The BEST Guide to POLAND
Unanswered  |  Archives 
 
 
User: Guest

Home / Life  % width posts: 93

Mental health problem or one of the grieving stages? Death and denial in Poland.


BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #1
Someone I have known for many years here in Poland, a Polish national, lost her father a couple of years ago after a long illness.

I was with her at the time he died, we were both in the UK at the time.

She had been praying and I recall how upset she was the morning the phone call came that despite the prayers which she had so sincerely believed in, he had passed away.

Somehow in the period since, she has decided that her father did not die and is merely in a hospital or care home somewhere.

She dismisses the fact that her mother has placed his name and date of death on the family grave as her mother being "unreasonable" and "always in a rush", to quote her "my mother acts like she has a fire under her tail."

We were at the grave 3 weeks ago and when she saw the grave she merely prayed for her family members and for her father to recover. Her mother said to her "He's not asleep, he died, look" gesturing to the grave memorial.

Reacting to this, she called her mother "nasty" for suggesting such a thing, and said "my father will be back". This is something she says a lot.

I have asked her mother whether she is to get help for her daughter on this but it appears she believes "time is a healer" and leaves her daughter to carry on with her everyday life as if this problem does not exist. Her daughter works and is highly intelligent, I know her for some years now and would say she has gained self-confidence and humour over the years, does not seem even slightly depressed and is very competent at work, gets on well with people, speaks several languages etc.

When I have mentioned to her that she herself told me her father died, she implies I am lying or that I am not in good mental health. When I ask her where she thinks he is and why he would not be in touch for years she makes various comments which depart from logic. She remains calm and pleasant at all times, even when accusing me of being nasty for saying her father has passed away. The next moment she is back doing her work and smiling and joking with people on the phone, etc.

From talking to her it seems she has no memory of the day he died, the funeral (which I recall her telling me about in great detail previously), her mourning period (which I also recall).

She also insists everything in her dad's room be kept exactly as it was, nothing moved or used, no clothes given away. She leaves his post for him in a pile, and refers to him in the present tense often.

This has apparently been going on for at least a year, maybe 18 months.

She is a very nice person - is there anything to help her available, her family seem to believe either a prayer will help her or she will get better on her own. Is that a wise thing to do, or should she be seen by an expert? Not that I have any way of getting her in front of one, she refused to visit her GP with me.

Just from what common sense suggests to me as a layperson: denial for this long period as in a firm belief (or so it seems) that the death did not happen and her father is alive, or a loss of memory if that's what it is, should almost certainly be a matter that someone qualified in bereavement counselling or medically trained should be helping her with, no? Yet no one is helping her and her family are passive. (I am 99% sure she has seen no professional on this matter btw.)

Any advice would be good. Thanks.
pgtx 29 | 3,159
23 Nov 2010  #2
wow, this is tough, and i'm really sorry about your friend's father...

have you suggested her to see a therapist? maybe you could go with her? or she doesn't see the reason to do it?
wildrover 98 | 4,452
23 Nov 2010  #3
I am not an expert in mental health , but i can tell you two things... First of all its normal to go through a period of denial after a loss such as this , secondly , its not normal to take the denial to this level , or to carry it on for this length of time...

This girl needs some help...
Wroclaw Boy
23 Nov 2010  #4
Leave her be, shes not hurting herself or others, right?

Grief has many forms and if this is her defense mechanism so be it. Shell grieve when shes ready and i suspect it will come in a burst at some point.

There's a film with Leonardo Decaprio called Shutter island, its about denial, if she watched that it may jolt something.
wildrover 98 | 4,452
23 Nov 2010  #5
I think it would be better that she is led gently towards the truth , rather than it hit her full in the face...she may not be able to cope with it....

If she was able to deal with it , she would not be in denial to this extent...
Wroclaw Boy
23 Nov 2010  #6
If she was able to deal with it , she would not be in denial to this extent...

its a tricky one this
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #7
wow, this is tough, and i'm really sorry about your friend's father...

have you suggested her to see a therapist? maybe you could go with her? or she doesn't see the reason to do it?

