Not just for soldiers

Bereavement / Grief / Traumatic Grief
with associated depressive, anxiety disorders & behaviors
" person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and sorrow, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil and misery." ~Thomas S. Monson

It is well past time to write again on my blog. Continuing on with the topic of "grief from my previous post, I'd like to talk a little more about a type of grief I live with. This has not been an easy post to write, but feel the need to do so. At this juncture it is the best that I can do. It is my hope that perhaps in some small way it might help others find a better understanding of something that more people than you would suspect deal with.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained therapist or ‘ologist of any kind. These are my personal views, thoughts, observations, or experiences - along with some gathered insights here and there. From what I have found, there are a number of different groupings of grief, which everyone at some point in life will experience one or more of.
  1. Bereavement - identified with a loss that has happened within the past couple of months. If a longer time has passed, then another category of grief might be more accurate.
  2. Prolonged Grief Disorder - grief lasting longer than six months (formerly, and somewhat inaccurately, identified as complicated grief).
  3. Traumatic Grief - this frequently accompanies prolonged grief with many overlapping symptoms. It also can include:
    • Major Depressive Disorder
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
    • Panic Disorder
    • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) - today’s post will focus on this portion of traumatic grief
    It’s not just for combat soldiers, although that is the population most commonly thought of when addressing PTSD. Certainly some traumas are more catastrophic than others, but actually it can affect anyone experiencing or witnessing an overwhelming life event. Something where you (or even someone you were near) are confronted with a threat to safety, impacting a sense of security, making you feel vulnerable helpless, or intensely fearful. Among such events are things like trauma, abuse, violence, actual or near death, injury, or a bodily threat.

    PTSD develops and is exhibited differently from person to person - and can happen at any age. It can surface within hours, days, weeks, months, or even years following a traumatic event. Symptoms may show up suddenly, gradually, or can ebb and flow over time - and can sometimes be triggered by a reminder such as a noise, a smell, an image, or even certain words. While they can be unique to the person, symptoms usually show up in three main categories:
    • Emotional numbing
      • avoiding activities, places, certain people or topics of conversation
      • memory problems, denying or suppressing an event
      • detached and emotionally numb
      • difficulty maintaining close relationships 
      • feelings of distrust in others
      • major depression
      • negative self-image, sense of worthlessness
      • feelings of abandonment or being separate (from others, and/or from God)
      • suicidal thoughts and feelings
      • hopelessness about the future
      • some people resort to substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate the pain
        • thankful that I never turned to the false numbing methods of drugs or alcohol - food was my substance of choice
    • Anxiety or panic
      • trouble sleeping (too much, or too little)
      • difficulty concentrating
      • easily startled or frightened
      • irritability or anger
      • self-blame or guilt
      • feeling alienated and alone
      • hypervigilance (extended state of “red alert”)
    • Intrusive memories
      • flashbacks and/or upsetting dreams
      • physical reactions to reminders (pounding heart, nausea, muscle tension, etc.)
    All of these are a natural response to an unnatural situation. Where your mind demonstrates its capacity for self-preservation by simply doing what is necessary at the time by retreating to a place of mental “safety” and in a way shutting down.

    However, on the inside you are far from shut down and feel things so intensely that you carefully erect walls or barriers. Afraid to show the depth of emotions. Afraid to love or reach out to another person. This is how you cope with what you experienced. This is "normal" to you.

    And that is what I have done now for decades... carefully constructed walls and barriers. Today I still hide behind that familiar illusion of safety - but now know the reasons why they were built in the first place. Guess knowing is good - after all "knowledge is power", right? So why do I often feel so vulnerable and helpless then?

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