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When Will I Stop Hurting?: Dealing with a Recent Death (Updated)

(Paperback - 2002)
$9.99 - Online Price

Overview

"When my father passed away, a friend gave me "When Will I Stop Hurting?" It was such a help to me, that whenever I know someone who loses a loved one, I send them this book to read."
Since its 1987 release, "When Will I Stop Hurting?" has received praise like this from readers grateful for June Cerza Kolf's understanding and beneficial guidance. With almost 70,000 copies in print, this small but powerful book has been a boon to many wounded souls. Readers have found in Kolf a gentle guide to lead them through the stages of grief and eventually the healing process. This new edition of her book is revised and updated and includes a study guide ideal for bereavement groups.

Details

  • SKU: 9780801063855
  • SKU10: 080106385X
  • Title: When Will I Stop Hurting?: Dealing with a Recent Death
  • Qty Remaining Online: 17
  • Publisher: Baker Books
  • Date Published: Feb 2002
  • Edition: #2
  • Edition Description: Updated
  • Pages: 80
  • Weight lbs: 0.26
  • Dimensions: 8.54" L x 5.44" W x 0.28" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Price on Product
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical; Topical | Death/Dying;
  • Category: DEATH, SUFFERING & CONSOLATION
  • Subject: Death, Grief, Bereavement

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

The Wound

In working with grieving persons, I have become aware that there is a great need for grief to be understood. This book is not meant to give instructions or advice. Instead it is a series of quotes, suggestions, affirmations, and explanations intended to console, to reassure, and especially to offer hope to anyone who is suffering from the agonizing loss of a loved one. Although every person grieves in an individual way, there are some common denominators. It is my hope to bring comfort to grieving persons by letting them know they are not alone in their experiences or feelings.

The death of a loved one is a mortal wound, difficult to grasp and impossible to understand. It is unasked for, unplanned for, and unwanted. It is one of the few events in life that is beyond human control. Because of the depth of the wound, even one's own self becomes unfamiliar. Time assumes a different meaning, and nothing that was once important matters any longer. One woman told me, "It may be six months since the death of my child, but to me it has been one long, ghastly day with no beginning and no end."

The "ghastly days" must somehow be survived, often with little help and no past frame of reference. Grief seems to be a process that cannot be understood or explained unless one has personally experienced it.

Fay Angus in How to Do Everything Right and Live to Regret It says she had not reckoned on the sting of hurt that peels away the layers like leaves on an artichoke, being nibbled one by one until all that is exposed is the heart. Having our hearts exposed is an extremely vulnerable position to be in. It can make us feel persecuted and alone.Why did this happen to me? we ask.

It happened partly because we were fortunate enough to have loved someone. Without love there would be no grief. So we need to ask ourselves instead, Would I be willing to exchange my disabling grief for never having known my lost loved one? Are the love and the happy memories we shared worth my current pain? If I had known I would eventually suffer this loss, would I have turned away from the love to avoid the pain?

When a loss occurs to people who believe in God, we often ask for the reason he allowed such a horrendous thing to happen. If we pray for the healing of a loved one and it does not occur, we feel God has forsaken us. Where was God when I needed him most? we cry.

God never promised us a utopia on earth or a life free from pain. J. Grant Swank, Jr., says,

Good folk and innocent people are not without their share of suffering-and often through no fault of their own. They are not immune to hard times. Indeed, believers can experience pain just as severely as nonbelievers. Being a child of God does not exempt one from anguish or from the heaviness of sorrow that bends the heart near the point of breaking.

What God does promise is that he will never leave us during our times of trouble (Ps. 34:19).

I once heard about an elderly couple who had been married many years. The husband was driving along the highway when his wife spotted a young couple sitting very close together in the next car. She wistfully said to her husband, "Remember when we used to be like that?"

Her husband smiled at her and gently said, "Honey, I haven't moved."

Although we may feel farther from God in times of great need or sorrow, he is never the one who moves away. He never leaves the driver's seat. He simply sits there, patiently waiting for us to move closer.

