Understanding grief with Liz Crowe: St. Emlyn’s

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Liz Crowe and Iain Beardsell recently podcasted on grief in the ED. A tricky subject but one that will touch all of us at some point in our careers. The podcast has been really well received and I know that many people have contacted Liz directly with stories and experiences. It clearly tells us that there is a need to be more open about death in emergency care and Liz has certainly helped with that.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Liz has kindly put down a few words to support the podcast below. Please, think, reflect and be kind.

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Liz Crowe –

The question I would be asked most by grieving and bereaved people is “Am I Normal”?

Usually in the acute phases of grief people talk about feeling quite ‘out of control’, ‘not coping’ and unable to predict their reactions or their needs from one day to the next.  Individuals report that grief is often a very isolating and lonely experience.  Even if it is a shared grief experience such as the death of a treasured colleague and friend individual needs are often unique and so make the event lonely.  Grief can be very complicated for work families and normal families because everyone believes that the way they are grieving is the ‘right’ way to grieve and find it hard to understand why others fail to do it like them..

Grief can change your perspective on what is important and make you re-evaluate life goals and who you want to be for the future.  Grief is unpredictable, fluid and at times savage.  Grief may seem to pass and just when people come up for air it can come back more vicious and cruel than before.  There is no way to protect yourself or predict your grief…just like there is often no way to protect yourself or predict when love or happiness may strike.

Grief is actually the physical and emotional reaction to loss…when something or someone important to us is taken away either suddenly or predictably.

Grief and crying are not weakness, it is not ‘not coping’.  Grief and crying are part of an evolutionary process that make us ..and keep us human, keep us connected to things external to ourselves.

There is no normal way to grieve.  Grief can be expressed very physically – tightness in the chest, throat, toileting issues, headaches and ulcers are common but not exclusive.  Have a low threshold for investigating chest pain as people can literally die of a broken heart.  You may excessively sleep or be sleep disturbed.  You may take great comfort in food or feel completely repulsed by food.  Grief is often extremely exhausting and a fulltime job in itself.  You will remain true to your personality, history, family of origin and gender in your grief.  Extroverts will seek comfort and strength in talking and connection, introverts will need solitude, space and reflection.  You do not need to cry to grieve heavily.

So what can we do for ourselves in grief?  We are our thoughts and sometimes we will need to literally fight our way back from grief but it may be days, weeks or months before we have the energy to do so. In the meantime gentle but regular exercise and sunlight are important even when you do not feel like it.  Eat well, drink lots of water.  Alcohol and drugs (either prescription or otherwise) seem like a really good idea to numb the pain, but they rarely are – your grief will be waiting for you just with the additional burden of a hangover and remorse when you are sober.   Connection is the main key. Connection to self.  Connection to others and for some connection to the universe, a higher being or something bigger than yourself.

Grief will ask no less of you then to relearn the world you knew.  Given the enormity of that there is no shame in reaching out and asking for help.

Take care, move gently, no big expectations

Liz x

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