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Author Topic: Grieving Mental Illness in a Loved One  (Read 534 times)
lbjnltx
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« on: October 07, 2018, 02:34:47 AM »

PERSPECTIVES:  Grieving Mental Illness in a Loved One

Do you have a child or a family member or a spouse with a mental illness?

Are You Grieving? There is something going on within each of us and we may not be giving it the attention and recognition it deserves; we are grieving.

We often think of grieving as a process reserved for those who have experienced the death of a loved one --  grieving is a healthy and natural process that occurs in response to any significant loss regardless of what that loss is.

Grief Can Take a Toll on Us Early on in our journey of being a supporter or caretaker for someone who is mentally ill we felt initial relief to discover either through our own research or through a professional diagnoses that there is a name for our loved ones' struggle.  Most of us moved quickly into problem solving mode, looking for ways to help our loved one and paid little to no attention to what we are actually feeling.  As our journey continued and we learned more about this mental illness we begin to become exhausted, confused, frustrated, sad, angry, guilty, worried, lost, isolated, scared, ashamed, and many more emotions.  In short... .we are experiencing loss. When we feel loss, we are grieving.

When we fail to do grief work, acknowledge our feelings and the losses we experience, it can really take a toll on us and keep us "stuck". Consciously grieving is a positive experience that can renew our hope  and lead us to make positive choices for ourselves. As we begin to consciously grieve we are giving ourselves the opportunity to recover from our experience with mental illness as a caregiver and even as a sufferer. The grieving process is highly individualized and there is no set rules to comply with.  Unhealthy grieving occurs when we stay in the same stage with no movement for "too" long.  How long is too long depends on the individual and their unique circumstances.

Grief Recovery The upside is that the grief process has recognizable phases or stages, one of these stages is accepting or acceptance. As we become aware of the coping strategies we already have and begin to use them more effectively through consciously grieving we discover new skills, reduce our stress and boost our self esteem. We can find some peace and calm for ourselves and that is essential for each of us to be healthy.

There are 4 phases or stages of grieving:

Denial
Anger
Sadness
Acceptance/Accepting

Fear is usually present in the denial, anger and sadness stages of grieving.  Being afraid is a survival instinct.  Fears can be tamed by naming and claiming them as our own and allowing them to prompt us to make positive, necessary changes in our lives.

The acceptance stage is often referred to as the accepting stage because we may have to revisit this stage many times in our grieving journey.  As situations evolve and new losses are experienced we will need to work towards accepting these losses.

Workshop Objectives  The key discussion points around understanding the grieving process:

  • What stage or phase of grieving are you currently in?
  • What losses have you experienced in your life due to your mental illness experience?
  • How do you help yourself cope with your feelings?
  • Are there ways you use your experiences constructively?
  • Are you grieving in a healthy way?
  • What do you do with your fear?
  • Will you ever finish grieving?


* The focus of this workshop is on self and our personal thoughts, feelings, and grief process. Please be mindful of this in your replies.  It is important work that we each need to do for ourselves.

Thanks in advance for your participation and advice in this workshop.
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2018, 12:44:01 PM »


Most of us moved quickly into problem solving mode, looking for ways to help our loved one and paid little to no attention to what we are actually feeling. 

This has been a pattern for me for many years with my DD. I'll be going along, living my life, then "something" happens, she reaches out to me frantically, and I'm focused on nothing else but solving the problem for her. If the problem is minor, I'm able to solve it quickly. "I really need to get some books about BPD, but I don't have enough money right now" leads to me researching and then ordering books for her on Amazon and having them delivered to her house. If the problem is major, I'll obsessively focus all my time and energy to solving the problem. I'll get too little sleep, my work doesn't get done, I miss work, my house is a shambles, etc.

Excerpt
As our journey continued and we learned more about this mental illness we begin to become exhausted, confused, frustrated, sad, angry, guilty, worried, lost, isolated, scared, ashamed, and many more emotions.  In short... .we are experiencing loss. When we feel loss, we are grieving.

