I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing after the Sudden Death of a Loved One

I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing after the Sudden Death of a Loved One

by Brook Noel, Pamela D. Blair


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781891400278
Publisher: Champion Press, Limited
Publication date: 01/28/2000
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Part One: An Unfamiliar World: The Journey Into Grief

When sudden loss enters our reality, we awaken in an unfamiliar world. In this first section, we explore this unwelcome place and offer ideas to help navigate through the darkness. If you have purchased or been given this book in the immediate days or weeks after the death of your loved one, please read Chapter Two: Notes for the first few weeks, as your energy allows. Come back to the rest of this book as you are ready.

Chapter Three provides important insight to the emotional and physical aspects of grief. In this unfamiliar place we notice we are forgetful, distracted, and exhausted, and we wonder if we are "going crazy." This chapter can help you understand the many ways we react to loss.

In Chapter Four we explore the many myths and misunderstandings that surround the grieving process. Over the years we have received countless letters from readers who found this myth-busting section to be one that offers peace amidst chaos.

You will also find our stories in this section. We share them with you because we believe that people who have shared sudden loss firsthand can offer a level of understanding, compassion, and hope to one another. We share our stories in hope that in your darkest hours you can read them for reassurance knowing that life does go on and that this unfamiliar world can be survived.

Chapter One: The Starting Point: Notes from the Authors
"What we call the beginning is often the end.
To make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from."
-T.S. Eliot

Pam's Story
I believe no matter howmuch pain we're in, there is something inside of us stronger than the pain. That something allows survivors of the worst tragedies to want to live and tell their stories. You can see it in the eyes of someone who has managed to hang on to their dignity in the midst of adversity. It's a kind of stubbornness. You can call it God, the soul, or the human spirit. It is found only when we have been oppressed, or broken, or abandoned, and we remain the one who holds onto what's left. It is this inner something that has allowed me to go on in the face of tremendous loss.

I remember all the vivid, surrealistic details of that morning. The smell of fresh ground coffee brewing lingered in the air as I came to consciousness. I was trying to squeeze one or two more minutes out of my warm bed and feather pillow when the phone rang. Grabbing at the intrusive noise, I put the receiver to my ear and heard nothing but the sound of someone trying to catch her breath. I thought it might be one of those weird "breather" calls until I heard LeAnne say, "Pam, George is in a coma . . . (long pause) . . . he had a hemorrhage or something." I felt the molecules in the air begin to thicken as I tried to take a breath so I could talk to George's younger sister. "LeAnne, where are you? What do you mean? I just saw George yesterday afternoon. He looked fine!"

Crying and gasping for air, she replied in a thin voice, "You and Ian have to come here-to the hospital. I think it's important that you bring Ian here now." I tried to remain rational as I remembered that Ian, my twelve-year-old son with George, was getting ready to bolt down the stairs on his way to school. I still needed to pack his lunch box. I thought, Why is LeAnne bothering me with this? I'm sure it's just nothing. After all, George is young and healthy (and handsome). Comas don't happen to people like him. They don't happen to people I know.

"LeAnne, why don't we wait and see. He'll probably come to. And besides, Ian is just about to leave for school and he has a test today. Why don't you call back in a few minutes after you have more information and I'll bring him down to the hospital later. It's probably not as bad as . . ." She interrupted my rambling with a bold, deliberate, almost cold intonation in her voice. "Now. You have to come now. It's really bad. There's a lot of blood in his brain and he probably won't live."

Blood in his brain. I sat down hard. What was I hearing? Was I hearing that George, the man I had loved as my husband and the father of my child, and who had become a dear friend and loving co-parent after our divorce, was about to leave the earth? Come on. People exaggerate. LeAnne is exaggerating. After all, George means as much to her as he does to me, and his son Ian, and his once stepdaughter, Aimee.

"Okay, LeAnne, I'll take the day off from work and I'll bring Ian to the hospital. Where are you?" She replied in an almost inaudible voice, "The emergency room. I'll meet you here."

My limbs were numb, the blood was gone from my face and neck, and I wasn't sure I could make my mouth work. Steve, my husband of seven years, had left for his office in the city, and I was alone. I would have to tell Ian myself. I would have to tell Ian that the dad who loved to be with him on weekends, who lived for his son's little league games and karate matches, was probably brain dead. I would have to tell my daughter, Aimee. Part of me thought that if I could just see George and tell him loudly how much his son needed him, he wouldn't slip away into death's darkness. That's it. I would scream at him and bring him back to us.

Somehow I made my legs work. One numb foot in front of the other. At the bottom of the stairs I called, "Ian, meet me in my bedroom. I have something to tell you." I kept telling myself, You will remain calm . . . think logically . . . don't upset the boy too much, just keep calm.

How do you describe this strange limbo moment where life slows down and everything around you falls away into unimportance? It felt like there was no house with its comfortable furniture around me, no more smell of coffee, no cat rubbing my legs for attention, no appointments on the calendar-all that existed for now were the two small, round, brown eyes of my little boy resting on mine.

