Complicated Grief Syndrome is a proposed disorder for those who’s lives are significantly affected by grief following a period of at least 6 months of bereavement. Complicated Grief as it stands today is not a diagnosable condition but it is considered any grief lasting longer than a year. This doesn’t mean you occasionally feel sad or miss the person who is gone but that there is significant distress in your everyday life because of it.
When I was 16 years old my older brother died from a severe asthma attack. I didn’t deal with it at the time, actually I never really faced it until a few years later. Sure I cried a bit that initial week but not really a lot. I was in denial for a long time, convinced I was dreaming and that it wasn’t real, when I did realize he was actually gone I saw how broken my parents were and I didn’t want to be like that so I wasn’t. The next year I graduated from high school and although prom & graduation were difficult for me without him there I still felt I was dealing okay.
When it hit me that I was not actually okay was when I stopped remembering the sound of his voice. See during the periods where I was “fine” I actually wasn’t. During waking moments I was doing my regular thing, spending time with my friends & my boyfriend (who is now my husband), going out, doing what teenagers do but at night that’s when things got bad. I began hallucinating him within a week of his death, almost nightly. It wasn’t dreams those would have been alright but it was straight out hallucinations (which I now know are possible with severe depression) . We would have conversations, i’d talk to him and he’d talk back and it would hold me over until the next night when everyone else was in bed and we’d chat again. As time went on the hallucinations decreased but they were still occuring on about a weekly-biweekly basis. Then one night I saw him and I was talking and feeling great because I guess I had convinced myself that it was okay that I was talking to a figment of my imagination because it helped me feel better so how can that be a bad thing. I then realized he wasn’t talking back. In that exact moment I realized I didn’t remember the sound of his voice. At this point I would have been about 20, living in a new town, in my own apartment with my husband (boyfriend at the time) & going to university. The next morning I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I forced myself to though and things seemed to be alright, I started taking things day by day and somedays just getting out of bed was an accomplishment.
I started going to see a psychologist that year who informed me that since it had been 5 years since he had died that I was suffering from complicated grief , I was also diagnosed with chronic depression and severe panic disorder. It was recommended that I go on antidepressants but I refused. It took me 3 years to agree. January 10th of 2011 was the hardest yet for me, I was not home anymore I was two hours away from my home and my parents and it just sucked. I was almost 21 at that point and had officially outlived him which just boggled my mind. Sometimes my mom says she can’t believe how long it’s been, that’s not an issue for me, my issue is the age. When my brother died he was 20 (a day short of 20 1/2 to be specific) but to me he was so much older. Even now I think back and it doesn’t seem possible to me that he was 20 years old that I’m now almost 7 years older than he was.
Today is the 10th anniversary of that morning. The morning that changed my life forever. The morning that I went from being just a 16 year old girl to the depressed, anxious girl with complicated grief.
So how do I do it? How do I live day by day with something that i’m sure after 10 years is not gong anywhere?
I accept it’s who I am now. For years I tried to hide everything I felt, I tried to be strong for my parents, I tried not to be a burden to my husband and my friends. Then one day I just decided these people love me, they’ll accept me regardless of my flaws and that it is okay.
Take Care of Myself. Self care is very important, so much so that I have a whole category on here dedicated to it. 5 reasons self care is crucial
Allow myself to be sad. Let it out. Crying is actually quite beneficial. Sometimes I will actually put on a song or movie that makes me think of Jordan so that I can have a good cry (which is often followed by a good sleep)
Prepare for the bad days. Some days are worse than others. Major life events (my graduations, my wedding etc.) the anniversary the day he died, his birthday etc. I know this and I make sure I have a lot of me time.
Talk to people. Go to support groups, get counselling, talk to friends & family.
Some days are better than others and I have learned to cherish them, some days are rough and I make it through and some days I feel like I’m drowning and I allow myself the time to feel like crap. Somedays I can get up and go about my life like everyone else, somedays it’s harder and I have to push myself and somedays I just stay in my PJs, lay on my couch and wallow in the waves. I know now what I need and when I need it. I know when to soldier on and when to just take a day to grieve my loss. Not just the loss of my brother but the loss of my life before the day he died, the loss of my previous identity because I’m not the same personal anymore and I know now that that is okay.
To anyone who is where I am or where I was I just want to tell you that it is okay. Some people may become annoyed with you and those people are the ones who don’t know what it’s like to be stuck and I’m happy for them but there are people who will accept where you are and what you feel and those are the ones you need to surround yourself with. Through all of this I have had some great friends & an incredible husband for whom I am eternally grateful. Those people are the ones who make life liveable.