I didn't know that was grieving. I still don't really understand that it's grieving but I'm going to trust the experts on this one.

I don't know where I am in the grieving process. I think I go from Denial, Anger, Sadness, and around and around. Sometimes all in one day. Fear is definitely the underlying current and I thank my T for pointing this out to me and I thank this workshop for reminding me. I'm afraid that my DD won't ever get better, I'm afraid she'll discard me, I'm afraid I'll be stuck forever, I'm afraid I'll never see my grandson again, I'm afraid I'll be alone forever, and the list goes on and on.
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2018, 05:32:26 PM »



Workshop Objectives  The key discussion points around understanding the grieving process:

What stage or phase of grieving are you currently in?

I think that I am in the accepting stage, although I do slip back at times to the sadness stage, I can’t help myself when the enormity of the situation and the loss of my loved one hits me. Sometimes I can rally round quite quickly and other times it totally consumes me.

What losses have you experienced in your life due to your mental illness experience?

I have lost my son, he is no longer the person that I know and recognise and I don’t know whether I will ever see his laughing, loving face or hear him say that he loves me, ever again. Also, he has decided that he no longer wants anything to do with me, my husband and one of his sisters and her family, and as such he doesn’t respond to any of my attempts to make contact. My relationship with my mother has also suffered because of this.

How do you help yourself cope with your feelings?

Coping with my feelings can be extremely difficult at times especially as I have in the past (pre counselling) always denied my feelings. I try to accept my feelings now because I know that that’s what they are, just feelings, and they come and go. I have recently started meditating which helps.

Are there ways you use your experiences constructively?

Hopefully by reaching out to others, posting and sharing here and also my own personal learning from past experiences.

Are you grieving in a healthy way?

I hope so, although it took me a while to recognise that it was a grieving process that I was going through. Counselling has helped as well as this forum.

What do you do with your fear?

I try to talk about my fears, I found through counselling that it helped to talk. If I’m not able to talk to someone I try to process my fears myself. Meditation also helps.

Will you ever finish grieving?

I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know yet whether acceptance will bring an end to grieving. I like to think that accepting his illness brings an end to grieving in that sense but at this moment in time I cannot imagine not grieving for the loss of the relationship that I had with my son due to being estranged.
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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2018, 03:13:35 AM »

Workshop Objectives  The key discussion points around understanding the grieving process:

What stage or phase of grieving are you currently in?

Mainly acceptance.  I came to fully understand this recently when it became obvious that my son is successfully experiencing a relationship with a much older woman.  My H and I are cool with it and just want him to be happy. Part of this is having no judgment on his choices for his life. I am sad that his life will never be easy but I accept it as the truth.

What losses have you experienced in your life due to your mental illness experience?

I’m my grief, I was stuck for so very long and I contributed to the family chaos. My loss is “lost opportunity”.  I also lost a few people along the way who didn’t understand my struggle, my extreme attempts to fix but I don’t care now and  at the time it really hurt.

I lost our reputation as a “good family” but now I’m stoic about that; indifference helps me cope. My idea of what we should be (perfectly successful well rounded happy unit) was just pretend - I’m emotionally mature enough to say now “ok, that’s life. We’re stronger for knowing that reality is a better choice for us, that there’s beauty in the imperfect.”

How do you help yourself cope with your feelings?

My feelings... .
gosh, I think I’m all wrung out sometimes.  I got tired of being so emotional, so reactionary.
I focus on the love I have for my family and the better relationship I have with them.  I adopt a grateful attitude but I slip occasionally. 
To a large extent, I distract myself and my choice of distraction is going back to education in my 50’s, it is all consuming and I love the learning.

Are there ways you use your experiences constructively?

I’ve adopted a full and complete life change. Like an clean addict, I’ve immersed myself in my new way of life.  I have put myself first and this has caused a shift in the family dynamics. I’m no longer just wife and mother.  My confidence and understanding of myself and needs is always developing. I’m practising better self care - for me, that isn’t going to the beauticians or visiting the gym (although they are nice sometimes!).  It’s deeper as I’m committed to making me a better person.  Ambitiously, I use my drive creatively.  I’m more empathetic and less self absorbed. I used to be so full of myself - I don’t like that person that I was.

