Dealing with Grief

Dealing with Grief Caused by Disability

by Masery

From the first diagnosis of disease or disability to the loss of a physical function or independence, we feel grief. We may experience anticipatory grief when thinking out the longterm effects of our disability or upcoming medical procedures. Grief is a natural process in response to loss, including the loss of a healthy body or mind.

Rather than buck up or move on right away, it is important to allow these emotions to flow. Being aware of what you need emotionally and physically will ease the process.

“While the experience of grief is a very individual process depending on many factors, certain commonalities are often reported. Nightmares, appetite problems, dryness of mouth, shortness of breath, sleep disorders, and repetitive motions to avoid pain are often reported by people experiencing normal grief. Even hallucinatory experiences may be normal early in grief.” Wikipedia

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swedish doctor who broke the mold of ignoring terminal patients. Instead she spent time comforting and studying them. Her book ‘On Death and Dying’ included a cycle of emotional states that is often referred to as the Grief Cycle. Her work prompted the medical field to study the emotional cycles of people experiencing other types of loss.

This model is extended original Kubler-Ross model, which didn’t include the Shock and Testing stages. They have been added as the nature of grief has been explored.

Sometimes there is pressure from ourselves or perhaps friends or family to quickly get to acceptance. When we pretend to be fine and happy, it is another form of denial and we can get trapped in the grief cycle. When we don’t take steps to heal, we may develop prolonged grief.

“There is a clinical problem of becoming “identified” with the grief. In this situation, mourners are reluctant to release the grief because grieving has been integrated as part of their identity. Reporting in the journal NeuroImage (May 10, 2008, online), scientists suggest that complicated grief activates neurons in the reward centers of the brain, possibly giving these memories addiction-like properties. The authors found activity in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain most commonly associated with reward. It is one that has also been shown to play a role in social attachment, such as sibling and maternal affiliation.” (Wikipedia)

Because of childhood traumatic events, Turner Mosaic which causes chemical imbalances and infertility. I am also Bipolar. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bipolar-disorder/DS00356 My symptoms are similar to prolonged grief and include audio and visual hallucinations when I am distressed, mood swings, sleep disorder and nightmares.

The first step to healing our pain is to never give up. I have been to therapy, I have read articles on grief, stress, and attended groups and workshops. In July 2010, I became suicidal and was admitted to a stress unit for five days. At first I felt like a failure. As a priestess and person who not only practiced but taught meditation, why couldn’t I heal? From my time in the unit, I learned that healing is a daily process. At least I took steps when I knew my mental state was unsafe. I had to continue practicing my mantras, meditation, and exercise daily.

If you are new to this path, the first step is to find positive coping mechanisms: adaptation and behavioral changes. For a more detailed article on positive and negative cooping methods read http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/coping/coping.htm.

An example of positive and negative cooping is in the story of the Greek god, Hephaestus, a god with twisted legs. Basically he was disabled.

“Hephaestus married Aphrodite, but it was not an ordinary arrangement. Hephaestus was not physically attractive and wanted a marriage. He was still mad because he was not accepted and decided to seek revenge. It is said that he built a throne for his mother Hera, and she sat down on the throne and eventually realized she was stuck. Hephaestus captured his mother using the chair and would not let her go. Even though Dionysus got Hephaestus drunk, Hephaestus would not let Hera go until he got his way by marrying Athena or Aphrodite. He ended up married to Aphrodite and was not happy. She cheated on him and he ended up publicly humiliating her.”

“He was given the chance to supervise Cyclopes. He took the offer and watched over what they did. He was said to have made Zeus’ (his father’s) lightening bolts. Because he was such a gifted craftsman and knew his way around blacksmithing, he was given the task of making many things for Olympus. He made everything from his father’s thunderbolts to signs. He got his recognition (and ticket back into Olympus) after he proved his skills by working as a blacksmith underwater. His mother saw the things he created and wanted to take him back as her son. When his mother threw him from Olympus, he landed in a sea and was rescued by two goddesses. They taught him how to make things and he eventually created “beautiful” things.
He was not a mean or cruel god. He was sweet and kept to himself. Even though he trapped his mother for revenge, he was a genuinely good god.