I told Ian what little I knew. There, sitting on the edge of my now neatly made bed, he melted into tears. Deep sobs and a lot of "How did this happen? What happened to him?" over and over again. His voice was cracking, rising and falling, the way twelve-year-old boy's voices sometimes do. I comforted him. I knew that was my only role, comforter to my son with no one to comfort me.

I called my daughter, Aimee, George's stepdaughter, nine months pregnant with her first child. She agreed to join us. We made our way to the hospital, not talking. Ian looked out the car window and I could tell he wondered why everyone driving past us looked so normal, so unaffected by our plight. Didn't they know what was going on? How could they go about their business knowing George was dying or dead? Why are they behaving as if nothing happened? I felt as if I were moving through someone else's movie. Everything felt surreal, in slow motion.

No human being is without feelings. From a baby's first cry to a dying person's last look at friends and family, our primary response to the world around us is colored by emotion. Whether that world seems to us friendly or frightening, beautiful or ugly, pleasant or disagreeable, affects the way we approach others, and indeed influences everything we do. I do not believe that such feelings arise in us solely due to environmental conditions, or to genetic factors, however important these both may be. Members of the same family, placed in the same kinds of situations, react in very different ways. Our emotions are a conscious response to our experience, but they are self-generated and reveal something important about our character.

Table of Contents

Chapter One/The starting point
Chapter Two/Notes for the first few weeks
-Treat yourself as if you were in intensive care
-Someone to take calls
-Seek assistance
-Don't worry about contacting people
-Let your body lead you
-Religious traditions
-Wills and arrangements
-Expect to be distracted
-Have someone near you
-The help of friends
-Handout for those close to you
Chapter Three/Understanding the emotional and physical affects of grief
-Days of distraction
-Grief knows no schedule
-Physical symptoms
-Grief and dreams
-If you don't dream
-If you do dream
-Troublesome dreams
-Communication dreams
-Feeling the presence of the deceased
-The world becomes dreamlike
-A time to withdraw
-Impulsive living
-Instant replays and obsessive thoughts
-The "if only" mind game
Chapter Four/The world is upside down
-Assumptions are shattered
-When faith is shattered
-Loss of purpose
-Redefining ourselves
-What matters?
-Finding a beginning, middle and end
-Why did this happen?
Chapter Five/The stages of grief
-Complicated mourning
-The first year
-The second year
-The third year
-Multiple grief
-Will I ever get over it?
-Warning signs
Chapter Six/Myths and misunderstandings of the grieving process
Chapter Seven/Grief blocks
Chapter Eight/Relating to others
-Too close to home
-You are a different person
-It's okay to laugh
-The ten-day syndrome
-Repeating the story
-Awkward questions
-Non-traditional relationships
-Going back to work
Chapter Nine/Helping children cope with grief
-Young children
-Teenagers to young adults
-General guidelines
Chapter Ten/Special occasions and challenges
-The ambush
-Holiday traditions
-Where does one go during the holidays?
-Happy new year?
-Looking toward next year
Part Two: Sharing our stories
Chapter Eleven/The loss of a friend
-Some things you can do
Chapter Twelve/The loss of a parent
-Some things you can do
Chapter Thirteen/The loss of a child
-Extreme emotions
-Losing and adult child
-Common reactions to suicide
-Questions and suicide
-Religion and suicide
-The stigma of suicide
-Your relationship with your partner
-Grieving styles: the differences between men and women
-Grieving guidelines for men and their partners
-Guidelines for grieving couples
-Single parents
-Some things you can do
Chapter Fourteen/The loss of a partner
-Loss of identity
-Circles of friends
-Lingering memories and images
-Learning to do things alone
-Funeral arrangements
-When one parent is doing the job of two
-For parents who have surviving children
-Will I ever love again?
-Seeking purpose
-Some things you can do
Chapter Fifteen/The loss of a sibling
-Being overlooked in the grieving process
-Double the loss
-Identity through a sibling
-We fought so much
-No one understands
-Some things you can do
Part Three: Pathways through grief
Chapter Sixteen/Pathways through grief: Questions and answers
Chapter Seventeen/Self-help and therapy
-Self-help books
-FAQ about self help and therapy
-Some therapies that can be useful
-Alternative solutions: herbs, therapies and other techniques
-Feeling depleted
-Inability to cry
-Lack of concentration
-Stomach discomfort
Chapter Eighteen/Grief recovery exercises
-Anger exercise
-Thank you exercise
-The search for meaning
-Learning through loss
-What my loved one has left me
-Screaming exercise
-Define your priorities
-Coping with guilt
-The gratitude journal
-Memory books
Chapter Nineteen/Resources and support
-Supportive publications
-Support for loss of a partner
-Support for grieving children
-Support for the lost of a child
-General books for adults
-Books about grief recovery
-Books for grieving men
-Books about the loss of a friend
-Books about helping someone who is grieving
-Books about the loss of a child
-General books for professionals
-Books for children, teens and their caregivers
-Books about the death of a mate
-Books about losing a parent
-Books about suicide
-Books for helping professionals
Where am I now?/Notes from the authors
Appendix/Worksheets and forms
-The memorial service
-The eulogy
-A checklist of calls to make
-Friends support group invitation
How to contact the authors
Mailing list
About the authors
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