When confronted with the vacant pillow event (the death of a spouse or significant other) we begin a new era, a new normal. It starts with the idea of being alone with everything that represents a lifetime together with another human being. Everything that was before is changed, with those closest to the change affected the most. When we are confronted by a death of a significant other, there is a real cognitive event that takes place in our brain. It happens because, our brains are designed to revue and examine everything going on in our environment, it helps keep us safe when threatened (fight or flight response). Our brain needs to gather all of the evidence related to the event and make sense of it all. In a medical event, It will review and question everything, from how the loved one was diagnosed, the medications prescribed, the prognosis, the treatment, the surgeries, the people involved, etc. etc. etc. And, our reaction to the event will most certainly be affected by the factors evaluated. When life gives us a long prolonged illness our brains will often have helped us adjust to the final outcome. When life changes suddenly our brains are challenged at a pace many of us will find very difficult and stressful. We can not turn it off, even with alcohol or drugs, it is its function. What we can do is understand its purpose, help it adjust, and give it what it needs to move on, as it will not be denied.
For over 40 years my job has been to help people navigate this event, to find a successful and healthy path to a new normal. While many of us come to this event from many different places, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, confronting death and presenting the dead body of the loved one is proven to be the most significant evidence we have in helping the brain move on. Bearing the burden of grief and having a process to follow that gradually and safely takes us through the results of life’s trauma, and helps us facilitate the data and react appropriately in that moment, can save us years of mental distress and dysfunction. Yes, it is difficult, yes, it is emotional and yes, it can be helpful and healing when presented in the proper way with the proper guidance and support.
As I lay my head on my pillow days ago in the midst of deep disparaging thoughts, I realized that I would need a process and be in great need of help in navigating my way through grief. It was a sickening thought and one that landed hard in a dark pit of despair deep within me. If life confronted me with that path, I would be forced to navigate the way through it. Today, I am blessed not to have to walk that path, yet knowing that some day I will, we will. I am blessed knowing there are family and friends and dedicated professionals willing to walk that walk with me. Life is good!
“Blessings on your journey”