Grief Pills and Take Two

Thanks to everyone who left a supportive comment on my last post.

I left work feeling like a complete and utter failure — humiliated by my inability to keep it together. I can’t get pregnant, my body killed my baby and now I can’t even grieve good enough, fast enough. I drove home on Monday and allowed myself to go to that really dark place again — the place where driving into the river seemed like a viable option. But something shifted for me on Tuesday. We’re attending a bereaved parents group on Tuesday evenings. At that group, I talked about my experience of going back to work and I got so much support and validation. And then the facilitator read a quote — I don’t even know what it was now but in that moment, I realized that my reaction to being back at work, my grief — was all normal. And that it’s the fucked up place that I work at that is abnormal.

My boss showed up, unannounced, to inspect me and to pass judgement. Nothing she did or said was an act of support — because I truly believe she is wholly unable to feel compassion. She asked me if I was in counselling (none of your fucking business, but yes) and then suggested that perhaps I should speak to my doctor about medication to (and I quote) “take care of the teariness”. I am immensely proud of myself for standing up to her and saying “there is no pill for grief”. The occupational health nurse that I’ve had the pleasure of battling with suggested the same thing several weeks ago. Grief pills. Imagine. Hot damn — I’d be a fucking millionaire if I could create a pill that would make grief better. It was that quote in group that validated for me that it’s okay to be this sad. Neither my counsellor, nor my doctor have ever even suggested medication. In fact, both have said I’m doing “amazing”. In fact, from what I’ve read, sometimes anti-depressants can get in the way of the grief process. (Please note that I have nothing against medication and lots of people need it for depression, anxiety, etc and grief can make all of those things worse for sure and medication is necessary. I am not depressed, I am grieving.)

I walked back into work on Wednesday in a completely different place — and with completely different feelings. Now I’m angry. I work for a place that provides care to people — that shows them compassion and support. And I have been shown nothing of the sort — and that is profoundly fucked up. My boss showed up again, unnannounced. I stood up to her and said “oh you have to stop making these unnannounced visits”. She treated me like I was some sort of fragile moron — my anger increased. She quoted me from Monday when I said that there was probably going to be bad days and I’d just have to suck it up and fake it — she insisted that clients would be able to tell if I was faking it. I stood up to her again and said that they wouldn’t — because I am really good at getting through some really tough shit and no one, certainly not my clients, have ever been the wiser. It was like I was trying to convince her to let me work — that I was worthy. Just what she likes — power. Well fuck you. If she doesn’t want me at work every day, I’m happy to fill in the blanks with sick time.

I’ve been processing this experience over the last couple of days — how is it possible for someone to be so cold, phony, inhuman almost. (And don’t even get me started on how this person is a social worker). Such a damaged human being — to treat other people the way she does. What a miserable existence to be so unliked, so unloved.

I have to find a way to let go of this negative energy because it’s no good for me and it’s not where my priorities are. Work isn’t going to get any more of me than what is necessary to provide my clients with the best care. And eventually, when the timing is right, I will leave this job. It’s not my place anymore. It doesn’t fit with what I believe about how people should be treated. In the mean time, I will not let it suck me dry.

As I was going through emails, I responded to a colleague at another agency who had sent me warm wishes for a speedy recovery (not knowing why I was off) and indicating that she was hoping I’d be able to return to the work that I do with her agency. I told her in the email why I had been off and that I would be stepping back from that work for awhile. Within 15 minutes she called me on the phone and expressed her condolences… and told me to take as much time as I needed to return and completely understood that I wasn’t feeling able to take that work on. A simple phone call reminded me of what is normal human behaviour. This is what people do and say when someone is grieving.

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7 responses to “Grief Pills and Take Two

  • psychsarah

    Grrrr! I hate when people think medication is going to “cure” normal human emotion!I I’m so glad the people who are looking out for you (your doctor, your counsellor) are not pill-pushers.

    I can’t believe your boss showed up again! And implied that you wouldn’t be able to do your job (i.e., your clients would “know”). You’re a professional-if you didn’t think you could work, you wouldn’t be there. Grrrrr… You certainly don’t need me to be angry for you, but I am quite angry at this woman.

    Whatever that quote was from the group you attended, I’m so glad it was the right thing to hear at the right time. Amazing how that works.

    I suspect that when you feel the time is right to leave your job, an opportunity will arise that will make it totally worthwhile. I’m sure another agency/setting will appreciate you as a human being with the skills, knowledge, experience and empathy to do a lot of good for their clients.

  • Jen

    Hearing this sort of thing makes me so angry. There is no magic pill for grief. Grief is not a disease. It is not an illness. It is a natural, NORMAL reaction to loss. There’s something deeply broken in our society when we refuse to allow normal emotions to run their course. I know it’s not pleasant or comfortable to be faced with someone’s grief, but that discomfort is nothing compared to the pain the other person is feeling.

    I hope you find a new, more empathetic workplace soon. Until then, keep on standing up to the a-holes!

  • jennmet

    OMG. Meds is not the “cure all” grrrrrr

    I’m proud of you! Finding your voice and standing up to her! I sense a job change too for you in the future! Love and respect is important! Hope you find a place to work that appreciates you and loves and respects you!

    Rude people suck. Rudeness is a weak person’s attempt to imitate strength!!!!

    Sending you hugs, love and light! xo

  • SB

    Your boss is an absolute shmuck. I am shocked at her response to you. You, on the other hand, are fricking amazing. Way to stand up for yourself. Your insight is remarkable and I am in awe of your ability to communicate all of this.

  • Moni

    M – the grief, the anger, feeling like you have to “act normal” when you want to scream, flail, cry…. for lack of a better word it’s “normal”, There is a torn part of you never really heals, no matter what joys the future holds. BUT: eventually you claw your way to a place where you can put one foot in front of the other, and then again, and again, and you let yourself notice that you’re a bit more OK in spite of the pain and darkness. It’s minuscule, incremental, but it happens. And it happens in it’s own time – not on anyone’s schedule. M – not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. XOXO

  • Cristy

    Your boss’s and Occupational Health Nurse’s comment about “grief pills” shows how little they truly understand about depression and normal emotional response. How much you willing to bet both of them come from dysfunctional families.

    This is not a reflection on you. And you should be proud for sticking up for yourself. I think making plans to move on is wise, though. This is truly a toxic place that you have outgrown.

    I think one of the main things I’m learning from this whole journey is how dysfunctional our society really is. Emotions are seen as weak and we walk all over people who are in pain. I think this is why we have such a problem with depression and anxiety in this country. We don’t teach balance in day-to-day life and the suggestion is that anything can be fixed by popping a pill. I’m not saying that medication doesn’t help, but it should always be coupled with therapy.

    Hang in there. And know that I’m thinking of you.

  • smonster

    Wow. Maybe she needs a lesson on what an illness is. Depression = illness, and sometimes needs medication. Last time I checked, grief wasn’t an illness. Sure, sometimes the one leads to the other but you’d think that the Dr. and therapist who, I dunno, actually talk to you for any length of time might have a better idea than someone who just popped into your office and with an agenda already in mind. Geesh, just when you think she couldn’t be any worse… Sending you some serious ‘get through this’ vibes while you have to deal with this woman.
    Shara

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