COVID GRIEF

It has been a year since the pandemic began here in the United States. At that time, none of us knew what we were in store for. We were innocent and naive thinking we’d be inconvenienced for a short time. Now we know the hardships COVID19 is capable of causing. We wear masks, try to maintain a safe distance from others, don’t hug our loved ones and avoid shopping or eating out. People are working from home. Children have been trying to learn through virtual lessons. People we know and love are sick or perhaps even dying. Nothing is normal and we miss everything that we took for granted.

Most of us are aware that we are changed. We are not ourselves in many ways. Our feelings are not unlike those of grief when experiencing a specific loss, such as in divorce, a loss of a job or home, the death of a loved one or our own approaching death. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described what she called the five stages of grief. Looking at these stages now may help us to understand some of our current feelings and moods. Those five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

It is easy to see that our first reaction to the pandemic was denial that it could possibly be this serious. As time went on and we realized our lives were severely altered it was natural to feel anger. Anger at being told what we could and could not do, anger at those who refused to take those necessary precautions and anger at the inconvenience of it all was a frequent feeling. Bargaining may be harder to recognize, but at times we surely promised mentally that we’d follow the rules and that would bring an end to this curse sooner. Depression, including suicide, today is a significant problem according to mental health professionals. It is hard to fight when one is depressed and the condition becomes a vortex of despondency and a feeling of inertia that makes each day hard to face. Acceptance is having hope and in the case of COVID a feeling that normalcy will return and that life will be joyous again.

These stages of grief do not always come in this order and it isn’t unusual to switch back and forth among these stages. There are no exact parameters. Some degree of each stage will probably linger and overlap other stages. After twelve months of this experience you can probably identify these stages of grief in your life. Hopefully this recognition of the process and an understanding of the stages will help us to go forward with hope.

Photo by Pixabay

Dying to leave, Trying to stay . . .

In My Experience

Depression is a thief. It robs one of blue skies, the songs of birds, the warmth of authentic hugs and most of life’s simplest pleasures. It is more than a “down” day. It is life-changing and it is painful beyond explanation. All the medications, treatments and counseling in the world sometimes barely make a dent in depression’s hold.

If you are depressed, know someone who is or just want to learn more about the subject please read the following blog by John Pavlovitz. He describes depression with first-hand knowledge.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/11/23/dying-to-leave-trying-to-live-my-depression-journey/

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Graphic by Pixabay

 

Depression III

Depression

Alone
even with others,
Lonely
without a reason,
Tears
to be withheld,
Fears of nothing and everything,
Imagination
of things untold,
Predictions
that may come true.
Color?
Every shade of blue.

by Sue Baugh Mattingly 

 

Graphic by Pixabay

Depression II

Phillip

When I was in the first grade my little brother, a toddler, died on the way to the hospital. He had been ill his entire little life.    https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/27/little-blue-bird/

Daddy

That loss brought about many changes in our family. The most profound change was in my father. Fortunately, perhaps, I do not remember details about the absences, but my father was often missing from our family after Phillip died. I learned many years later that he was hospitalized for a mental illness. In those days depression was called “involutional melancholia” and if the condition was severe the patient spent time in a mental hospital. 

In researching my father’s condition and medical records (this was before HIPAA) and eventually meeting with his psychiatrist many years later I learned that he underwent two types of shock treatments. In the late forties and early fifties, he was repeatedly given massive doses of insulin which caused a coma. The coma was then treated with glucose to save the patient from death. When insulin coma/shock therapy fell into disfavor as dangerous electroshock (electroconvulsive) therapy became the treatment of choice for depression and some other mental illnesses. EST (also called ECT) is initiated by applying an electrical current to the anesthetized patient causing a grand mal seizure (convulsion). The intended result of these repeated treatments was the improvement of depression.

