

It's a tough time. You're going through a lot. But I hear your resilience through all of this.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
I'm sorry about your losses, @barefoot...

And something I haven't seen mentioned - you mention your Dad 'isn't very sensitive now'...

Maybe that *is* how he's grieving.
Men often get like that, close it within.
Or try to be strong for everyone else and act as if the losses aren't hitting plain because they are heavy hitting.

It may be a gender & generation in respect to emotions difference...
Not that he doesn't care.

Of course, I don't know your Dad, but that would be my 0.02 - that there's more elements to it than a lack of sensitivity.
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
Can you go and pick any in a park or growing over someone's wall? So that you have a constant supply right now?

Can’t really go anywhere right now as I’m still quite tired and feeble. But it’s a nice idea for when I’m feeling a bit better. It’s funny, I never consider going and picking fresh flowers! Just buy them!

you mention your Dad 'isn't very sensitive now'...

Well, he has always been this way. If I said ‘now’ I think I was referring to this period of me being unwell...and then a terrorist attack happening in my town a few days ago...and that he just hasn’t made any real effort to show much concern about any of that.

He was very difficult right after my mum died. He was horrendously blunt and matter of fact about everything - no emotion at all - and seemingly no awareness of the impact of his lack of emotion, which frequently came off as lack of compassion, on others. Things like, when we were discussing what to dress her in...she was being cremated....he said ‘Well, it doesn’t matter what we choose - it’s just going to burn anyway.’

So, I’m sure that when under stress or in difficult circumstances, he goes to the extreme of his default settings.

But, no...his lack of sensitivity, empathy or consideration and his controlling behaviours didn’t come about as a result of my mum’s death. Grieving or not, he has always been quite self focused and not particularly considerate of anyone else’s feelings or experiences.

Not that he doesn't care

Yeah...I said it’s not that I think he doesn’t care. He does care about me. He just doesn’t ever really express it. And he is pretty selfish. I don’t set out to change these things about him. To an extent, I just don’t think he really knows how to be with people. How to really relate. That said, it would be nice if he sometimes tried to think about the impact of his words and actions (including his inactions!) I don’t know that he’s capable of that. But I also think I make a lot of excuses for him...oh, it’s not that he doesn’t care....oh, he didn’t mean it to sound that way...oh, I just don’t think he realises how it feels when he does whatever.... But there is a reality of, hey, you’re a parent...you can’t sit and ignore your entire family for days on end and really just act as though they aren’t there and not know that that would feel horrible and punitive.

So, yeah...there’s knowing he cares as a baseline...but just because I can take that as a given doesn’t mean that his continual lack of thoughtfulness and consideration is ok.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
Makes sense, @barefoot...

From your posts I get a sense of loss about also not having *him*, not in the roles you'd need...

So wondering if you have anyone trusted RL you could let that strain and grief out with safely, or / and if there are other men in your life that could be a Dad you can't have in your Dad?
 
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