Complicated grief

I lost my mum 4 years ago to cancer, she was diagnosed on Christmas day and died 9 weeks later. My life for the past 4 years has consisted of inherent sadness, anger and anxiety. I’m worried that I haven’t accepted that she has gone, I still have her dressing gown hanging on my bedroom closet and I use her old purse everyday. I struggle to talk about her without crying and am haunted by guilt, at not spending enough time with her before she passed away, guilt at not living my life after she has gone as I know this was what she wanted, guilt at wishing I wasn’t there holding her hand as she died as I can’t move passed the trauma of it, I cry whenever I think about it or try to speak about it. The intense pain that I felt is still there, I look at the stages of grief and don’t think I have been able to pass through any of them.I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2013, and tried bereavement counselling but it didn’t help, it wasn’t a good fit with the counsellor and I didn’t have the energy to go back and try again. I had begun a new relationship just before my mum died and it has been very volatile and I feel guilt that I haven’t been the partner that I should have been because I’ve been so incredibly unhappy and sad and angry since mum passed. I’ve recently begun CBT in a hope that this can help and my counsellor thinks I may have complicated grief, I didn’t know that such a thing existed. Has anyone else had any experience of it? I am going to see my GP next week to seek more advice on it.

Hi Complicated Grief (1),
My mum passed away to a rare form of cancer 12 years ago. I was only 10 at the time and due to different family pressures, I chose to cry only at what I thought were fixed times to cry such as the funeral and when praying but never let myself really feel the loss. Over the past 3 years I started experiencing intense anxiety and only after talking about it with family did I realise that it was connected with my mum’s death as I had removed it so far from my life. Since then, I’ve been on a complete roller coaster of grief, trying to process everything that has come up for me. I often just feel like giving up because I can’t seem to move through it and get to the other side. I also feel extreme guilt over not moving forward and living the type of life I think she would have wanted me to live. Just writing this brings up so much pain, I hate it that I miss her so much that it is stopping me from experiencing life. I feel guilty about not having dealt with it earlier and about the anger I feel towards my mum, myself and the situation I’m in. After seeing one therapist who made things much worse, I started doing EFTT (emotional freedom technique for trauma) and a few sessions of hypnotherapy. These have really helped me but I have a really tough time talking about what I’m going through with friends and family. I also started medication which helped me immensely so that at least externally, I am able to progress with my life and my career. I’m really sorry for what you’re going through, noone should have to go through this crazy journey but knowing I’m not alone does help in a weird kind of way. So thanks for sharing your struggle and let me know if you have any questions.
Love and peace,
Complicated Grief

Hello CG2,

Thank you for your reply. I am so sorry for your loss and what you had to go through at such a young age. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that must have been for you.

I completely understand when you say you never let yourself feel the loss, I feel the same too, my counsellor believes it is my way of somehow having a connection to my mum subconsciously. Well done on recognising that you needed support, you are incredibly brave. We often put too much pressure on ourselves to cope, I know that was a mistake that I made, and felt worried that people would think that I should be over it by now. Hopefully we will be able to leave the guilt behind and move on with strong hearts and minds as I’m slowly realising that worrying can’t change things, what matters is our mental well being and I’d like to get to a point where I can talk and think about my memories of my mum rather than the pain I felt when she died and get myself out of the cycle of wanting her back as I know that I need to accept that this can’t happen.

I wish you the best of luck with your journey toward peace, it sounds like you have made great progress and the first painful steps will soon be a distant memory.

D

Hi
Reading your story is so similar to my own. I too lost my mum I was 9 and I’m 26 now so that’s 17 years! I feel like it’s only just got me that the past is the past (if that.makes sense) and she’s not coming back. I listen to old music and feel really nostalgic and I look at the few pictures I have of her but I’m now getting really upset. I didn’t cry at the funeral and I didn’t cry much in front of family members of friends they all think I’m “tough as old boats” I didn’t mean to bottle it up but I feel like it’s all coming out now. I’m thinking of going to see my GP is this something you did? What else do you do to cope?

Stacey

Hi Stacy.
I would definitely recommend seeing a psychiatrist, but if thats not possible, a gp could be good as well. Medication helped me to be okay enough and safe enough to process everything i was going through without getting too overwhelmed.
Eft also helped me alot to release and process the emotion and crazy feelings I was feeling.
I also realised that crying and processing and letting go and being vulnerable all are signs of strength, not weakness! What shows that youre really as tough as an old boat is once youve learnt to really go through the crashing waves in the emotional sea.
I’m starting to feel like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel but im still in so much pain. I dont know if one can ever really get to the other side but maybe im starting to be more at peace with the pain i feel.
I really hope you start feeling connected and at peace soon.
All my love,
Complicated grief

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Hi Stacey,

I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your mum and at such a young age, you are incredibly brave and strong to have coped all of these years. I completely understand what you mean about the bottling up of grief, I unintentionally did that too and then it would come out in extreme anxiety and waves of emotion that were incredibly difficult to control. Going to see your GP is a great step forward and acknowledging and accepting your grief, I found that once I had done this I felt a sense of relief. Acknowledging that you are experiencing and struggling with grief is really the way to help yourself through it. It was only when I realised that I was struggling that I felt empowered to do something about it and confront it, being nostalgic and the act of remembering can be so painful but it’s a natural part of grief and accepting loss. I found that I avoided doing this because I didn’t want to accept my mum had gone, and that I was being somehow disloyal to her if I accepted she had passed away, when in reality I was just reliving her passing and not allowing myself to remember all of the good times and the wonderful person that she was. Dialogue about your mum is really important, talk about her as much as you can, this helps me a lot. There really are no defined stages of grief, I feel that grief is something we live with daily as our lives are changed forever. It’s accepting that change and the loss we have suffered which gives us strength to move forward with our lives whilst always remembering our loved ones and carrying them within our hearts, it sounds like you are at the first part of that process.

Having CBT really helped me to acknowledge that my mum was no longer here and that is was ok for me to feel sadness at that but that I also needed to accept it as a part of life (I by no means say this flippantly) however as a society we don’t speak enough about death. It’s only when we experience it that we begin to talk about it. Being able to speak to my therapist about my own fears and my view on death really helped me to work out my grief, I no longer feel that I am trapped within it and I can think of my mum in a loving way not in a way in which I wanted to change the past or with profound sadness.

I really hope you get help from your GP, counselling could really help you to release all of your feeling and emotions in a safe, controlled environment.

Love and best wishes
D

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