Your post was very informative about grieving. As a physician, I have also seen a variety of grieving responses. I never understood how the length of time (of one year) for what is considered "normal" grieving was determined. The grieving process is very individual for everyone; forcing people to have experience grief in a certain way does not help them cope with their loss.
I lost my husband of 27 years six years ago. I'm still struggling. There are more good days than bad now, but the tears can come anytime for any reason. My sister thinks I should be moving on-I don't want to. There's still a hole
Two examples from the literature on "emotional detachment".
"The Stranger or (The Outsider) is a novel by Albert Camus published in 1942. It's theme and outlook are often cited as examples of existentialism. The title character is Meursault. Part One begins with Meursault being notified of his mother's death. At her funeral, he expresses none of the expected emotions of grief."
"A fictional description of the experience of emotional detachment in the first sense was given by Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway. In that novel the multifaceted sufferings of a war veteran, Septimus Warren Smith, with post-traumatic stress disorder (as this condition was later named) including dissociation, are elaborated in detail. One clinician has called some passages from the novel "classic" portrayals of the symptoms.
I can relate to Meursault and Septimus Warren Smith. I think there is an "atypical grief pattern to be investigated further here."
It may be impossible to characterize grief, but it can be disconcerting when someone exhibits sharp changes in personality after a traumatic loss. I’d like to contrast myself with my mother.
I felt a complete contraction of my world after my father died. I hadn’t spent much time with him, but he had the air of a powerful man which had always informed my understanding of the universe. He was a symbol of power. When he died in the powerless way in which he did, my normally staid, careful personality fell away and with it my inhibitions. I ceased to worry about anything, as if I’d been freed from the constraints of a normal life.
My mother, on the other hand, is normally a person who displays depressive tendencies. She keeps her head down. She is submissive. She listens more than she speaks. Since my father died she has become excitable, almost to the point of constant exasperation. She’s begun to take charge, almost to the point of being pushy.
These were both changes in personality brought on by his death. It was surprising to me that any one event could have such a dramatic effect on our moods.
Tamara McClintock Greenberg, Psy.D., M.S., is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.
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