I have very gently suggested that on several occasions, she asks "what for?", when I say "because you need some help to come to terms with his passing" she replies "what are you talking about, you are sick, it's you that's not well, has my mother been speaking to you for you to come out with this cr*p?"...

I am not an expert in mental health , but i can tell you two things... First of all its normal to go through a period of denial after a loss such as this , secondly , its not normal to take the denial to this level , or to carry it on for this length of time...

I was fortunate enough never to have any denial when I lost my parents, I was very close to them, shocked and in pieces when each passed, but I never for a moment thought they were still alive. I hear of this denial stage a lot from articles I read but don't understand how denial can go on beyond the point of going to the hospital and speaking to a doctor who confirms death. I must confess my total ignorance at how anyone can deny a death beyond that point.

Shell grieve when shes ready and i suspect it will come in a burst at some point.

That's kind of my fear, from what I can gather that would not be a good outcome, not good at all given her personal circumstances (forgive me for not elaborating more on that).

I appreciate the above replies and any more that may follow, thank you.
POLENGGGs 2 | 150
23 Nov 2010  #8
computah sez przychodnia lekarska
jonni 16 | 2,485
23 Nov 2010  #9
Yes. Family doctors have all seen this before and can make a referral to the best person to help. Her parish priest could also be worth a visit.
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #10
I think it would be better that she is led gently towards the truth , rather than it hit her full in the face...she may not be able to cope with it....

If she was able to deal with it , she would not be in denial to this extent...

I have done my very best to sit down and very gently bring her mind back to the days before he died and the day he died. She remembers a bit of that day but when I say "and do you remember that I then said xyz because I had to xyz that day" it is all as if erased from her mind. When I show her an email to me where she mentioned she had received condolences from people she says those condolences were for another person who died in her family and not her father. When I say to her "do you recall the two hours on the phone when you were alone & very distressed just after the funeral so I called you from the UK to talk to you" she looks at me blankly and says I am confused, that it was when her father was ill, not anything to do with any funeral, and "what am I talking about?!"

So I have no idea how I could lead her gently towards the truth, I have been trying now for some months, a few times a week just very carefully trying to verbally get somewhere. It seems to be getting more and more hopeless.
pgtx 29 | 3,159
23 Nov 2010  #11
So I have no idea how I could lead her gently towards the truth

the time will come when she'll be crying, screaming and just leting it all out...
she'll need your support...

what does she say if you ask her if and when she saw her dad last time?
wildrover 98 | 4,452
23 Nov 2010  #12
Its a form of amnesia i guess , like when people are involved in a traumatic accident....the brain can,t cope with the event , so simply erases all memory of it....

If you can,t get her to a doctor , then maybe you need to talk to one to find out best how to help her...?
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #13
what does she say if you ask her if and when she saw her dad last time

She says "I'm not really sure, it was definitely at least some months."

The reality would be over 2 years, of course.

Just today she said she was hoping to see him in the street near where he worked before he was ill. "I am always hoping to see him, you never know," she said to me.

"But he passed away" I replied, "No, don't be stupid, that's nasty!" she replied.

If you can,t get her to a doctor , then maybe you need to talk to one to find out best how to help her...?

I don't see her co-operating with any suggestions, and her family will probably tell me to mind my own if I push the matter again, I have already brought it up with them privately a few times. "Time will heal" is their response, in a nutshell.

The day will come when either the memory will return and she will be devastated
or
it will return and she will carry on as if the whole period of denial never happened.

