Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some methods to make grief less unbearable.

Notice I don't say "make it bearable" or "easier" -- wouldn't want to mislead you. Grief is never fully bearable, to be honest, not for the first few years. Decade. Recent emails and conversations have caused me to compare what it was like to lose my dad, to what it has been like to lose Jesse. It really isn't the same; up until Jesse died, I felt the loss of my dad more sharply than I do now. It's not that I don't still miss what a dad means to a child; or what my dad could have been, might have been: losing a child just knocks all that to one side.

At first (and if you look back to the beginning of this blog) there was nothing but devastation. In order to dig out of it, I tried to follow the same path I went through with my dad; believing in something afterward, confronting pain-- not a good idea. Then I tried reasoning my way through it. A lot better. I think Meaghan O'Rourke on Slate has taken that route too. It only works up to a point: no matter what anyone else has written or said about death, no matter how sincere or pointed or deep or meaningful: it all sounds so stupid and wrong and misguided when you yourself are grieving. There are no words that will make it any better. It helps more to know that others are going through it, than what they think of it. Sometimes it helps to know how they go through it, but not prescriptively. We each have to find our own way. When someone tells you how to grieve (and I mean you, Elizabeth Kubler Ross junkies) they aren't really helping you. They're trying to overcome their own grief, maybe, trying to assert their mastery of life, trying to indoctrinate you? I don't indoctrinate. Maybe some find comfort in being told what to do and feel. I only rebel. It makes it worse.

Grieving, that is, expressing your grief, however you do it, is an art form. Not like this, like this. Like child rearing, grief is shaped by the person who is doing it. Take what you want from others' methods, but don't feel you're doing it wrong. You aren't. You'll figure out what you need sooner or later. Don't give up on that.

I don't for example need or want religion to help me. I don't want to read sad poems about losing children. I don't want to delude myself into believing anything that I don't actually know and see for myself. Well meaning people may prefer I do otherwise. I try to avoid confronting them about it; but it's not going to happen.

Things that have helped: the walk to work. Feeling that I can mourn Jesse in the park on the way to work, and cry in the privacy of the city sidewalks. Music. Especially fast beats, with positive messages. I'm a New Orleans girl, so When the Saints Go Marchin In works, but so does Modest Mouse, Jimmy Eat World, Walking on Sunshine. And the song I swear Jesse sent me one morning: Someday, we'll be together. Say it, say it, say it again.


  1. Yesterday I and a professor and long time therapist talked about grieving (in a different context, divorce) but about the different theories we can use in therapy to guide someone. We decided that we felt more comfortable and from therapy experiences the theory that each person has their own unique experiences and ways to deal with death, guilt, etc. rather than the stages theory. They will guide us in what they need. Then we can help. I know in my heart and head that you will find what you need when you need it and ask for what you need when you need it.


    So, I am coming up on my two year license now, and I think I will be finished with the supervision aspect although I always want to have a peer to bounce off of. I just submitted an RFP for CPS in our state and am planning on teaching some community college psy classes next year. Private practice is good and I just had an interview published in Dallas Child (Feb) for parenting coaches.

    Is it a good thing that your plans changed? I was looking forward to having you in Texas, but although you are from the south, I worried over the culture shock. But hey Dallas turned blue this year, so Austin is not alone anymore.


  2. That's awesome news, Kim. I've been doing parenting classes for a while now, what is parent coaching like? It sounds right up my alley.
    It's kind of lucky my plans changed, as Mr. Nomist lost his job this year. We'd have been paddling up the creek with our bare hands. The problem was the diff between a Bachelor in Psych in 1982 vs 2007, basically. I need one more credit, but I have to retake 5 of my undergrad classes to catch up. So I'm going to start that when I have the energy. I should be a PHD by age 90.

  3. Can a person come to love another person that they've never met?

    The more I read your blog the more I think yes.

    So thank you. For writing and putting it out in public.

    On another note, have you heard of this: There is a guy here in my small town who has either got a franchise, or trained with, or something and runs a kind of "Upgrade Center" here. He is kind of plugged in with Guardian Ad Litem and other court entities to help provide parenting classes to people who may be in danger of (or who have) lost custody.

    He is now also offering classes to people who simply want to be a better parent.

    It may be something worthwhile. Or not.

    Anyway, I mostly just wanted to say hi.

  4. A& S I'll be contacting him going forward. I have to get in touch with my Fordham contact as well. Looks like things won't get going until Fall 09, at the earliest.

  5. Awesome! These are questions we often ask ourselves when someone we know is faced with a loss. Watching a person suffer the pain of loss can be almost unbearable. Often in life it is easier to accept our own suffering that it is to accept the anguish of someone we deeply care about.

  6. Hi Ruby thanks for reading. Sorry I didn't see this till now.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.