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The Questions of Grief: Grief Delayed

By Yourtribute @yourtribute

The Questions of Grief: Grief DelayedI cared for my father for several months before his condition forced us to use the services of a nursing home. Even after they took over a great deal of the daily care, I still felt a deep sense of responsibility and was required to spend a great deal of time and effort in his care. Every speaking trip became frightening. Each time I left, I wondered if he would be with us by the time I returned. These were long and hard months of care and concern.

To my utter surprise, when he died, I felt almost nothing. I expected to hurt and did not do so. I expected to cry and never shed a tear. I took over the details of his funeral and spent my time taking care of others. I told myself that staying busy with all of these details was keeping me from dealing with his death and, when the details were over, I would morn. The details passed and I still did not grieve for my father.

I told myself that I had done most of my grieving before he died. We knew he was terminal for many months and I must have gone through the process in what I have heard called anticipatory grief. I later found out this was not the case at all. I am not at all sure such a thing is possible. We don’t know what we have lost until the loss happens, then we gradually discover the depths of the loss and grieve. I don’t know that we can do that in advance.

I began to wonder if somehow I had stopped loving my father. Or that I was not capable of real love or real grief. I felt a great deal of guilt because I did not hurt as much as I thought I should. Was I so hardened and uncaring I could not even feel grief when my father died?

In my case, this went on for about eight months, and then I woke up one night reliving my father’s death and the grief came at last. That made grieving more difficult. How do you suddenly start to grieve eight months later when everyone assumes you are well past any major outburst of pain? Who can one talk to that will not think you daft?

Since that time, I have met many others who had the same experience after giving long term care to a loved one. I have found the same kind of guilt and self doubt make folks feel like there was something wrong with them or that they did not love as much as they thought they did.

I now understand, the grief following long-term and intensive caregiving is often delayed. I now believe that when the death happens we are too exhausted to grieve. We do not have any emotions to grieve with. We feel a sense of relief and then feel guilty because we do so. We are emotionally flat and cannot feel very much about anything including the death of our loved one. We must rest before we can grieve. Our bodies and minds will protect us from overload by shutting down feelings until we are sufficiently recovered enough to grieve. It does not mean we did not love or care. It does not mean there is something wrong with us. It means we will grieve when we are able to do so after we recover from the ordeal of care.

In my case that took eight months. I have talked to some who did not take that long and others that took much longer. There is no right time or right way to grieve. The best advice I can give anyone in grief is feel what you feel. In this case the best advice is feel what you feel when you get ready to feel.

Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at www.insightbooks.com. Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community www.thecarecommunity.com.

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