Grief is a heavy burden that can seem backbreaking, but a heavy load of any type will seem lighter when it is shared with a friend. I believe God has very large, strong shoulders. He will gladly help carry our load of grief if only we are willing to not clutch it so tightly.

The Symptoms of Grief

In the process of holding tightly to our grief we may become forgetful and unable to make decisions. If we were previously quite organized we may suddenly become completely disorganized. We can get lost driving home from the neighborhood store where we have shopped for years. We might forget the ends of sentences or be unable to remember words or names. We do not care how we look, how we feel, or what we do. We feel sad, isolated, and alone.

We find ourselves crying over everything. When we least expect it, tears fill our eyes and make trails down our cheeks. We become afraid to go places or see people for fear these unpredictable tears will begin to flow again. We also cry as we never have before; our deep, wretched sobbing comes from the bottom of a black chasm that we never imagined existed.

In general the whole world seems to be turned upside down. A soft-spoken person might suddenly find himself shouting at his children. Or an extrovert may become fearful of attending a meeting. We are pulled in opposite directions. We are agitated but too tired to move; we are lonely but don't want to be with others; we feel unloved, unloving, and unlovable, yet we need love desperately. We feel as if we have been abandoned and as if our nerve endings are raw.

Physical symptoms may hit without warning-hot flashes, cold sweats, insomnia, loss of appetite, tightness in the chest, rapid breathing-and can be very distressing. A complete medical checkup can eliminate the possibility of these symptoms being caused by a legitimate ailment.

Many grieving persons ignore danger signs, assuming that the discomfort is merely part of their grief, and often their lack of energy prevents them from seeking medical care. Some minor ailments can become debilitating if they go untreated too long. With a proper diagnosis it may be possible to begin to feel physically stronger and thus make it easier to cope emotionally.

The survivor who has been involved in caring for a loved one during a lengthy terminal illness may have neglected self-care during that time. Dental and eye examinations may be needed in addition to a thorough physical.

Then a horrendous fear that cannot be identified sets in:I feel as if I am going crazy. This fear never seems to go away, and there is no way to reason with it while it nags and hovers; it may ease up a bit, but it never completely disappears.

These symptoms are all the unexplained, untalked about, misunderstood feelings of profound grief.

Feelings of Guilt

Guilt is another unwelcome guest to the grieving. It creeps around the corners of our minds, especially in the middle of the night when we cannot sleep. Why didn't I make John go to the doctor sooner? I should have made Bill stop smoking. I should have driven Susan to school that day.

Phrases that begin with Why didn't I and I should have are never constructive. Although it is necessary to think everything through and go over the details after the death of a loved one before coming to any kind of acceptance, if the thoughts become mainly ones of guilt it may be time to apply "thought stopping" or "interruption."

This technique is done by using the command Stop!, then rethinking the situation using affirmations, such as It's a good thing I did not nag Bill about smoking. It would have made him miserable.

The past cannot be changed; it can only be accepted. With an acceptance of the past comes the possibility to plan the future. Torturing ourselves for things that can no longer be altered takes tremendous energy. A grieving person already has a low energy level, so it is foolish to waste the short supply. We must treat ourselves gently to allow the memories to heal.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not a very big word. It is not difficult to pronounce or spell, but it can take control of our entire lives. Jesus spoke of forgiveness just prior to his death when he asked God to forgive the people who had crucified him.

I often speak with people who have had a loved one taken from them as the result of a drunk driver. They are seething with rage. Frequently the driver walks away from the accident unscathed. I cannot ask someone to forgive an assailant of this sort. Only with the grace of God and the support of family, therapy groups, and friends would it be thinkable.

However, unforgiveness will stand in the way of the normal healing of a severely wounded soul. Similar to a wound that is closed with the putrid infection inside, a wounded soul will continue to fester underneath until eventually it will spew hatred, anger, resentment, bitterness, and vengefulness into every inch of a being. It will allow no room for goodness, joy, kindness, or love to flow through.

Unforgiveness can destroy the rest of our lives and the lives of everyone we touch. Holding a grudge hurts the bearer more than the recipient.