I try steer away from fears of the future.

Are you grieving in a healthy way?

I don’t think of myself as grieving but actually, I think I am. This is because Ive a tendency to drink more wine than is good for me. I use it to blot out my feelings sometimes. I’m working on this.

We talk to each other much more. If any one of us is struggling to cope we openly share what’s going on. The 4 of us are all sensitive souls so it can get interesting at times  and there’s a tendency to feed each other if we aren’t careful.

What do you do with your fear?
I stuff it deep inside. It’s too raw to consider. It’s outside of my control. All I can do is try to make my son feel loved and that he matters to us. I hope he can find a way to feel his life is worth living. Sometimes I imagine his funeral and I push those thoughts away. I try to keep the broad view; look how far we’ve come, look how much we’ve achieved. It helps me stay balanced.

Will you ever finish grieving?
I doubt it.

Thanks for posting this workshop. It helps to reflect on where we are. 

Thank you forum, and thank you LBJ (you helped me so much at the beginning - you’re wisdom is still inspiring and available to everyone if they took the time to look).

The answers are here and deep within us. Our paths are not easy and it helps knowing that everybody understands.
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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2018, 03:17:45 PM »

What stage or phase of grieving are you currently in?

I vacillate between anger, sadness and dip my toes into acceptance. I often feel so sad about my DD20. She’s now struggling with tremendous mood swings and agitation. It is hard watching her spend the whole day sleeping or on her cell. It’s sad knowing that this is all she is capable of at the moment. Doing a simple chore or feeding herself is like climbing a mountain. I feel for her and as her mom, I am so sad that she seems to be comfortably suffering - if that makes any sense. I have today off and slipped into a yoga class. My intention was just to surrender. I can’t stuff this overwhelming sadness for too long.

What losses have you experienced in your life due to your mental illness experience?

Lost space to heal because I was so much a part of the drama, caught up in trying to control or fix my DD. How I wish I could go back and erase my horrid temper and just let her be. I also feel as if I’ve lost my DD to this disease. The med wash is bringing back some of her bright energy- I heard DD singing today and thought of when she was in choir, performed in musicals-when she seemed to enjoy life doing things rather than spend her life couped up in her bedroom. And at one point, I lost me. I just was her caregiver consumed with just keeping her safe. That led to my own 3 year episode of dark depression. I’ve begun to cycle out of this darkness, but face the looming idea of my DD going on Medicaid and disability. I lost so many dreams of her leading this full life, going off to college and finding a partner with whom she could share a life. As of this moment, I don’t even want to ever become a grandmother. I’m still holding on to hope- that things will change and she may live a happier life than what she’s doing right now. My H says she’s just existing-not living.

How do you help yourself cope with your feelings?

I haven’t been all too good at this. My first go to emotion is anger. I’ve spent too much time acting out my anger. I mean, let’s face it, our children do, act behave in outlier ways and it’s just so challenging.

When I ground myself and ask what is the primary emotion beyond anger, it’s usually extreme sadness or helplessness. I find the image of me holding my hurt self helps. When I’m all up in my feelings, I imagine me rocking and cradling my hurt self - learning to be present in that moment is terrifying sometimes because it can be so dark.

I also reach out to friends and post here. This board is a good place to help me figure out those challenging emotions. Speaking or texting my therapist helps, too.

Are there ways you use your experiences constructively?

I know I am much more compassionate for my DD, my H, my friends and my students. This illness is just the teacher of compassion. I’m aware that behind many peculiar behaviors lies some subtext. And if I sit with that idea rather than reacting to the person, I am much more likely to respond in a responsible manner.

This illness has taught me about boundaries and limits. I’ve really had to, and continue to think and consider what I value and what that looks like. In doing so, I’ve learned how to stand up for myself especially with my H. Reading and rereading the entries here on Karpman’s triangle and boundaries has helped me a great deal.

