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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

We can recover.

The sun rises every morning and one day follows another.

We can be confident in that.

And as time moves forward, so things change.

Slowly at first, imperceptibly, until we gradually realise that we are changing too.

And hope appears on the horizon.

Norman Wright outlines 3 stages of recovery:

  • The Thinking Stage: This is when you face the facts. You put the pieces of your jig-saw puzzle together to try to make sense of the picture. You go over what has happened in minute detail, alone and with friends. You are a detached observer rather than an emotional participant. For me this was hours and hours searching the internet to learn all I could about breast cancer. I wanted to know every detail and I wanted to understand the numbers and the risks.
  • The Emotional Stage: This is when you feel the pain. Your emotions well up from deep within you and spill out in a stream, a river, a waterfall. There will be anger, anxiety, grief, fear, sadness. For me this was a constant leaking. I cried almost every day, many times a day, for three months. Tears welled up as I recognised the layers of consequences of what was happening to me. I stopped crying when I started the blog.
  • The Stage of Mastery: At the beginning you cannot believe this stage will happen but it does. Your perspective changes, you find value in your experience. You have learned things you could not have learned in any other way. You become a survivor rather than a victim, taking control of the direction of your life again. Your outer journey may still be very challenging, but you have found a strength for the inner journey which transforms your experience. Laughter can reappear, with all its healing power.

The stages vary in length for each person, and they can overlap.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

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Do you know what is on my mind?

Of course you don’t – unless you can read my mind.

And you can’t, any more than I can read yours.

That is why we need to find a way to COMMUNICATE that works between us.

As I struggle to come to terms with having breast cancer I have noticed you struggling too.

You want to know what is happening to me, what I am thinking and feeling, and what you can do to support me.

But how can you know unless I tell you?

And so I recognise I have a role to play in helping you to help me.

This blog has been my way of keeping in touch. Bit by bit I have learned the value of being open. And I really value the way so many have engaged with me through the blog.

So my advice to anyone who finds themselves going through some form of trauma or loss is not to isolate yourself. Find some way of keeping in touch with family and friends that works for you. Give out as much information as you feel comfortable to share, and be honest.

Make it as easy as you can for others to help you.

And always recognise that those who reach out to help you, will be dealing with their own problems at the same time. Maybe you can find strength and comfort by giving help as well as receiving it.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ

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If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you, one like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.

How painful are the blows from a friend!

Want to know how you behave like a miserable comforter without meaning to be one?

Norman Wright tells us that we adopt three well-meaning but unhelpful behaviours when we support friends:

  • We have difficulty accepting bad news ourselves: This can be for lots of reasons (we may be overwhelmed with our own sorrows), but the result is the same. While we may say words of comfort, we physically distance ourselves from our friend who is hurting. Our friend will see this as us rejecting them and their problem.
  • We give advice that is not wanted or needed: We want to help and we can see some obvious ways forward for our friend, and so we tell them what they need to do. Our friend becomes a pupil as we adopt the role of their teacher. They will react in the variety of ways that children react to being told what to do – and with the added creativity gleaned over the years.
  • We overwhelm them with help: If we really, really care this is the trap for us. We smother them with kindness. Our friend becomes a child as we adopt the role of their parent. And we know how complex parent-child relationships can become. Sooner of later they will want to break free.

Can you see yourself in any of these behaviours?

Being aware that the patterns exist gives us a helpful starting point.

Being open in our communication and giving up the need to be in control, to be right or to fix things will take the pressure away from us all as we negotiate the maze of hurting emotions.

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If those of us who are suffering loss in some form find it difficult to make sense of our own emotions, how much harder is it for those who try to help?

We have all been there – hurting for our loved ones, desperate to help, frightened of saying the wrong thing and yet not knowing what the right thing might be.

The simplest guidance I can give from my own experience and from listening to others is:

Talk less and listen more.

We worry about saying the RIGHT thing – and yet until you have listened very carefully and taken time to understand what has happened, how the person feels about it, and how much they want to tell you, whatever you say is unlikely to be helpful.

Grief is a long journey through a tangled maze of emotions. So don’t expect too much from yourself or from the person who is grieving. The journey can take a long time.

Ball of Grief - a tangled ball filled with emotions that a person in grief experiences

This diagram comes from a book by Norman Wright, a certified trauma specialist and counsellor . He has written over 70 books covering topics like bereavement, crisis management, divorce and relationships. He offers compassionate and practical ways to give comfort and support.

When my friend’s mother in law died she and her husband found themselves struggling with their relationship with their newly bereaved father.  This book gave them the understanding they needed and helped them to help him. It contains chapters about ‘How to be a miserable helper’, ‘If you want to help, listen’, ‘Understanding a friend in crisis’, ‘Helping a friend in crisis’. And, if you prefer to write a note (which is always a good idea), it gives sample letters of what to say and how to say it.

For an interesting read today, click here to read an article on What not to say to someone with cancer, reproduced on the Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer blog.

Go ahead, make my day!

And, as a little aside, the internet is full of wails from women who are losing their hair from chemotherapy. They wail almost as much about the endless comments on their appearance, as about losing their hair. So, although the most obvious thing to comment on is how we look (and it is very, very difficult not to comment) have a go at trying very, very hard not to say anything. 🙂

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I didn’t think I struggled with denial – but I was wrong.

The truth is I am still not sure I have come to terms with having breast cancer. Writing about the stages of grief has helped me recognise some of my own struggles.

The astute among you might have recognised my reluctance to put breast cancer anywhere in the headings of this blog.

I didn’t want to become a woman who has breast cancer.

I didn’t want you all to look at me and see breast cancer instead of seeing ME.

I didn’t want to cause my family any anxiety.

I didn’t want to put a black mark on our family history for my daughter and my grand-daughters.

I didn’t want my life to change.

And so the easiest thing to do was to hide from the layers of loss.

But one by one the layers peel away and a new reality settles.

And I can bear the truth.

There is another truth; I didn’t think I struggled with anger – but I was wrong.

Last week a friend sent me her newsletter full of information about all of her activities and achievements. My mind wandered to explore what a tragedy it would be if she was diagnosed with breast cancer . . . and then it hit me.

TRAGEDY! . . . of course!

And the layers of loss washed over me all together –  that breast cancer has entered my world. My family is anxious for me, and my life has changed.

Anger rumbled inside me.

Today, 9 months since starting the blog, with 150 posts already published, I changed the heading of the blog and added breast cancer right at the top.

Making an obstacle an opportunity – Abigail’s breast cancer blog.

Breast cancer is the underlying driver for the blog. It is an obstacle in my path. Making it an opportunity is my challenge.

I have watched the words in the tag box in the margin grow and change over the months. They reflect what I am blogging about. I kept hoping that the words breast cancer would get smaller and smaller – but instead they grew bigger week by week.

And yet the encouraging thing is that other words like prayer, knowing God, happiness, soul-training and transformation grow to match them – and that is what keeps me going.

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How can I not speak about grief?

This picture says a lot about my journey – especially the baseball cap. And as I look at it I can revisit the feelings that it expresses.

But sorrow, however, turns out not to be a state but a process

. . . and C.S. Lewis is right. Each day is different from the one before, and we can be thankful for that.

We are told there are five stages of grief or loss

Denial  Anger  Bargaining  Depression  Acceptance

The experience does not come with a map or directions. We live it day by day with all the confusion, exhaustion and blurred vision that comes with it.

Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape

Yesterday I read C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Far from being a morose experience I found it to be encouraging.

We all experience grief. Knowing it is a process, not a state, gives it movement. And movement means change is possible.

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