Examining Death & Grief
by Katie Hodge

Death interests me to a great extent these days; death, grief, and everyone’s individual reaction, or inaction to it. The fact that it’s a guarantee in life, and yet so many people run from it and fear it, baffles the mind. Why do doctors arrogantly spout off, “I didn’t become a doctor, an ob/gyn, to deal with death.” Death is going to happen. It is the one thing, the Only thing you can bet the farm on: we will all die. Yes, there is a natural order in life, and yes, sometimes there’s a glitch and the world falls out of order – a child dies, your child dies. I don’t know if it’s this society or if it’s just human beings that are ill-equipped to deal with the death of a child. Everything is so ambiguous: certain words of comfort will help this mother and not that one; for some, it is healthy to acknowledge anger towards their god, for others, it is unheard of; some mothers and fathers gain a lifetime of fulfillment in holding their dead child for an hour, while the same would be a horrific experience for others.

In my research on grief counseling I have learned some interesting things. The amazing Dr. Kübler-Ross gave us our stages of grief, and I have found even more specific manifestations of grief in a book I found. <If you must know the name of the book, ask me at a later date as I am in the middle of relocating and everything I own is in a storage unit>. I will discuss the manifestations of “normal” grief and when I get my book back I’ll be able to discuss “abnormal” grief reactions.

There are three different aspects of “normal” grief: Feelings, Physical Sensations, and Cognitions. As many of you are aware, grief has no rhyme or reason; people may experience certain aspects and not others. One person may stay “stuck” in a certain emotional spot longer than the next person. So keep in mind that none of what I am writing is in any order other than how I took my notes.

Starting with feelings, we have sadness, which is the most common feeling. Duh.

Then we have anger. “Anger is the most confusing feeling; if anger is not adequately acknowledged, it can lead to a complicated bereavement.” I would say I’m in the complicated-bereavement zone right now, whatever that means…I’ve always had to go about things the hard way. One of the main sources of anger is the “sense of frustration that there was nothing one could do to prevent the death.” Gee, how many of us can relate to that one?

Guilt. The big ugly G-word. Guilt and self-reproach “are most often irrational and will mitigate through reality-testing.” Why couldn’t I tell the future? Why did I lift that box? Why did I insist on continuing to work? If only I had…What did I do wrong? You did nothing wrong. You never did anything wrong. You are perfect.

The next feeling on the list is anxiety. Anxiety can stem from two sources: fear a person will not be able to take care of themselves on their own and a heightened sense of personal death awareness. I’m sure the first source doesn’t apply to many of us in this particular grieving community, and I would bet that a great number of the women have actually come face-to-face with death in their experience; I know I did, I know several that did.

There are the common energy-zappers: fatigue, helplessness, yearning, and loneliness. Being a single mother at the time, I can tell you loneliness was a big one for me, it still is, and I’m just now recognizing it and how well I’ve hidden it for so long.
The one feeling we hear about most often is shock or numbness. Shock occurs most often in the case of sudden death, but I’ve heard it can exist in even terminal illness cases when it is inevitable that death is approaching quickly. Numbness is usually experienced early on in the grieving process. Because I was unable to cry for so long, and even now the tears don’t come often, I was sure I was in shock. Sometimes I still think that, given that I’m able to talk so freely about the crash, and I can look at pictures of my car, and I love watching video of Blake.

Emancipation and relief are feelings that I doubt a great number of us would have ever experienced. I’m sure in certain situations, there can be a positive reaction to the death of someone: a terminally ill child whom you know is suffering, maybe a physically and emotionally abusive parent, a controlling spouse…who knows. But see, guilt usually follows close behind these feelings, then you’re just down a different road in the same horrible town.

Now we come to Physical Sensations, these are the most fun, aren’t they? In case you weren’t sure before, these can really make you believe you are crazy:

Hollowness in the stomach, tightness in the throat and chest, oversensitivity to noise, a sense of depersonalization: “nothing seems real”, breathlessness, weakness in the muscles, lack of energy, and dry-mouth.

Then there are the accompanying Cognitions:

Disbelief is often the first thought, especially if the death is sudden. Good ol’ confusion (self-explanatory). And a preoccupation or an obsession with thoughts about the deceased, this often includes obsessional thoughts about how to recover the loved-one. I know Joanne and her shovel can relate to this cognition. I know many of us can relate, especially since we would each give anything, ANYTHING, to have our child back.

I wish nothing but Peace and Blessings for each one of you. Please feel free to e-mail me at Katie@missfoundation.org. I honor the place in you where the Entire Universe resides.



Katie Hodge is Blake's Mommy and has played a large part in the promotion of the RED Means Stop campaign since Blake's death. She is also the Director of Operations at the MISS Foundation.

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