Grief is real and raw
It is something that some consider trivial, yet something people cannot ignore if they want to heal.
The Grief Recovery Method defines grief as being the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder. Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
WE KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE
As founders of Moms Against Mold, we have all experienced grief, due to losing things to mold, in many different ways. All four founders have experienced and had varying reactions to loss and change. These include loss of a child, loss of health, loss of jobs (due to changes in health), loss of ALL material items, change in relationships with friends and family, loss of relationships with friends and family, loss of hope; and the list goes on.
There is much research and many support groups for various types of loss but there is little research on grief due to a natural disaster or mold. We have found that grief and walking through its five stages has proven critical for all of us as we heal. We have also found that it has looked different for each of us.
5 stages of grief
Specific to Natural Disaster (can be applied to loss due to mold)
SHOCK & DENIAL
“I don’t deserve this! It didn’t happen.”
“Why me? Who can I blame?”
“I’ve lost everything. There is no hope.”
DIALOGUE & BARGAINING
“Maybe if I take a pay cut, the bank or insurance company will help me out of this.”
“I can get another job/home. It may not be what I had, but it will be something as I rebuild my life.”
The Kübler-Ross Model
REMEMBER THESE 3 THINGS
- Give yourself permission to feel, name and experience what is going on within you.
- Don’t minimize! You’ve experienced loss, it doesn’t matter how big or small, it was loss because it was something of value.
- Don’t compare. Pain is relative to those that grieve.
Walking through these stages of grief is hard but necessary. One of the reasons why it often seems hard is due to a lack of support.
COPING WITH GRIEF
World Psychiatry conducted a study on coping with grief and loss after a natural disaster. The application for the Western world, showed many conclusions. Some of which pointed towards leaning on community, family and religion; a support system.
As toxic mold is not yet recognized by the CDC, as being the cause of chronic illness or other medical issues, many family members and friends, who you would normally lean on, aren’t there. They think you’re crazy, that really there “must be something else going on” or that “mold is everywhere – how could this affect just you in a negative way”? The sincere naivety and ignorance is crippling when you need support the most.
You CANNOT make people understand what you are going through. You are already exhausted and probably have brain fog, why waste energy on people who are going to make it more difficult? Join a grief support group or join one of our social media platforms. Graciously, give yourself the time and space you need to help yourself and your family grieve and heal. Be graciously selfish about this process.
You can also look for grief support, in various forms
LEAN ON YOUR LOVED ONES
Things you can do and say to people that genuinely want to support you as you grieve
Send them to our site to learn more about the realities of mold.
Share your story
Ask them if they’d like to have tea and hear your story, or if you prefer, read your story.
Explain your symptoms and express where you need help.
Keep hope alive
People with great motives often suffer from poor execution. Focus on the heart and great motive.
“Sorrow is noble and gracious. It enlarges the soul until the soul is capable of mourning and rejoicing simultaneously, of feeling the world’s pain and hoping for the world’s healing at the same time. However painful, sorrow is good for the soul. In fact, deep sorrow often has the effect of stripping life of pretense, vanity and waste. It forces us to ask basic questions about what is most important in life.”
-Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised
GRIEF AND RELATIONSHIPS
Whether you’re married, engaged or dating, grief will impact your relationship. Just as people have different personalities and different love languages, they also have different ways of grieving. The Grief Tool Box, specifies three ways to assist each other in the healing process.
First, we can reaffirm our love and commitment. The words, “I love you” are especially powerful now. We need to say them and then back them up any way we can.
Second, we need to accept that our partner grieves differently than we do. Appreciating our differences is important. We may be enduring the same loss but we do not grieve in the same way.
Third, we need to be aware of danger signs: outside emotional attachments, addictions, affairs, abuse, etc. These unhealthy coping mechanisms are dangerous to any committed relationship. If we notice these things occurring, it’s wise to seek outside help. Handling these marital landmines ourselves while immersed in grief is virtually impossible.
The goal is to adjust together, while grieving differently. respect, acceptance and love must reign in order for your relationship to prevail.
FOR PEOPLE THAT DESIRE TO SHOW SUPPORT
Offer concrete help. It is not very helpful to ask, “What do you need?” Instead, depending on your location and the stage of their clean-up, offer suggestions of specific things you are willing to do.
Give a sense of hope, reminding them of their strengths and what they can rely on.
TAKE IT SLOW
Help them think. Encourage taking one step at a time, rather than looking at the overwhelming totality of what needs to be done.
Listen to the story, over and over. For most, the entire situation seems unreal. One way to help others truly comprehend what happened is to talk about it, letting them repeatedly hear the words come out of their own mouths.
Allow the entire range of emotions, being unafraid to hear (or share in) their anger, pain, and tears. Instead of trying to cheer someone up or “fix” things, offer a good shoulder and a listening ear.
Don’t go away. Stay there for the long term.
Interesting Grief Study
Coping with displacement from Hurricane Katrina: predictors of one-year post-traumatic stress and depression symptom trajectories.