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No, You Are Not Going Crazy, You Are In Grief.

A couple of years ago, I decided to write a pamphlet for Circle of Hope. I included my thoughts, feelings and emotions that I went through on the long lonely road called grief. You may or may not go through the same thing. If you are not experiencing the same thing, please do not worry about it. It is ok too.

Grieving is normal when a love one dies. You have to go through it; there is no way around it. However, most of us are not prepared for the long road we are on, called Grief. There may seem to be no end in sight to this intense raw pain you are experiencing. Grief is like a raw open wound, the wound will start to scab over, and many times the scab will come off before it is completely healed. Your life will never be the same, even though you have a scar now, you will get through this long road of grief,you will also be a stronger person.

Grief for me is like riding a roller coaster, with all the ups and downs, twist and turns. Just when you think the ride is over, you are racing down hill again. You may go several days, even weeks without any signs of grief. Then suddenly you meet someone, see something, or hear something and without warning, you are back on the road of grief. It hits you so hard it feels like the breath has been knocked out.

At this time, you will have taken one baby step on the road, only to stumble and fall backwards two giant steps. It does not matter where you are, or whom you are with. When it wants to return it does, without warning, the roller coaster ride is back. So, hang on tight.

Grief is hard work. It is probably one of the hardest things to endure. After crying for hours, minutes, seconds, your body is drained. You are exhausted and so is your mind. Give yourself permission to rest. Go laid down in a dark room, and think of nothing. Take deep breathes and feel the calm come over you.

Find someone to listen to you. This is very important. We all have well-meaning friends; however, they can say some stupid things to us at this time. I have heard it all. "Well, you have more kids." They cannot replace the one I lost. "She is in a better place." I am a greedy person; I want her here with me. "You need to put this behind you." Please tell me how and I will be more than glad to do it. "She was in the wrong place at the right time." In her own home. If not there, where are you safe? "You just do not know what was in store for her. God took her home early, because she was going to hit a bus full of kids and there were going to be many deaths." Oh, my God, no this person did not just say this to me.

I even had one so-called well-meaning friend say, "You got to get over this. You never smile or laugh anymore. If I could, I would send (she named her child) in place of Wendy." I will not go into what I said. However, I will say this, "I ended the call very quickly."

If you do not have support of family or friends throughout your grieving, please find a support group. If this is not possible, find one online. There are several online grief support networks.

You may think, do and say things that are very unlike you. We all go through different stages of grief. No, two people are alike, so each person will be dealing with grief at different levels, different stages, and through it their own way.

You will go through many different emotions. It does not have to be in any certain order. You may and probably will experience some again, repeatedly. I can remember going through these different stages:

Shock -- This is the way your body deals with more than it can handle. It will slowly send in bits and pieces you can handle. Filtering only enough to help you understand. You mind is numb; you are still unable to think clearly. It is all you can do to get up out of the bed in the mornings. You move around and perform your daily duties like a robot. For the first months, maybe the first year, nothing seems real.

Anger -- This is one hard emotion to deal with. We may be angry with ourselves, God, the person that died, the person that caused our love one to die. I was angry with my child. I would go sit at the cemetery and scream to get this anger out. We all must get the anger out. If not, it could cause us to become ill, with ulcers, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. I told several people to take a bat and beat the heck out of a tree. Just get the anger out. Everyone that did this told me how much better they felt. They had a healthy safe outlet to release the anger.

Guilt -- The ifs and whys. These two simple words can destroy you. Shake them off quick. You have to let the ifs, and whys, go. There are no answers to any of our questions. We cannot turn back the hands of time. I sent my child back home to a troubled marriage; she was murdered about 6 weeks later. My heart was tortured with so much guilt over this. I could not move forward until I accepted that I did what I thought was best for her.

Disbelief -- It is not true. If only I can wake from this horrible nightmare. Pinch me; see if I am dreaming. Not accepting the truth.

Bargaining -- I would bargain with God, "Please, please God, take me and bring her back." I would beg, "Just let me wake up and find this is a dream." "God, I will do anything you want."

Denial -- It just did not happen. You pretend everything is the same. I would see a car that looked like Wendy's and follow it. I was hoping to get a glimpse of her. I would search a crowd of people looking for her too. In my mind, if I just turned the corner of the house fast enough, I will see her in the next room. She was just beyond my reach. I also played head games. I would pretend Wendy was shopping and I was watching the baby for her. It is another way for your mind to cushion the reality. Your love one is not coming back.

Lack of Concentration -- What is that? Your mind is totally consumed on what has happened. In addition, the grieving is taking so much out of you; you cannot focus on anything else. Nothing else seems to matter. Do not worry if you cannot read a sentence and remember it, or even stay focus on it. It would take me 15 minutes, or so, to read a paragraph. However, I could not tell you what I just read.

Crying -- This is your body's way of washing the pain and hurt away. It helps you through the road of grief. Please cry when you feel like it. It does not matter where or when, if you need too, do it. The ones that hold it in suffer more with illness, depression, and it takes longer to get through the grief cycle. I never knew one person could have so many tears. I never thought I would cry as long as I did. However, I did not think I would or could ever stop crying. Please tell the man in your life to cry. Let him know it is OK.

Anxiety -- It starts at the pit of your stomach wanting to scream, the pounding of the heart. The feeling something bad is about to happen. The fear of losing another loved one. Your thoughts are racing. You may even question your sanity. No, you are not going crazy.

Depression -- A feeling of hopelessness, sadness, falling into the pits of darkness. You do not want to get out of bed, eat, shower. You may not want to talk to anyone. Reach out anyway; find someone to talk too. You may need to see your health care provider.

Preoccupation -- Constantly thinking about your loved one, nothing else matters. As you talk to others, going about your day, your loved one is always there in your mind. When I talked to people, it did not matter what we were talking about, I saw Wendy in my mind's eye. She did not leave for the first two years. For some it will ease away faster, others it may take longer.

Decisions -- Do NOT make any major decisions. This is not the time. Your mind is filled with too many thoughts of your loved one. Your judgment may be very off. If you have to, get the opinion of a trusted family member or friend.

Outings -- Some days this could be very hurtful. I would run into someone I knew before Wendy's murder, they would see me and make a u-turn in the aisle of the grocery store. This was like a slap in my face. I wanted to scream, "This is not contagious." Other times, I would pass by people I knew. They would mutter, "Hi." As soon as I passed, the gossip would start.

Reality -- It hits you finally, my loved one is not coming home. Find someone to talk to. By the time, it hits you, most of your family and friends are back in their own routine of life.

Finding a new me -- After reaching the end of your grief, you may be surprised to find you are not the same person. This may or may not be your case. I know I am not the same person. Just take it slow and easy getting to know the new you.

Please remember YOU MUST GO THROUGH IT. There are no short cuts, no way around it. It is going to hurt, as nothing you ever went through. Just take it one day, one hour, one minute, one second at a time. Getting through grief takes time, so be patient. You will eventually get through it. You will realize you were not going went down the road called Grief.

I would like to add to this too. After the trial was over (we had three), I found myself going back through all the stages of grief. There is no such thing as closure for us, please do not let anyone tell you there is. The only closure we have knowing someone is paying for our child's murder, and we got some form of justice.

Written by Brenda McKnatt, who lost her daughter to homicide in 1998. Details about her death and to meet her Angel please click on her link Wendy. Brenda also runs a support group in Olive Branch, Mississippi for survivors of homicide. For more information about her group, please visit Ms-Circle of Hope

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