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My Grieving Brain

October 30, 2019

The funniest thing about seeing a doctor is that they’ll ask you when you’re physically in pain to rate the pain within a scale; “Between one and ten, one being no pain and ten being extreme pain, how much pain are you in?’’ However, it would seem this scale isn’t applied to the pain you may feel when you’re mentally in pain but please correct me if I'm wrong here. Grieving, and yes, I’m talking about grief again because grief for me is insisting on being felt these days. Interestingly I’ve found I can or could have avoided the feelings associated with grief for hours or even days and then out of nowhere, it’s crawling into my head like some kind of infectious snake. One thing I’ve noticed when I talk to a medically trained individual, is that instantly they’ll recommend I start a course of anti-depressants to which I feel unnecessary in my case. I’m not depressed Doctor, I’m grieving because my mummy died within days of being diagnosed with cancer. I believe I’m grieving and this should be exempt from depression. I believe these feelings are here for a reason and to simply suppress them would only deny myself the ability to deal with them now. I believe the pain I feel from grief is essential because it represents the love I felt for my mummy.

 

Ironically, in my grief I’ve called upon many memories of my mummy that I thought were long gone. One memory in particular, was the last time I seen my mummy looking relatively healthy, although internally she really wasn’t healthy. She was terminally ill; there she was walking around with a cancer called Linitis Plastica. This cancer made up for 3% to 19% of diagnosed Cancers in the entire United Kingdom which has a population of 67 million individuals, so quite rare. Heres the reality of this memory; my mummy stood there in front of me with a 5% chance of surviving more than 5 years. Although before we knew how sick she was; she ‘didn’t’ look sick. She simply walked in the door after doing some food shopping and asked me to hurry up and clear out my wardrobe. I don’t know why this sticks out most, but it does. Another vivid memory that stands out was the last time I seen her breathe. This memory goes a little like this, her breaths were growing more and more shallow. Then the seconds between the breaths became longer and longer and then gone, just gone. Silence. No more breaths, no more mummy to ring me. She just lay there. Her light diminished and my inner child screaming in fear! But here’s the scary reality of this memory, that inner child was actually crying aloud in its adult form. “I’m scared mummy please don’t go, please stay with us”, were my words if I recall. After she died, I just stared at her lifeless self, lying there and simply couldn’t control the water running out of my eyes. My mind constantly told me after that moment, “You don’t have a mummy anymore; you don’t have a mummy anymore”. My thoughts were unattainable, white noise surged louder and louder and louder! Future plans distorted. My mind couldn’t take in the reality of the situation, until someone grabbed my forearm and said, “Kevin”……… A monster came knocking on my door and this is where I left my old self and life behind.

"Melancholy, the emptiness that incapacitates us through grief, sculpture created by Albert Gyorgy"

 

“We Call it Grief but Grief is just the Surface of a Yawning Canyon of Loss”

“Shulman, L, M. Before and After Loss”

 

 

In the time that’s passed, I’ve learnt a lot about grief. It doesn’t come as one single event but many. You could say the death event is simply the preface and the dust that settles afterwards will be the ink you write your story in. The events to come after the death event are beyond any descriptions. Yet here I am deceptively trying to be the ''Kevin'' you all once knew before the death event. According to Shulman, when an individual witnesses the decline of a soul they’ve shared so much with. Well its like walking on the edge of ‘The End of Life’ and peeking over to the other side and knowing a part of you is there. It’s the most profound feeling to feel. While you try and continue as normal, using up energy resources to carry on fitting in, you know apart of you lingers in a reality far from the world you’re physically in. Interestingly I stumbled across a website called ‘Your Creative Brain’ set up by Dr Shelley Carson. Dr. Carson demonstrates through research that when individual’s experience sudden onset of sadness or grief, it results in the deactivation of the left prefrontal areas of that person’s brain. Dr. Carson states that the left hemisphere of the brain produces most of our positive emotions such as happiness and hope, while our right hemisphere interestingly produces emotions such as anxiety or sadness. While the left hemisphere has been deactivated: this leaves the individual only producing emotions such as sadness from the right hemisphere, leaving them open to feeling intense pain during and after their death event. I must admit such sadness hasn’t left me although easier to carry. Grief for me has been a symphony of high notes and low notes. However, I’ve found myself questioning my own ability to move on from grieving and wondering can I achieve this and how do I achieve this. It’s nerve wrecking to even want to move on from it because moving on means having to set aside memories of your loved one. 

 

Grief is a life altering emotion, while at times such a consuming process. Presently, it has left me in phase of my life, where I'm quite possible the most loneliness and isolated I’ve ever felt. This phase made me question my own purpose, desires and dreams. I felt this questioning reason enough to quit my full time job and to buy myself a bike which sounds completely crazy because I do not have a bank account full of money to support myself or someone who I can rely on anymore. I did this because mentally I couldn’t dedicate myself to the job requirements. It sounds counter intuitive when you lean into something so painful because there really isn’t any other way to grieve. I believe grief can’t be buried, numbed and you can’t refuse to deal with it. The pain from a loss so large as your mother needs to be felt and most certainly needs to be heard. I’ve lost the most important person in my life and things are simply not the same. Questions fly through my brain like ''Who do I rely on in the times the grief feels most painful?'' and "Who'll be my saving grace when my heart aches and bleeds the most?". For now I've learnt it simply has to be me. Here’s what I choose to remember that all of those feelings matter and I now choose to feel them instead of avoiding them. Especially when they sweep over me because I’m feeling them for a reason. I now believe the pain won’t stay as unbearable, but for now it’s about simply riding it out and doing whatever I need to do. I take it one day at a time and if one day, all I do is simply breathe, then it is one day closer to finding myself again and switching my creativity back on. 

 

Reference List 

 

Carson, S. 2010. Your Creative Brain. [Online]. [30 October 2019]. Available from: https://www.shelleycarson.com

 

Watson, S. 2010. Head Space . [Online]. [30 October 2019]. Available from: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/04/18/grief-creativity-together/

 

Buffalo, T. 2019. Statue Melancholy, the emptiness that incapacitates us through grief. [Online]. [30 October 2019]. Available from: https://www.penwellgabeltopeka.com/Blog/6245/Melancoliesculpture

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