Thursday, January 31, 2008

The physical effects of grief

I never realized that grief affected people in such a physical way. Of course, I realized that people cry a lot. But I never knew that the stress of grief magnified any existing conditions. I haven't been infected with bacteria or virus, and yet my physical body suffers because of what my mind is going through. I feel nauseas. My eyes burn. My asthma is worse. By far the worst is my hypoglycemia. I'm awake in the middle of the night shaky and unable to get back to sleep until I eat something. I have to keep stopping to eat all day, just to stay level. And because I'm so distracted and fuzzy, I often forget that I'm supposed to pay attention to my body signals, and I forget to eat. It takes awhile to recover from these scary lows. At a time when I need all my inner strength, I have no reserves emotionally or physically. Seems unfair.

The Genesis

I am starting this blog during a time of deep grief. I lost both my mom and my brother within weeks of each other. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected and I find myself still reeling from all that's happened to me. Perhaps by writing I will be able to process and heal and deal with my intense sorrow. I know I can't continue to leak my grief all over my dear friends and family. Everyone has been so amazingly good and kind to me. I have wonderful friends and family and these relationships have deepened considerably during this crisis. But I fear alienating them if I don't find a positive way to work through these feelings.

It started when my brother, age 56, died very suddenly of a massive heart attack. He and his young (30 something) wife had moved to Geneva four months ago. Having him die so far away was very difficult for my parents. They really wanted to bring back the body, but the cost was prohibitive. His wife doesn't speak any French and English is her second language. It's been very difficult for her. The sadness for me in his death is that I had hoped he would find the happiness he so desperately sought. He thought it was found in moving to the next city, or in financial success. Perhaps if he had stayed around longer, he would have softened and could have repaired relationships around him.

The last time I saw my mom was at my brother's funeral. Soon after her death, I wrote to a friend: My mother died on Sunday. My brother's death was very difficult for her, and I think she just died of a broken heart. She was active until the end, playing bridge, going to lunch, organizing and being in charge, and died in her sleep. As you can imagine this is very difficult on my dad, the rest of my family and me. My body feels like it's made of concrete and I'm just trying to put one foot in front of the other. To make calls to the same people, plan the service, and make the same decisions that I made three weeks ago for Scott is very difficult. A typical call goes like this: Affter I tell them who I am, most of the people I call say "Oh, I'm so glad you called. How are your parents?" And I have to say, "Well, I'm calling because my mom has died." "That's impossible! We were supposed to have lunch" I feel well-supported. Church is great, of course. I was so happy that three hours after I heard I could be in church worshiping and singing praise songs (He is the Remedy, Come thou fount of Every Blessing), and taking communion. People have prayed on the phone for me, brought me boxes of tea, and sent flowers. I've worked every day, and I'm thankful I have a warm, caring staff. She is with Jesus, and had a long, happy life.