The day after Stefanie died, I remember walking around the house wanting to smash my head against the wall, run as fast as I could, scream and have a tantrum on the floor. I walked around expelling energy with my hands clutched in fists and shaking my arms up and down fighting the urge to punch everything in my way. I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t stand still. I couldn’t do a bloody thing, least of all go outside for some air because of the media. I couldn’t breathe and I was trapped in my house with other people who needed me with no escape from the freaking out that was going on inside my head. It was HELL!
The evening before, as my parents were leaving the hospital to return home, my mother asked me if I had anything to help me sleep and I said I didn’t think so. The next morning when they returned she had a few Ativan tablets with her. (This is an anti-anxiety medication that had been prescribed for her after a difficult illness). “They’ll help,” she said, “but you’ll need to get some of your own. I don’t have many left.”
Since my parents were firm believers, generally, in getting over things without drugs, let alone sharing them, I didn’t hesitate to take one immediately. Within an hour I was finally able to relax my fists and breathe normally. What a total blessing!
I had some prescribed by my own doctor and since then, there have been many times, not every day or every night when I have taken the medication and been grateful for it.
Today, it came to my attention that the American Psychiatric Association has decided that grief should be classified and treated as a mental illness should certain symptoms last longer than two weeks. …Interesting.
People in the “grief” community are screaming that this is ridiculous, which of course it is. Grief is a normal, necessary and important process and part of life when a loved one has died. We miss that person. Our lives are not the same. We need to grieve and in our own way and at our own pace. But let’s put aside our bruised egos for a moment, as few of us can get over our grief in two weeks, and look at the positive side.
The screaming is about the fact that doctors might start prescribing anti-depressants to people who are not over their grieving in two weeks. I guess there might be some, maybe a 25 year old newly graduated medical student who hasn’t experienced one iota of loss in his/her life, but I would suspect, that most would be somewhat more pragmatic than that.
I might be wrong, but in the US, if something is not recognized as an “illness” then the insurance companies won’t pay for treatment of any kind. This to me suggests that with these changes, if people who are grieving need somewhere to turn, it will now be covered.
Perhaps grief counseling and maybe even grief coaching will be covered through insurance, providing other avenues for help. It might extend to nutritional support, physical exercise programs and people who are trained to deal with grief and PTSD (depending on the circumstances) and not just support groups.
I’m not discounting support groups. They can be fantastic, but for many they are intimidating and cause more self-induced stress at the prospect of going than the potential support they might bring. Many people will turn to alcohol or worse, so I don’t see how this can be all that bad if it brings with it help for the bereaved. I don’t think anyone who has any life experience will think a bereaved person is mentally ill.
I could get into a whole diatribe on “mental illness” and the misguided negative connotations, but I’ll spare you all that.
For our friends south of the border, I see this as an opportunity for people to get the support and help they need. Some people only have their doctors to turn to, and now they’ll be able to visit them without further hardship.
For my American readers, feel free to correct me, or point out any other possible problems with this other than it being completely wrong to label grief as mental illness after 2 weeks.
For us here in Canada, this is just one more opportunity to give thanks for the system, albeit not perfect, that we have here where regardless of what problem we are having, we are never restricted in asking for help, or penalized financially.