I have no pat answers for an unforgiving heart, but I do see the damage that can be done by cold, hard hearts. Each person must evaluate his or her specific situation and discover an appropriate solution, weighing the damage that will be done as hatred eats at the soul versus the doors that will be opened after forgiveness takes place.

Not long ago I had contact with two widows and their stepchildren; their contrasting actions reinforced this theory. One widow angrily told me she would not give one single item that had belonged to her husband to his sons. "They aren't my sons; they don't deserve a thing. I don't even plan to see them again," she said, her eyes flashing with hatred as she nursed ancient hurts.

The other widow, Ann, arrived one evening at our meeting with a big smile on her face. When asked about her unexpected happiness, she explained that the night before she had invited her two stepsons over for dinner. They had never been close, and she was not even sure they would come. Ann was pleased when they did. After dinner she provided each boy with a large empty box.

"I want you to have whatever you want of your father's," she told them. They walked through the house together while Ann opened desk drawers, closets, and even used a flashlight as they toured the backyard. The boys were hesitant at first, but she kept reassuring them she was serious.

Ann admitted that she did falter as one boy lifted his dad's Western belt off the closet hook. The large silver buckle was worn smooth from years of wear. She said her heart gave a lurch and her face flushed with heat. But she forced herself to smile and nod her approval as she swallowed hard.

She told us she was pleased with her decisions. She thought about how happy this sharing would have made her husband. If she had selfishly hoarded the belt, it would have been sealed in a box and placed in storage.

The other widow will never experience the peace of mind that Ann will. Her attitude will only harm herself as it festers inside.

Forgiving ourselves is just as important as forgiving others. Guilt is a form of unforgiveness for our mistakes or omissions. To continue to agonize over matters we can no longer change is self-defeating. We can learn from those mistakes and not repeat them. Only then can we move forward, forgiving ourselves and others. When we no longer harbor hatred, seek revenge, or bear grudges, we no longer sap our energy and prevent progress.

The Duration of Grief

Naturally, when we are feeling such torment we want to know when we will begin to feel better. We become quite accustomed to doing things according to schedule. We are told to allow six weeks to recover from gallbladder surgery and that it takes two hours to drive to the city.

In my work with the grieving the question I am most frequently asked is, "When will I stop hurting so much?" I wish there were a chart I could turn to for an answer. But even if there were such a chart it would be meaningless, because time now has an entirely new meaning.

A day is no longer a twenty-four-hour period. It is instead minute after minute filled with pain. There are no pills, no beverages, no magic formulas for the suffering. Trying to ease the pain with alcohol or drugs will only delay the normal grief process.

Recovering from the death of a loved one has been termed "grief work" by the experts. It is indeed work, work that takes time. Like any other job, it cannot be rushed, nor can it be gauged by anyone else's progress. Too many factors have to be calculated, too many details, too many experiences. The circumstances of the death can make a great difference in the grief period, as can the support systems the grieving person has available.

The loss of one's baby is completely different from the loss of one's parent. The loss of a teenaged child differs greatly from that of a spouse. But no matter what the loss has been, it takes time and heart-wrenching work for the wound to heal.

My psychologist friend compares grief to a body wound. He told me to suppose I received a large gash on my arm. At first I would not even want to look at it. It would be too painful. With grief also we will only glance at it briefly in the beginning and then quickly look away. The first week or so we experience shock and numbness, and the actual wound is not examined at all. At this time we are merely existing, marking time.

But then we are tempted to look at the wound more closely. We allow our thoughts to touch on the death just a tiny bit until the pain overwhelms us and we have to look away again. However, each time we are able to look closer and for longer periods of time. After we become accustomed to looking, we will want to touch the wound ever so gently to see how it feels. As the pain diminishes we will touch it more frequently until at last we accept the fact that we have a wound or a loss. This acceptance begins the recovery period.

