Category Archives: Grief and Grieving

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.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness means letting go of and accepting what has occurred, because  no matter what we do, the position isn’t likely to change. Forgiveness means dismissing the blame. Choices were made that caused us to hurt. Maybe we could have made different choices. Forgiveness means looking at our pain and learning lessons from it. Forgiveness means starting over with the knowledge that we may have gained something after all.

To move on or not to move on ….

questions 2To move on, or  not to move on, that is the question … which reminds me of Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’

So, do I move on or not move on? Four years since my husband passed away, I think it is time.  It’s not easy to return home to an empty house with no one to greet me. I hear the house echoing from its very silence. Worst of all, there is nobody who knows whether I arrived home safely late at night or not. My husband got into the habit of calling me three times a day every day since we fell in love after our first date - he would have known where I was at any given time. So many years together; so many memories. Losing my husband changed my life drastically as he was my best friend.

But, something inside of me told me that maybe I could survive, that I could manage. Even though the last four years have felt like an endless amount of time for me since his passing. There have been moments when I felt quite ‘normal’ (even though I don’t like this word, I can’t think of a better one)  and it surprised me to discover that slowly but surely, larger parts of my days are spent feeling reasonably human once again. I suppose that while I was in the grips of grief, time’s force continued to pull it away from me and the resilience of my heart that has loved so much, eventually prevailed.

Although It took courage, I went to a symphony concert alone recently and even attended a series of lectures solo. Now, I have to pluck up the courage to enter a coffee shop without a companion and maybe even slip into a cinema in the dark to catch a movie that I really want to see instead of missing the best ones due to the fact that either my friends have seen it, or we can’t find a time that suits us both.

Praise for DAVID’S STORY

David's Story cover kindle

David’s Story by Jill Sadowsky is available from SMASHWORDS or AMAZON as a Kindle Book.

Praise for David’s Story: by Dvora Waysman, author.

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. Jill Sadowsky’s honest recording of her son’s mental illness is written with sensitivity and compassion, born out of love and pain.

By David Greenberg, MD Director of Community Mental Health Services, North Jerusalem, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Hebrew University Jerusalem, Editor of the Israel Journal of Psychiatry.

David’s Story is a deeply  moving account of the struggle of a family with a son with schizophrenia. Jill Sadowsky describes in the  most credible detail, watching her son deteriorate into psychosis, experiencing his suicide attempts, acts of destruction and his threats to his loved ones. She describes her response to the medication and its side-effects, compulsory treatment, seeing her son in restraints and the hopes and disappointments of seeking new treatments. In the midst of these events, she relates how she and her husband continued to love their son, despite the chaos and destruction his illness caused. Up to 50% of sufferers attempt suicide in the course of the illness and 5% die by suicide.  I particularly recommend this book to every person working in the field of mental health.         

Ever scan the obituaries and feel jealous of the dead?

red rose 2Here are some of the things my husband said over a period of time so I linked them up  and this is the result.

Ever scan the obituaries and feel jealous of the dead? It’s like living on a cliffside, a buzzing in my head.

Do you know how it feels to see a world that once was clear change from white to gray then black; tomorrow’s filled with fear? I do my best to make each day as easy as I can and keep myself as busy as any other man.

There’s a sensation that I’m screaming, yet I never make a sound, or the feeling that I’m falling, yet never hit the ground. It keeps on rushing at me, day by day by day. Can you imagine what it must be like to have to live this way?

I know my wife is hurting. She tries not to let it show. Her smile covers her feelings. She continues with the flow.

The line between the rest of the world and me

earthWhy did I feel a line between me and the rest of the world? Because my son was in a psychiatric hospita. I no longer felt like other people. I knew that I had to cope. There was no time to slip into a depression or anything else. I repeated the following mantra to myself. Someday, I want to walk in a forest, dance, explore the beachfront on a cool evening or go sailing. It’s not possible now, but maybe someday.

I had to concentrate on getting my son well. Friends asked how I learned to accept my son’s illness. I didn’t have time to accept nor reject. I went from support groups, the pick up prescriptions, to the drugstore where I waited for the pharmacist to collect the varied assortment of medication for my son.  And I repeated, someday, I want to walk in a forest or dance, or swim on a clear summer’s evening. It’s not possible now, but someday.

 Why that line between me and the rest of the world?  Because after trying to get better for 16 years, my son was unable to handle his  voices. And the world didn’t understand fully. Nor did I. How could I imagine what it must have been like not to have the peace of mind he ached for?

I thought that nothing else could occur in our family, but then I discovered that widowhood was/is the single, most common personal catastrophe. My feelings changed like the weather causing me to feel  uprooted like a huge tree blown over in a gale. I alternated between feeling weak or strong, happy or angry, sad and lonely, alone, overwhelmed and no longer fitting in anywhere. There were times when I found myself standing in front of our large, often empty refrigerator in the middle of the night, searching for something to eat, but the few remaining items were way past the printed expiration date. So, I learned to expect the unexpected.

                                                                    

Advice from all sides

cadbury's YESOver the years, I have heard that it is the simple things that count in life, so, when I feel down, I walk as fast as I can to the nearest supermarket to buy a large chocolate; especially a white Toblerone if available. What can be simpler than that? Yes, I love chocolate, and although I do not allow myself to eat it whenever I ‘feel like it,’ I have been known to manage far more chocolate in one go than anyone else I have ever met.

Something else that I read by laughter specialist  was, Laugh often and laugh loudly. Feel alive and get active. Well, the feel alive part is easy, but the laughing part is a bit harder. Although I used to be the kind of person who laughed a lot and laughed loudly, I don’t do much of either nowadays.

On television there is always someone saying; when the tears come, endure your grief and then move on. How right they are but they omitted to give instructions on how to do that.

Health books are full of, cherish and preserve your health and if it’s unstable, find ways of improving it. Then I noticed an addendum: if you are unable to do this alone, seek help.

I know how important it is to tell my near and dear ones how much I love them at every opportunity as it makes me feel warm and good inside.

Then I attended a lecture where I was told not to be afraid of failure. The lecturer said; ‘You’ve all failed many times even though you might have forgotten about all those times. The first time was probably when  you tried to toddle at an early age and toppled over. When you swam for the first time you might have felt that you were drowning. Maybe you messed up when you tried to swipe a ball with a bat for the first time, but that didn’t mean that you had to give up, did it?’

Now for the seniors. I’ve come to the conclusion that now that I am a senior citizen, I should throw out non-essential numbers including age, weight and height. I also think that I should try to  keep in close touch with cheerful friends as the grouches pull me down. It’s easier said than done but worth trying. Not for one moment am I suggesting that I am going to dump my wonderful older friends when they don’t feel well, but am going to have some good times with those who are able to do so.