Page 21 - 2017 Autumn-Winter Issue
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aid, prepared food and so forth. That didn’t happen. While we    seeds for the stuck places after a life-altering loss resulting
suffer a real illness (including bereavement) along the path of  in something like secondary gain.
the process, there can be traps, places where we get stuck.
                                                                 For Maggie as well as myself, when stuck – seek input from
Recently several colleagues asked me why some people seem        someone you trust. I would never cut my own hair. Not being
very attached to their grief. Having been part of TCF for        familiar with the back of my head, it would be a disaster.
many years I resisted my initial urge to dismiss the question    For me, I choose input from someone who won’t sugarcoat
as ignorance. As I listened instead to their comments, I was     feedback; someone who I know loves me as I am yet wants
reminded of the notion of “secondary gain”:                      the best for my choices. Over time, I’ve cultivated a few
                                                                 special people who tell me what I need to hear, not what I
“An indirect benefit, usually obtained through an illness or     want to hear. These friends allow me to feel safe in the world.

debility. Such gains may include monetary and disability         For me, it isn’t a counselor, a lawyer or other professional. In
                                                                 the years of debilitating illness, I was forced to learn to ask for
benefits, personal attention, or escape from unpleasant          help. It was painful. I was the fixer; the go-to person. Then I
situations and responsibilities”. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary,    became the needy person and I hated it. Being weak was not
9th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.                                   my thing. What I received was a blessing that keeps giving.

Then Maggie called upset that she was yet again struggling       There is an irony to all the lessons of secondary gain for me.
with her sense of guilt over the death of her son to overdose.   Professionally I was very successful, partly because I sought
                                                                 learning at every opportunity. I learned that typically many
“Every morning I lay in bed for two hours obsessing what I       love to teach, to share information; those who protected
                                                                 or refused to share their knowledge had nothing I really
could have done differently, better. I know better but I just    needed. But I didn’t trust letting anyone into my personal
can’t stop.” We have had this conversation many times.           insecurities. Life in my childhood home was never safe;
Empathizing, listening and gently probing, I asked if this       school and later the workplace was much safer. Debilitating
was a habit, a need, a process? What purpose was this            illness forced me to let inner walls down.
obsessing serving for her?
                                                                 When Jim died, I knew I couldn’t do grief alone. Also, I
Grief is a process and it takes the time it takes. How often     would never allow anyone to put the cause of my son’s
do we find ourselves stuck and looking for a path forward?       death between the love and respect I have for him always
Is our pathfinding serving any healing progress or holding       and forever. Today my work in advocacy is amazing, built
us captive to suffering? One aspect of secondary gain is that    on compassion, respect and the wisdom shared by many. I
we can’t see it. We are in it.                                   continue to work through my own stuck places.

When I suggested Maggie change her morning routine for           My work within TCF is another blessing as I continue to
a few weeks, she agreed to give it a go. She’s smart; she is     learn from everyone I meet in our chapters, on Facebook, at
aware. Maybe having someone see her in a different light         conferences or in line at the grocery store.
can help her get unstuck. Together we’ll learn how this
change might serve her freeing up energy to do the things        Life is complex; so is bereavement. Are you in a stuck place?
currently on hold.                                               You are not alone!

When we lose our loved ones in any way the process is hard.      No Shame or Blame ~ Just Love®
Add a stigmatized loss and there are many other aspects
to work through. With substance related causes – suicide,        Barbara’s son, brother and niece died from substance related causes. She
overdose, organ failure – we have the guilt of what may          and husband, Tom, found TCF when her son, Jim, died in 2003. Finding
have occurred before death and then the eternal questions        hope from her grief within TCF, Barbara began researching the disease of
of “if only”. We question everything and this layer of inner     addiction from new perspectives. Today she is an advocate for change at the
turmoil can lead to complications including secondary gain.      state and national levels, collaborating with parents and agencies across the
                                                                 U.S. Barbara and Tom’s non-profit, James’ Place Inc. provides education,
To my colleagues, I say, “Please start by learning about         advocacy and scholarships for recovery services for those suffering this
the grief we experience as parents, grandparents and/or          disease. A former regional coordinator and TCF Board of Dirctor, she
siblings. Look at the many layers we deal with when stigma       currently serves as a chapter leader. Barbara distributes the popular
and ignorance surround the cause of death. Understand            wristbands No Shame or Blame ~ Just Love®.
perhaps we are overdue for self-care, to matter, or to find a
place for our unexpressed need to parent. These might be

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