After we lose a loved one, we go through a period of mourning. This is more commonly known as bereavement. Bereavement follows typically after a death although grieving in normal after a break-up or even the loss of a job. This post will focus on the bereavement that one experiences after the passing of a someone dear to us, and how it may have affected our mental health.
My father was sick for years; fifteen to be exact. We knew he was lucky with the amount of close calls he’d had over that period of time, but we all knew that eventually, his departure from our world would be inevitable. My dad had been living with kidney disease as a result of his diabetes, for several years prior to his death. He had been on dialysis for six years. His overall health began to decline when he broke his leg in 2013. In February of 2015, I received a call from my mom. Dad was dying. This was it. He had, had numerous visits to the hospital in the last year and even experienced a silent heart attack while admitted. The heart attack resulted in him having brain bleeds which began daily seizures (a type that would cause him to just stare at nothing, eyes glazed over, before coming to, not knowing that anything had happened) that were only increasing. The doctor gave him a month, but that was if we contined dialysis treatments for him. If we chose to stop dialysis, she told us we may have him for just two weeks. We knew this day would come, but not like this. I was angry and confused. I felt as though my father was being robbed. He deserved to go a better way. Three days later, I found myself at my parent’s helping my brother get my dad ready for what would turn out to be his final dialysis treatment. His doctor in the hospital said he might make it two weeks without dialysis. He made it five days, passing away just three days before his 67th birthday. Dad died on March 1, 2015 and as we approach the third anniversary, I am reflecting on how his death affected my already ever present mental illness, and I heard from a few followers of the blog and will share their comments later in the post.
My dad died when I was 26 and I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 23. I had experienced my share of panic attacks and being followed by an invisible dark cloud, but nothing compared to what I endured as I began grieving the loss of my dad. The last week my dad was alive and a few days after, were spent with me battling intense headaches and crippling anxiety. Anxiety that was so bad, I couldn’t eat food, but I had no problem swallowing down a norco everyday which helped the headaches but didn’t help my empty stomach any. Food is the last thing on your mind when someone is dying slowly in front of you. In the months that followed, I continued to lose weight due to my drastic change in appetite. I grew angrier, more frustrated and confused. At times, it was nearly impossible to console me. I was not upset because he was gone but bothered not knowing whether or not he was really okay; truly ready. He was a very stubborn man and the most stubborn towards the end. He was also scared. He didn’t want to die and was very vocal about it.
By May, my behavior was beginning to change at work and I started having extremely sweaty palms, an issue I still have almost three years later. I couldn’t sleep. I would find myself waking up, every night at or around 2:30am. The time that my father passed away. It was very frustrating. I would randomly break down at work or in public. It was a taking a toll on me. Finally, in May, I called and scheduled an appointment with a therapist. A therapist who ended up helping me understand what I was feeling and coping with life without dad. She was incredible. Two months later, I was still feeling pretty down, although therapy had been helping, and I decided to go back on antidepressants. I had not been on any in over two years before that. I saw a psychiatrist for the first time, a wondeful doctor who’s care I am fortunately back under after a year and a half due to insurance. Medication may not be for everyone, but it wouldn’t exist if it didn’t help and I am happy that there are options.
Looking back, it seems like at the time, the pain was never going to leave and guess what? It didn’t. It just lessened over time. Some days are better than others and I’ve been told by many that their parent has been gone 20 years and they still breakdown on occasion. I hope that if anyone is reading this and currently experiencing grief that has began to interfere with your life, understands that it’s okay to ask for help. When you find yourself not being able to get out of bed or distance yourself from loved ones, it is a sign that your grief has festered into something deeper. Remember, it never leaves you, but it becomes tolerable.
The following were submitted by followers:
” I have lost many. I think the hardest was my grandma. It’s never easy to lose a love one, a friend or even a family member. All we can do is take it one day at a time until we see them again. For now I just deal with the loss. I’m supposed to be on medication, but it is hard to do where I live without reliable transportation. So I just live with it.”
“I stopped writing music for 7 years, because of a loss of three loved ones in a short period of time. I about lost myself! But I’m back, and I’m gonna stay back.”
“I developed anxiety after my sister left us 5 years ago. I also have post traumatic stress disorder. Every day I live in fear of losing another loved one. I lose sleep and my appetite which lasts for several days, sometimes weeks. I spazz out at the sound of sirens or if one of my sons do not answer their phone the first time I call. I sleep with my phone next to my pillow so I won’t miss an emergency call. I’m out of town at the moment attending a class I have to take for my job and I’ve had anxiety since I arrived last night. I text my son, my sister, and my mom asking for one of them to come get me because I rode with another co-worker and started FREAKING OUT in the middle of the night thinking what would I do if something happened and I’m all the way out here without my car? They prayed for me and I started praying and the anxiety subsided but it still gets me going just writing this post. Its a horrible way to live. I’m definitely not as mentally stable as I used to be.”
“I started having panic attacks after my mother passed away in 2013. My father passed away in 2016 and I’m having anxiety and depression now that they are both gone.”