At this time it becomes possible to sometimes mention the lost loved one without even crying. We may now be able to begin sorting through clothing and personal items. These tasks may cause great pain, but the pain is a part of the healing process. If the grief is treated properly and worked through rather than sublimated, we will be able to touch, talk about, and accept the wound. At last all that will remain is a scar. This process takes time.

If the wound is covered too quickly or bandaged with tranquilizers or frantic activity, normal healing will not take place. The wound can become infected, festered, and cause physical and emotional problems. Nervous breakdowns, attempted suicides, eating disorders, and ulcers are just a few problems that can result from a loss that is treated improperly. Then the wound may have to be reopened in order for healing to take place.

Much has been written claiming that grief takes a year to run its full cycle. This limitation of time can be a very destructive idea.

Continues.

Excerpt


Chapter One

The Wound

In working with grieving persons, I have become aware that there is a great need for grief to be understood. This book is not meant to give instructions or advice. Instead it is a series of quotes, suggestions, affirmations, and explanations intended to console, to reassure, and especially to offer hope to anyone who is suffering from the agonizing loss of a loved one. Although every person grieves in an individual way, there are some common denominators. It is my hope to bring comfort to grieving persons by letting them know they are not alone in their experiences or feelings.

The death of a loved one is a mortal wound, difficult to grasp and impossible to understand. It is unasked for, unplanned for, and unwanted. It is one of the few events in life that is beyond human control. Because of the depth of the wound, even one's own self becomes unfamiliar. Time assumes a different meaning, and nothing that was once important matters any longer. One woman told me, "It may be six months since the death of my child, but to me it has been one long, ghastly day with no beginning and no end."

The "ghastly days" must somehow be survived, often with little help and no past frame of reference. Grief seems to be a process that cannot be understood or explained unless one has personally experienced it.

Fay Angus in How to Do Everything Right and Live to Regret Itsays she had not reckoned on the sting of hurt that peels away the layers like leaves on an artichoke, being nibbled one by one until all that is exposed is the heart. Having our hearts exposed is an extremely vulnerable position to be in. It can make us feel persecuted and alone. Why did this happen to me? we ask.

It happened partly because we were fortunate enough to have loved someone. Without love there would be no grief. So we need to ask ourselves instead, Would I be willing to exchange my disabling grief for never having known my lost loved one? Are the love and the happy memories we shared worth my current pain? If I had known I would eventually suffer this loss, would I have turned away from the love to avoid the pain?

When a loss occurs to people who believe in God, we often ask for the reason he allowed such a horrendous thing to happen. If we pray for the healing of a loved one and it does not occur, we feel God has forsaken us. Where was God when I needed him most? we cry.

God never promised us a utopia on earth or a life free from pain. J. Grant Swank, Jr., says,

Good folk and innocent people are not without their share of suffering-and often through no fault of their own. They are not immune to hard times. Indeed, believers can experience pain just as severely as nonbelievers. Being a child of God does not exempt one from anguish or from the heaviness of sorrow that bends the heart near the point of breaking.

What God does promise is that he will never leave us during our times of trouble (Ps. 34:19).

I once heard about an elderly couple who had been married many years. The husband was driving along the highway when his wife spotted a young couple sitting very close together in the next car. She wistfully said to her husband, "Remember when we used to be like that?"

Her husband smiled at her and gently said, "Honey, I haven't moved."

Although we may feel farther from God in times of great need or sorrow, he is never the one who moves away. He never leaves the driver's seat. He simply sits there, patiently waiting for us to move closer.

Grief is a heavy burden that can seem backbreaking, but a heavy load of any type will seem lighter when it is shared with a friend. I believe God has very large, strong shoulders. He will gladly help carry our load of grief if only we are willing to not clutch it so tightly.

The Symptoms of Grief

In the process of holding tightly to our grief we may become forgetful and unable to make decisions. If we were previously quite organized we may suddenly become completely disorganized. We can get lost driving home from the neighborhood store where we have shopped for years. We might forget the ends of sentences or be unable to remember words or names. We do not care how we look, how we feel, or what we do. We feel sad, isolated, and alone.

