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May 20, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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Still Grieving Over Son

Question:

I have been a very active person. I hunt when I can, fish when I can't hunt. I live life the way I want my boys to.

Writing my background gave me some insight already. My son of 26 years passed away on 01/02/08. It's 1:10am and I can't sleep. I have been grieving his passing for a long time. I haven't been working; I'm getting behind in my bills and letting the rest of the family down. No, I am not thinking of killing myself. It just seems to get harder to get going than before. I can't get motivated.

We had 100+ of his friends show up for the memorial at my home. It was a little overwhelming - I did not realize he had so many friends. How do I or when will I start to feel better? Never - I just answered my own question. I think I am going to his memorial too often. I set up a picture slide memorial on a website and go there too often I think - almost everyday, sometimes twice. Lots of his friends did too. He was loved by many.

I have had to deal with loss before, just not this close. Thank you for a place to unload a little frustration.

Army Ranger, 52-year-old man

Answer:

Dear Army Ranger,

The greatest sorrow anyone could have is to lose a beloved child. Your son was a part of your life for 26 years, and now he is gone. Of course you are suffering and in pain. You'd have to be some kind of an unfeeling monster if you weren't. People may tell you or you may tell yourself to put it behind you and to get on with life. This is inaccurate and unrealistic. It is right and proper for you to hurt, to grieve.

Certainly, as time passes, you can expect the nature of your grief to change, and after a while, it will be background rather than something that rules your life and keeps you awake at night - except on special days like birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and the like. But life will go on.

How long will it take to start healing? Everyone is different, so everyone's grieving takes a different path. And a lot depends on whether the sufferer avoids the pain. Some people use alcohol or other drugs, antidepressants, denial, or keep so busy that they don't have time to feel. Such avoidance actually extends the grief, and can make it worse and longer. I have had clients for whom a death 20 years ago was still fresh, because they never faced up to the pain.

So, what you are doing is right. You have suffered a loss, and are now experiencing it fully. Gradually, you will be able to let go of the hurt, and your son's memory will be a bitter-sweet part of your life. You may be able to reach this stage in another 3 months, or another year and a half. But, doing what you are doing now is healthy, natural and right, so you will get there. Feel the pain. Honor your son with your grief. Do not banish him, but invite him to stay with you as long as you live. He will be a loved, loving and welcome presence.

However, this does NOT mean that you need to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week devoted to grieving. Would your son want you to do that? Where he is now, he wants you to get on with your life. He wants you to be the father he has always known: strong, with a sense of adventure, physically active, enjoying activities like hunting and fishing. And you can, even while grieving, although I know that sounds like a paradox.

Other people in your situation have found a particular way of scheduling their day to be very helpful. I have suggested this to hundreds of grieving people. What you do is to concentrate your grieving to a particular time of your day. At this stage, you might make it two hours, the same time of day, everyday. Later on, you may be able to reduce it. So, conscientiously, you spend, say, 3pm to 5pm (or whatever) on your son's memory, on your feelings and thoughts about his death. Any other time it comes to you, including at 1 am, gently send it away. Say within your mind: "Son, go away for now. I have an appointment with you at 3pm. Come back then."

If you do this consistently, you will find that the all-consuming thoughts and emotions will gradually give you a holiday much of the time. You will be able to sleep, because the repetitive thoughts will go and wait for the scheduled time. You will again have energy to do your work, pay your bills, do all the things you need to do.

Please go to http://anxietyanddepression-help.com/firstaid.html. This is a chapter from one of the books I am writing, and describes 7 measures for looking after yourself. Follow these recommendations. They are good medicine for you, especially at this time.

One last thought Army Ranger: death is only the end of a chapter.

Thinking of you,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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