They say that nothing is guaranteed but death and taxes.
We grumble about the former and try to avoid the reality of the later. Most of us would rather pay taxes than have to deal with the reality of the death of someone close to us. The finality of death leaves us hurt and lonely.
Grief is a feeling that we would rather avoid. It has so many faces. We see and feel the anger. We see the hurt and devastation. We hear the wailing of angsts. The range of emotions that a person experiences as they grieve is limitless. You can feel good one moment and break down and cry the next. Happiness is often fleeting. The complete loss of control over the situation can be challenging. All of these emotions may be felt at different times or all at once. There generally are a plethora of emotions.
It is hard enough to have these emotions as we experience grief, but we also come close to the families and patients we care for and grieve when they die. This is especially hard for us because most of us go into medicine to help relieve suffering. Watching our patients die feels like failure. Failure is yet another emotion. Sometimes we blame ourselves, even when there was nothing more we could have done.
The emotions are so devastating that we sometimes equate these feelings to depression. Dementia, depression, grief all have the same symptoms. Taking a pill would be easy. There is no formula that you can follow. Grief is something that has to be worked through.
It is a life journey that we have to allow us to continue to do the work that we do effectively.
This is the holiday season. People feel great during this season, or they feel awful. There seems to be no middle ground. This is a time when you expect to share pleasant feelings and memories with your loved ones. My recommendation is to plan, plan, plan. It is an opportunity to start something new. It is a time to remember. The first holiday without your loved one is often problematic. The next should be better.
During this holiday season, it is good to look back on the good times with your loved ones and be glad that you had them then.
Grief should also help you cherish the loved ones you currently have and anticipate the good times you can share with them.
It has been said that grief is the price you pay for love. I say that love is worth it.
Donna J Scott, MD, Author and Psychiatrist, Huntsville