Unexpected grief

Watch out for STUG     Anticipating and the After Effects of Anniversaries    10/2/2010

These reflections show the wide variety of responses surrounding anniversaries of traumatic events. For those of us living in Victoria, it is the first anniversary of Black Saturday and the media bombardment is continuous. This adds to the personal memories, and the thought processes, such as increased anxiety and worry or its contrast, the relief it is all past; difficulty making decisions; body symptoms including rashes, headaches digestive upsets; and changed behaviour.

This is an attempt at managing the event that is an emotion-laden time with such a wide range of reactions, grief, fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, avoidance, irritation, and blame. It can include physical symptoms, ulcers, colds, depression, restlessness, and accident proneness.

The affects spread through the wider community reminding them of their vulnerability and activating memories of past situations. Now I know why I was buying food at midnight for possible evacuees, sweeping leaves as autumn descended on the city in summer, holding my breath as TV footage aired a year ago, threats activated from 26 years ago as though it was now. That’s what can happen, but not predictably, not always.

This is referred to as Anniversary Reactions, a way of revisiting to increase mastery and understanding and protection through re experiencing the past in some way. It both protects by increasing awareness to threats and gives another chance to visit and share events with others.

Anniversaries have a possibility of deliberate choice, (I will be there) or it can sneak up, (I don’t want to be reminded.) They also allow for a resettling and often assist the event to move to the past.

Sneaking up has a phrase for those times, cruising happily along, and someone says ‘How are you? It’s so terrible’ Bang, you’re STUGED or it’s one of those slow, going wrong days, and nobody says ‘hello.’ STUGED again.

What’s STUG? Subsequent Temporary Upsurge Of Grief.

It has reminders of being stuck, stunned, staggered, silly, (as in ‘get over it’ I’m being silly’) surprised, and sat on. (by the elephant in the room; – what’s not said or what can’t be spoken). Other triggers can be weather, sight, sounds, and smells. The body can remember when the mind has ‘forgotten.’ It is exhausting.

The anticipation of an event has two areas, the positive, being with others sharing stories and acknowledging what happened in the past, joining in, thanking the community. The negative is anxiety about what happened, the feelings that might arise, the differing opinions, worry about arrangements, and clashes with other commitments. It can be hard to predict which might arise. The anticipation is worse than the event.

This first anniversary is past. Take a moment now, and next year so you are not ‘stuged’ from behind when you are ‘over it.’ Others might think is right and proper to recover, it might relieving their distress but not yours. There is no right way in loss rather many different paths.

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