I also think the caregivers of loved ones with BPD- is, care givers are pretty bad- ass people. The illness requires us to operate as best as we can. Parents, family members and partners of pwBPD are so strong because we endure tragic and terrifying life experiences.

Are you grieving in a healthy way?

Well, when I’m not grieving in a healthy way, my go to is to stuff it- literally, with food. Or when I’ve lost my grounding, I lose my temper and say so many things that I regret. I slip loads of times into unhealthy behaviors.

What do you do with your fear?

I fear NC that one day, I could be painted black and she’d not have any contact with H or me. I fear my DD will just continue to exist in her room. I fear what will happen to DD after I’m gone. I fear she’d become homeless, turn to prostitution or take her life.I fear she will never be able to take care and function fully. I fear she will become a mother. I fear losing me in the process of caring for DD. I have many fears.

Will you ever finish grieving?

I have lost both of my parents. Everyone and then, I still grieve losing them- missing them, especially my mother. As for my DD, I can only hope with time, that I can accept her fully. What ever the outcome, I have to come to terms with this being her path. I used to blame myself for her illness. But, I can’t help but think this is a disease like cancer, depression or diabetes. So I’ve come to terms with that aspect of grief- the guilt, to a certain extent. I could only hope that the grieving will lessen with time.

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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2018, 06:54:17 AM »


Workshop Objectives  The key discussion points around understanding the grieving process:
What stage or phase of grieving are you currently in?

I'm in acceptance stage, I accept my adult child has mental illnesses, I accept I may lose her. I don't think I've ever been in denial, it is what it is, it is the truth. Yes, I feel hurt and sad.   
I was gripped by fear for well over a year, the shock, devastation was crippling, I struggled with how to respond to by feelings, apart from desperately running round getting in place whatever medical care available I was able to find. I felt numb, frozen and I felt alone, like everyone had stepped outside my world. It's the worst and most intense disturbing feeling I have ever felt. I believe that because it was so disturbing pushed me to face it, face my fear I may lose her, this has released me. At this time I don’t feel fearful.

What losses have you experienced in your life due to your mental illness experience?

Loss of dreams, expectations I had for my daughter, like all parents here. Loss of the life I thought we'd have.

How do you help yourself cope with your feelings?

A few times recently, I suddenly, bolt out of the blue become totally overwhelmed and tearful. It happened recently when I was helping prepare food for my daughters 30th birthday she was organising, a happy day. They were feelings of sadness flash backs of the hell she’d been through and also happiness she was celebrating herself, I felt so proud of her. I try to honour my feelings, I take a moment to pause and feel the emotions, consider and accept how I’m feeling. 

Are there ways you use your experiences constructively?
People with BPD can recover, my experiences drive me forwards to learn. I’ll do everything in my control to facilitate my daughter’s recovery. 
By coming here and sharing my learning, experiences and by providing support to members in need.

Are you grieving in a healthy way?
I believe so, I’m mindful we can never spend enough time on better self-care and reviewing this regularly and introducing new experiences to my life keeps me feeling fresh and energised. This week I’m taking up swimming again, it’s great! One thing that has been important for me is the support of family, friends, colleagues, bpdfamily, mental illness can be stigmatising and isolating if you let it be. DD and I have been very open and honest with people and I believe this has helped them find their way to working out how they can personally support us and I love them for that. I'm grateful no one has turned their back and walked away.

What do you do with your fear?

My fear is losing my DD. I've faced my fear of losing her, very grim scenario I know, I had to do it and I am glad I did it... ... .I imagined losing her and I walked through preparing a celebration of her, her life in detail. Acceptance of what I cannot control. This has released me from some of my inner turmoil, to use that energy for good. I believe this has also helped DD as I was calmer, more focused and self-aware during a recent crisis. I feel the benefit of the work I've been doing these last years for me in the dire situation that just happened. Release, release.

Will you ever finish grieving?

Probably not, just doing my best to cope with it in the most healthy ways I can and I expect that'll involve continuing to heal and grow
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