The Death of a Sibling | Grieving

I am drowning in grief and experiencing emotional pain …shock, numbness, sadness, despair, loneliness, isolation, forgetfulness, anger, guilt, regret, depression, anxiety, crying, headaches, weakness, aches, pains, yearning, worry, frustration, detachment, isolation, questioning my faith…

When a person is estranged by a family member, they generally experience a range of immediate grief, loss and trauma responses. Responses such as crying and alongside emotional responses such as disbelief, denial and anger. People often ruminate over the estrangement event or the events that led up to the estrangement. Over time, most acute emotions and bodily responses seem to decrease in intensity, and generalized feelings of hurt, betrayal and disappointment might emerge. Even when the estrangement has continued for years or decades, many people suggest the pain persists or re-occurs at particular times. Some will call it “Triggers” which can sometimes cause a person to re-live and re-experience the initial grief, loss and trauma responses, while other times they can be managed.

…being estranged by a family member is one of the most painful events across the lifespan. I should know this and it is intensified by ten folds, its unexpectedness, its ambiguous nature, the powerlessness it creates, and social disapproval…

At first, when a person is estranged by another, they generally do not expect it to happen. Trauma is increased when it is enacted by humans rather than an act of nature and this is even more so when that human is a family member. We are biologically attached to family and socially acculturated into idea of family togetherness. We do not expect an estrangement nor do we?

Estrangement is ambiguous. It has lacks transparency, and it cannot be readily understood. It is not certain if the family member will ever return, so there is no finality or closure to the event. People who have been estranged by a loved one often describe feelings of incredible powerlessness. When someone has been cut off or like me I chose to be cut off; they cannot tell their side of the story nor ask questions or apologize. Without interaction the estranged person is often left wondering and ruminating about the truth, with no means of discovering it.

In the end, the pain of estrangement is often exacerbated because it is disenfranchised or poorly recognized by society. Many people who have been estranged feel an internalized guilt and shame about the situation, and this can affect the way that they interact socially. They might reduce or modify social interactions to avoid people finding out about their estrangement. This can be exacerbated by very real instances of social disapproval, misunderstanding and judgment, ranging from insensitive comments to actual exclusion from particular events.

If you have been through a personal loss you’ve probably experienced it firsthand. When your little sister, who was your bestie, is suddenly fighting you about everything, it can feel like your world is crumbling. Suddenly you’re trying to cope with the death and your support system is no longer supported, but a source of additional stress. You are grieving the death, while feeling like you are losing your family as well.

Let me be clear about one thing, what’s the number one source of conflict? Anyone want to take a guess? No, it’s not only money or material things! Its emotions and distance. As hard as it is for many of us to admit, countless families who never imagine there would be conflict over emotions are suddenly overwhelmed by disagreement and power struggles that are left behind, which leads to distance.

There are many other sources of strain and conflict that can also arise for families. There is no way I could cover them all here. There are many reasons that death can bring out the worst in people. But one important thing to know is that when we are under the stress and crisis of a death, our brains actually work differently. There are parts of our brain that think rationally and there are parts of our brain that think more on impulse and emotion (is it safe to say stupidly). When we are in a heightened state due to a death it is harder to think with that rational part of the brain. We default to using the emotional parts of our brains – parts of our brain that struggle with reasoning, memory, and long-term thinking.

Lost of LoveLosing and containing your control, one thing that is important to remember about death and grief is that it typically means a total loss of control. We all want so desperately to be able to control and change what has happened, but with death control is lost. This change, loss of control, and loss of stability can be terrifying. During this time certain family members will be seeking any way they can to regain a sense of control, and believe me it does happens to every family. This may take shape in immediately trying to plan the funeral without getting anyone else’s input, yep sad but true. It may mean immediately sorting through belongings or trying to take charge of finances. Understanding if desire for control is a factor in behavior can be important in how others in the family respond. Helping another family member to have a sense of control, while communicating how their actions are making others feel, can be helpful. If control seems to be a driving factor, other family members may be able to help guide this person’s energy into things that would be useful and that may cause less family strife.

missing you

I needed to take timeout and took a few steps. Grief makes us all do crazy, sometimes crappy, things that we often regret. It is important to cut people (and ourselves) some slack. People do all sorts of awful stuff when they grieve, so view these things as poor choices due to an impossible time in life. It doesn’t override the many years of wonderful things you know about the person. Try to remember that this may be the exception in their behavior, not the rule. Just like you need to be gentle and forgiving with yourself, you need to be gentle and forgiving with others. My search of mediation has helped me with my process of grieving and has helped me manage my inner conflicts because I could not do it on my own.

