Unresolved grief can lead to an actual broken heart (attack)

Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

October 12, 2015

Grief is a tsunami of emotions.

Loss abounds throughout life. Loss of friends, family, marriage, work, community, belief systems. On it goes.

One of the major challenges is that, too often, we do not realize we are grieving. Easy to do. Society roars along as it deals with rampant change. Stopping, or even allowing time to take the side road to work through grief, is forbidden in today's society.

Grief is an unrepentant force. If we do not grab grief in all its fury and work through it, we are torn, wounded, not able to live life as our Creator meant us to.

One brilliant Canadian writer lost her son when he was killed by a drunk driver. Yes, she did go on with her writing and social justice advocacy. But sit and talk with her just for a bit and she would say she did not want to live. When she got cancer, this still grieving mother rejoiced and welcomed death.

Ironically enough, she had written several missives on grief.

ILLUSIVE EMOTION

So one can see how illusive grief can be, especially when it happens to oneself.

Usually, we unconsciously take the low road of denial. We soldier on and hurry back to work. And why not. Given today's merciless job climate, people are even afraid to take their allotted holiday time never mind bereavement time.

Too, our lives might be so demanding we and society expects us to after a three-day break, to step back into our traces and pick up where we left off and go on.

Do that, and we could face untold consequences.

Finally the medical community is recognizing what many of us over shared cups of tea have known. It is possible to die from a broken heart.

A REAL BROKEN HEART

Says the Mayo Clinic "The cause of broken heart syndrome is usually due to an intense emotional or physical event such as an unexpected death, a natural disaster, a surprise party or a job loss."

Scary stuff.

So how do we handle this potentially fatal emotion?

The easy answer is to evoke the tried and thought to be true slogan "People handle grief in their own way."

Okay. But what if that "way" is destructive? Binging. Drinking. Popping too many prescription pills. Throwing away everything that illicits memories. Rushing into a relationship.

Whatever the strategy, this only avoids the essential pain that one confronted with grief needs to slog their way through so they can heal.

To many, denying the physical act of crying is a vital step in stopping grief. Weeping can be cleansing.

As our beloved Pope Francis counsels, "Sometimes in our life tears are the glasses to see Jesus."

Profound grief once invaded my life. I was covering health in a secular paper. The AIDS epidemic hit. It was at a time before retroviral drugs were used. The afflicted died.

To write their stories, I became close to these men. I cared at a time when so many judged and said it was these men's deserved punishment.

I could not, would not judge. When the men died I had no one to talk to, no place to grieve.

It was when I found myself weeping one early morning in the newsroom that I realized I needed to do something to heal.

It must have been angels who guided me to plant trees or plants - something ever lasting. It was a time when I lived in the valley. So I had a place to plant and honour the lives of these young men.

In another situation, a physician I had written about and cared for died. I knew his family and realized, given the disparity in our incomes, I did not know how to honour him.

ON OWL'S WINGS

I did know he loved raptures, especially owls. So I contacted an owl rehabilitation centre and paid for an owl's rehabiliation. When the release day was set for a place in the country where the owl had been found, I let the physician's family know. All came, even the grandchildren.

I opened the box housing the healed owl. She jumped up, sat on my arm, looked at me and then winged her way to a nearby copse of trees. Smiles wreathed the dear family's faces.

Such can be a way of healing grief. The pain and loss will always be there. It can, however, be swaddled with a comforting action that lets life go on.

What action depends on the mourned and mourner. The crucial thing though is to honour grief, slog through it.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)