Bereavement Blog February 2014
Some years ago I was tutoring a Loss and Bereavement course for health professionals in West Yorkshire. One of the participants was an anaesthetist who had recently had an experience she was finding hard to come to terms with.
Her hamster had died, as small rodents will, at the fairly good hamster age of two years or so. The doctor, who we'll call Sue, was totally devastated and unable to stop crying. For several days she was too distressed to go to work and although she knew at some level that this behaviour was rather strange she was unable to do anything about it.
Sue was still tearful when she recalled her pet and this in itself distressed her. Was she going mad; some strange psychological anomaly which would cause her to have a complete breakdown?
I wonder how many of us can in fact identify with this sort of situation. Something unexpected can induce an emotional reaction which seems completely OTT. Something we read in the papers, see on the television or personally experience maybe being yelled at in our car or treated rudely by someone?
Spending some time looking at Sue's life it appeared that she had had an awful experience some months before. A patient had died of completely natural causes but under her care. Collegues and superiors had assured her that this event was not her fault in any way and she was told to put it out of her mind, forget it and get on with the job and she had successfully done so as far as she was aware.
However as we talked about this event she began to cry, allowing herself to think about her patient, his illness and death, his loss to his family. She grieved for him and the death of her pet, sad though it was for her, took its rightful place off stage.
I am writing about Sue and her experience to highlight the fact that we are extremely complex beings. Quite often, we suppress the need to really face difficult emotions not allowing them to be experienced and expressed. Our brains attempt to do what is in our best interest. It was necessary for Sue to allow her dead patient some space in her thoughts and, in her case, grieve for him. She suppressed this need, for all sorts of reasons, forcing her brain to provide another outlet, in this case the dead hamster.
It really is important to be patient with ourselves when we are trying to come to terms with a loss, whether a death or any other major event about which we have sad and difficult feelings. Please don't ever beat yourself up about the time it takes to move on, even in the smallest way but be aware that we find all sorts of ways of avoiding the pain of loss. Those with the courage to face up to the difficult feelings and allow themselves time to experience the pain, will in the end come through it.
I pray for you, for courage and that you should be aware that the God of all mercies is in the dark places with you.
Make contact with us at the Bereavement Support Service, via email, email@example.com or phone us, Barbara or Renee on 01485 534741 or contact us via the web site.
If you have questions, comments, opinions, please write. We would love to hear from you and we will be submitting more short 'blogs' in which we would very much like to talk about the things that you are concerned about.
Whoever you are God knows you and although you might be nameless to us, as we pray for you, which we do, your name and the name of your loved one is held in our Father's keeping.