January 2016
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Dear Donor Families,

The first month of 2016 has drawn to a close.  Has January left you feeling like the year has started off at a rapid pace?  Perhaps for some, the first month of the year has felt long.  No matter how you are feeling after beginning a new year, the winter season often offers extended nights for rest and renewal, cold temperatures that may bring us around a table of warm food with friends and family or a favorite chair to curl up with a soft blanket to sit and reflect. 

Many of you have mentioned reading the monthly Grief Tips as one of your regular activities.  Each month brings new subscribers.  If this is your first newsletter, we welcome you.  The path of Grief and mourning is not one that any of us would have chosen; however, this is a place where survivors may take a moment to read and share with each other and to help all who have suffered loss realize that there are others walking their own path of grief.  You are not alone.  In fact, others may benefit greatly from a story of your loved one or by a personal experience you  encountered following loss.  Please know this is a safe place for all who would like to share.  It would be a honor to include your submissions in a future Grief Tips Newsletter.  If interested, kindly contact me. 

Before reading January's featured content, please take a moment to note up-coming events and mark them on your calendar.

  • February 7th, Team KY meeting, regarding the National Transplant Games.  The mandatory meeting will be held in Frankfort at the KBA Building at 2pm. 
  • March 5th, Donor Family Council meeting in KODA Louisville office at noon.
  • Every Thursday in March,  Fundraiser for Team KY at Boombozz Craft Pizza & Tap House on Hurstbourne Lane, Louisville.  Click here for details.
  • April 23rd, Alexandra Hamilton Memorial 5K in Whitley County.  Click here for additional information. 
  • May 19th,  Golf Scramble fundraiser for Team KY at Quail Chase Golf Course, Louisville.  Click here for additional deatils.
  • June 10th-15th,  The National Transplant Games in Cleveland, Ohio.
Be good to yourself & kind to others,
Gretchen Boje
Family Aftercare Coordinator
Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates
10160 Linn Station Rd.
Louisville, KY 40223
Toll free:  1-800-525-3456
Phone: (502) 379-6923 

Healing After Trauma
The loss of a loved one may occur in numerous ways.  Those who are dear to us may live a long life and experience death by natural causes.  Some may succumb to a long-term illness.  Yet, for families of organ donors, the loss was sudden and unplanned, due to a traumatic brain injury.  This could have been from a massive brain bleed, an accident, homicide or suicide.  The commonality of this type of loss is that it is traumatic and sudden, which may make grief and mourning more complex. 

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, PhD. noted in his book, Healing Your Traumatized Heart  "You are now struggling with both the traumatic nature of the death and your grief over the loss."  This is a lot for a person to carry and process during such a time of intense loss.  While working with families through the years, many have stated how overwhelmed they feel and how they have no capacity to cope with such a traumatic loss, such as homicide, for example.  According to Dr. Wolfelt, it is normal for one who has been traumatized to be overwhelmed and to have little capacity to cope.  He goes on to say, "Naturally traumatized mourners often find themselves replaying and reconsidering over and over the circumstances of the death.  This is both normal and necessary.  Such replay helps you begin to acknowledge the reality of the death and integrate it into your life.  It is as if your mind needs to devote time and energy to comprehending the circumstances of the death before it can move on to confronting the fact that someone you love has died." 

It is important to mention that, "The traumatic nature of the death and your thoughts and feelings about it will color every aspect of your grief.  It is part of your grief.  But, it is not the totality of your grief.  Other factors that contribute to your grief include the nature of the relationship you had with the person who died, your unique personality, your religious and cultural backgrounds, your gender, your age, your previous experiences with loss, as well as others.  Your grief is a complicated blend of thoughts and emotions, most of which stem from your love for the person who died.  Over time you will come to find that your grief is as much or more about the life than it is about the death."
An important point to consider regarding traumatized grief is to understand that grief following trauma is particularly difficult.  Dr. Wolfelt shares, "Not only has someone you care about died, but the death was sudden and violent.  The traumatic aspects of the death will likely make your grief journey especially painful.  Grief is the collection of thoughts and feelings you have on the inside after someone dies.  This includes the thoughts and feelings you have about the death itself.  Because the death was sudden and violent, this aspect of your grief may consume most of your energies, especially in the early weeks and months following the death.  Even much later, after you have come to terms with the nature of the death, it will always be a significant part of your grief.  Remember that just as your feelings of grief need to be expressed, so do your feelings of trauma.  Your trauma is part of your grief and also needs to be mourned.  Keep in mind that 'healing' your trauma loss and 'curing' your trauma loss are two different concepts.  Healing is an active emotional and spiritual process in which you seek to be whole again.  Curing is a medical term that implies that someone or something outside of you rids you of your grief.  Your grief cannot be 'cured;' it will always live inside you."  

Another common feeling surrounding traumatic grief is numbness.  Again, it is normal to respond to your environment in this manner.  Healing Your Traumatized Heart  illustrates this reality very clearly.  "Feelings of shock, numbness and disbelief are nature's way of temporarily protecting us from the full reality of a sudden, violent death.  They help us survive our early grief.  We often think, 'I will wake up and this will not have happened.'  Mourning can feel like being in a dream.  Your emotions need time to catch up with what your mind has been told.  Even after you have moved beyond these initial feelings, don't be surprised if they reemerge.  Birthdays holidays, and anniversaries often trigger these normal and necessary feelings.  Trauma loss often goes beyond what we consider 'normal' shock.  In fact, you may experience what is called 'psychic numbing'-the deadening or shutting off of emotions.  Your sense that 'this isn't happening to me' may persist for months, sometimes even years.  Don't set rigid expectations for yourself and your ability to function 'normally' in the world around you.  Think of shock and numbness as a bandage that your psyche has placed over your wound.  The bandage protects the wound until it becomes less open and raw.  Only after healing has begun and a scab forms is the bandage removed and the wound openly exposed to the world." 

In closing, perhaps we should think of the winter months as the bandage which is gently and protectively wrapped around our hearts.  As the trees stand stark and lean without the presence of their lovely leaves, their roots grow deeper and stronger within the ground which anchors them.  We who have been traumatized and stricken with grief must remain bandaged as we heal our hearts so that in our own time of spring, we may emerge deeply rooted in the love we have experienced and the courage to face a new season.


Copyright © 2016 Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, All rights reserved.

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