Coralease Ruff is a registered nurse and a nursing professor.? She began working in the field of bereavement ten years ago following the untimely death of her beloved 21-year-old daughter, Kandy, in a car accident in the Dominican Republic where she was serving as a missionary.? Dr. Ruff is a National Board member of The Compassionate Friends and is a frequent presenter on grief.? She has presented at the Compassionate Friends National Conferences and at the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association.? She teaches a nursing course on grief and loss for nursing students at Howard University.?
Coralease Ruff:? What I always say to people about those feelings of regret, sometimes if you write a letter to them expressing those feelings of regret, at least sometimes that can help, because they do wish they had gone to the scene of the accident or gone to view the remains.? Because just the loss itself, the death itself is stressful and then, of course, having those other regrets and feelings of guilt increases the stress.?
Coralease Ruff:? You?ve got that adrenalin flowing so you?re constantly in motion, your body is secreting all these stress hormones.? You can?t eat.? Some people overeat.? Some can?t eat.? You can?t sleep.? Some can?t sleep.? Some won?t want to do anything except sleep.? You have chest pains.? Your heart really does hurt.? You can?t concentrate.? You forget things.? You?re sensitive to noise.? Just all kinds of things do happen to you.? I?ve heard all kinds of things that happen to people include premature graying of the hair, premature onset of menopause.? All kinds of different issues.? And those are all real things that do happen to people that I think is so important for people to understand that that?s all a part of grieving and that you?re not abnormal or unusual if that happens to you, but sleep.? It?s very difficult to get to sleep as you said, Gloria.? You may need to have some medication to help with the sleep.? It is so important for relieving many of those symptoms that you have.? Even it helps to elevate your mood.? It helps with sleep.? It even helps with the appetite problems or the eating problems.
Coralease Ruff:? And speaking of stretching, just deep breathing.? If you?re just sitting somewhere, and if you just breathe.? Get some oxygen into your lungs and throughout your body, that is so important, and we don?t breathe deeply enough anyway under normal circumstances, and when we are overly stressed and doing acute grief, we tend to even hold our breath and we breathe more superficially.
Coralease Ruff:? Drinking water, yes, because we forget.? We don?t think about any of these things during grief because we?re in such horrible pain that things of this nature don?t even come into our awareness.
Coralease Ruff:? The intake of water is so important.? Other fluids as well, but certainly eating, trying to eat small meals rather than three regular meals.? If we eat our favorite foods but avoid some of those sugary, highly spiced foods and those kinds of things.? Usually around the time of a death, everybody brings in cakes and pies.
Coralease Ruff:? I think one of the things that I?ve found many people most surprised about is the memory loss and the confusion.
Coralease Ruff:? When I said to my son I was taking three months bereavement leave, he said, mom, I think I need some time off, too, and so I said, fine, but it was muddling through the best we could and you?re right.? We forget about the children.? We forget about the siblings that need the time off as well.
Coralease Ruff:? A couple of things that are so important with this lack of concentration and all to be careful with things like driving.? I have read someplace that driving during acute grief is as deadly as driving while intoxicated.? Things like even household tasks.? Preparing meals and all being careful about not leaving the burner on or things of that nature.? People have almost set their house on fire.? This lack of concentration and memory loss is something that is really, really serious and I think we don?t attribute it even to our grieving.? Many parents have said to me, you know, I didn?t realize that as I explained why they are so forgetful.? They said, you know, I never thought about that.? I said, well you?re grieving.? It?s normal during acute grief to have this memory loss, and so be careful with those kinds of things with sharp objects in the kitchen.? Sharp knives and all.? Be very, very careful with those.?