He was a very strong god, even with his bad legs. He had a lot of physical strength. He needed to be strong in order to be a blacksmith.”

redmythology.wikispaces.com/Hephaestus-Vulcan

Many of the activities used to deal with stress can be used for grief management.

Find a therapist or group you are comfortable with so you can share your thoughts. Once feelings and ideas are spoken you loose the pressure of keeping them inside and they are less overwhelming.

Meditate or chant. Chanting from any culture or faith is good for your health according to a study published in the British Journal of Medicine. Chanting a short pray or mantra about 100 times (or less if you have difficulty with concentration) will synchronize calm breath with slower heart rate. This reduces stress. You can use traditional chants from your preferred culture or create your own. Keep it short, easy to say, and rhythmic. Prayer beads will help you keep count.

Build a social support group of doctors you are comfortable with and compassionate friends, family, and community members. For Pagans with disabilities, we may feel forced into solitary practice if we have mobility difficulties or are in a smaller community that doesn’t have gatherings. It is up to each individual to decide if they want to visit another faith community, hopefully one that offers messages of hope during their service. Sharing these ideas with other living breathing beings can be a great comfort.

Journal your thoughts. You’ll find insight into why you feel the way you do. It is a great way to vent and note down moments of laughter or happiness to look at later. When we grieve for prolonged periods of times, years even, it can be difficult to be in the present moment and find something beautiful in our life. Journaling is one way to begin a positive mind set.

Blessings to you all on your journey.

“Om Gaia Shanti Shanti”

References:

WebMD http://www.webmd.com/balance/tc/grief-and-grieving-topic-overview

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying, Macmillan, NY, 1969

http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/kubler_ross.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grief#Stage_theories_and_processes

Bernardi L, Sleight P, Bandinelli G, Cencetti S, Fattorini L,
Wdowczyc-Szulc J, Lagi A. Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on
autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study. British Medical
Journal. 2001;323:1446-9

https://redmythology.wikispaces.com/Hephaestus-Vulcan

About Tara Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She writes the Staff of Asclepius blog. She's also a new author and editor with Megalithica Books. If you would like to be notified when Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addiction, and Illness will be available please email her at tara.miller21 (at) gmail.com Donations for the blog can also be sent through PayPal to the same email.

  • Michele

    BEAUTIFUL!!
    You see this SO clearly!!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/members/masery/ Masery

    Thank you, Michele. I find that writing is part of my healing process.

  • medicyne_eagle

    Indeed, writing is such an opening for emotion, I did start a blog for Pagan Military/Disability rants lol but will also input on yours as i expect you also on mine. As you know my main disability is PTSD which is maintained by my meds, but isn’t completely taken care of. I get depressed at times and thats when my mate comes and asks if im depressed as she known me well enough being soul-mates and all lol. When we drive under over-passes and she sees me tense up she’ll start a depe conversation to get my eyes off people. In Balad in 2004 we had to swerve our trucks under the over-passes because we were getting grenades dropped on us from above so it does become a trauma and is engrained in your mind. I can’t work as my tolerance for stupidity is no longer there and i wouldn’t be able to hold a job. My memory is shot and my attention span is gone, these are all a part of PTSD along with the nightmares etc.I cope by pulling myself back and looking from a broader perspective. Theres many worse things going on in this world and my condition is not life-threatening so why I don’t enjoy the simple things…..hmmm…kind of like getting slapped in the face with duh….I know all things happen for a reason and going through things makes it so much easier to help a fellow Pagan especially these Soldiers now coming back from Afghanistan when you’ve walked in their shoes and can answer those questions and take them by the hand. Anyway I shall close for now but will start blogging daily as I do have lots of time on my hands now, Forest Moon Grove will soon be a legal Pagan Church and thats where the work begins. Blessings.
    Eric

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/members/masery/ Masery

    Eric, thanks for writing and for your support in the Pagan community. Let me know the link to your blog and I’ll post it under blog links. Congratulations on Forest Moon Grove’s upcoming status change.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/members/masery/ Masery

      Eric, I added you as a contributor. Glad you liked the idea.


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