Thursday, August 18, 2011

How long does it take to "heal"?

Hello there,

When my mother was dying she received Hospice care and we, her survivors, had the option of receiving free-to-us bereavement counseling for the 13 months after her death. During the process of her dying and after she passed away, we were told that it takes approximately a year to heal or accept the death and go through the stages.

In future post, I will discuss what various people and experts have stated these stages are. In this post, I am addressing the fact that I don't think we really heal. Don't let this make you think it's hopeless. It's more like there is less severe pain as time goes on and we develop acceptance and coping skills.  As I like to tell people and have needed reminding myself of is that without pain from the loss of a loved one it would mean that there wasn't anything positive in our relationship with that person.

From my own experience, as well as having spoken with and observed others in the grief process, I would say that perhaps the average time it may take to reach a healthy level of acceptance to make major decisions and become more in living one's own life more fully again is perhaps that 12 month period that Hospice mentioned to me 10 years ago.  But on the other hand, there are many factors that determine that. I think it took me about those 12 months to accept my mother's death. I was actively participating in the bereavement counseling, which was extremely helpful. But, watching my father was a different story.

He refused the counseling, dated a woman who chased him and called him after reading about my mother's death in the obituary, eventually in about 4 months sold his house, moved out of state and started chasing after other women to marry. There were other odd behaviors. My brothers, other family members and I thought he had "gone crazy" and wondered if he even loved my mother. Later, he did marry a woman about a year after my mother's death. That is a whole other story for another time.

This woman got sick and passed away about 3 1/2 years later.  My father then was not only dealing with the loss of that wife, but started to feel all the pain of the loss of my mother at that time too. He had run away from dealing with the loss of my mom in every way he could.  It caught up with him.

I had a teacher in high school who had left an administrative position to teach. The story was that he had to take time off because his mother had died years before, but he didn't take the time to grieve. He didn't have the coping skills and then had to take time off to do that. He talked about this very personal thing in a creative writing class he was teaching and shared how creative writing helped in his grieving process.

There are different ways of coping and different things that can complicate the grieving process such as guilt, unfinished business, mixed emotions, stressed relationships with that person. These are all things that can complicate the process, but once dealt with can make a major difference in one's own personal growth and continued relationship with that person and their memory as well. When I say "continued relationship", I believe we do have a continued relationship in many ways-our perceptions of them, their actions, their memories, thoughts and feelings about them. I also still "visit" with my mom in dreams. 

We don't just "heal" up and put people behind us.  We grow from them being in our lives when they physically existed with us and within their memory living within us.  It takes time on an individual basis for each person.

Thank you for joining me.
I hope that you will share your thoughts, questions, experiences and comments here.
In Peace,
Mary Ellen

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