How to Deal with Grief from Death or Incarceration

Coping with, grief,  either from death, divorce, incarceration, job loss, or even loosing your home is devastating. Mental Health counselor, Arifah Yusaf  and, Life Coach, Myrna Young shares strategies for coping with loss.

I have been fortunate at 60 years old to not had to deal with the kind of, grief, that tears your soul out. The kind that of,  grief,  makes you want to die. The kind that  hurt so bad that you can’t get up out of bed for weeks.

I have heard stories, and I have had a front row seat to my daughters grief when she buried her fiancé.

Grief, from Losing a Child:

I was listening to an interview with Anderson Cooper a few months back and he was telling the story of his brother suicide. Then I heard his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt,  talk about it. Put yourself in this scene.

Your 22 year old son wakes up from a nap and comes into your room. Asks you some question you don’t comprehend and then runs out of your room onto the balcony of your 12th story Penthouse suite and jumps to his death while you watch, shocked out of your mind.

Gloria Vanderbilt, had this experience. In an interview she said in her, grief, she stayed in bed for 2 weeks and cried and cried until she ran out of tears. Since then she has not cried once. She says it is as if, she has no tears left.

When a loved one commits suicide the, grief, is even more acute because there is blame wondering what you may have missed, could have done to prevent it, are you the cause etc.

But after hearing that interview, I heard another interview on the, Mental Health Happy Hour podcast, that penetrated my consciousness about the horror or, grief,

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Grieving the Death of a Spouse:

The guest told the story about, the death of her spouse, seeing her husband drown in front of her and how her world changed from that day.

Here is her story. She said her husband Matt was a super athlete very strong. She gave us the mental picture of him hanging from a cliff with one hand and in the other hand pulling up his 17 year old son.

One day before they picked up her husband’s son from the Airport, they decided to take their dog for a walk in the woods by their home. Her husband decided to take a quick swim in the river, something he did several times per week. She decided to keep playing with the dog. After some time, she said she heard her husband cough once and she didn’t think anything of it. She said to herself, he got water into his mouth again. When she heard him cough again, she decided to investigate. When she reached the river, she saw her husband clinging to a branch in river. She knew something was wrong. The river looked the same as it always looked, very calm on top; but as soon as she stepped into the river to help her husband, she felt the strong undercurrent. The current took her and her dog up the river for about 2 miles before it spit them out on the shore. She said she was then lost in the woods for about 45 mins before she was able to get help.

They began a search and rescue for her husband, but  after 3 hours it became a search and recovery.

They found him entangled in weeds at the bottom of the river.

She talks about what it felt like to pick up Matt’s son from the airport and tell him his father was dead. His 18th birthday was the next day.

She talked about the fact that Matt’s son could never again celebrate his birthday again because it will always be the anniversary of his Dad’s death. She talked about having to call Matt’s parents and tell them their son was dead. She said his father hung up on her he didn’t want to believe it. Calling all his friends in his phone and telling them. Her, grief,  was unbearable.

She talked about the fact she could no longer practice her profession as a therapist, because she couldn’t listen to other people’s problems anymore. But the point she wanted to convey by telling her story, was that while she was in mystery and her world changed forever, her neighbors world and everyone else’s world continued unchanged.

The sun came up the next day, her neighbor came out the next day and picked up his morning newspaper. She likened it to going to the movies, you pay to see a comedy but while everybody else is laughing your screen split and you are watching a horror movie.

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Grief from Suicide:

My firsthand experience with, grief, was seeing the pain it caused my daughter when her fiancé committed suicide. His mother called me and I thought she was joking when she said ” The boy killed himself” until she said why would I joke about something like that.

I had the unenviable role of telling my daughter her fiance was dead. I can still hear her screens of anguish. I didn’t know what to do.

Her world changed. She quit school. She was doing her Masters degree at the time.

She went back later; but I had to call her professors and tell them the situation.

Then she had to deal with the funeral and the burial.

I didn’t know what to do, what to say or how to help her with her, grief.

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The therapist said that most people don’t know what to do or say.

Because our culture spins the tale that life must go on and that everything has a purpose.

She feels that is bullshit to sat that her husband died, so that she can use her pain to help other people. What she is doing now.

She said you can’t tell a mother who lost her baby that God had better plans for the child.

