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How long is too long to grieve?


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Hi all. I lost my brother after a 13 year terminal illness in 2002. The grieving period has been a very long emotional roller coaster, as I am sure many of you can unfortunately relate. My issue is, I feel like I'm stuck in the grieving process and don't seem to be getting any better. It seemed for awhile I was getting better with accepting it, maybe for a year and a half I could talk about it without breaking down and I felt more accepting of the situation. But lately, it takes just the smallest trigger to set the whole process off again. Case in point, I happened to stop on My Sister's Keeper while it was on tv the other day, and it was a scene that was very similar to what I went through with my brother and ever since I've been in a deep depression. It feels almost like what I would imagine PTSD to be like. A few months ago, out of nowhere I remembered a phrase he used to say that I had long forgotten and the grief from the realization just about brought me down to my knees. I literally felt all the air leave my body and just started sobbing. I've sought therapy (no medication management, just counseling) in the past and it was useless. I don't want to talk about it anymore! Talking isn't going to bring him back and it sure doesn't seem to make me feel any better- actually I think I end up feeling worse. I just don't know how to get to a point where I can accept this loss and stop being so emotional. I'm always on the verge of tears and at other times I'm so angry! I mean it's been 12 years this month. Shouldn't I have moved past this point by now? I know he wouldn't want me to be like this, but I just can't get past the loss, and missing him, and wondering of all the what ifs and what could have beens. How do I know whether this is normal behavior or something that needs more help? I appreciate any insight anyone is willing to share with me.

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Hey Missingpiece,


I just posted a topic which is similar to what you are saying! It's been 5 years for me and I can totally relate to what you are going through. I was hoping therapy might be the answer I am looking for, but after reading your post, it may not be!


I honestly don't think ANY human being really gets over a death, our family business is monumental masonry (we make headstones/memorials), so I see this everyday - on top of dealing with it myself. It just has never felt 'real' to me? 


I do the same thing if something out of the blue reminds me of my brother - could be a song, a smell, a tv show anything.


I wouldn't be too hard on yourself though - let's hope someone can shed some light!!!

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Hi missingpeace, and to Lala once again.


Lala, I wrote a bit in your thread but your reply in this one gives me much more insight.


To both of you, I would recommend reading the thread when 911 hits close to home.  In it I talk about trauma.


But you need to recognize that even if the loss you experienced wasn't a 'sudden' or traumatic death, what we all have experienced is trauma.


Our lives were fractured.


I have noticed this thing happening after loss that I've been calling the "death trauma".  This, in my experience, is the result within us of the trauma we experience at the loss of someone we love.


I have found that sometimes, unless you deal with your own moment of trauma, we have a difficult time allowing our grief to express naturally.


It is true that we will never be with our loved one and so it is true that for the remainder of our lives, we will have the opportunity to feel the deep sadness we feel at that loss.


But we can help ourselves to restructure ourselves and create a new space in ourselves for that grief process by understanding that we did experience trauma at the loss.


I have been through a few losses in my life, the most significant being my sister and my father.  I experienced great trauma with both of them.  My father died peacefully and gracefully and I still suffered trauma. 


I couldn't move forward in my grieving process until I really allowed myself to look at the moment of fracture with both of these losses.  You know what that moment is for you because it keeps replaying in your mind.  My sister was in the moment I was told.  My father was from the night prior when I said my last goodbye.  For the longest time, I couldn't think about my sister without re-experiencing that moment of trauma.  The same with my dad.


Even just typing that moment about my dad made me experience the keen pain.  But I understand it, and I have great compassion towards myself through it.


The thing is, we have will have sadness on and off about these people we love all of our lives.  And it's really important to be understanding and gentle with ourselves over anything that we are feeling.  But if we are still suffering from trauma, this is something different to be addressed.


I understand, missingpiece, where counselling wouldn't help.  If you have a trauma of fracture or regret from the initial loss of your brother, regular counselling about your relationship just wouldn't be helpful.  Instead, I would direct a counsellor to help me find that point that I was unwilling or unable to let go of.  There are regular known ones, things they call survivor guilt, but in my experience and understanding, it can be as simple as "I wish I would have said this one small thing".


This is my father's trauma for me.  When I think about his death, which we knew was coming, which we all had the opportunity to say everything we wanted to say, I have bring me to my knees pain over not saying one, tiny thing.


This is, indeed and truly, trauma. 


And I know that people on this forums may tire of my saying it, but it is natural because our existence in this world was fractured.  But it doesn't have to stay that way.


So that you are being trigger to the same place that you were, to me, is natural.  There may be some piece of extremely significant pain that you're not accepting inside you and it is begging for love and acceptance.  If it were me, I would find a counsellor and tell them: this is what I need.  From there, they could help in the journey of discovery.


To both of you, do not judge yourselves.  That  you are seeking understanding means you are ready to receive understanding.  Allow it to come and be compassionate with yourself in what you find there.



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