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Grief Can Make You Insane – Temporarily

Grief Can Make You Insane – Temporarily | After the Heartbreak
Grief Can Make You Insane – Temporarily

I think I’m relatively sane, although I did wonder for a while! You probably think I’m joking but I actually feel quite embarrassed about some of the things I said/did during the early weeks after my husband Norbert was killed in the glider crash. Here’s where I admit to some of the reeeeally stupid things…. 🙂

Two hours after I was told that Norbert had died, one of my urgent priorities was to cancel an appointment for the hairdresser which was scheduled for the following morning. Somewhere in my completely shattered mind I thought this was a priority. I guess I should be thankful that I didn’t think it was a priority to actually keep that appointment!

It gets better. I began day 2 of my life without a husband by getting on the phone and cancelling Norbert’s magazine subscriptions. I can’t imagine what those poor Admin staff on the other end of the phone thought! Just part of their everyday communication? Like….”I’d like to cancel my husband’s subscription with you because he died yesterday.” Sheesh!!! I bet that was a topic of conversation in their staff room that morning. 😀

There are numerous examples of my temporary insanity, and I’m sure there are even more that I have forgotten. My close friends and family will attest to the fact that I was ‘not quite right in the head’ but it was only much later that I could look back at those times and agree. At the time it all made perfect sense to me.

To put this into context, I also needed to be reminded to eat, all routine I might have previously had was completely out the door and I was often wandering the house in the middle of the night. Absolutely nothing was ‘normal’ for me and I was living in a fog.

Since that time I have done some research and reading up about this behaviour because I needed to know if this was ‘normal’. Apparently it is completely normal. Whew!

There is a dimension of grief called the ‘going crazy’ syndrome. It’s like being in the middle of a wild, rushing river where you can’t get a grasp on anything. Disconnected thoughts race through your mind, and strong emotions may be overwhelming.

Evidently the brain partially shuts down after such a traumatic event, as a way of protecting the body. It’s quite normal and isn’t permanent, but at the time I felt I was living in some sort of surrealistic nightmare.

If you are supporting someone who has recently experienced traumatic loss, then it is probably good that you keep this in mind, and are reassuring. A couple of amazing friends and my two daughters were the lighthouses in my storm during that time.

A friend cancelled that appointment with the hairdresser when I asked her to, all without batting an eyelid. She was calm and matter-of-fact….as if it was a perfectly reasonable request. 🙂 My daughters kept a close eye on me and were monitoring everything. They responded calmly to the ridiculous sense of urgency I felt at ‘jobs that needed to be done…now!’

For example, I discovered that the camping fridge wasn’t working properly, and set my poor family and friends on the urgent task to get it fixed or replaced. Keep in mind that I live in a regional area so a job like this is not easy at the best of times. But I needed it done….so they simply complied with my wishes. Ummmm….when was I next going to be going camping???

My eldest daughter later said:

As a family member there, I actually found it helpful as it gave me a way of ‘helping you’ in the most practical sense. I think it helped give me something to do at a time when you don’t really know what to do as the shock is still so raw.

Anyway, I think I began to feel more sane after a few months and now 17 months later I believe I’m reasonably OK. Well, close enough. I am still very forgetful and need to write everything down, but I’m hoping that’s just a lingering symptom. 😉

I have a Type-A personality so maybe it is connected to this personality trait but I’d be interested to know if others have experienced that same sense of urgency. (Drop a comment below if you can answer my question).

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

  • Brigitte says:

    I think, these are “normal” reactions in such a situation. I was similarly, I cancelled my language course only a few hours after I heard my son must have been on that horrible plane, that crashed in the French Alpes.

    • Marlene says:

      It is very strange how the brain works. I think it is because you feel so ‘out of control’ that you focus on something you can control. Thanks for your comment. ❤

  • Betty Borsukoff says:

    Dear Marlene, Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts. I have not lost a husband but I have lost two of my cats-my last cats. My first boy cats. They are part of my past. A connection to a life that “was”. One cat was my soulmate. He went to Heaven seventeen months ago. I lived in an abyss for sixteen of those months but I did have his brother to rely upon. He passed a month ago today. Just when I finally found my footing…he collapsed and was rushed to our vet where he spent two days in ICU. I received a call to please come to the clinic asap. He was suffering another stroke and having still another heart attack. At this point it was time. That dreaded moment.
    Surprisingly I did not fall into the abyss. Yes I cry as I miss and love him. I miss his gentle presence in my life but I am functioning.
    And I want to clean everything…this week is spring house cleaning. At sixty six years of age I can no longer accomplish this in one or two days. I also need to spring clean my computer files. Today I need to wash all throws and linens. His scent still remains. The other cats (that I share with my room-mate) still sleep in his spots. Once laundered, will the kittles remember him?
    Since I have no family. These cats were my family. As all of them have been. Ten cats spanning forty six years.
    Thank you for listening. I love your page. I derive so much peace in your skillful well thought words.
    Love and friendship, b

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Betty, and thanks for commenting on my blog. The loss of those you love spans further than many people realise, and I’m glad that you find my posts helpful. It is not an easy journey to find the ‘new normal’ for your life and it takes time. Be gentle with yourself.
      Cheers, Marlene

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