I recently sat down and generated a list of 30 words that could be used to describe grief. Obviously this list relates to my experience with grief, so I am interested to see if anyone else can relate with some of these words. I plan on doing a series of postings that will not only define these words, but expand on why I thought they would be good descriptors.
The second word I chose was:
Scary: Defined as causing alarm, fear, frightening.
I am not sure about everyone else reading this posting, but grief scared the hell out of me. I experienced things I had never experienced in my 38 years. After the death of my second child, I started experiencing episodes of depression, anxiety attacks, fear, thoughts of dyeing, uncontrollable tears and physically weeping (almost like convulsing) that didn’t produce tears. I also lost many things such as confidence, ability to focus, appetite and my fear of dying. I could go on and on about what I “gained and lost” as part of who I am. My point is that all of these “things” were scary to me because I couldn’t control them. I like being in control, especially when it comes to being able to control myself and my responses to my surroundings.
It took me a while, but I started to regain control, but it required me to do a lot of other scary things in order to start down the path of recapturing the out of control me. I started to go to a counselor, which was very scary to me since I had always thought that counselors were for people who were “crazy”. It was scary for me to admit that I had situational depression as a result my children dying. I had always thought depression as for weak people and I knew I wasn’t weak. Of course now I have a much better understanding of the counseling “stigma” and depression, but for a while, I felt like I was a failure because I didn’t have it under control and that was scary to me.
I could also see the physical impacts that grief was having on me. Because I wasn’t able to eat without gagging or throwing up, I watched myself lose a lot of weight, quickly. When I would look in the mirror, I could see someone, but it didn’t look like me, it looked like someone who was slowly dying. I could actually feel myself dying on the inside and that also scared me.
How about you, what have you found to be scary in your grief journey?
CS Lewis once said, after the loss of his wife,
“Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”
Isn’t this so true? Yes, we miss and long to see our loved ones. We miss holding them. We miss them being here. But then there is this agony we feel too because we know that feeling so well. It has become our normal. So we also dread the fact that we will feel this way for the rest of our lives. CS Lewis also said “No one ever told me grief felt so much like fear”. I quote him because during my grief, his words made me feel like I was not going crazy. Like you, I felt similar things during the hardest moments of my life. It was during that time that these quotes helped me find my way out of that “dying” state.
That is a great quote and so very true. Until you are in grief, you have no idea what it feels like. And for me, each time was different in how I responded. First time I responded like most men bury deep and keep moving. Second time what I buried prior and the new grief was right on top of me. Sufficating me. I would have moments where I could catch my breath, but I did feel like I was dying a slow death. I look back at that know and kind of laugh at some of the crazy stuff that I did and the things that entered my mind. It feels good to be able to look back at grief and have a whole new understanding and respect for how debilitating it can be at times.
Thanks for sharing.
“I am not sure about everyone else reading this posting, but grief scared the hell out of me.”
I can’t pretend to understand the magnitude and the depth of the grief you’ve experienced as a result of the loss of your children, but I have my own sources of grief and it scares the hell out of me and always has. I think this fear of grief is common for men, in large part because we are so driven, either by conditioning or natural inclination (or both), to need to feel that we are in control of ourselves and our emotions.
If you’re interested, you can see more of my thoughts on this subject at:
BTW I just tweeted your post because I think that you’ve touched on a subject that is universal for men and deserves more attention.
I know that you are on a challenging path and I wish you well.
I agree, we as men want to be able to control our thoughts and emotions and when we are unable to do that (regardless of the reason) it can get scary.
Thank you for sharing this post and thank you for particapating here on the blog.
This particular post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. It’s been 3 months since my daughter Allison’s death and up to this point I’ve pretty well held it together. I’ve HAD to hold it together because she was our only child and I needed to be there for my wife. But it appears it’s come at a cost, because in the last two weeks I’ve become almost incapacitated at times due to depression, lack of motivation, anxiety, loss of appetite, etc. My mood swings vary in intensity and duration, but almost always leave me feeling drained of all emotion. I do things that need to be done robotically, because they must be done. To sum it up, I don’t care about anything except my wife and her mental health…and even then, sometimes I don’t care. Our future is gone, what is there to care about?
To say these feelings are scary is an understatement. I’ve never before had them, nor would I wish them on anyone. But by talking with my wife and family, posting here and on a couple other websites for parents who’ve lost children, I’ve read a lot of stories that tell me I’m not alone, that others have gone through this and come out the other side intact.