Both of these methods of treatment seem cruel and bizarre and although insulin shock was discontinued many decades ago, EST remains an accepted, although infrequent, mode of treatment for depression. The side effects include loss of memory, learning problems, muscle aches, and upset stomach. In my father’s case, I believe a loss of his personality (or at least a significant change) was also an effect of the numerous treatments he underwent. 

He was a good man. He was intelligent and managed to work again, but was never quite the same person. He had to fight hard to participate in life, but he did so for many years. He died of a heart attack at age sixty-nine. 

Today

Major depression, also known as unipolar or major depressive disorder, is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness or a lack of interest in outside stimuli. It is generally treated today by medications and talk therapy. 

 

Graphic by Pixabay

 

 

 

Depression

Impact

Depression affects about 121 million people worldwide (World Health Organization) and 14.8 million in the U.S. making it the leading cause of disability (National Institutes of Mental Health). According to the WHO, depression ranks number four on the list of diseases and is predicted to be number two by next year. 

There has been much in the news lately about the role that vitamin D plays in depression. There have been numerous studies, large and small, that indicate adequate vitamin D could be a simple way to combat this growing disease. Unfortunately proof of this benefit remains unsettled at present.

The Sunshine Vitamin

A deficiency of vitamin D is implicated in many diseases (diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiac to mention a few). According to the CDC in 2006 at least 25% of the US population was deficient. Why would this be? It isn’t hard to imagine that people today are not outside as much as in past generations. And, when we do go outside most of us use sunscreen as advised by dermatologists. Sunscreen of any strength blocks UVB rays which produce vitamin D. These rays do not penetrate glass so time spent by a window or in the car does not help. Many people experience added depression during dark, cloudy months, a condition known as Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD).

The Quandary 

We can benefit from knowing more about vitamin D and its benefits. For instance, calcium for strong bones cannot be absorbed without adequate vitamin D. With each source of this important vitamin there are drawbacks. Too much sun can lead to skin cancer. Excessive use of over-the-counter supplements of vitamin D can lead to toxicity.

The answer to this quandary is to do research and become better informed if you suffer from depression or think you might not be getting enough vitamin D. And, the bottom line is always to consult your physician and discuss a lab test for your vitamin D level. 

 

 

Graphic by Pixabay

 

 

 

Grief

Stages of Grief

In 1969 Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published the book “On Death and Dying” outlining what came to be known as the Five Stages of Grief. Few understood that Kubler-Ross was describing what she had observed in her patients who were dying. It was about personal grief from one’s own approaching death but could be applied to the grief of any loss that might be experienced. The author published a second book decades later entitled “On Grief and Grieving” in which she explained the stages further.

With this background in mind, it serves us well to briefly look at the five stages which Dr. Kubler-Ross listed.

1.Denial
Denial is a natural reaction which briefly buffers one from the unthinkable reality of death or approaching death.

2. Anger
Anger is often directed at the unfairness of the loss one is experiencing.

3. Bargaining
Bargaining is a mechanism that is especially used by those who are anticipating their own death. Bargaining might be in the form of asking to just see a daughter’s wedding or a grandchild’s birth before death.

4. Depression
Depression sets in when one realizes that bargaining will not work and is a period of deep mourning.

5. Acceptance
Accepting the inevitability of death brings a measure of peace, but it does not erase grief. 

One should never expect grief to be packaged in a neat orderly group of these five steps. Instead, grieving is personal and these stages can occur in any order, can overlap, as well as come and go over time. Having a general idea of what one is experiencing in these terms can, however, be helpful in recognizing the normalcy of the process.

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/06/book-reviews/

Types of Loss

These stages, these feelings are not only connected with loss through death but can be from any type of significant loss. Some that quickly come to my mind are the loss of a job, a home or a pet. Other less obvious perhaps are the loss of self-image (through injury or surgery), loss of a partner through divorce or separation and even loss of status or a sense of self. Through all of these losses and more, we can expect to deny, be angry, bargain, experience depression and hopefully finally reach a degree of acceptance.

