When I wrote about anticipatory grief – something my friend calls ‘living grief’ I heard another interesting term: The abbreviated grief definition.
So now I come back to find out more.
I was someone who experienced anticipatory grief – that is the mourning of a loss not yet occurred – obviously mingled with the grief of the life my Matthew’s disabilities would never let him lead.
Which means it is possible that I would be someone with a greater chance of having abbreviated grief.
What is abbreviated grief?
The grief definition has been described as a short-lived (but real) form of grief.
It seems in some circumstances, people are able to work through the stages of grief “quicker” than “normal”.
As I researched grief and the different experiences. I saw that some people experience abbreviated grief because of the immediate replacement of the person who passed away.
Such as a widower marrying again.
It sounds awful ‘the replacement’ of someone. Apparently in some cases it can be a perfectly healthy way to move through grief.
I guess it could be that falling in love again heals the wounds?
Or they simply didn’t have that close a relationship with them. Like you would with an elderly aunt or uncle for example, who you had barely met perhaps.
Then there is the third option:
Knowing ahead of time
Having spent time living with the diagnosis/prognosis. Which for some could mean they already started the grieving process.
For me this was a very real experience. Right from the first time we signed off an advanced care orders I think I started this process.
I remember the nights – not all the time – but the nights crying silently to myself.
What would it be like to live without him? How would I cope? How would I go looking after my family, my other responsibilities with such a gaping hole?
Tips for dealing with it
Acknowledge your pain
Accepting that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions. Is absolutely normal to grieve.
Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
That grief comes alongside, joy, sadness, happiness, anger all the other emotions and is something we learned to live with as it comes in waves.
Not a process that is ‘completed’ and moved on from.
Recognise the different between grief and depression.
However we should acknowledge sometimes what appears as abbreviated grief, is because the person feels like they have to be strong.
Or if they were to simply feel everything that was coming up, that they would loose control.
That isn’t healthy abbreviated grief.
It is more likely to be a different grief definition – complicated grief, that needs more serious support to get through.
Take care of yourself
Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
All the basics for looking after yourself:
But keep it simple, if you don’t feel like eating much, don’t.
- But do eat something. Try to make healthy choices, otherwise things like sugar & caffeine crashes will only make you feel worse.
- If you’re having trouble sleeping, try and apply sleep hygiene tips sooner rather than later, and feel free to nap.
I found even when I felt ‘okay’ I was still exhausted.
- Do your personal care routines, teeth, hair, shower, skin care and make-up if that’s your thing.
The routine and setting yourself up for the day can help.
As I went through rough days in the hospital I could still hear my mum saying “Brush your teeth, wash your face & brush your hair, you will feel much better.” Echoing from my childhood.
Get back to the things you love and enjoy.
I started to write during these early stages. Giving me something outside of myself to pour into, to use my grief in a constructive way.
Even if my grief definition was or is abbreviated it is still a painful process. While it is a label that means very little to any one because even when ‘healthy’ doesn’t mean grief simply goes away.
Or that I am not suddenly faced with a very painful moment or day.
Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.
- Friends and family
Coffee and visits from one of my close friends was so lovely.
Luke was home for a month, which was very helpful. It meant sharing the load of things I didn’t want to face or didn’t enjoy like school runs, housework, meals etc.
- Meals and housework.
We had people deliver meals, and help with housework. For me this was a load off my shoulders and mean’t that didn’t have to go out and face the world for things like milk if I didn’t want to.
I could spend my days watching Netflix with Luke instead of worrying about everyone having clothes to wear.
- Consider professional support.
I have been seeing a psychologist since a few months after Matthew passed away.
It was that I convinced I needed help. I just wanted to be on the offensive instead of waiting to see if it all got too much.
I wasn’t sure if I’d find I really needed it or if I was fine so I would just stop going.
Surprisingly I have found that I did really need it, but it actually has very very little to do with grief.
That comes up naturally and we deal with those moments in time, just as I have to in life.
But the real work has nothing to do with the loss of Matthew.
“Don’t let anyone turn you into a patient”
– My doctor said this to me after Matthew passed away.
You’re not sick, grief is normal.
But people, especially health professionals will just want to do something. They want to do something to make it easier.
I had already had one doctor ask if I had something to help me sleep. But I wasn’t having any trouble sleeping at the time.
So absolutely reach out if you need it. But think twice before letting anyone talk you into something if you’re doing okay.
Tips for supporting someone else with it
Do not make any judgements.
Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Everyone’s experience is unique to them.
There is no ‘healthy’ time frame.
If a person has gone through the stages of grief in a healthy manner, we must not assume they haven’t grieved properly. Just because we think it is too fast.
Housework, meals, running the kids around.
Kid do really well heading back to their routines quickly, adults (or at least I did) need more time and space. So helping the kids do normal life can be very helpful.
Don’t leave them out or not talk about the child they lost, because you think it is too soon. Chances are they’ll love to the chance to talk about them.
Or they can let you know.
If you’ve got tips to help support yourself or someone you love with grief, or a different grief definition, I’d love to hear them.
Drop us a comment here or go over to our facebook page and let us know there.