We find ourselves crying over everything. When we least expect it, tears fill our eyes and make trails down our cheeks. We become afraid to go places or see people for fear these unpredictable tears will begin to flow again. We also cry as we never have before; our deep, wretched sobbing comes from the bottom of a black chasm that we never imagined existed.

In general the whole world seems to be turned upside down. A soft-spoken person might suddenly find himself shouting at his children. Or an extrovert may become fearful of attending a meeting. We are pulled in opposite directions. We are agitated but too tired to move; we are lonely but don't want to be with others; we feel unloved, unloving, and unlovable, yet we need love desperately. We feel as if we have been abandoned and as if our nerve endings are raw.

Physical symptoms may hit without warning-hot flashes, cold sweats, insomnia, loss of appetite, tightness in the chest, rapid breathing-and can be very distressing. A complete medical checkup can eliminate the possibility of these symptoms being caused by a legitimate ailment.

Many grieving persons ignore danger signs, assuming that the discomfort is merely part of their grief, and often their lack of energy prevents them from seeking medical care. Some minor ailments can become debilitating if they go untreated too long. With a proper diagnosis it may be possible to begin to feel physically stronger and thus make it easier to cope emotionally.

The survivor who has been involved in caring for a loved one during a lengthy terminal illness may have neglected self-care during that time. Dental and eye examinations may be needed in addition to a thorough physical.

Then a horrendous fear that cannot be identified sets in: I feel as if I am going crazy.This fear never seems to go away, and there is no way to reason with it while it nags and hovers; it may ease up a bit, but it never completely disappears.

These symptoms are all the unexplained, untalked about, misunderstood feelings of profound grief.

Feelings of Guilt

Guilt is another unwelcome guest to the grieving. It creeps around the corners of our minds, especially in the middle of the night when we cannot sleep. Why didn't I make John go to the doctor sooner? I should have made Bill stop smoking. I should have driven Susan to school that day.

Phrases that begin with Why didn't Iand I should haveare never constructive. Although it is necessary to think everything through and go over the details after the death of a loved one before coming to any kind of acceptance, if the thoughts become mainly ones of guilt it may be time to apply "thought stopping" or "interruption."

This technique is done by using the command Stop! , then rethinking the situation using affirmations, such as It's a good thing I did not nag Bill about smoking. It would have made him miserable.

The past cannot be changed; it can only be accepted. With an acceptance of the past comes the possibility to plan the future. Torturing ourselves for things that can no longer be altered takes tremendous energy. A grieving person already has a low energy level, so it is foolish to waste the short supply. We must treat ourselves gently to allow the memories to heal.

Forgiveness

Forgivenessis not a very big word. It is not difficult to pronounce or spell, but it can take control of our entire lives. Jesus spoke of forgiveness just prior to his death when he asked God to forgive the people who had crucified him.

I often speak with people who have had a loved one taken from them as the result of a drunk driver. They are seething with rage. Frequently the driver walks away from the accident unscathed. I cannot ask someone to forgive an assailant of this sort. Only with the grace of God and the support of family, therapy groups, and friends would it be thinkable.

However, unforgiveness will stand in the way of the normal healing of a severely wounded soul. Similar to a wound that is closed with the putrid infection inside, a wounded soul will continue to fester underneath until eventually it will spew hatred, anger, resentment, bitterness, and vengefulness into every inch of a being. It will allow no room for goodness, joy, kindness, or love to flow through.

Unforgiveness can destroy the rest of our lives and the lives of everyone we touch. Holding a grudge hurts the bearer more than the recipient.

I have no pat answers for an unforgiving heart, but I do see the damage that can be done by cold, hard hearts. Each person must evaluate his or her specific situation and discover an appropriate solution, weighing the damage that will be done as hatred eats at the soul versus the doors that will be opened after forgiveness takes place.

Not long ago I had contact with two widows and their stepchildren; their contrasting actions reinforced this theory. One widow angrily told me she would not give one single item that had belonged to her husband to his sons. "They aren't mysons; they don't deserve a thing. I don't even plan to see them again," she said, her eyes flashing with hatred as she nursed ancient hurts.

