Learn the importance of understanding yourself and knowing the choices you can make when grieving.

Knowing vs Understanding

by Teresa Adair, Executive Director

Published March 11th, 2016

We lose things — sometimes irreplaceable things — and not knowing what to do burns. I have faced the devastation of being out of control and it scares me. The only thing I know is that I gained greater self-understanding and built character, or I did not. I had a witness to the stress and the outcome, or I did not. I know my real friends and family, or I do not.

We want to be in control and out of fear.

As we go through the action of loss, we face so many unknowns and so much stress. We want to be in control and out of fear. Making the right choice is our goal. When I do not know what lies ahead, loss of control occurs and fear sets in. When in a state of fear and stressed out of control, we “pop” (or “poop,” depending on where one holds stress). Having a witness always helps me. Sometimes we just don’t know. All we can do is understand and ask someone to bear witness.

When I become stressed out of control, my experience is that I have several choices. I have made all of these choices at different times and with different outcomes.

When I am in denial, ignoring my feelings of stress and fear, I am the passenger on the Titanic who says, “Come on, everyone, let’s sing. We will be fine.” I plaster on a fake smile, and off I go. Sometimes this is effective. I understand that the person does not really want to know how I am; they are just being nice. I understand that if I tell someone how I am, and they really did not want to know, they won’t ask me again. I understand that when a real friend asks this question, they want to know, and an answer of ”I am fine” is heard as a lie. Being real is important at this stressful time. Understanding that works for me. I know doing this alone without a witness is hard.

One of the choices I have made is to run. I am stressed and afraid and I will not deal with this person, place or thing. Sometimes this is effective. We are stressed and we need to make ourselves safe. I am calmed by understanding that I am making this choice, by understanding that I am running, and by repeating to myself: “I am safe. I am safe.” Just breathing in and out helps me.

The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences.

Louise L. Hay

Blaming someone else for my situation is another one of my choices — judging someone else or myself. “Well, Mom, if you would not have smoked you would not be dying of lung cancer.” We call names and we reach out by gossipping. I am reacting to this stress by relieving myself of responsibility. I understand that I am hurting myself and others. “The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences.” Knowing these words by Louise L. Hay helps me understand.

Another choice I have made is to ignite. I become angry, frustrated and out of control. I am yelling, I am cursing and I am furious. Sometimes this is effective and my stress pressure is relieved temporarily, but unless I take the kettle off the fire, I am going to be spouting again.

I have faced many burning and losing situations, and sometimes the only thing I know is that I understand myself, and I can understand what, in this situation, is pushing my buttons. I can’t know if Mom is going to make it through the night. I can’t know if Dad is going to talk to me again. I can’t know if I should go or stay. I just need to know myself. Knowing and understanding me means I must stay in the fire, see the ember burning, and understand the whys of my fear and my yearning to know. Knowing me is sometimes the best I can do.

When stressing, I become the five-year-old being spanked or being called names. I am hurt, I am angry and I ignite. Understanding that I am not the five-year-old, but that I am grieving, helps.

Facing my grief, recognizing the fire and accepting my choices is the best I can do in that moment. As Brené Brown and many others before have stated, ”We cannot forgive (let go) until we grieve.” Grieving is the hardest thing I have ever done. My wish for all the world is that we grieve with someone so we can forgive — ourselves most of all.

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About the Author

Teresa Adair Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation Executive Director

Teresa Adair

Executive Director

As Executive Director, Teresa Adair is responsible for all aspects of policy and partnerships for the Foundation. She has a passion for hospice and an admiration for the people who support it. Teresa has been involved with the Crossroads Hospice family since its inception in 1995.

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