Grief and Mental Illness

Is crying therapeutic for mental illness recovery? Crying can be used as an expressive mechanism to release inner turmoil. It can also be a sign of trauma and holding on to negative emotions. There are a variety of feelings and experiences associated with mental illness, and crying can be therapeutic. But, just like with anything, balance and awareness are two essential features that can help you decide how much crying is therapeutic for you.
The stages of grief after a death suddenly became more relevant to me, unfortunately. I was notified that one of my friends on Facebook died at age 24 of what appears to be kidney failure. Combined with the recent All Souls Day service at church, this has made me think about the stages of grieving and recovery after a sudden death. According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross,1 there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They don't always go in this order, and they don't always happen to everyone. But this is a general road map to grief.
What do you do when grief becomes a mental health issue? Recently I lost a friend to suicide, and it made me think of all the other losses I've suffered. Two memories stand out in my mind--the death of my maternal grandfather to cancer and the death of my paternal grandmother to a stroke. One was a mental health issue, the other was not. There are several things people can do when grief becomes a mental health issue.
There are three things we need to understand about grief because grief is such a complicated process. Last week, staff at my apartment complex found one of my neighbors dead from an apparent heart attack. It's a common problem; I've lived there since 2009 and this is the fifth death of a resident since I've been there. My neighbors are complaining about the high death rate at this complex as they go through the grieving process alone. This made me realize there are three things we need to understand about grief.
Mentally ill people don’t have a pass on life’s crises. Wouldn’t it be great if The Universe said, "You are one who suffers daily. To make it fair, I hereby declare mentally ill people should be spared from life’s hardships?"
The source of much of our discomfort lies in what we find unacceptable. I’m heartbroken because I don’t want to accept that person I loved is gone forever. I’m anxious because I don’t want to accept that I might actually be safe, that no one is trying to purposely hurt me. I’m sad because I have difficulty accepting that there are actually good and lovely things in this world, as well as the bad things. I don’t want to accept that I need to be on this medication now, and maybe for life. All these things, and many more, I find unacceptable.
Death and Grief are Costly Mentally, emotionally, physically and financially, death and grief are costly. In third place behind the purchase of a home and weddings, funerals are one of the costliest purchases a family will make. The average funeral costs $7-10,000 with a casket; a cremation service typical runs $3000. Yes, death can be quite a racket. What Fuels the High Cost of Grief In many instances, it's guilt and a sense of doing right by the deceased. A morbid sense of "keeping up with the Jones' also takes over when death comes to call. No one wants to envision his or her loved one in a pine box, lacking flowers, lacking music, a eulogy and the niceties of a departure. Yet the realities of relationships may be far different from the warm tones of rubbed oak, hushed tones, loving remembrances and glorious notes. We do our best and wonder if it is enough - perhaps if we are enough. Guilt keeps us up at night, gives us migraines, creates waves of grief while standing in the grocery line and can interfere with our cognitive abilities.
Today, we are continuing our discussion of grief and its effects on those with mental health diagnoses. Grief Reveals Itself Layer By Layer Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described grief as five individual stages. The order in which an individual progresses through the stages of grief may not be sequential and more than one stage may be experienced at a given time. ( Stages of Grief: Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.” Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?” Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.” Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.” Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
Grief is a curious thing; especially when the mourner has a mental illness.  My mother died a month ago today from a combination of COPD, heart failure, diabetes, brain and bone cancer.  Her breast cancer had metastasized to every organ in her body.  I found out via my aunt 5 days after her death.  I wish that I could say that I was surprised, but my mother had chosen a hard life for years.  The surprise was how quickly she died after the brain cancer diagnosis.  She was diagnosed in May and given a year to live; she was dead in less than 3 months.   My mother and I had what could best be described as an awkward relationship:  abandonment as an infant, a lengthy court battle before my grandparents got guardianship and very limited contact throughout my life.