I spoke with a friend, Shelley, recently. Actually Shelley is the sister-in-law of one of my friends, we’ve known each other for a long time as friends of friends. We enjoyed the catch to see each other and chatted, sharing and catching up. Shelle mentioned she was concerned about her Dad, his meds had been mixed up, not administered correctly and it had put him out kilter.
Shelley explained her Dad has been on anti-depressants since being diagnosed with complicated grief after her Mum, his wife of 50 or more years, died. Apparently he couldn’t stop crying. If I were he, I might have had the same reaction. If happiness is going along where life takes you with a particular special person, then grief on the death of that person might be vast and enduring.
Complicated grief is also known as abnormal grief. Shelle’s Dad’s reaction doesn’t sound all that abnormal to me, but I wasn’t there. I can’t really say how he experienced his loss, I can imagine it. I also can’t understand how 5 or so years later, well after he stopped weeping, he is still on anti-depressants.
Something in me is offended by the term abnormal grief. I know grief is complicated, almost by definition. The loss of someone close changes everything.
I believe we are more resilient than we think we are, I know that was true for me. I didn’t always feel resilient but there was something strong willed in me that helped me to cope and continue. Grief is a persistent state, there is something unyielding about being in the grip of grief. Grief can also be unknown and frightening, many confided to me that they did not know if they could make it through what I went through. That’s where resilience comes in, I kept going. Call it resilience, whatever I drew on it was my choice to navigate through grief and loss as best I could, I did not give myself other options. I did not believe I had a physiological disorder that could be treated with drugs, I didn’t even think to seek medical advice.
Another concern I harbour about Shelle’s Dad is about his ongoing medication, he has been taking medication for more than 5 years now for his complicated grief, or should I say his deep and enduring grief. I know that antidepressants can take time to take effect, it can take a month or more before receiving a therapeutic effect. Antidepressants alleviate symptoms but do not address underlying psychological causes for moods. I don’t know about the continuation of antidepressant medication, and how long you might expect take treatment for. My impression was even after years, this was ongoing medication. Is that how it goes? Can you not resume life without medication at some time?
I am troubled by Shelle’s Dad’s story for many reasons. The thing that occurs to me is that grief is a time when you should ask very little of yourself and when others should not ask too much.