Where are you in your grief journey ?

By: Marcia Meyer Jenkins RN, GS, CPLC
Mother of Mike Jenkins (3/3/66 – 5/5/11)

How often do we hear, how are you doing? What are people really asking us?  Where are we in our grief journey. So what exctly is grief . . .

The Dictionary definition is: deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death. Grief is the inward feeling of sadness, anguish, and despair. Mourning on the other hand is the outward expression of these feelings…crying, screaming, throwing things, or maybe like me beating in the side wall of the garage with a baseball bat. Crazy behavior, whatever it was, I felt better afterwards.

When we lost our loved one to CTE, chances were we didn’t know it yet. So, the reality of their death was too difficult to takes in. It’s called Shock and Numbness and it is our friend. It allows us to take what has happened in, on our own terms, not anyone else’s. We don’t remember what people have said. Our sleep patterns are distorted; we have very little interest in anything. Sometimes, these same feeling resurface around the anniversary, leaving us confused.

Once the clouds begin to part and we begin to see what has happened and the results. We begin the journey of Searching and Yearning it comes to allow ask the hard questions… why did they end their lives, should or could I have done more…did I really know them at all…if they loved me how  could they have killed themselves? ? ?

The months go past and we begin to see reality set in. Those that had been so interested and provided support have moved on, this period is called Disorientation. During this time we may begin to feel “sick ourselves”. Things that were second nature, now are a struggle to figure out. Actives are exhausting. We don’t know how to enter into what has become our confused new life.

As we approach the year anniversary we begin the time know as Reorganization: during this time energy slowly begins to increase. There are times when we feel the much lost sense of joy again. Sleeping and eating have found a new routine. We start imagine what life may look like without the one we love.

When we look at grief from the stand point of losing someone we love to expected cause. Grief models suggest 1 to 2 years. However, when we lose someone to traumatic death the finding show that grief peaks at 3 years.

Tools we need for the journey…

  • Take good care of yourself. Keep hydrated (drink plenty of water)
  • Talk with your doctor for recourses. Counseling and medications
  • Don’t judge yourself… much of this time you won’t remember
  • Find at least one person who will listen and has your health and safety in mind
  • Keep open communication… especially if there are children involved
  • At journeys end there are sunrises of Hope and sunsets of Peace.

Brain donation

By: Debra Pyka
Mother of Joseph Chernach (07/11/86 – 06/06/12)

After losing my son, Joseph, to suicide I decided to donate his brain tissue for research at the request of my oldest son. We were searching for an explanation for his change in behavior, mood and depression which he had been suffering for years. Knowing an autopsy was ordered by the coroner at the time of death the decision was painful yet we were also searching for answers to our devastating loss. The CTE diagnosis was not a shock to me as I knew Joseph would be diagnosed with CTE, but we were shocked as to the severity and damaged caused by this preventable disease. Dr. Ann McKee diagnosed Joseph with Stage II-III CTE.

On a recent trip to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL., I was able to watch the slicing of several brains by Dr. Dennis Dickson and other neuropathologist students from other countries. We were given a tour of the brain bank by Kevin Bieniek and learned the importance of research and science to help us understand how the brain can be affected by many different neurological diseases. Brain donation will provide important information as to a final diagnosis and advance research to prevent these neurological diseases in the future. Please consider donating your loved one’s brain if they were exposed to head trauma at any age from collision sports. Contact us for further information for brain donation. 1- 800-891-1342.

When the Cheering Stops

  • By: Cyndy Feasel
    Former wife of Grant Feasel (06/28/60 – 07/15/12)

    “If I’d only known that what I loved the most would end up killing me and taking away everything I loved, I would have never done it.”

    These were among the last words spoken to Cyndy Feasel by her late husband, Grant Feasel. He was talking about playing professional football.

    Unless you’re a longtime Seattle Seahawks fan of a certain age, you’ve never heard Grant Feasel, who was the starting center and long snapper for the Seahawks from 1987 to 1992 after starting his pro football career with the old Baltimore Colts in 1983. While playing 117 games in the National Football League, Grant was just another anonymous offensive lineman who toiled in the trenches, banging up his battered body with every snap of the ball. Those jarring collisions with powerful nose guards took their toll on Grant in physical, mental, and spiritual ways, which Cyndy describes in her new book, After the Cheering Stops.

    “After Grant retired from the NFL, he started drinking to dull the pain that began in his brain—a brain muddled by a history of repetitive trauma and symptomatic concussions,” Cyndy said. “Neither of us knew at the time that he was slowly drinking himself to death—a lingering process that took nearly twenty years. I can assure you that there was collateral damage: our marriage was destroyed, our three children were greatly impacted, and I was left financially reeling. All because my husband played a violent game that entertains tens of millions of football fans every Sunday.”

    Life did not end well for Grant. He died at the age of 52 in 2012—much too young. Cyndy watched the man of her dreams die every day in front of her eyes. Today, she faces a bleak future with deep emotional scars that will likely keep her in therapy for the rest of her life.

    “Although Grant missed his real gifts and destiny in this world, I believe he’d be cheering me on to share his story as a precautionary tale of what can happen when you play a sport you love but has inherit risks that wreak tremendous physical damage,” Cyndy said.

    As an elementary and middle school art teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, Cyndy is already seeing the effects of sport-related concussions on the children her classroom. Since Grant’s death, Cyndy has made it her mission to educate parents, athletes, and their families about the dangers of contact sports and the impact to everyone around them.

    After the Cheering Stops is her first book. She is available for media interviews. Contact her through her website a www.cyndyfeasel.com.