We will go through her suggestions for helping others deal with, grief, and what you can do to help later on in this blog

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Grief screaming

Here is how to deal with, grief from incarceration: Grief Counseling,

In the co-host chair is Arifah Yusuf Mortley, registered social worker, mental health counselor and founder and program director of Lifted by Purpose.

Arifah, how is, grief from incarceration, similar to losing a loved one in death?

In my experience I have supported both clients in, grief counseling, dealing with, grief, of a loved one who died and secondary loss, such as losing a loved one to incarceration. When speaking with my clients, dealing with the loss of a loved one, I always listen and provide the space and opportunity for them to be heard and share their feelings. It’s important for them to know during, grief counseling, that grief, is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense your, grief, will be.

Emotional reactions of, grief,  can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair.

During, grief counseling, clients may associate grieving with the death of a loved one—which is often the cause of the most intense type of, grief, but you can also experience intense, grief from incarceration,  or losing a loved one to incarceration.  For example, I had a client who was pregnant and her fiancé was sentenced to 6 years in prison.  Even though he did not die the, grief, was intense from her watching him get sentenced and taken away the same day, delivering their baby without him present, and raising their child on her own.  She would drive 3 hours to visit him and 3 hours back home once a month and speak to him as often, as she could afford.  Over time the, grief from incarceration, took a toll on her, as this was not the family life she had envisioned for herself.  Likewise, it was difficult for her fiancé in prison, as he felt he was missing out on the experience of raising their child, and the experience of being the father he promised himself and her, he would be.  He felt disappointment in himself and a disconnection to his family. He also, experienced, grief,  from loosing his freedom, and the ability to provide for his family.  He also grieved missing all the milestones of his child’s life (ie. Missing first words, walk, first day of school, birthdays) and intense worry about their health and safety. As well, wondering if his girl would leave him for someone else. The inevitable of not being able to fully control situations, was an intense loss for them both, and sometimes, she would say it felt as if he was gone and not coming back home.

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Steps to helping friends or family members deal with, Grief: Grief Counseling

1: Never say get over it or it is for the best.

2: Allow them to grieve. If they want to talk about it listen. They need to feel heard. In fact they will talk about it until they feel heard.

  1. Help them by taking care of daily necessities like child care, cooking, cleaning, taking out the trash, picking up kids from school etc. A person in, grief, is not capable of doing any of these things.
  2. Sit with the thought that time does heal. The therapist went back to work helping others, my daughter went back to school and graduated on time with her Masters degree. She is getting married in December. Anderson Cooper decided to send himself to the war zone and report news. That is how he dealt with his, grief. That launched his career as a reporter.
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How to Deal with, grief from incarceration, or death?

listen and engage  in conversations about the loss, so they can begin to recognize the reality of the loss and confront their own emotions (e.g. loneliness, sadness, helplessness). These stressors include things like thoughts, feelings, actions, and memories that cause us to feel grief and focus on the loss.

I share the Tear Model when working with clients, which focuses in on the following.

 

The Tear Model to help with, Grief

Accept the reality of the loss

Experience the reality of the loss

Adjust to a new life without the person

Reinvest in the new reality

 

I often explain that restorationorientation refers to coping with issues related to secondary changes brought on by the loss (e.g., financial, family demands), and adapting to these issues.

A griever will go between confronting the loss and avoiding the loss.

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Helpful ways to cope with, Grief, and Loss

  • Express yourself. Talking to a trust friend, family member or counselor is often a good way to soothe painful emotions.
  • Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process.
  • Keep your routine up.
  • Sleep.
  • Listen to music or express your emotions using the arts
  • Connect with your spiritually.
  • Eat healthy and exercise.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Honor your special person and treasure fond memories (drawing, photos, music, and memory box).
  • Connect to nature – go for a walk, breathe in the fresh, focus on what you see outside (i.e. Trees, birds).
  • Make a special memento to perverse a loved one’s memory. Write a letter to the person.
  • Lean on support from friends, family, professional support.
  • Learn about grief resources, support groups, grief professionals.
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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR COPING WITH, GRIEF

How to Heal Your Brokenness

Life After Death, How an Atheist Became a Believer

How to Find Love, the Second Time Around

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131745/

 

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/11/10/the-singular-sorrow-of-grieving-behind-bars