The other widow, Ann, arrived one evening at our meeting with a big smile on her face. When asked about her unexpected happiness, she explained that the night before she had invited her two stepsons over for dinner. They had never been close, and she was not even sure they would come. Ann was pleased when they did. After dinner she provided each boy with a large empty box.

"I want you to have whatever you want of your father's," she told them. They walked through the house together while Ann opened desk drawers, closets, and even used a flashlight as they toured the backyard. The boys were hesitant at first, but she kept reassuring them she was serious.

Ann admitted that she did falter as one boy lifted his dad's Western belt off the closet hook. The large silver buckle was worn smooth from years of wear. She said her heart gave a lurch and her face flushed with heat. But she forced herself to smile and nod her approval as she swallowed hard.

She told us she was pleased with her decisions. She thought about how happy this sharing would have made her husband. If she had selfishly hoarded the belt, it would have been sealed in a box and placed in storage.

The other widow will never experience the peace of mind that Ann will. Her attitude will only harm herself as it festers inside.

Forgiving ourselves is just as important as forgiving others. Guilt is a form of unforgiveness for our mistakes or omissions. To continue to agonize over matters we can no longer change is self-defeating. We can learn from those mistakes and not repeat them. Only then can we move forward, forgiving ourselves and others. When we no longer harbor hatred, seek revenge, or bear grudges, we no longer sap our energy and prevent progress.

The Duration of Grief

Naturally, when we are feeling such torment we want to know when we will begin to feel better. We become quite accustomed to doing things according to schedule. We are told to allow six weeks to recover from gallbladder surgery and that it takes two hours to drive to the city.

In my work with the grieving the question I am most frequently asked is, "When will I stop hurting so much?" I wish there were a chart I could turn to for an answer. But even if there were such a chart it would be meaningless, because time now has an entirely new meaning.

A day is no longer a twenty-four-hour period. It is instead minute after minute filled with pain. There are no pills, no beverages, no magic formulas for the suffering. Trying to ease the pain with alcohol or drugs will only delay the normal grief process.

Recovering from the death of a loved one has been termed "grief work" by the experts. It is indeed work, work that takes time. Like any other job, it cannot be rushed, nor can it be gauged by anyone else's progress. Too many factors have to be calculated, too many details, too many experiences. The circumstances of the death can make a great difference in the grief period, as can the support systems the grieving person has available.

The loss of one's baby is completely different from the loss of one's parent. The loss of a teenaged child differs greatly from that of a spouse. But no matter what the loss has been, it takes time and heart-wrenching work for the wound to heal.

My psychologist friend compares grief to a body wound. He told me to suppose I received a large gash on my arm. At first I would not even want to look at it. It would be too painful. With grief also we will only glance at it briefly in the beginning and then quickly look away. The first week or so we experience shock and numbness, and the actual wound is not examined at all. At this time we are merely existing, marking time.

But then we are tempted to look at the wound more closely. We allow our thoughts to touch on the death just a tiny bit until the pain overwhelms us and we have to look away again. However, each time we are able to look closer and for longer periods of time. After we become accustomed to looking, we will want to touch the wound ever so gently to see how it feels. As the pain diminishes we will touch it more frequently until at last we accept the fact that we have a wound or a loss. This acceptance begins the recovery period.

At this time it becomes possible to sometimes mention the lost loved one without even crying. We may now be able to begin sorting through clothing and personal items. These tasks may cause great pain, but the pain is a part of the healing process. If the grief is treated properly and worked through rather than sublimated, we will be able to touch, talk about, and accept the wound. At last all that will remain is a scar. This process takes time.

If the wound is covered too quickly or bandaged with tranquilizers or frantic activity, normal healing will not take place. The wound can become infected, festered, and cause physical and emotional problems. Nervous breakdowns, attempted suicides, eating disorders, and ulcers are just a few problems that can result from a loss that is treated improperly. Then the wound may have to be reopened in order for healing to take place.

Much has been written claiming that grief takes a year to run its full cycle. This limitation of time can be a very destructive idea.

Continues.

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