Saturday, March 31, 2012

Follow Up: Grief as a Mental Illness?

After my recent post about whether and when grief can be considered a mental illness, I received an email that had some poignant thoughts from someone with some firsthand knowledge of what it means to live with grief.  Sonya, a law school friend of mine (whose husband performed my marriage ceremony with Brian), shared her thoughts on the topic.  What she wrote was wise, heartfelt, and cuts to the core of what grief is.  She agreed to let me share those words with you:

I lost my father to liver cancer last month. It was stressful, as well as an emotional crisis and roller coaster. I didn’t know grief could be so painful. Grief is a human and normal response to the death of a loved one. It can be a mental disorder if it becomes debilitating, I agree. Mourning is personal and may last for months or years. I feel it is important for us to express our feelings either to loved ones or in a diary (or blog) to help us deal with our emotions.
Grief does not have to do with an illness caused by biochemicals in your brains that doctors can just treat. It has to do with your soul, compassion, remembrance, and empathy. I had a lifetime of shared experiences with my Dad. My heart is broken. He passed away on a Friday. While other people are happy on Fridays and looking forward to the weekend, I wear black and mourn the loss of my dear father and visit his grave. The harder part is to watch my mom experience the emptiness in her house and in her heart.

While real suffering is involved in grief, it can help you gain experience and perspective. We know that life in this side of the world is not forever, so we learn to accept that life is for the living. It takes effort to begin living in the present. Grief can make you stronger, more resilient. I try not to take things for granted. I am more gentle towards others.
Be patient, my friend. You are not crazy. You are human.

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