Untangling grief’s difficult grip

Grief entangles a person’s emotions, and their actions directly affect those around them.
Individual situations can become so bad that a person loses friends, suffers the loss of community support, quits or lose their job and assistance of coworkers as they fall deeper into the pit of despair.
Susan Bramsch, executive director of The Tristesse Grief Center, 1709 South Baltimore Ave., said more and more people are experiencing losses and are grieving during the difficult economic times they are experiencing today and that compounds the tragedy.
Employers are recognizing the grief impact on the workplace when people are less focused, less astute in making decisions that previously had been the norm. In addition, employers are recognizing that an employee’s mental health is as important as physical health.
Sometimes the person turns to the workplace, taking on more projects and working more hours as they try to cope.
‘‘We try to teach people to understand the stress of their job and park concerns on the shelf when they leave work,’’ she said. They need to separate work from other parts of their life. Work stress can compound grief.
Some people dealing with grief come to the center for professional counseling, Bramsch said. After two or three sessions, they are on their way. Others can’t get past through steps one, two and three. Some may do steps one and three, skipping the second because it didn’t apply to their situation.
‘‘Our society does not embrace the grief process like other countries,’’ she said. Too often people are afraid they will say something that will upset the person even more.
Statements often express sympathy because a family lost a loved one can evoke unexpected emotion.
One woman, hearing that statement, angrily responded, ‘‘no, my husband died. Help me remember the good times with him.’’
Some people working through grief feel like they don’t want to do anything, Bramsch said. They don’t want to get up in the morning, go shopping or to church. If they have a job, their production might suffer for a time.
When people return to work they might not want to go out to that Friday night party, Bramsch continued. That’s OK. It’s also OK to cry, OK to be mad or feel sad. These are feelings. It’s OK if someone declines to attend a baseball game that was the favorite past-time of the decedent.
Some no longer want to climb the corporate ladder because it is not important, she said. They no longer have a partner to help take care of the children or look ahead to goals that had been set.
Each individual requires a different amount of time to recover from the grief process and are ready to go on with life, she said. Often a person takes offense to the statement they need to ‘‘get on with life’’ when the reality is they are starting a new life without their partner.
The Grief Center is here to help understand the grief process so people can move on with their life, she said. The big part of the center’s mission is in education so people know how to handle their emotions. It’s how someone goes through each day, each week or the next six months with a strong support system.
Parents grieving the loss of a child have another set of difficulties, she said. Not only did they not expect to bury a child, they also are grieving because they will never see him or her grow up, get into a profession, perhaps marry and have children, their grandchild. They feel cheated — and angry.
A monthly meeting is held for families that have lost a child. This provides an opportunity to talk about their children in a group setting and helps ease the feeling that ‘‘no one understands me or the pain I am going through.’’ It matters to the people in that support group because they have had a similar experience.
Some who lose a child find it difficult to go back to the same job and mind-set they had before their loss, Bramsch said. One woman, a teacher who had lost her child, had so much anger inside she couldn’t go back to her original classroom because her child was about the same age. As a result, she taught a different grade for three years before she was able to adapt to her new life and go back to the original workplace where she was not as angry or sad.
Another woman lost her seven-year-old son 20 years ago and never grieved at that time. She had multiple issues since that included the loss of her husband and several jobs. Finally she turned to the Grief Center for assistance.
During the meetings she learned that it is OK to laugh while going through the grief process because humor is a wonderful thing for the soul, Bramsch said. Too often there is the fear that others will judge them badly because they laughed.
Crying also is an anger outlet and a tremendous amount of emotion is released as a result.
The executive director suggested that if a person feeling guilt is struggling, looking for some distraction, then perhaps volunteering in a soup kitchen or at a nursing home might provided the needed outlet.
It is important to have relief, whether it is on the job, at home or with the family.
It also is important to share information.
In a typical family, the husband takes care of the car and property maintenance and is involved with the kids, Bramsch said. The wife does her work around the house and gets the kids to school, sports activities and other destinations.
One spouse dies suddenly and the other has twice as much to do.
One women, suddenly widowed, angrily said that she didn’t know where to take the car for maintenance. There were other problems and she was just trying to get through the chaos of the day.
Many clients who come to the Grief Center are tired of feeling bad, Bramsch said. They want to find something they can feel passionate about because they just got a dose of reality from their loss.
Thousands of people have come through The Tristesse Grief Center, a 501c3 non-profit organization, since it was founded seven years ago, Bramsch said. It was named in memory of a 14-year-old girl and was started by her mother and caregiver.
All people coming to the center pay a fee for services that are set on a sliding scale according to income, she said. Funding also comes from corporations, foundations and private donations.
Word about the Grief Center is by word-of-mouth or referrals.
Because of the steady growth, the board and staff is beginning to look for larger space to keep up with the need, she said.
Bramsch can be reached at 587-1200.

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