Category Archives: Grief and Grieving

So many people wanted to comfort me …

  SO MANY PEOPLE WANTED TO COMFORT ME.  SO FEW SUCCEEDED

People aim to comfort a parent who has lost a child. So few really know what to say.

Our son, Doron, was a healthy, strapping young man who loved sport, particularly surfing. When he was drafted into the military and into a fighting unit, the last thing we contemplated was illness. He was far too healthy. Sometime during his military service, something happened to his mind and much later, long after he completed his three years compulsory military service, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Then, before his 34th birthday, he released himself from a mind that tormented him and as his mother, I was released from watching him suffer. We were parted forever . I mourn him, I miss him, I’m angry and sad, particularly because he ended his life to quiet the voices in his head that no modern medication managed to alleviate. It took a long time for me to forgive him for taking my son away from me. I wondered when and whether I would ever be happy again.

Few people knew what to say to us grieving parents, particularly because suicide was concerned. What does one say to grieving parents? What does it mean to offer condolences? Well, all I can tell you is what we didn’t want to hear.

I would die if I were you: This is only a manner of speaking and not remotely true. Human beings are built to withstand all kinds of calamities and they survive although probably changed forever. However, they continue to live. When we heard the above, we felt as if this person were predicting that we would never be happy again and that if we do manage a semblance of happiness, we should really feel guilty. Believe me, I felt cursed and didn’t need anyone to make it worse.

So what could that person have said? This must be the hardest thing in the world for you. Remember that I am thinking of you.

I can’t imagine how you must be feeling: This didn’t work either because if the idea of losing a child couldn’t be so terrible unless you could imagine it. Grief is isolating. I felt as if there was an unwritten line drawn between the rest of the world and myself. I felt so very alone and vulnerable. I needed empathy, not pity. So, what would I have preferred to hear? I feel so sad for you and your family. What can I do to help you?

I have no idea what you are feeling: But you do. You feel sadness because the death of a child by suicide after a long illness is one the saddest and incomprehensible things in the whole world.
I feel so sad would have sounded so much better.

While growing up, we were taught rather shallow, standard things to say when people die but most of what we learned lacked emotional engagement which is the very thing that grieving people need – in fact, it’s what they long for particularly in those early days when the grief is raw.

We should think deeply about what they would most like to hear. I have seen grieving parents actually cringe. I believe that the best way to comfort somebody is to listen to them because in this situation, it is not about you, but about them. That person has a great need to talk so let them. Allow them to say what they feel. The flags below show the stages that grieving parents will go through.

Grief tags 2

Do not stand at our graves and weep ….

 

snow on either side of the road

Do not stand at our graves and weep

We are not there, we do not sleep.

We’re a thousand winds that blow, we’re the diamond glints on snow.

We’re the gentle autumn rain.

 

When you awaken in the morning’s hush, we’re the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight, we’re the bright stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at our graves and cry, we are not there, although we died.

In memory of my late husband and our son who left us long before his time.

Dealing with grief

numbered silver balls 

 I imagined a silver ball bouncing around inside the weekly lottery machine. I knew that it was unlikely that someone else could associate that image with feelings of grief and yet, it was the best metaphor I could come up with that explained the unpredictability of my emotional patterns when I mourned for my near and dear ones who had passed away over the years.

 

Today, grief is seen as a psychological problem that has to be overcome. The grieving person gets time off work for the funeral, is often handed a prescription for an antidepressant, and is then given membership for a bereavement support group.

 

It was pointed out to me that there \was a right way and a wrong way to grieve and if I chose the wrong way, it would be my responsibility to seek treatment, either by taking medication or starting a course of psychotherapy.

 

I didn’t think that I believed in rituals, but I realized that the traditions I turned to while mourning gave me a sense of control over my grieving process and in time, helped alleviate my grief somewhat. Playing a favorite song, walking along the beach or watching a sunset evoked fond memories and brought on a cathartic cry, which was usually helpful.

 

Frankly, from my experience of grief after losing far too many near relatives, three in traumatic ways, I didn’t think that my grief needed to be treated. I truly believe that grief is a part of the human condition similar to fear or anger. Maybe grieving deeply  was the price I had to pay for loving so deeply.a burning candle

My son Doron

 DORON

When we talk to God, it’s called prayer but when God talks to us, it’s called schizophrenia. By  Lily Tomlin.

