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Am I Losing My Mind?
By Joanne Cacciatore

In working with the bereaved, one of the most prevalent concerns is questioning feelings, emotions and reaction to grief. I frequently hear, "Am I crazy?" Certainly the vast array of overwhelming emotions can surprise those in early grief. It can be frightening, intimidating and confusing. However, one of the primary reasons support groups are so effective in helping bereaved parents work their way through grief is the confirmation they lend when others share similar feelings and thoughts. There seems to be a healing which occurs when the newly bereaved discovers his or her "irrational thoughts" are not abnormal for others experiencing the same grief. Here are some physical and emotional symptoms not uncommon for those in grief:

  • A feeling of tightness in the throat or heaviness in the chest with rapid breathing. You may feel as if you are experiencing a panic attack and have no control over where or when this occurs.

  • An empty feeling in their stomach and loss (or gain) of appetite. Call your physician if this continues longer than several weeks

  • Pain and/or nausea in stomach. Once again, call your physician if this persists

  • Restlessness and a desire for activity, but have difficulty concentrating. Focusing is difficult and forgetfulness quite apparent

  • Being in a trance-like state, sitting for hours and staring

  • The feeling as though your child's death didn't actually happen; (this may include trying to find your child or repeatedly checking his room or crib)

  • Dizziness/disorientation

  • Sensing your child's presence. For many, this is quite comforting

  • Frequent headaches

  • Impatience with the tedious day to day chores around the house

  • Ambivalence toward surviving children. This can be surprising for many. However, keep in mind that grief is hard work and takes a lot of energy. Yet, so do other children. You may not have enough energy reserve during early grief to tolerate caring for other children every moment. Consider asking family members for assistance so that you can spend some time alone and take care of yourself during the first few months.

  • Difficulty sleeping or falling asleep and possibly having dreams or visions of their loved one

  • Sleeping all day or feeling like you do not want to get out of bed and face the world

  • Feeling debilitating guilt or angry. These two emotions are particularly difficult to overcome in the grief process. Many parents find themselves plagued with the "would've, should've, could've" thoughts.

Once again, just knowing that all these feelings and emotions are a normal part of the grief journey helps many parents. No, you are not crazy at all. Perhaps, a little insanity is justifiable here, however. Keep in mind, your child has died. There is no justice in that at all. Acknowledging and working through these feelings won't magically dissipate these trials one day. But gradually, healing comes. Through the love for your child, healing will come.

(c) 2000 by Joanne Cacciatore, reprinted from her book, "Dear Cheyenne"
No reprinting without permission

There is no more devastating human experience than the death of a child. MISS is a nonprofit, volunteer based organization committed to providing emergency support to parents after the death of their baby; stillbirth, neonatal death, premature birth, congenital anomalies, SIDS, and any child's death. MISS is committed to public awareness to decrease infant mortality; they support medical research committed to the same cause. Their vision is to perpetuate education and awareness on ethics and death issues; decreasing enigmas surrounding grief and increasing bereavement sensitivity , and crisis intervention protocol establishment through a psychosocial, multidisciplinary training program. No parent should ever have to endure the pain of their child's death alone: MISS is committed to the memory of the children who lived, who died, and who continue- even in death- to matter.

c/o Joanne Cacciatore, Founder
P.O. Box 5333
Peoria, Az 85385-5333


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