Friday, February 5, 2010

The timing of grief

The grief graph shows the usual timing of grief reactions. This relates to sudden loss only, where the death or removal of the person is unexpected and permanent. Where the loss is anticipated such as with a long terminal illness the grief graph is quite different for the bereaved.

When the loss occurs there is the initial reaction of shock. This would rarely be longer than a few days. This is where the Child ego state incapacitates and basically goes into a state of complete non functioning cognitively, emotionally and behaviourally. The person in essence curls up in the foetal position and stays there. The person deals with a piece of very repugnant information (such as the death of a loved one) by collapsing in on self. The information is not being denied instead the information is not even being comprehended in the first place. If this lasted into weeks then one would essentially be in some form of catatonic state.

When this passes the person will be in a state of denial. The information is now comprehended by the person but the Adult and Child ego states deny that it is true. By whatever means, and by some kind of magical thinking the person convinces self that what they are being told is not true.

This also usually passes quite quickly at one level. The Adult ego state usually has to reasonably quickly accept the facts that the person is now no longer there. When this happens on the grief graph one can see the feelings of sadness and grief rapidly rise to quite a high and intense level. At this point the person’s everyday life each and every day is significantly effected by the strong distressing emotions to the extent that the ability to work, relate and recreate can be significantly effected.

This is indicated by Roses comment on the post on Depression and suicide:

“I realise now. Grief isn't about feeling sad or happy or anything like that. Its not like that at all. It, some how, is a physical thing. I can't just shake it off like everything else. It's not like a cloak i have to wear for a time so when i need a break from it, i can just take it off for a little bit and then put it back on when i need to. No. It's inside and it's all the time. Its something we carry on the inside that can't be let go of or put down for a bit. It just is.”

This shows the ever present nature and strong presence of the grief in the very early days after the loss.

Even though the Adult can not stay in denial for too long the Child ego state can remain in denial for very long periods of time, indeed years at a time. The Child magically sort of somehow believes that the person is not really gone or really dead. The individual sort of talks about the person like they are still alive. The person refuses to remove the deceased’s clothing from the cupboards or when walking along the street they catch sight of a person in the corner of their eye and they quickly think they have seen the deceased.

Indeed the very function of the period of grief and sadness in the grief graph is to break down the attachment and for the Child ego state to come to realization that the person is really dead. To end the denial.

It has been widely noted that the symptoms of depression are also commonly found in normal grief reactions. The two are quite psychologically similar. This is why depression often involves some kind of unresolved grief. Thus in the treatment of many, if not most depressed individuals one needs to find the time(s) when they did not grieve properly in childhood and redo the grief and goodbye work about the losses experienced. Depression often is an unsophisticated attempt by the Child ego state to resolve past grief reactions that it never successfully concluded. Depression is a recreation by the Child of process described by the grief graph.

If the grieving proceeds normally in a Free Child manner then over time the intensity and frequency of sadness and grief slowly decrease. After 6 months there will be a significant drop in the intensity and frequency such that there will be a noticeable difference experienced by the bereaved. By 18 months the vast majority of the painful grief is gone and life continues onward. Full psychological readjustment after the death of a very closed loved one probably occurs about 4 years after the death.

Those who report significant grief beyond these times are getting some form of significant secondary gains from the grief and loss process. Thus the process is dragged out much longer, even for a lifetime in some instances.



  1. Yes, some are still grieving their missing loved ones who actually are dead just like my sister is. They come and offer me their grief in such a "its happening now" kind of way. One lady talked about her family member who had died around 4 years ago and broke down a couple of times. I was so glad I could see her and that she could share that yucky ache inside.

    Do you think it helps them at all... i hope so. Just to tell someone about it. Oh Tony, grief can be so yucky for some.

    I chuckle when the ones come to offer their grief and leave knowing that I thinking that their situation is far more impacting on me than my own situation. But that they can come and say it is a wonderful thing I guess. I just don't think i understand anything enough to grasp what i'm supposed to do with all this stuff.

    People are amazing Tony. How we survive this thing called life just blows me away!

    I'm a little bit over the death thing. It happened, she's gone, and there's really nothing I can do about it so...

    I went for a walk into town yesterday, thought i'd do some reading in the library and then go have a cuppa - just checking up on a friend actually - but every thing was closed. I think its the time our little businesses close down for a rest after the christmas holidays. As annoyed as I was, they have worked hard and do deserve a break. Good on 'em.

    I found a lovely lady who talked about lots of personal stuff and i think that was a good thing. It made me think about things and I had to go check on some people because it hadn't occured to me to do so. They seem fine. I was grateful for the info and grateful that it prompted me to go visit them.

    Its been raining so much here of late. Oh my goodness Tony! So lovely! I'd forgotten how annoyed I get at the constant wetness - it feels so good to be annoyed at something that i've missed for so many years. I love the rain!

