During the early stages of grief, you might notice that you can’t feel, and you may ask yourself: Will I ever feel again?
This emotional numbness is normal and will pass. This emotional anesthesia is a protection provided by shock because you cannot handle everything at once. You probably have responsibilities like funeral arrangements to get through. You very well might go on auto-pilot and continue to function “normally’ until you can’t anymore. You might not cry at the funeral and wonder what is wrong with you. In these early stages, you may even feel guilty because you don’t think you are grieving enough. “How can I eat when she’s dead? How can I sleep when she’s not here?” The reality is you have to, for your other loved ones and for yourself. You are doing what you need to do.
Patience is key. Grief will take a while to process. Working on your grief can make it bearable and progress faster. But, working on your grief will not cure it overnight. Grief will be a companion for a while. Don’t try to rush it away.
Death Wish and Suicidal Thoughts
When you’re grieving, you might find you want to die. In my case, it was my daughter who I lost. When you lose someone that close to you, someone you’re responsible for, someone who was supposed to live long beyond your years, it’s natural to want to be with them. And, since you feel it is death that is separating you, it’s only your death that can bring you back together.
If it’s a small child, you might feel you need to be with them to take care of them. At 15 years old, I knew where Shayna was every day and every night. I was responsible for her well-being. I wanted to be with her where she was, after her passing.
I have talked to hundreds of parents since then. While this is something most will not admit openly for fear of being thought “crazy,” my anecdotal experience is the majority of parents who have lost children at some point have suicidal thoughts or at least wish to die to be with their child. I recall the first time I heard a parent admit this. I was in the car listening to a podcast when I heard her say that a bus was driving by and she felt the urge to step out in front of it. She had written a book. I immediately knew I had to get that book. Just knowing someone else felt the way I did, made my feelings seem not as bad. While driving, I had images of slamming my car into a bridge abutment or head-on into oncoming traffic.
Numbness and Suicidal Thoughts
I didn’t seriously consider suicide or make plans for it. I had fleeting thoughts. But, the desire to be with Shayna continues four years after her passing. Every morning I wake up, I think “Here I am again.”; and not in a rejoicing tone. Every day I count as one day closer to our reunion. If you’re fixating on suicidal thoughts or find yourself planning suicide, it’s time to get help. But, if you have those random thoughts or you find yourself longing to be with your loved one, you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy.
Grief can lead to feeling indifferent. This is slightly different from numbness from emotion. You will possibly stop caring about things, maybe even loved ones. You might let go of things you need to do. You might stop getting dressed. You might not pay bills. You might start missing work or appointments. Feeling like you couldn’t control the passing of your loved one might lead to the feeling you can’t control anything. And, in comparison, these routine cares of the world don’t matter. Suicidal feelings can arise. Dangerous behavior can ensue, as you don’t care about your own safety. When your indifference causes you to put yourself or others into danger, it’s time to seek help.
Excerpted from Brian Smith’s book, Grief 2 Growth: Planted, Not Buried. How to Survive and Thrive After Life’s Greatest Challenges – Kindle edition by Smith, Brian D. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
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Read more from Brian Smith on Open to Hope: Crisis is a Chance to Address the Big Questions in Life – Open to Hope