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How to Say Goodbye

One of the hardest things to do is to say goodbye to one who is dying. Knowing that these are likely the last words you will speak to someone you care about is a formidable responsibility. Beryl Schewe (Eden Prairie News) notes six things that should or could be said. They are: I love you, Thank you, I forgive you, Forgive me, I will be OK, and Goodbye. It seems to me that any of these six simple phrases said in love are appropriate. I believe they are enough. I believe they can bring peace to both the dying and the survivor.

In the next post, we will discuss what to say and not say to one who is grieving.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Suicide Prevention

Today I received this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and I want to share it with you. Please use any of these resource links that you might need and/or pass the information along to others. 

To our AFSP Family,
On the heels of the reports of a second high profile loss to suicide, I wanted to take a moment to pull our AFSP family together and offer resources, and support.
We understand that the recent coverage may trigger strong feelings or memories that may be impacting you right now.
If this is the case for you, please take care of the basics for yourself and those around you: breathe, support each other, and practice kindness and self-care, even more than usual; un-plug from the news and/or social media if you need to minimize your exposure to this news coverage and chatter.
We encourage you to make sure you prioritize your mental health right now. Protect your sleep, eat healthy, exercise, stay in treatment if that’s part of your life, and connect to the people and things that encourage you. If things seem more difficult than usual, reach out for help; friends, family, religious leader, anyone you trust. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 @ 1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741-741.
Along with the extensive (and sometimes graphic and inappropriate) media coverage, the CDC also issued a significant report evaluating the trend of suicide death in the U.S, so you may see that much of the news reporting is incorporating data from that report.
While we have very important work to do, we need each of you to be in a good, emotionally healthy place to do so. If you need some time to regroup and recharge, take that time. Your wellness is a priority.
Sharing Safely
We ask that if you desire to share about this news, that you share the AFSP national social media posts or posts from other mental health organizations that focus on the hotline number and seeking help – and to not share articles or content that are sensational and graphic in nature. We encourage people to share messages of hope and that encourage seeking of help.
Supporting Safe Reporting in the Media
If you have contacts within the media, please share the Safe Reporting Guideline to help ensure best practices are being used when reporting on suicide. Download the Recommendations HERE.
Find Local Support
Survivor Outreach Program – You are not alone. Our trained peer support volunteers are all suicide loss survivors who know firsthand how difficult it can be to find your way in the aftermath of a suicide. CLICK HERE to request a visit with an SOP volunteer.
Mental Health Professionals – If you’re living with depression or another mental health condition, a health professional can help. CLICK HERE to find a mental health professional in your area.
Thank you for all that you do to help #StopSuicide in our community.
We have a lot of work to do, but together we can save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.
Sincerely,
Christine Moutier, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Suicide is not going away, but with more information and understanding regarding depression we may be able to stem the tide which threatens to wash over people of all ages, colors, religions and economic status. 

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/11/05/walk/

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

WALK

 

Out of Darkness

Yesterday when my alarm blared, the morning was cool and extremely foggy. As I lifted my sore body off the warm bed it was impossible to decide which of its parts was more painful. Two days ago I took a hard fall and was lucky to find nothing broken as two nice folks helped me to my feet. Brisk walking two to three miles or more a day has been my main exercise for the past few years. I generally avoid sidewalks, keeping to the nature trails in the nearby Parklands. https://www.theparklands.org/Parks/Pope-Lick-Park  I should have stuck to that plan because once again my walk had been rudely interrupted by concrete here in my neighborhood. 

During the past two painful days, I had tried to decide whether I would be able to keep my commitment to participate in the “Out of Darkness” walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention* (AFSP).  I was pre-registered and looking forward to walking with the group I had recently joined, so I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did, even though I did not quite make the entire course. 

