Understanding The Process of Grief

30 08 2007

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Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All rights reserved.

If I’d been asked to describe the progression of grief a few years ago, I would have assumed it’d work through a nice orderly timeline.  It would start at the loss and work through different emotions (anger, sadness, frustration, etc.) in some sort of logical order.  Each emotion would be a level and once worked through, you’d move on to the next stage in the process.

I have since concluded that grief doesn’t follow a systematic timeline.  Instead, it often reminds me of a rollercoaster—up and down, to and fro, and all without any warning.  You hang on so tight your fingers hurt, scream your head off, and try not to get sick on the unlucky person who’s seated in front of you.  You can go from being at acceptance, to anger, and then right back to just feeling depressed, and you would’ve felt like you’d worked through each of those already.

Just One Wild Ride

Grief isn’t a cycle – once you’ve worked through something you’re on to the next phase – because the feelings and struggles are always there, but it’s impossible for anyone to try and deal with them all at the same time, so it comes it shifts.  The process of working through grief doesn’t inch along, slowly but surely, going in the right direction.  It takes quantum leaps that seem to lead anywhere but forward, but eventually, someday, comes to an end.

Some days, I wake up feeling as if the world is almost as it should be, but the reality of what I’m dealing with can hit again and leave me feeling dazed.  It makes me hesitate when answering “How are you?” because I don’t want to drag everyone I know along on my rollercoaster.  If I cry when talking, they assume life must be “bad,” but if I’m able to smile while reporting the details of life to them, then life must be “good.”  But the struggles are always the same; they’re always there.  I think this is something people have a hard time grasping.

Out of the Box

Often, it seems as if people are only able to place me in one of their mental boxes.  If I’m in the “Poor Kelsey” box, they’ll ask sympathetic questions and make sad eyes to such a sickening degree I’d like to sign them up for acting lessons — if they’re going to act, at least they could try looking sincere.  When placed in this box, people seem to forget I’m even capable of talking about anything lighter than grief, death and the like, or would even want to do something simply for enjoyment.

On the other hand, if I’m stuck in the “Life is Fine” box ,when I mention something about my dad’s health and how life is going, they’ll look surprised for a moment and comment, “Oh, that’s right… how is your dad anyways?”  They’d forgotten anything was even happening.

I hate being in either box, because both are such horribly inaccurate representations of my life.  Some of it might simply be that they can’t understand what the process of working through grief looks like; they still think it follows a timeline, so they don’t understand why I don’t feel “better” yet, or why I haven’t moved on to the next “stage.”  The trouble is, there aren’t stages in that sense; just one wild ride.

PracticalPurity@gmail.com Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.

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Photoshop Makeover: A Distortion of Beauty

27 08 2007

Dove Photoshop Effect

This video, which is put out by the folks at Dove(r), is an eye opening look at what a photoshop makeover is truly capable of. It’s enlightening as well as disturbing, because it shows how skewed our culture’s perception of beauty has become and the lengths even people with a personal hair and makeup team have to go through in order to live up to it.





Transparency: Behind the Painted Smile

23 08 2007

masks

Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All rights reserved.

“I can’t let them know who I really am, Kelsey,” she said with pain in her voice, “Because they’d be so disappointed if they knew I wasn’t doing as well as they all think I am — if they knew I don’t have it all together.”

I tried pulling her out of the mental hole she’d fallen into; I said she was merely human, just like everyone else, so she wasn’t perfect, just like everyone else. But the topic was closed and she had no desire to be thrown anymore ropes.  She wanted to stay in her hole.

Like so many other people, this young girl had decided she couldn’t allow anyone to see the scared, broken, hurting person behind the mask.

Life: The Masquerade

We learn at a young age that life is a large and elaborate, 24/7 masquerade ball, and if you’re going to play the game, you have to hide your shortcomings, struggles, pain and imperfections behind a painted smile, just like everyone else does.

Unfortunately, while we watch the endless parade of smiling, confident faces stroll past us, we often forget we’re attending a masquerade ball, and that almost every face is completely hidden from view behind a bucket full of paint. Everyone else appears beautiful and put together, so we desperately cling to our own masks a little tighter, hoping no one will notice the confident, perfect grin we’re showcasing will smear the next time it rains.

It’s the domino affect in action, and it starts with just one person deciding to sport a mask. The people around them then analyzed their own wrinkled, pimply faces in the mirror and decide they’re falling short, so they invest in masks, as well. Before long, there isn’t a single person left who even remembers what it’s like to be transparent, honest and real.

Broken and Scary  

We’re told we’re suppose to be as normal and all-American as The Brady Bunch, but if people truly knew us, we’d all probably come closer to resembling The Addams Family – eccentric, dark, a little scary, and just downright weird.

People are hurting, grieving, living, and dying alone.

And the most heartbreaking part is there are others who are just as scary and broken as they are, but they’re also hiding behind a painted smile.  Just like everyone else.

PracticalPurity@gmail.com Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.





Talking with Someone Who’s Grieving

13 08 2007

by Kelsey Hough

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Few things make us more uncomfortable than words like “grief,” “loss,” and “death,” so when it comes to dealing with loved ones who are grieving, we don’t know what to do, say, or how to act, and sometimes this ignorance can do horrendous damage to someone already in pain.

While making small talk with some acquaintances, one of the young men in the group, James, tried to mention how his mother is dying, how greatly it’s affecting his entire family, and how hard the stress level and grief has been on him lately.  His friends — who he’s known for several years — suddenly became very awkward and completely tongue-tied.  They began to squirm around in their chairs and franticly glanced at each other as if they were looking for help.

Feeling Uncomfortable

I’m also losing a parent right now, my dad has a fatal illness, and I’m slowly watching him slip away.  I know the heartache, but I don’t have any answers, no cure for the pain. In fact, I hardly even knew James, but I asked questions about how his mom was doing, how his family was holding up, and most importantly, how he was doing.

His friends continued looking around uncomfortably, and when there was the first break in the conversation, one of them jumped in and changed the subject to something more upbeat. Then, in order to avoid further discomfort, they dominated the entire conversation; a regular “one man band.”  They didn’t want to hear about the heavier things James is currently living with, so they avoided having to listen by not giving him the opportunity to talk about it.

Their friend wanted to talk about the hardest thing in his life, and they responded by changing the subject and dominating the conversation because it made them uncomfortable to talk about grief and death. But I’m sure it doesn’t make James feel comfortable to live with the reality his mother is dying.

Just Listen

Some people – even friends — never ask me how my dad is doing, or how I’m coping with things, even though they know what’s happening and they see me on a regular basis.  Maybe people think they’d be reminding me of my pain by mentioning it, but I haven’t forgotten my dad’s dying.  Even if it’s not living in the forefronts of my thoughts at every moment, the knowledge and reality of it is always there.  They don’t ask for fear of reminding me, but since they don’t ask I assume they’re the ones who’ve forgotten.

“I don’t know what to do,” I hear people say when someone they know is grieving. Well, I’ll tell you, take a deep breath, deal with the fact it’s not your favorite subject of conversation, and listen. You’re right, you can’t change the situation, you can’t make it all better, but they know that even better than you do.   Sometimes, they just need to talk, and they need to know you haven’t forgotten.





Voltaire on the Cards Life Deals

2 08 2007

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“Each player must accept the cards life deals him. But once they are in hand, he alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” ~Voltaire