I don't know which scenario is worse when trying to ascertain future stable mental health, I really don't.
pgtx 29 | 3,159
23 Nov 2010  #14
there are 5 stages of grief (by Elizabeth Kubler Ross):

denial
anger
bargaining
depression
acceptance

businessballs.com/elisabeth_kubler_ross_five_stages_of_grief.htm

she's still in the stage #1, but it's been too long....
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #15
anger

Well, I remember the anger stage back then - she was very angry that the doctors had not attended to him and that a member of her family had not helped her speak up and get her dad moved to some other hospital with a specialist in his illness. She was heard to say to the effect that better care would have prevented him dying, I remember that and her floods of angry tears quite vividly. But since then of course, something's changed in her mind.
cheehaw 2 | 263
23 Nov 2010  #16
this is really odd.
wildrover 98 | 4,452
23 Nov 2010  #17
But since then of course, something's changed in her mind.

Yes...she can,t handle it...so has gone back to stage one...
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #18
Thank you all very much for replying, many of you really giving lots of thought and coming back with more suggestions, I appreciate it.

The oddest thing is she functions 100% fine in everything else, brilliant at her work, exceptionally bright academically, great sense of humour, just no way of knowing all is not well unless this subject is brought up.

Thanks again all.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,388
23 Nov 2010  #19
BritinPoland,

I can't really help, but has she been back to visit the grave. what happened Nov 1st the day one leaves flowers at the graveside.

there are 5 stages of grief

i was chatting to someone yesterday about this. i was told three stages, but they included all on your list.

if she is still at home mother could help by clearing the house of various items connected with her husband.

if there is a memorium page somewhere dedicated to her father... have her read it.

I've seen someone who out of habit set the table for a deceased family member... months after she died.

reality kicks in eventually.
szkotja2007 27 | 1,500
23 Nov 2010  #20
We all have mental health.

Sometimes we have mental well being, sometimes we have mental health problems.

Sometimes a mental health problem can develop into mental illness.

Hard for anyone to say without talking to her but I would say she needs to talk to a professional - good luck.
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #21
I can't really help, but has she been back to visit the grave. what happened Nov 1st the day one leaves flowers at the graveside.

Yes, we all went to the graveside then. It is a family grave with her g/parents and also now her father. She stood nearby, said prayers and then argued with her mother, telling her off for affixing the memorial plaque marking the grave of her father. She said to her mother in a slightly raised voice but not raging or screaming or anything: "He is not dead, you can't wait can you? He will be back, you will see. You are very nasty, almost evil, to do this [marking a grave with my father's name] to me." However she resumed pleasant relations with her mother within a few minutes when they visited some friends' graves and some others there. I have already discussed it privately with her mother, she seems happy to wait it out rather than get her some help or counselling. Apparently her brother does not want to get involved and is rarely in touch with the mother anyway, indeed he did not even come to the graves.

Hard for anyone to say without talking to her but I would say she needs to talk to a professional - good luck.

She won't go. I have offered to pay, she asks me why she would need to go, she just doesn't seem to understand. The strangest thing is that moments after my saying to her that he is dead and she needs to come to terms with it or regain her memory, she dismisses the suggestion with a "don't be nasty" or "he'll be back, you should talk to him, he's very clever" and no argument or unpleasantness follows, she seems almost used to people telling her he's passed on as if everyone else were wrong. Sometimes her retort is so convincing that for a moment it seems as if I am indeed the one who has got it wrong and he is merely absent rather than passed away! It is so peculiar that if it were in a novel I would say "how far-fetched!".

I have recently suggested to her that we go the hospital he was last at for her to speak with them. She dismissed this and said the doctors will have no records as her mother discharged him (untrue, he died in the hospital there). She also says she has no parish priest or other close priest when I suggested that to her. At the same time she dismissed any ideas that she needed to discuss the matter with a priest, all she would say is "they don't know where my dad is, what can they do" although she added "but they could pray for him, we should all pray for him" - when I asked her to qualify what sort of prayer, she said "pray for him to recover and return to us soon to help us be a normal family again".