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Almost 600 people were gathered at the Waterfront Park here in Louisville to raise funds for suicide prevention and to promote education about suicide awareness. Tens of thousands more walked across this country. It was humbling to be in the company of so people who had been touched by suicide. We walked in remembrance. We walked in unity with survivors. We walked simply to give support, both emotional and financial.

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Walking is good exercise, even for the clumsy, but walking in collaboration with others for an important cause was worth the extra effort it took yesterday. 

Earlier this year I wrote several blog posts on the subject of death and on March 1, specifically about suicide. It is a tough subject to discuss and I will always be grateful for the person who allowed me to post the eulogy that she gave for her mother who died in December of 2014 as the result of suicide. I hope that you will read or re-read that post, https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/ because the words written by Laurie Lamb Ray more clearly express the need for suicide awareness than I ever could. Her heartbreakingly candid account of her Mom’s depression provides a window on this subject we scarcely encounter. Yesterday I walked for Laurie’s Mom, Marilyn, and for my cousin David, both of whom I sincerely miss.

 

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Our Team

 

 

https://afsp.org

 

 

Seasons

“The coming and going of the seasons give us more than the springtimes, summers, autumns, and winters of our lives. It reflects the coming and going of the circumstances of our lives like the glassy surface of a pond that shows our faces radiant with joy or contorted with pain.” Gary Zukav

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Inertia

When I ended the last post I stated “more to come!” with an exclamation point no less. I was excited to go forward and begin our second year in Crooked Creek, but that was three weeks ago. There are times that no inspiration comes. I want to write but cannot seem to start, much less complete anything meaningful. It is not that I do not have ideas or opinions (you know I have opinions), but that I am overcome by inertia. That is the best way I know to describe my chronic depression. It is a bit like I imagine being stuck in quicksand would be, wanting desperately to move, but not being able. Something very powerful holds me back with arms of steel. I know I need to act, to move but it is extremely difficult to do and so much easier to sleep instead. During these past few weeks, I have not taken my daily walks at the park that I enjoyed all summer. It is not possible to explain the reason, or whether there is a reason. Every single act takes all the power I possess, whether it is to prepare food, interact with friends or show up for appointments. Daily life is fatiguing during these times as is the effort of trying to appear as though nothing is wrong. 

A few close friends and of course, family members are aware of this lifelong struggle. I share it with you (readers) today in the hope that it will benefit you or someone you know. If you live with clinical depression please know that you are not alone. If someone you care about is depressed perhaps this will help you to understand their actions or lack thereof. Their lethargy, their cancellations, their lifelessness when you feel they should be excited has nothing to do with you. If they see their doctors and counselors and take prescribed medication then they are trying and likely to get better. Depression cycles, sometimes triggered by external events, but often without obvious reason. 

Seasons

Speaking of cycles, I find it hard to believe that it is October! Can you believe summer is over and we are well into autumn? The past couple of days I did some walking in my neighborhood but found it not worth the effort. Today I returned to my beloved Pope Lick in the Parklands and what a difference it made. Since I was last there flowers have changed, grasses have dried and leaves have fallen. I glimpsed only a couple of very small butterflies. A tiny squirrel was the only animal to show its face and I don’t think that was on purpose, but because of the necessity of gathering for the coming winter. The golden finches seem to be gone. Walnuts are ripe and thumping to the ground below. 

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The cool breeze and temperatures in the 60s made walking in the sunshine so easy. Before I knew it I had walked almost 3.5 miles and I was not particularly tired. It is important for me to remember today’s walk and the inspiration that being in nature provided. For me, it was more invigorating than a massage or one of those healthy kale smoothies or even church. Winter is coming, but the sky is still blue, the air is refreshing and there are weeks of majesty ahead before the next season which will have its own splendor. 

Finally, I must remember with Tom Brokaw, “In the seasons of life, I have had more than my share of summers.”

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“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.”                                        Sarah Ban Breathnach

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If you desire more information about depression you may want to read this blog post by John Pavlovitz: http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/05/10/one-reason-to-keep-living-fighting-depression/