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Good Intentions (02 December 2006 - 9:18 a.m.)

Back in mid-October, Rebecca had her wisdom teeth removed. The oral surgeon doesn’t accept insurance, so we had to pay up front. My insurance company was supposed to send me the payment. Instead, they sent it to the oral surgeon, who then signed the check over to me.

Yesterday, The Ex took me to the bank so I could deposit the check and reimburse him. (He used his credit card to pay for the oral surgery.) When I got to the teller’s station, I couldn’t find the check. It was no longer in the envelope where I had placed it, along with two other checks I wanted to cash. All three of the checks had already been signed, and I had written my account number on them in advance.

I told the teller I had lost a check, and needed to go home to look for it. When I got back out to the car, I was in a state of panic. The check was for $978.14. I felt overwhelmed, and the tears that I am constantly struggling to hold back spilled out. I was shaking and overwrought. The situation worsened when the check didn’t turn up after I got home and searched my house.

The Ex was very good about it. He tried to reassure me that it wasn’t a big deal. He said no one else could cash the check without identification. If necessary, a stop payment could be put on the check, and a new one would be reissued. But this all seemed too complicated to me at a time when I crave simplicity. I could not be consoled.

A little later, I called the bank to ask if anyone had found the check. Yes! They had! Crisis averted. I was deeply relieved.

This morning, I received an email from The Ex that ties into the entry I posted yesterday. Here is some of what he wrote: “After witnessing how emotional you became when reacting to the loss of the check, I wanted to hazard saying a couple of things in order to try to help you. I know you are grieving, upset and overwhelmed, but still I hope that you can begin to accept and acknowledge your unchangeable loss. I hope that soon you can allow yourself to move to remember the people that you love and appreciate the positive things in your life - for which you should be thankful.”

I know he meant well, but these are the remarks that hurt more than they help. This is part my response:

I appreciate your concern, I really do. But you have to remember that my world has been turned upside down. Mark was more than a brother to me. I played a large part in raising him and Mike. You also have to understand that I am still in deep mourning, and will be for quite a while. There is no "off" switch for grieving.

I AM grateful for the positive things in my life. But I have just suffered a devastating loss, and must be allowed to grieve. I need the people I care about to be patient and understanding, and to acknowledge the depth of my sorrow and my right to mourn my dearly loved brother. I need time. And I need support. I have done a lot of research on the subject of grief, and would like to share some of what I've found with you.

Suffering is the long period of grief during which the person gradually comes to terms with the reality of the loss. The suffering process typically involves a wide range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, as well as an overall sense of life seeming chaotic and disorganized. The duration of the suffering process differs with each person, partly depending on the nature of the loss experienced.


GUIDELINES FOR HELPING

Be available and accepting. Accept the words and feelings expressed, avoid being judgmental or taking their feelings personally, avoid telling them how they should feel or what they should do.

Be a good listener. Many in grief need to talk about their loss; the person, related events, and their reactions. Allow grievers to tell their stories and express their feelings. Be patient and accepting of their expressions.

Exercise patience. Give bereaved people "permission" to grieve for as long or short a time as needed. Make it clear that there is no sense of "urgency" when you visit or talk. Remember, there are no shortcuts.

Time does not heal, but healing takes time. In the face of profound loss, we take baby steps back into life. Few of us can afford to climb into bed and pull the covers up. Most of us need to engage responsibilities around work and families. This is a safety net so that we don't withdraw totally. On the other hand, getting back to normal is not possible in the face of having to re-define normal. We must take the time.

There is no closure or completion in the face of loss. This is a fallacy too many of us hear and then wonder "What is wrong with me? Why don't I feel closure?" There is no completion but there is integration. As we move through the cycles of time that circumscribe our lives -- the day, the week, the month and the year -- our losses are woven into the fabric of our being.

My emotions are heightened by the stress of grief. Please be forgiving if I seem irrational at times.

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