It may amaze some of you to read also that she was not bothered or cross when she caught me typing this message on the forum earlier. She seems perfectly convinced that it is others' mistake about her father and rolled her eyes that I was "still" being silly in thinking he was dead and even asking others for advice about her. Within moments she had changed the subject and talking about work and holidays etc.
Maybe 12 | 409
23 Nov 2010  #22
I would be very wary that when she does 'accept' what has happened this may precipitate a break down. I would seek professional help immediately not just for her but for those around her. Mental health is an issue which is often brushed under the carpet. Not discussed and is stigmatized. Post-traumatic stress manifests itself in many ways.

Good luck and get help, don't do it on your own.
dtaylor5632 18 | 2,007
23 Nov 2010  #23
Just a quick question, as I haven't really read over everything yet, but is this having a harmful affect on herself or her behaviour?
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
23 Nov 2010  #24
get help, don't do it on your own.

You're of course right, but I can't see how help will come, her family are yet to act on it and she won't listen to my suggestion to come along to the doctor's with me. You see, she thinks it's other people whose thinking is wrong on this, not her. Her mind seems to be saying to her "Oh those poor fools, why do they jump to conclusions like that? They should be humoured and not scolded." It's just like her memory has gone but she doesn't realise what's missing, like a hypnosis. When I say to her "But does it seem logical to you that he'd not be in touch all this time?" she makes non-logical responses, and usually it seems she is unaware it has been years and seems to think it's months. Recently I said "It has been several Xmases" and she seemed unsure how many. Time seems to be distorted for her.

Just a quick question, as I haven't really read over everything yet, but is this having a harmful affect on herself or her behaviour?

She gets up very late in the day, say 11am, and is on Facebook or online until very late, going to sleep at about 2am or so most of the time. However, she seems very lively and efficient when at work, good mood, sings to herself a little, concentrates well, remembers all manner of academic stuff, speaks several languages flawlessly, dresses well, eats well, no drugs or drink or smoking. I edit to add, on the rare occasions when there are very early starts at work, she is always on time.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,648
23 Nov 2010  #25
She gets up very late in the day, say 11am, and is on Facebook or online until very late, going to sleep at about 2am or so most of the time. However, she seems very lively and efficient when at work, good mood, sings to herself a little, concentrates well, remembers all manner of academic stuff, speaks several languages flawlessly, dresses well, eats well, no drugs or drink or smoking.

Hmm.

This sounds nuts, but is it possible that she's involved with some sort of sect? For some reason, this sort of behaviour sounds like someone is encouraging it - though that's just a blind stab in the dark.
dtaylor5632 18 | 2,007
23 Nov 2010  #26
She gets up very late in the day, say 11am, and is on Facebook or online until very late, going to sleep at about 2am or so most of the time

That's quite normal for some people.

However, she seems very lively and efficient when at work, good mood, sings to herself a little, concentrates well, remembers all manner of academic stuff, speaks several languages flawlessly, dresses well, eats well, no drugs or drink or smoking.

Then I would ask why change it. The acceptance of her fathers death will come in time, if it is not having any negative effects on her life at the moment, then just prepare yourself for that time when it all comes crashing home. Even then she may just have a good cry, or may need professional help. There is no point for you looking for professional help now as it seem she wouldn't accept it anyway. So just be there for her just now, don't push the issue too much (important cos you dont want to force the acceptance in the beginning as it may end up badly) and prepare yourself for when that time comes. Could be tomorrow, could be years away. The important thing to remember is that she is the same person as before and if this is her way of coping then you must help her through it, not by forcing the issue, but by standing by as her loving partner.

For some reason, this sort of behaviour sounds like someone is encouraging it - though that's just a blind stab in the dark.

No no no, this way of dealing is quite common.
OP BritinPoland 6 | 121
24 Nov 2010  #27
This sounds nuts, but is it possible that she's involved with some sort of sect? For some reason, this sort of behaviour sounds like someone is encouraging it - though that's just a blind stab in the dark.