In my book, I changed all the names making it easier for me to write honestly. Doron is David.

David’s Story is a heart-breaking study of the progress of schizophrenia, destroying not just one life, but making tragic inroads into the lives of every family member. This story gripped me from the first page and I grieved along with the author. I highly recommend it.

By Dvora Waysman (author)

David’s story is available as a kindle e-book on Amazon or Smashwords. Serch for Jill Sadowsky, click on David’s Story, click on buy now and then follow instrucdtions. If you do not have a kindle, you can download the free kindle app that allows you to read this book on any laptop.

 

 

 

1000 blogs posted to date

no more stigma 5I posted my 1,000th blog on May 23, 2014 and even I was amazed at the amount of material I have included on these pages.

I have written two books, my work has been included in two Anthologies and I have had many articles and stories published. So you might ask why I began blogging. Well, while my son was ill with schizophrenia, my husband and I belonged to a support group but if we’d had blogs to read in those days, we would have gained even more useful information that could have helped us enormously. So, I decided to blog about mental illness, other brain illnesses and Alzheimer’s disease and hoped that in these pages, by speaking out frankly, somehow, I would manage to give others some empathy and even hope sometimes, encourage people to join me, and together, we might be able to lessen the blame, shame, stigma and discrimination accorded the brain illnesses. What surprised me most was how many people in countries all over the world started following my blog. Probably due to the sensitivity of the subject of mental illness, few people actually left comments, but, what they did do, was send me emails. And, I replied to every single one of them even though it is time consuming.

When my blog was born in November 2011, I had no idea of how much work it would entail to write a blog and keep it going. and, I had to learn how to post a new blog, how to save a draft and worst of all, how to get an image not only onto the screen where my blog was, but, I had to learn how to make that image show up and remain where I wanted it to be on that particular page. The result was that instead of going to bed at a reasonable time at night, I found myself fighting with my laptop till the early hours of the morning; sometimes with good results, but very often, the computer won the battle and I gave up tearfully. After all who could a blogging grandma call at that hour? Believe me, I was often tempted to wake B., my computer guru, but I knew that he would not have been impressed.

I felt as if I were doing a fairly good job, but every time a journalist related yet another incident of violence committed by an unstable person – the latest occurred on May 24, 2014 when a young person suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome and living in the USA, went on a shooting spree.  In my humble opinion, unless the United States of America changes its gun laws, I cannot see a way out. I always thought that the safety of a country’s citizens was the priority of a government.   

 In America under the Brady Act, one cannot have a gun for personal or business use if a person:  

Has been convicted of a crime punishable by being in prison for more than one year.

Is a fugitive from justice;

Is addicted to, or illegally using any controlled substance;

Has been ruled mentally defective by a court or is committed to a psychiatric institution;

Is an illegal alien living in the United States;

Has received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces;

Has renounced his/her U.S. citizenship.

Is subject to a restraining court order that involves his/her ‘intimate partner,’ that partner’s child, or children; has been convicted of domestic violence in any court.

 In spite of the above, I shall continue to blog about accepting a person with a mental illness the way we accept people with other illnesses. Maybe I am naive, but I firmly believe that even one voice can make a small difference. Please join me.

Time for change 1

If your life is a song …

 

For seniors and anybody with any kind of problem

If your life is a song, sing it.

If your life is a game, play it.

If your life is a challenge, meet it.

If your life is a dream, realize it.

If your life is a sacrifice, offer it.

And, if your life is about love, enjoy it.

 

lovebirds 2By Sai Baba

 

 

 

 

Loneliness

lonelinessLoneliness is one of the biggest challenges a person has to face. It can be due to  a mental illness. It applies to widows and widowers, divorcees and individuals who have not yet found a partner as well as to some handicapped people. It can be due to Down’s Syndrome, blindness, mild CP and also affects people in wheelchairs. These people need the opportunity to meet individuals in the same position and if a group to enable social integration in their community can be organized, it would be most helpful. People who may have been injured in car accidents and are still functioning adults, may share the same feeling – one of extreme loneliness and only because they are different.

