Sunday, December 26, 2010

Using Medicines To Ease Grief

There are many pros and cons about using medicine when grieving the loss of a child or any loved one. Some say they couldn’t have survived without it; others say it is not necessary, that you will eventually move on with your life and can do so without any drugs. I believe there is a case for both.

As a society we tend to think there is a chemical solution to every problem we may have and surely the death of a child is way up there on the ladder. Doctors, for whatever reason, tend to hand out prescriptions if we can convince them we are in need of such. But we must be cautious of whether we need medicine or not and ask our doctor what medicines should be taken if necessary.

One bereaved single mother I met recently, who takes medicines for health reasons and has done so her whole life, was told by a few friend and later her doctor, that an anti-depressant would help her during her grief journey. She was not convinced. She didn’t want to put anything more into her body than was necessary. She was afraid of any reactions she might have. And she was not sure medicine was the answer.

This mother was lucky. She had other friends who turned out to be a great support system for her needs. They came over and helped with preparing meals for her family, helped her with housework, even helped her when it came time to pay the bills. On some days they took her out to lunch and even got her to laugh occasionally. If appropriate, and they saw it might help, they would talk about the child and encourage the mother to do so as part of her grief work. They even suggested a grief group where she could share with others. They made sure she got enough rest, enough physical activity and ate right. Through it all, they also gave her space; time to be by herself: to cry, to journal, to do whatever she needed to deal with her pain.

“My friends saved my life by showing me they cared and wanted to help, and I’ll never forget their kindness,” the mother said. “I’m in a good place now. Time and friendships were a great healer for me.”

On the other hand, there are some people who depend on all types of medications to make their life easier. In the case of the death of a child, they believe it is the only way to survive. The severe grief reaction one may have can bring on chemical depression and can lead to all kinds of problems, even suicide.

Dr. Richard Dew, in an article he wrote, says than chemical depressions results from lowered levels of substances in the brain called neurotransmitters. It is generally believed that 10-15% of the population is genetically predisposed to chemical depression. If something happens to lower that neurotransmitter level, this is where the problems begin. Often a trial of antidepressant medication is the only way to tell if this is the case. “It will take three to four weeks to see if there is a response. I always caution my patients that antidepressants will not make you feel good. They make you feel more near whatever is normal for you. For those grieving a close loss, you won’t feel good, but you’ll now be in the same boat as others in your group, and you are more able to do your grief work and benefit from it.”

Dr. Dew cautions that medication may be a necessary aid for some, but it is only one part of the healing process. Coping skills are what will get you through this.

NOTE: If you personally have any reaction to using medicine for grief, I’d like to hear about it. Email me your comments.

1 comment:

  1. We lost our 24 year old son 3 years ago. Our son and his wife have graciously allowed us to move in to a home, with our 4 grandkids (the house is 4000 sq feet, and we a a private space). However, my husband chooses to 'pick fights' with the DIL. We lost about everything after our son died, we spent three months in the hospital fighting. We couldn't work, and even after his death, I lost my job. Hard to song "If Your Happy and You Know It" to a class of 20 four year olds right after your son's passing. My husband worked with our son, and people called for months afterwards offering their condolences. Sales plummeted, and so did our income. We moved to a new state for a fresh beginning. This did not work, as he always we work overtime leaving me alone at home. Or he would say "I hate it here." Now, in another state with family, he still works overtime. And he still says "He hates it here." You suggest meds as a possible solution. Don't forget counseling. I do not know what to do with my husband. he wants to move back to our old hometown, as living with our DIL is 'intolerable' and "he hates it here." He never went to grief counseling. He never talked to anyone. He says he is fine, and we are picking on him. I am at a lost, as I do not want to go with him back to our hometown. I feel is still is bitter, but just cannot see damage he inflicts. He was a happy, outgoing-involved heavily in church person. Now, I have to drag him to church. He says he hasn't made friends at our new church. But at our old church, he turned down every invitation to go out with another couple! (he said, "oh, you can go if you want") Do you address this issue in your books?