    Happy Sunday to you. I was wondering though, what does the other graph look like? The one where the people know of a loved one's death that's yet to happen? What would that look like?

    Have a happy smily day - i intend to.

  2. Yesterday was when she died and i haven't said anything yet but i think i really must.

    I can't remember her. I see her photos and am surprised cause I don't really remember what she looks like really. I can't remember what she sounds like and mostly... i can't remember what it sounded like when she laughted. I can't remember what she smelled like or feels like. I just can't seem to remember anything.

    When i think of her i remember a person in a pretty button up shirt and shorts walking up the verandah to poppin and say g'day. But her face is fuzzy and i can't remember her clearly. I don't hear her voice or her laugh or anything.

    Its only been a week and she's gone. This stuff is so... weird Tony. I'm not good at remembering people but i didn't think it would happen so soon and especially not with her.

    I think i'm ashamed about not remembering and really angry at myself. I don't understand why - i know that i don't remember people very well, but i can't help being weirded out about it (angry).

    Gosh! And here I was not going to talk about it any more. I think i really need to. I didn't understand that either I guess.

    Happy Sunday

  3. Oh sorry about that. She died in the early hours of Saturday morning last week. That's what I meant to say. So it's been a week and one day - and i can't remember her! That sounds so bad! It feels even worse...

  4. OK Roses,
    This grief thing as you say is weird. So just go along with the flow if that means forgetting what she looks like, OK, I am sure you will remember again in the future or just go and look at a photograph but I am sure it is not about remembering what she physically looks like anyway.

    But to me you seem to be doing all the right stuff in these very early days of loosing someone who was obviously very dear to you and with whom you had a significant attachment.


  5. Oh yes! the grief graph is very different for an anticipated death and there are a number of possibilitiesof what it can look like. I will get to it at sometime amid my relentless book writing.


  6. You relentless book writer you! I'm a tad excited about the whole book writing thing - fear not! The end will come and with it a whole bunch of new beginnings.

    I am no longer a skype virgin! Thank you for that. So fun!

    The viewing is today. I'm so scared but I think it will be good. Happy Monday to you!

  7. Thank you for posting more on grief. It's helpful to read about. I have never grieved more about anyone than with the "loss" of a therapist. Two years out, it still hurts very much. But as you've hinted at, that hurt is bittersweet.

  8. Yes Roses,
    It was grand to talk with you on Skype. To finally put a face to the name and all those comments and emails over a number of years.

    You certainly have a lot of Child ego state!

    Hope the viewing of your sister went OK yesterday. The way you talked about her on skype was good from a counselling point of view.


  9. Hi Anon,

    Good to hear from you and it sounds like your grief for this person was strong indeed. Time tends to help


  10. Yeah,
    Looking back at the viewing, I see now the need to do it. If I didn't know she was dead before there's no question now. She's dead. They said that she would look lovely and at peace but honestly, she didn't look like her at all. I touched her hat and she was so cold - like really cold. It was yucky but i think a healthy thing to do. If you hadn't mentioned stuff like this before i probably wouldn't have gone. Thank you for that.

    The funeral is over (*sigh*). It happened yesterday and is behind us at last. I had a ball. It was so fun! But it was very sad too. Kind of difficult to understand isn’t it? How such a terrible and sad event could be so enjoyable and... fun. It doesn’t make sense but it is the way it seems to be.

    We went to Canberra to watch Avatar in 3D again today. Oh my goodness! It was wonderful!

    I think i played on the ‘grief’ thing to get there though. The realisation hit me... i need to watch my natural ability (willingness) to get what I want through emotional manipulation. Poor hubby. I will not do that quite so willingly or deliberately again if i can.

    We (people that is) could use the horrible emotional ‘thing’ to get what we want as a life option type thing if we wanted to. It would work but apart from other quite obvious draw-backs, we would never be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and find any real achievement except to see a very practiced black mailer staring back. I feel a bit bad for using his emotions against him. It was so easy. It is cruel and unnecessary – dirty and totally unfair.

    This is such an adventure Tony! It’s such hard work to stay honest in it all.

  11. I'm so tired today. Like really really. I can't seem to concentrate. I'm going to rest. Happy day to you.

  12. "You certainly have a lot of Child ego state!"

    Well, i'm not the one people tell to grow up though. I'm a bit of a pit bull with a tooth ache sometimes. My sister (younger alive one) has been telling me of late that she thinks I'm strong. Well... there are some inappropriate times to cry i think. One must get the job done mustn't one - there'll be time to clean up the mess later.

    There are so many things that I just don't understand... you know what I mean?

  13. Oh my goodness! A lovely lady called me up on skype this afternoon and organised to go back up to Woden (canberra) to watch avatar again! It's at 2pm so we'll have to leave here at around 11am to be sure to get there and have lunch before the movie.

    Isn't life grand!!

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