I’m counting on that.
I lost my son in 2005 to leukemia. I was devastated. At some point, at dinner, I said to myself “Funny. For a minute, I felt normal”. Not a pre-loss Wes normal but a new normal. Then the grief set in again. In time, the “normals” were more numerous than the periods of grief. In time, it gets easier. Repitition makes it acceptable.
Imagine this. You’re standing in the ocean, knee deep in water facing the shore. All of a sudden a wave hits you square in the back and knocks you face first into the water. You go under. You can’t see. Sand is roiling up around you. You can’t find the bottom. Eventually, you find the bottom, place your hands down and push yourself back up to the surface where you can suck in a huge gulp of air. With difficulty, you resume your position. In time, another wave of grief will hit you but, this time, you know what to expect. The next time, it’s a little easier. Each time, you are a little more prepared. That’s not to say that, even after five years, you’ll get struck by the tsunami of grief. It happens. But you’ll be better prepared to deal with it each time.
I wrote a book about our experience. It’s available on line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It’s entitled “LATER”. It’s the story of our journey with our son and the year that followed. There are parallel stories and humor where we could find it. It’s purpose was to provide hope and inspiration.
John, I know your loss and feel it everyday. I pray that God will grant you the peace that surpasseth all understanding. Only He can do that. It’s a peace that is irrational in human terms. He provided it to me through prayer. I asked and He granted. It was pretty amazing. Up to that point, I’d had my doubts.
I’m sure your asking “Why?” Deuteronomy 29:29 says “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” “Why?” is one of those secret things. We’ll learn in time. His time. I’m good with that.
Thank you for sharing, I really do appreciate it and it comes at a time when I’ve started noticing that everything is getting back to “normal”, meaning prior to Allison’s death. But it’s not the same “normal”, there’s something missing.
It concerns me that 3 months have passed since Allison’s abrubt death that I haven’t cried, at least in the sense that I let all the emotional pain out. I cried like a baby 2 weeks after my mother passed away but not a tear was shed for my brother 14 years later.
I am not a religious man and I shun organized religion. However, I do believe in God and Heaven and know in my heart that Allison is there with her grandfather who passed 2 years earlier. Perhaps that is what keeps my heart at peace for the moment.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing with John and all of the other readers that visit here. Your input and thoughts on this subject are greatly appreciated!
I am sorry for the difficult time you are having. I know as grief starts to creep in it becomes scary. But Bill is correct, although you never get use to the waves of grief, after a while, they are not as scary when they hit and you will learn to respond in a different way than when you first experience them. Know that we are here for you and will do anything we can to help you during those scary moments. Call me anytime if you need to talk!!!
I experienced all the same scary thoughts and feelings and the physical responses frightened me I didn’t expect some of the physical responses. I also was told by many that things would be better after about a year or so and when they were NOT any better at all and in some ways things were worse I became frightened that I wasn’t grieving “correctly” that something more was wrong. I had horrid panic attacks for over a year brought on by almost anything and a fear that I would break down in public or one of us would have “the big break” and leave this world and the other alone with the pain. I had/have an intense overwhelming fear about finances and the realization that I could also loose other people in my life including my husband the bread winner of the family and just like when we lost our daughter and the insurance wasn’t enough and the funeral costs had to be covered by friends and donations….the impact of the creditors lack of grace for one month terrified me. WHAT would I do in a dizzy state of grief if I lost my helpmate? Our band aid was to take out the biggest life insurance policies we could afford.
I felt the same thing. I remember asking my counselor “It’s been a year, why am I not feeling better? All of the books say it takes a year, why am I not feeling better? Will I always feel this way?” That was scary. Thanks for bring that topic up.
I use to have a lot of fear when my wife left the house to run an errand. I would think to myself “what if something happens to her, how will I survive another loss”. Grief makes you think in ways that you never did before and that is also scary.
Thanks for sharing.
The scariest part of my grief was knowing that every single morning for the rest of my life, I would wake up into the world and Rachel would not be a part of it. It was out of this reality that I defined my grief as “excruciating, soul ripping agony”. Like the movie “Gladiator”, I will see her again…but not yet:)
Yes Steve, that is pretty scary. Knowing that when you open your eyes, it wasn’t a bad dream, it is real and you can not escape it. I loved the spilt second before it hits you.
You will see here again just as I will see my children again.
Thanks for sharing.