Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"You're not doing enough!"

Someone, with an authoritative role in my life, recently told me, "you're not handling this well.  You're not doing enough to process your anger and emotions.  You need to exercise more."

I was floored.  Downright shocked.  All I could do was look away and stare at the wall in anger.  The irony.  Did they just attack me??  "You're not doing enough."   Yup, that feels like an attack!  Here is someone I thought I could trust with my situation and they are attacking me (probably how Job felt when his friend, Eliphaz, began preaching at him in his time of extreme loss).

But their words also had some truth in them.  Not that I wanted to admit the hard truths at this point.  "I'm not handling this well." kidding, Sherlock!  Thanks Captain Obvious, may I have another of your pearls of wisdom?!  Accusing me of not doing enough and not handling this well does not help, in case they were wondering!   

So, I'm still trying to get this straight.  Within 24 hours of finding out my first child was going to be a girl, I also find out that I will not be able to keep her.  It has been 4 weeks of dealing with these emotions.  And we have 4 more months until Caroline Grace's delivery, which will be even more difficult to handle than what we are faced with now.  Every day is a reminder that we have to process these same emotions for months.  There is not finality...yet.  So, we can't process our emotions any faster because the REAL tragedy has not occurred.

I wake up everyday.  I haven't lost my faith.  (In fact, my faith has increased.)  I am still interacting at church.  I haven't missed work, except when excused or I took vacation time.  I'm not yelling at anyone.  I am engaged with friends.  I am sharing my emotions in my blog.  I'm talking to people in person and on the phone about our situation.  But someone thinks I'm not handling this well, because I'm still angry, frustrated, irritable, and occasionally have a bad day.

My first thought was, "I don't care who thinks I'm handling this well or not!"  Because I know that I am doing everything possible to endure this journey as well as I can.  In a way, I felt like I was arguing with myself.  I was definitely feeling the need to defend myself.  Before I could gather my thoughts, they launched another attack by telling me I should do more physical exercise.  A valid point, I thought.  But there's one problem.  I don't have the energy to do MORE.  I barely have enough energy to do LESS than usual.  So, I said, "I don't have the energy to exercise more than walking for half an hour."  They replied, "I'm not asking you to exercise.  I'm telling you to exercise."  And continued to tell me, "It's not normal to be angry in a situation like this."  This is when I lost it.  In my mind, I thought, "Excuse me?!?  Surely, I didn't hear them right!!" 

In case my sarcasm and bitter attitude has not made it perfectly is NOT recommended to accuse someone of not doing enough when they are grieving!

While grieving, there are 5 different steps someone typically experiences.
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5.  Acceptance

The 5 stages of grief were championed and popularized by Mrs. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.  She is truly a genius when it comes to emotional intelligence.  From wikipedia:    
"The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as The Five Stages of Grief, was first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.[1]

Included in the book was a model, The Model of Coping with Dying, which she based on research and interviews with more than 500 dying patients.  It describes, in five discrete stages, a process by which people cope and deal with grief and tragedy, especially when diagnosed with a terminal illness or experience a catastrophic loss.  In addition to this, her book brought mainstream awareness to the sensitivity required for better treatment of individuals who are dealing with a fatal disease or illness.[2]"

Below is an article from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler.  If you or anyone you know has ever experienced a loss or tragedy, you will find it very easy to relate to these stages of grief. 
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler

"The stages have evolved since their introduction and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades.  They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages.  They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.
The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost [or will be losing].  They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.  But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.  Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.  Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ’s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss."


"This first stage of grieving helps us to survive the loss.  In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming.  Life makes no sense.  We are in a state of shock and denial.  We go numb.  We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on.  We try to find a way to simply get through each day.  Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible.  Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief.  There is a grace in denial.  It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.     As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process.  You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade.  But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface."


"Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process.  Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless.  The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal.  There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing.  The truth is that anger has no limits.  It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died [or will die], but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this?
     Underneath anger is pain, your pain.  It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger.  Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss.  At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything.  Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now that your loved one has died.  Suddenly you have a structure – - your anger toward them.  The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them.  It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it.  The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love."


"Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared.  “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.”  After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce.  “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”
     We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements.  We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored.  We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only.  Guilt is often bargaining’s companion.  The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently.  We may even bargain with the pain.  We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss.  We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.  People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another.  We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion.  We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one."


"After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present.  Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined.  This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever.  It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness.  It is the appropriate response to a great loss.  We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone?  Why go on at all?  Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of.  The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing.  The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response.  To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual.  When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing.  If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way."


"Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened.  This is not the case.  Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one.  This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality.  We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it.  We learn to live with it.  It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.  We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing.  In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died.  In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact.  It has been forever changed and we must readjust.  We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves.
     Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones.  As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one.  We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies.  Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve.  We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives.  We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves.  We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time."


Time.  My worst enemy.  
God.  My best friend.  
Two rivals.  One pain. 

Dear "someone,"
      Yes.  It IS normal to be angry right now.
And I will be angry for a while.  Probably depressed, too. 
You'll just have to deal with it.  
Welcome to my world.


  1. Well put, well stated , inspirational to so many. God chooses those He knows that will accept His answers and not those that "think" they already have the answers

  2. Cam, people can say the dumbest things to people who are grieving or hurting. They think they're being helpful, but they just don't have a clue. :P. Clearly, you are dealing with your pain by being open and honest on your blog, and it seems to me it would be VERY normal to feel angry! I would think something was a little "off" if you were not. Don't ever let anyone tell you how to feel. You guys just need people to listen, love, and pray, nothing else.

  3. Wendy is right. Did Job just sit by and say nothing about his loses. No. When I was little and sick or hurting, my Dad always said he would take on my pain if he could. Your feelings are very justified and those who know you guys and love you guys would love to be able to take on some of your pain. Tragedy either brings people closer to God or turns them away from God. I've seen both and turning from God creates such havoc. Those of us who read your blog know your relationship with our Father. You are doing all you can do Don't let anyone bring you down. Sending hugs your way for you and Emily.

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  5. A friend of mine shared a story of a comment that was made following her baby daughter's murder: "She's better off in Heaven. She was too good for this world."

    My friend was grieving the terrible loss and then felt insulted by this statement by one of her church friends. She went through many of the emotions that you described above. It was startling that someone would say something that callous to a grieving mother at a funeral. I don't know if the woman realized the impact of her words or that they were callous. Perhaps she was simply trying to say something... that she thought would be comforting or helpful.

    People are typically uncomfortable around those who are grieving or handling a difficult situation. They feel powerless to make you feel better, take away the pain or understand fully how you process emotions. This uncomfortable feeling makes some blurt out advice that they perceive as being helpful.

    Many times, too, someone in such pain brings deep seated fears and emotions to the surface of the offending party. The offending party reacts with a knee-jerk remark that creates a distraction for both parties. The point of the focus has moved from the uncomfortable source to the reaction created by the remark.

    No one can fully understand your feelings--not even those in the same situation. Every one of us is different and possess different means or perceptions of our situation.

    You have your process to deal with your emotions. It does not appear that you've shut down and shut out the world. You are interactive and communicative. You are working through your feelings the best way you can. Stay true to yourself and understand that your pain may trigger pain in others. Don't allow it to add more weight to your shoulders.



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