Suggestions for (temporarily) deferring immediate physical grieving?
September 29, 2016 2:29 AM   Subscribe

I need some quick potential solutions for compartmentalizing grief, at least for a little while. More beanplating in the extended.

I apologize ahead of time if there's a good thread on this - I tried the usual MeFi searching but couldn't find one about this specifically.

My health is currently in shambles for a variety of diagnosed reasons, and has been progressively worsening over the course of 20 years. But I still manage to go to work and take care of myself. I live alone and my family lives far away. I can't exercise for aforementioned reasons right now, and am on a variety of medications for the conditions. In the past I have managed said conditions fairly well, but right now I am back down in the hole and doctors are not entirely sure what to do about it. So I am back being highly stressed about all of that. I do pretty much everything I can to manage these things.

Unfortunately, to add to the pile, my best friend's father just passed away. I have known this best friend for all of my 45 years, though I have not seen his parents for several. The funeral will be in my city, and I can easily get off work to attend it or when they sit shiva. Since I just saw my friend two days ago, and see him every few months, and since his parents were people whose place I often stayed at as a child, I can't see myself not going to any of the functions.

However, I am now on the verge of tears, which I think is 100% understandable given what you just read. And that's fine; I'm not anti-grief, or however it takes a person to process it. But because my body is in terrible shape from my own health conditions, I am afraid to even go into that zone right now. (the actual act of crying significantly worsens some of my symptoms! so I have been trying for a while now to avoid it).

Part of me says that I should just not go to any of the funereal things, because of how I have been feeling physically, but that seems wrong since I know that I still have the ability to get there and be there for my friend for a couple of hours.

I know some of you may say "don't go, take care of yourself, they will excuse you", but I'm pretty set on going. So I want to know whether any of you have some tips I can use to distance myself for now so that it is bearable. I feel like I can take time to process this more when my physical health has improved a few ticks.

I realize that everyone isn't capable of doing this - I'm not sure I am - but I figured I might as well give it a shot.

Any suggestions are welcomed, MeFiters. (Drugs or alcoholic solutions are off limits).
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well. I shelved my grief for decades and I am not sure you want to do that.
Are the tears themselves antithetical to your health or the physical response that drives them? If actual tears are Ok then I would recommend singing your grief through any song that appeals but is uplifting. If crying itself is bad for your wellbeing then maybe calming religious texts will help you keep composure.

You have asked: how can I not be human? It's a hard question to answer. Keep safe.
posted by Thella at 2:48 AM on September 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Check with your doctor for any medication interactions, but Sam-e works for me in these situations. Sam-e isn't a drug, it's something your body makes naturally, like vitamin D. I had just started a new job when I had to put my soul mate kitty to sleep, and it was a customer service job, so I couldn't be crying at work. I took a Sam-e pill, and was able to go to work 3 hours later and make it through my shift. I was even relatively cheerful, which was difficult even on a good day at that crappy job. (Customers are evil.)

Sam-e doesn't work for everyone, for some reason, but it has worked for most people I've suggested it to.

Also, a story and a mental trick - one year, my brother decided to get me a Mother's Day present. He was working in the seafood counter of a grocery store, so he brought me home a live lobster. Difficulty: he didn't own a car, he rode a bicycle. So he put it in his backpack and rode on the main streets of Manchester, New Hampshire with a lobster wiggling in his backpack. At one point he was in the left turn lane at an intersection, there were cars behind him waiting to turn, and the lobster became especially active. I can't imagine what the drivers of those cars were thinking, but it always makes me giggle to think about it. So...ever since then, whenever I'm in a situation where I feel like crying but really, really don't want to (like at work), I think about lobsters.
So think about lobsters. Or some other thing that reliably makes you giggle.

Also, before anyone else gets to it, Metafilter: think about lobsters.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:34 AM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Forgot to add, you can get Sam-e at any drug store or Target, Walmart, etc.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:35 AM on September 29, 2016

My best friend died a few months ago, but I had to be "on" at work so had to put my grief on hold at least during office hours. Two things worked for me:

1. Having something else to really concentrate on. For me it was a work project. For you it could be some other project such as writing, painting, or reading a really engrossing book. So whenever my mind started to go back into grieving mode I forced myself to plunge into the project again.

2. Noticing the small things. For me, for a couple of weeks, it was the flowers blooming over the next-door neighbour's wall that made me feel that life was indeed worth living. Try to find something small and beautiful to notice, and appreciate the hell out of it.

Good luck. And I think you're doing the right thing - if you can, always go to the funeral.
posted by hazyjane at 4:10 AM on September 29, 2016

Part of me says that I should just not go to any of the funereal things, because of how I have been feeling physically, but that seems wrong since I know that I still have the ability to get there and be there for my friend for a couple of hours.

It may well be that going will help you process things too. How do you visualize the funeral? In my experience, they are not traumatic; they bring people together and that can be comforting. Knowing that you will be going may allow you to put your feelings on hold, knowing they will have this communal outlet. If the funeral itself seems like it will be traumatic to you, you can just attend the shiva, and for a briefer period of time than you otherwise might. (I am assuming your friend knows about your health problems and will have no issues if you don't stay for the entire evening.) But I'd suggest going to the funeral itself; having that plan may make the intervening days easier.

You don't say if you are having sleeping difficulties or anything. If you are, talk to your doctor about getting help for that.

A note about SAM-e: it has given me an unexpected psychological boost when I've taken it for joint and muscle reasons, but I would be careful with it, especially if you're taking a bunch of medications already. For me, it's really powerful and makes me pretty seriously hyper. It also gives me a horrible stomachache, and that seems to be one of the few listed side affects.
posted by BibiRose at 5:31 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I only have one little suggestion and it's not an overall compartmentalize suggestion, it's just a little practical in-the-moment one: You can't drink water and cry at the same time.
posted by janey47 at 10:32 AM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

For me, vitamin deficiencies and respiratory problems make me more prone to crying jags. Vitamins -- especially B vitamins -- and respiratory support may be helpful. I eat onions when I need extra respiratory support.

posted by Michele in California at 11:14 AM on September 29, 2016

I'm so sorry about your loss, and your friend's loss, and your health challenges, and the related stress. I hope things ease up for you and that you find blessings from attending the memorial events.

I only have a second, but want to help, so excuse my brevity, but here are a few quick practical ideas: focus on helping your friend, not on your own feelings; try the cold-water-on-the-face trick ("mammalian diving reflex"); switch yourself into left-brain mode (my go-to trick for getting unemotional when I need to focus on work is doing anything that requires math). It might help if you can say to yourself that you'll make space for grief [when?]. You could also try distancing yourself by getting philosophical ("we all die, isn't that fascinating how we are together for a number of days and then inevitably must part, such is life" "the glass always was broken, we just see it now"), or by trying to focus on other emotions ("this is a celebration of their life" "[Person] would've wanted us to be happy and having a good time as we remember them").

Again, I'm so sorry -- best to you and your friend.
posted by salvia at 2:14 PM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you have a smartphone? Can you download an app like Word Warp or Text Twist? It's my in-the-moment go-to for Not Crying. On half a dozen occasions when students cried in my office I've handed them Text Twist and gone downstairs to fetch them a glass of water; that would take a couple minutes, and once I got back they'd always recovered.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:12 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

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