Because someone looks different or behaves in a slightly different way from the rest of us, is not a reason to ignore them. There are certain things that this person might not be able to do, but he/she can manage most of the chores around the house. If we look carefully, we will always find something in common with one of these people over and above their disability.

NAMING THE BEAST by Rabbi Ilyse S. Kramer

wild cyclamensREBLOGGED

This was my third funeral of a similar kind. The death of yet another young adult who did not simply die, but was pursued mercilessly by a disease that often goes unnamed at funerals and tears at the hearts of those affected. It’s mental illness. It’s depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. It doesn’t matter with which type of mental illness one lives. What matters is that it can steal so many years away from people who are otherwise wildly pulsating human beings. For those of us in the midst of such a roller coaster life or as supporters of those affected, mental illness can be heartbreaking. It tears families apart. It tests relationships. It pursues with a vengeance.

Yes, there are medications. Yes, there are plenty of competent doctors. Yes, there are a variety of therapies and therapists. Yes, there is hope. But, in the cases I speak about, and we don’t like to speak about them, death feels like it is the only relief. Despite the pain we feel when we attend these funerals, we also know that it is only in death that our loved ones feel at peace. We bury our dear friends and we cry and we mourn as their tortuous battle comes to an end. We hope to God that there is mercy and compassion to be found as they finally lie still.

At this particular young man’s funeral, we got a chance to see what kind of ‘soul’ he was by those who attended and even by those who could not attend but sent messages of love and affection. There were many present; family and extended family, friends from High School and summer camps; Jews, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists and New Age spiritualists; Rabbis of all denominations from Carlebach-type and black-hat wearing Lubavitzer to Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionists. We were all drawn to his new resting place.

Peter had been a student of mine at the Wesleyan University. He was a sweet soul of a person with a musical muse. He was an intense spiritual seeker and loved to talk to all people about their life’s journeys. Joy radiated from his body; warm embracing bear-hugs began and ended many a conversation. Most of all, Peter was a true mystic. He brought so many diverse people together in his short life through honest talk, joyful dancing, song and prayer.

At Peter’s funeral, I chose to close my remarks by naming the beast called mental illness. Calling out its name early on in the service opened us all up to a more honest reality than would have been possible had it remained stifled within.  Naming the beast released a collective cry out to the heavens – and for that moment, it felt as if the world understood our rage.

By the completion of the burial service, the trees swayed and danced in the wind and a soft shower of rain like tears, descended upon us. And we hugged and cried and laughed as one does at funerals, connecting with all those present in that moment.

Mental illness tears apart the fabric of life and drills down to the marrow of our bones. It is an insidious disease and it continues to take too many people way too early.  And while it becomes their life’s battle, it is never who they truly are.

ADDENDUM

This site, Jill’s mental health resources, has just been included in the MHWG Mental Health writer’s Guild list.

mhwgmember2014

I’ll dance on their graves

I never thought

I’d be as dependent as an innocent lamb

depending on its mother’s milk

Yet  I am dependent on the charity of

good people and bad people.                                                      

To date, I haven’t met

anyone who can help me.

Anyone I can trust,

Certainly not my parents.

I’ll dance on their graves.

Written by  my late son, David. 

a burning candle

K’s comments

K commented on a blog and wrote the following:-  

Hi Jill,

My father, aged 89, who until this year has enjoyed good physical health, now has  declining cognitive capabilities. He had occasion to be in the hospital for one week and during that time, not one doctor nor nurse realized that he had no idea of what they were talking about when they had him sign consent forms for procedures to be performed – even though various family members visited with him at different times every day and also had medical power of attorney in case this situation arose.

How can doctors assess a patient of any age without asking for feedback from the family to ensure that his consent is of sound mind? I know from all the medical appointments I have accompanied him to, that when he answers a question, his answer is mostly incorrect. The medical personnel barely look up from their paperwork or put down their phones, and then move off to the next patient.  When we ask questions, my brothers and I receive different answers.

I took Dad to his G.P. today to find out what the hospital staff had reported to him. I needed details of ongoing treatment at home, so imagine my shock on hearing that the hospital had not informed my dad’s doctor that he had even been hospitalised. Can you imagine discharging him without a care plan or a treatment plan? They did not ask questions about who was going to take care of him at home either.

I am so angry, frustrated, worried, sad and ……

K.