I don't know. She is very religious in some ways, and she is an avid reader, she has various religious types as contacts on Facebook - I'm sure she's told me that before, but sects well I really don't know. Her mobile gets a lot of texts (SMSs), I know that. When she called me over to her computer once I saw an email from someone or a group or site called "TFP" and the email subject line said "Deathbed ..." something or the other. She is on Facebook a heck of a LOT though and gets a great many "friend" requests because I have seen them when talking to her on the screen behind her. I'm not on FB myself so not sure how it works or what potentially happens on SN sites.

Then I would ask why change it. The acceptance of her fathers death will come in time, if it is not having any negative effects on her life at the moment, then just prepare yourself for that time when it all comes crashing home.

Because crashing home realisations don't sound a safe bet to me, left unchecked with any sudden waking up to the facts, could be the same as letting a drunk driver drive on because he's not hurt himself or others - yet. I just don't feel comfortable with this time will heal business, even if at present there seems no other option than to try for that to become the case. It does however seem to be at least a year that time has not healed, possibly 2. I do not know, I have not been here all that time, and I will soon be back in the UK and unable to help her from there.
trener zolwia 1 | 940
24 Nov 2010  #28
This story is quite bizarre.

Her parish priest could also be worth a visit.

I was thinking this too. Seems to me that for all the comfort prayer can bring some people, that too much faith in its powers can be delusional, particularly for a mentally unstable person like this poor girl.

Its a form of amnesia i guess , like when people are involved in a traumatic accident....the brain can,t cope with the event , so simply erases all memory of it....

I think this is exactly what is going on here.

she's still in the stage #1, but it's been too long....

Right. The stages are healthy, this is not.

she can,t handle it...so has gone back to stage one...

It sure seems.

The oddest thing is she functions 100% fine in everything else, brilliant at her work, exceptionally bright academically, great sense of humour, just no way of knowing all is not well unless this subject is brought up.

Proof that level of intelligence isn't an indicator of mental stability.

a mental health problem can develop into mental illness.

Yes, I think this has crossed into mental illness.

This is all so weird. The way she clicks in and out of it is bizarre. Really like something from a movie.

she seems very lively and efficient when at work, good mood, sings to herself a little, concentrates well, remembers all manner of academic stuff, speaks several languages flawlessly, dresses well, eats well, no drugs or drink or smoking.

She sounds like a lovely girl aside from this problem. It must be very difficult for you to be so close and witness all this. You're a good friend.

But know that she has this problem concerning this one topic could indicate that there is something larger wrong and she could react to other life issues in odd ways as well.

left unchecked with any sudden waking up to the facts, could be the same as letting a drunk driver drive on because he's not hurt himself or others - yet. I just don't feel comfortable with this time will heal business

This all can't be healthy or at all good. I agree that it needs to be addressed.

I think the person you need to speak with here is a member named Natasa. Send her a PM and invite her to come read your thread here.

Please keep us informed on this story.
Good luck.
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1,098
24 Nov 2010  #29
she will get better on her own

I doubt it. How many months/years it may take?

or should she be seen by an expert?

the sooner the better
f stop 25 | 2,513
24 Nov 2010  #30
One of the hardest things to deal with after you loose a loved one, is people trying to come up with something to say to you: if there's anything I can do (no there isn't, unless you can bring back the dead), I know how you feel (no you don't), if you need someone to talk to (last thing I want to do)... all those things used to p!ss me off to no end. Maybe she is a genius and she'd figured out a sure-fire way to make sure nobody tries to make her feel better about his death.

If that is not the case, then I would not try to bring her back to reality without a trained proffessional and some serious drugs around.

That said, if I had my choice, I'd rather have the fantasy... I wish I could make myself believe that he's just away for a while.. As it is, any thought of him causes me mental and physical pain, so I try not ot think about him at all, and that is so unfair to his memeory..

Let her be.


Home / Life / Mental health problem or one of the grieving stages? Death and denial in Poland.
BoldItalic [quote]
 
To post as Guest, enter a temporary username or login and post as a member.