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The Piñata effect:

When we experience the passing of a spouse or partner, our entire world is disrupted, all we know and all we have been is shaken to it’s very core and all we were is thrown to the winds. Our thoughts travel to places we may never have been before, we doubt many of our sure of’s and everything becomes distorted from what we are used to. While we may feel like we are “going crazy”, we are just experiencing a total disorientation and distortion of everything in our lives. In many ways, its like a form of PTSD or maybe just PTS and not a disorder at all.

I call this the Piñata Effect. Think of a piñata, that’s our minds, the stick is our grief. The stick strikes in the moment of our loss and everything inside, like the things inside the piñata, tumbles to the ground. If you pick it all up off of the ground and try to put it back inside the piñata, it probably won’t go back the way it came out and things will get jumbled and twisted and some may not go back in at all. 

In our minds, after things “tumble out” during our grief, we may not even recognize what is going on because it’s all so different now. Things are in a different order, are not familiar and our normal thinking processes are disrupted and unrecognizable. So it’s not surprising we are confused or disoriented or sometimes unable to do even simple tasks until we find ways to reorder and realign our thoughts and feelings.

You’re not going crazy, everything is ok to think and feel but not necessarily to act upon.

Many of the things going through our minds, the piñata effect as well as some other things I will write about later, may have us doubting our sanity, they may be so outside our normal experiences and ways of thinking and acting that we wonder if we will ever be able to function or think “normally” again. Most of these things are direct effects of our grief and the good thing is, like the waves of pain and sadness, they tend to become less common and less severe over time. 

With that said, please remember the negative places we’ve talked about in other posts and turn away from them, don’t get stuck dwelling on them and don’t embrace or act on them even if they do come into your mind. Please remember to find help to do so if you can’t do it on your own

What is healthy and what is not. 

Healthy implies things functioning normally without an overwhelming number of negative events in our daily lives. It is also about doing things that are positive and have a positive effect on us and so unhealthy things have negative effects on us. 

Some Healthy Behaviors:

taking care of ourselves both physically and mentally

sleeping and eating well

becoming active and taking on our responsibilities

crying and letting our grief express itself in positive ways

Some Unhealthy Behaviors:

not sleeping well, 

not eating well 

not being active 

not doing things we are responsible for including taking care of ourselves.

thinking about doing or actually doing harm to ourselves and/or others, 

becoming isolated, 

expressing uncontrolled anger, 

inappropriate behavior towards others

Grief can become habitual:

Another place we can find ourselves that moves us away from healthy grieving and healing is after we have been grieving for a while, our grief behaviors and reactions can become habitual and then it becomes hard to let them go. It is often very difficult especially if they bring us attention and sympathy that we welcome. Changing to new and more forward looking behaviors is often difficult but by doing that, we promote our health and healing.

Maybe grief is “normal” and so is healing.

Since grief arises out of love, and since love is normal, maybe so is grief. Maybe grief is something we need to go through, something we need to acknowledge and embrace even though it is painful. Gradually, however, we can see it transform into healing and through our grief we open the door to a new life beyond the pain, transforming our memories and our love to allow us to go forward. People have been doing both for all of human history, so we can too.

There seems to be a tendency for western medicine and western thinking in general to consider death, or someone dying as a failure. We are structured to prevent dying at all costs and make every attempt to stop it from happening. As a corollary to that type of thinking, is a feeling that there is something inherently pathological about grief, after all, it makes us hurt and sad and restricts our ability to function. 

As an extension of that feeling, when someone grieves for very long or for longer than people feel they should, when they don’t “get over it” and return to normal behaviors, people can act as though they feel that we are somehow “ill” and not dealing with our bereavement in a healthy way. It seems to me that only the bereaved really know what they are going through and in some way we need to educate the non-bereaved  that grief is a normal part of our love and goes on way past what might be expected or wanted both by those outside our grief who just want us to not be hurting any more and return to our normal lives and to us, who most of all would like to have our grief turn to healing and maybe even come to an end.