hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘grief recovery’

A Review of The Mourning Handbook

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 6, 2013

The Mourning Handbook: The Most Comprehensive Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping with All Aspects of Death and DyingThe Mourning Handbook: The Most Comprehensive Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping with All Aspects of Death and Dying by Helen Fitzgerald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book a couple of weeks ago because my father just died a few weeks ago. I got several grief recovery books and I think this one was the best of the bunch. It’s pretty comprehensive and easy to read, and it’s divided up into chunks so that you can go to a section that deals with your particular issues at the moment. It doesn’t have to be read cover to cover (although I did that). Among some of the helpful issues it addresses is denial (“Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you can avoid the process of grief.”), anger (“You may be angry at yourself for what you may have said or not said, or for not responding calmly or quickly enough, or for being healthy and alive.” It then gives tips on dealing with anger.), and more. One section that was helpful for me was the death of a parent when you’re an adult. For many people, this signifies the loss of your childhood, the loss of unconditional love, the loss of a certain sense of security, the loss of a friend as well as a parent, the loss of financial support, and more. Although there’s not a lot of coping strategies the author provides here (which I think is a weakness of the book), it’s good to see some issues I’m facing are the same ones faced by others who lose parents. That helps. The book further goes on to advise people not to make major decisions for quite awhile, which is something I’ve seen repeated elsewhere. It gives many reasons not to do so and they make sense. Another helpful section for me was on witnessing a death, particularly if it’s a sudden or violent death (such as my father’s). It was highly traumatizing, and the book advises seeking the help of a professional, but doesn’t give too many other strategies, a continued weakness of the book.

Toward the end of the book, there’s a section titled “You Know You Are Getting Better When…” and it provides a list of things you can do or will do which indicate improvement in your life. These include looking forward to holidays, reviewing both pleasant and unpleasant memories, driving by yourself without crying, when you no longer feel tired all the time, when you can concentrate on a book or favorite television program, etc. In reading this list, I’ve come to the conclusion that while I’m still grieving, I am improving, so that’s good.

I’m going to contrast this book to one I didn’t really find too helpful — The Grief Recovery Handbook by James and Friedman. It’s a pretty harsh book to read, often telling the reader that what one hears or feels is distorted, such as guilt, etc. There were some helpful things, but overall it had an unsympathetic tone which didn’t resonate with me. The Mourning Handbook had a much more nurturing feel to it and I appreciated that.

It’s a shame that anybody has to read such books at all, but I guess it’s a process of life most of us have to deal with at some point, so I’m glad I discovered this book. I’d recommend this book for anyone who’s experienced a death by a family member or even a friend. It’s a good resource and I’m glad I read it.

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Some Thoughts

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 5, 2013

I woke up in tears this morning. I woke up thinking about the many times my dad came to see my basketball games in school, as well as my football and baseball games. How many times we played catch in the backyard. How that was never going to be a possibility again. It’s been five weeks since his death and I still feel like I’m in a state of shock.

Then I started thinking about what a great packer and mover he was. He was the best. I’ve moved some 27 times, including four cross country moves. He would fly out to L.A. to help me pack up, load the moving truck, and drive it back east. Hell, he packed up my townhouse when I got divorced a few years ago and took care of that move since I was in the hospital. He was relentless. He could pack like no other. And now we’re kicking around the idea of at some point in the future moving up to Knoxville so Mom could rejoin her many friends and church there, and he won’t be around to take care of things. I’ll have to do it. I’m pretty confident I can do it — he taught me well — but it’s unsettling to think of moving without Dad around.

I met with my therapist this morning. And I just finished a book on mourning. I wonder how long I’ll mourn. Some people apparently do for years. I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to wake up in tears seven months from now thinking about Dad. There’s a grief recovery class starting in October near me that I’ve been thinking about registering for, but I don’t know how helpful it will be. Mom started going to one this week, and she was surprised at just how helpful that first meeting was, so maybe I’ll give it shot. I’d like to think that I’d be relatively okay by October though. I don’t know how long this process is or will take. It’s frustrating.

I’m through making trips to Knoxville with Mom on business. It’s been going on every week, including several times a week, ever since Dad died. Now we just have to figure out a way to sell his fishing boat, and Mom will have to make one more Knoxville trip in a month or so and that’s it. Mom’s going to wait awhile on getting rid of Dad’s clothes, etc., although she might donate his books to a library.

Yesterday I mowed the back yard and the back terrace. That’s what Dad was doing when he died. It was kind of creepy. I haven’t been able to mow because of all the rain, although two weeks ago I paid a lawn service to mow the yard. I ingested a lot of dust, grass, and bugs and wondered about what Dad ingested when he was mowing before he stopped to come to our back patio for a glass of water before collapsing. I hope his brain shut down quickly like my doctor said it probably did, because it seemed to me like he was suffering for a good 20+ minutes there on my patio. My doctor said it was the body’s involuntary reflexes — that he had probably already died. I don’t know. I can’t get it out of my head. And I can’t get what he looked like at the hospital after he was declared dead out of my head. He was dark yellow. And cold. He looked frightening. And he had been alive just an hour before. It’s freaky to think about.

I deleted the last six pictures I had of Dad. Two were taken at the hospital after he died and four were taken at the funeral home when he was in a casket, all done up for Mom and me before his cremation. I just couldn’t look at them. They were so morbid. My therapist said that was a good break and will allow me to remember him as I want to and should — as a vibrant, loving father and husband. My last picture I then have of him is at my wedding reception in April. He was happy that day. That’s how I want to remember him.

I guess that’s all for now. I was going to mow the front and side yards today, but the grass really isn’t that long, so I think I’ll wait until tomorrow. I have a number of things I need to do anyway. Sorry if this blog post seems morbid. I have a lot on my mind.

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