Carmen
My sister Carmen R.I.P. 07/04/17

Grace, Compassion and Facing Hard Times

I never understood the true meaning of the word humble; I personally have taken this word for granted, until this past week. I found out that it means insensitive or obtuse. I also found out that obtuse is to be slow in understanding and feeling; and insensitive means to be deficient in acuteness of feeling.

Humility is also defined as the condition of being humble. When I look for the word humble, it means not proud or arrogant; (2) feeling insignificant, inferior or subservient. Proud means overbearing, haughty. Arrogant means (1) making unwarrantable claims to superior importance; (2) haughty or overbearing. Haughty means disdainfully proud. And disdain is to look upon or threat as beneath oneself.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the intricacy for the meaning of the word humility, where am I getting at? My main concern is to try to find out and understand the best I can what God means when He speaks about being humble. His word already says that I can only know in part because of my finite mind.

Times like these require us to show compassion and altruism to others; exhibit patience; and provide “teachable moments” to ourselves, to others and our children. Even in the face of events which are often beyond our control. I don’t know about you or what’s happening in your world, but my world I’ve seen, hunger, loss of jobs, and homes and senseless death and illnesses. We must show our family, friends and children that we can remain strong, and if we can, how can we do so with compassion and grace? We need to: listen; remain optimistic and calm; protect them; and, if possible, try to maintain normalcy. We also need to outreach to them and teach them about those who have overcome obstacles.

I, for one, also need help from time to time. I believe strongly in prayer. I found some of the answers I was looking for from family members, friends and a few from total strangers. However, it all came down to the same answers to helping others in need, no matter what that “need” might be.

…Create safety. The most important thing you can do is offer the person a safe place to fall apart. Be trustworthy, be present, be available, and be soft. Give them the warmth of your touch, the comfort of your words, and the gift of your listening.

…Refrain from offering advice until you know they’re strong enough to receive it (and/or they’ve asked for it). When a person is feeling vulnerable and broken, unsolicited advice can make them feel like they’ve failed or they’re not as good as you are at handling difficult times. Your advice may be valuable, but don’t offer it if it will make them feel small.

…Withhold judgment. Nobody who’s going through a difficult journey wants to be judged for their weakness, their tears, their messy home, or their indecisiveness. Bite your tongue even if you think they’re being foolish or immature. Let them be weak if they need to be weak. There will be time for strength later.

… Be an active listener. Let the person suffering do most of the talking and be fully present for what they are saying. In the middle of the struggle, there is nothing quite as powerful as knowing that you are heard and seen. Don’t try to fill the silences with platitudes or solutions. Leave as much space as they need to share their stories and work through what they need someone to hear.

…Offer empathy, not sympathy. Empathy lets a person know they’re not alone, sympathy leaves them feeling inferior. Empathy builds bridges, sympathy builds walls. People who offer sympathy (“poor you”) instead of empathy are usually doing it because they feel some need to elevate themselves above the other person.

…Share your stories to make them feel less alone, but don’t overshadow their stories. Stories are really important in times of grief or stress, but the most important stories that need to be shared at that time are the ones that belong to the person going through the trouble. Offer your own stories in a respectable manner, but only after they’ve had a chance to share theirs.

…Do not pretend to know EXACTLY what they’re going through. You can’t possibly know just what they’re experiencing because you are a different person carrying different baggage. You may have been on a similar path and felt similar pain (and that’s worth sharing), but each person’s path is his/her own. Let them describe what they’re going through rather than assuming you know.

…Let them cry and cry with them if that is what emerges. In any means, do not try to end their grief or fix their pain. Sit with them in the middle of that field of grief and just let what is being done what it needs to be. Nobody can take a shortcut through pain, so don’t pretend you’ve found one. Watching a loved one cry feels excruciating and you really want to fix it for them, but to show them the kind of love they need, you need to let the tears flow and simply bear witness.

…Let them know that they are courageous, even if their courage only shows up in very small ways. When the road is hard, just putting one foot in front of takes courage. Sometimes getting out of bed in the morning takes courage. Help them discover their own basketful of courage stories – memories of the times when they have shown courage that will help them rise to the challenges ahead.

…to my closing remarks, I want to thank God everyday for my son, Peter. Thankful for another day to live and to share my thoughts! Thankful that I know the true meaning of being humble!…

Christmas, with my son Peter 1990.
Christmas, with my son Peter.
Sharing special moments 121212....
Sharing special moments….