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Emotional numbness following bereavement
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Emotional numbness following bereavement

I am in the medical profession and five years ago I suddenly lost my younger sister to cancer. She had been misdiagnosed and died within 12 weeks of diagnosis. Three weeks after my sister was diagnosed my father was also diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma which was also terminal, although my Dad lived for 18 months following his diagnosis. Consequently I was rushing from one hospital to the next to visit and care for both my sister and my father and being in the medical profession I felt I had to be so strong to support not only my Dad and sister but my mother and brother also. I gave up my job to be there for them and would not have had it any other way.

At the time I was single and I come from a very close family and had a particularly close relationship with my sister who was also single. At the time I thought the grief would kill me of knowing that I was going to lose her, and seeing my beloved sister go through this. When she died we were all with her, I felt so numb I couldn't even cry. I know realistically that because I was in my nursing role, I felt unable to collapse emotionally as I felt that I had to be strong for everyone. It sounds stupid but I felt I had to be stoical. The truth was I had terrible nightmares for over a year afterwards, I couldn't sleep without the light being on and I was scared to sleep because of the bad dreams. The dreams were always me trying to reach or save my sister.

Consequently I believe this has caused me depression. I am on antidepressentsband am fortunate enough to have many people who love and care about me including a wonderful husband. What concerns me is this awful feeling of numbness and detachment that I still feel five years later when people tell me about a tragedy or illness in their family. It is not that I am uncaring, as I am far from that it is as if I can't bare to go there and emotionally connect because I have found a way of blocking the horrors from my mind.

Is this normal?
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684030_tn?1357024374
Don't know how "normal" or common it is; but, some people do handle shock and grief that way. And, I believe that it's a psychological survival mechanism that is similar, although, not exactly like suppression. To the observer, it can appear as being aloof and insensitive, when in actuality... it's composure under stress with the emotions going through a sort of "shutdown" mode.
I was that way for years after the man, who I was in love with, died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. Then, one day I heard a song on the car radio that reminded me of him... and, I totally lost it!
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Avatar_f_tn
I think we tend to want to block out those things we cant handle mentally,but in reality they will surface at some time even if it is much later.My belief is that everyone is different & it is very normal for some.I also lost my mother & sister to cancer & the memories of the suffering is more than I can bear so I to try to block them from my mind as best I can.I really cant deal with those memories they hurt to much.
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1186413_tn?1326734149
I am a nurse as well and I know we are taught to not get attached to patients.  You were trained that way and so it's hard for you to think any other way.  As a nurse you see so many sick people which makes it hard when one dies and you learn how to build a wall.  The only thing I can say is that it's normal to become attached to people.  It's normal to cry when a patient dies and it's actually healthy.  You need to grieve and you taught yourself how to not grieve.  I know you loved your sister and your dad and you need to grieve them because I don't think you ever did.  I know in the nursing role it's hard to step back and be a family member but you NEED to do this.  Even if it takes going to see a therapist to help you grieve you must do it to move on.  Good luck and I hope you get the help you need.
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1242509_tn?1279124464
I am a nurse also and jrobertson20 hit the nail on the head that we are taught to not build an emotional connection with the patients who will die as a defense mechanism. As you know we usually don't  connect as a survival mechanism. I was an ER nurse for 10yrs and as you can imagine have seen it all and supressed so much within also as a saftey mechanism to continue to survive the job until my daughter passed away from SIDS. I felt all the feelings you described in your post(which is all very normal to feel that way) and jroberts said it right you have to alow yourself to grieve, let it out or it will eat you up from the inside out.
Last year I lost my father and my family looked to me for all the medical answers and I too thought I had to be strong for everyone and forgot to grieve and again all the stuff came to the surface from all the ER years and losing my daughter. Seek proffessional help if you have to it's healthy. I wish you all the best.
Kevin
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