7 Nov 2008

College Notes for today (October 22nd part 2)

Welcome to part two of October 22nd's notes, it was a veritable feast of knowledge, hence it having to be split into two parts. Well I also wanted to separate this part from the more 'me' part of that lesson, as they each deserve their own space.

After the first part of the lesson, we then went back to the topic of grief and whizzed through some very interesting things. As always, these are just my notes, not actually in-depth posts about these things. I always try to add some extra info links and doodles, because this helps me remember the stuff that I need to look into more.

Rose, my Wednesday tutor, read out this poem about grief, stating that it was one that had just stuck with her from the time she first read it.

Grief Poem by Margot Sunderland:
And when you left.
I hung my lifeless life
Like a long unchosen garment 
In the dark belly of some forgotten wardrobe,
and will you know?
Doodled interpretation of poem by me 
Well the poem certainly stayed with me and inspired the above doodle. 

How did it make you feel? 
Do have you any poems about grief that resonate with you?

Next we dipped our toes into the world of brain chemistry and how it is affected by grief. A lot of this research has gone into how children are affected by grief, focusing on attachment and primary attachment theories.
'Attachment is a process made up of interactions between a child and his or her primary caregiver. This process begins at birth, helping the child develop intellectually, organize perceptions, think logically, develop a conscience, become self-reliant, develop coping mechanisms (for stress, frustration, fear, and worry), and form healthy and intimate relationships' (Allen, et al., 1983).
 The primary caregiver is usually the mother, but could be the father, grandparents or even an unrelated adult.
More info found here and here.

I get a bit flummoxed when I have to think about the chemistry side of it, although it is fascinating. Let see if I can make some sense of it. Oxytocin is the chemical released in the brain that bonds you to your primary care giver, this then releases opioids that make you happy. So when a child loses their primary attachment, they can go into hormonal and separation distress.
Have you noticed when a child is attached to a blanket or toy, they stroke it and soothe themself? This action is meant to release the same opioids that are released when they are soothed by their primary attachments.
Losing a loved one is meant to be as painful and harrowing as coming off heroin, when talking about whats going on with you physically. I guess thats what they mean when they say that love is a drug?

  Other links

Personal Journal entry for october 22nd.
It was such a relief to jump back into theory today, even though grief is such a difficult topic.
You cant help but be preoccupied with your own thoughts of lost loved ones.In fact it has made me realise how much I have avoided thinking about my grandparents and their deaths. If only I knew the stuff that I know now, but then again I am not sure it would of made a difference at that time. We also learnt a few exercises/interventions that were originally designed for children, but also work with adults. Margot Sutherland, who wrote the poem about grief, has written a lot of books for children and how to talk to them about grief. The books are very special and it has really made me think about going down the child counselling avenue.

Next lot of notes will be a bit more cheery.


  1. I know that the poem is supposed to be about death (at least I think it is) but it most definitely makes me think about the grief of a lost love, something that can be equally traumatic and earth-shattering on its own.

    When my first marriage ended I remembered thinking that it would have been easier had he just died rather than my having to know that he was still out and about living his life without me because he no longer wanted me anymore. Talk about having your heart torn out of your chest and then stomped on.

    Ah yes, love is a many splendord thing ...

  2. Who knew learning counseling would give you counseling at the same time? Lovely. :)

  3. Interesting notes and doodles once again, Claire! BTW, your journal entry hit a note with me, as I've often wondered myself what it would be like to have known the things I know now, back then. I doubt it would have changed the end result, but ordinary moments would have turned into more cherished ones...

    But then again, I believe they're still with me in spirit anyways. How else could I explain the beautiful, sunny weather the day I visited my grandmother's hometown last year??!! LOL

  4. I don't have a poem, but the song "God only knows" by the Beach Boys does it for me. When my brother died it seemed to express all the stuff that I couldn't articulate myself. It's not about death but the second verse still chokes me every time.

  5. Wow, your illustrations are really amazing. You should think about doing a graphic novel of some kind ... The Illustrated Claire :). These remind me a bit of Persepolis.

  6. The doodle really illustrates what is behind the words.

  7. Even though I'd lost all my grandparents, I didn't appreciate how devastating grief can feel until my dad died unexpectedly a few years ago. Looking back, I'd seen so many great-aunts and great-uncles go, that I expected my grandparents to go at some time too. Parents are different. You (at least I) always expect them to be there, somewhere, even if you don't see them on a regular basis.

    On the one-year anniversary of my Dad's death, I did a brain dump on my blog about everything that had happened and how I was feeling. Occasionally I'll make references to my Dad, but mostly my grief for him has been quiet. In the first year, I probably thought about him a dozen times a day, but I hardly ever said anything. Each year since it's gotten better. Now I think I'm over the grief part. But yet I still like it when I call my mother's house and hear my Dad's voice on the machine answering the phone. And I still keep his business card in my wallet because it has a hand-written telephone number on it.

    Grief is complex. You might think it's just emotional, but that depressed emotion affects other parts of your body. Just a few months after he died, I came down with a mono-like virus that laid me up for a full month. I'm not someone who ever gets sick like that, and I know it was because I was run-down and vulnerable.

  8. Keep up the great work are helping yourself while helping others and I know you will be doingso for a long long time! :)

  9. Your post really resonated with me, Claire. Just 2 days ago, a good friend of a good friend committed suicide. I hadn't met her yet, but I would've spent some time with her this month. She was coming out to visit, and I was supposed to go to a show with them and have Thanksgiving, etc. My friend is completely crushed, and I feel so sad for her, and the rest of this girl's friends and family. It sounds as though she had been going through a lot of pain for a long time, but maybe if she really knew how many lives she touched and how many people loved her deeply, she wouldn't have felt so overwhelmed and alone. But then, depression, like grief, is chemical, and sometimes all the love in the world can't help.

    But it definitely can't hurt, either.

    Thanks for the post, Claire.

  10. I have been REALLY lucky in the grief department. I have not had to deal with the loss of too many close loved ones. I have had to give 'up' things that I loved very dearly, which in a sense is a loss, thus grief.

    I truly enjoy your College Notes posts. You have No Idea how much they have been secretly helping me. So, Thank You!

  11. Hi Claire,
    In regards to grief and it's physical effects I know losing my mother took a definite toll physically.

    Within 6 weeks of her death I lost 9 teeth due to abscesses. The surgeon said said there could be no other explanation for these many incidents in such a small amount of time.

    So my grief manifested itself with my guns and teeth. I suffered tremendously physically.

    Perhaps my psyche couldn't handle the emotional crisis at the time and somehow transfer the pain into a tangible reality that distracted me both mentally and spiritually.

  12. @Linda, I think originally it was meant to be about death, the poem I mean. I can definitely see how it fits with the loss of a loved one in other ways too. Everything we have been taught about grief so far can be applied to other losses too. I have read so many quotes and poems, whilst on the hunt for ones that resonate with me. There were so many ones that fit into the category of broken hearted. Its make you wonder why people expect folks just to get over a break up.

    @Chica, I certainly wasn't expecting it at all! Although the last year has been particularly tough, it has been excellent!

    @Erik, I think that like you, the ordinary moments have turned into cherished ones and there are lot of things I can think about with a smile now, that I couldn't do before.

    @Bird, Thanks for telling me that and I am sorry to hear about your brother. For some reason I always miss out music and the significance it has for people at moments in their life. I shall have to look at music in more detail :)

    @Francis Scudellaris, thats a big compliment coming from you :) Funny you should say that, but for my final counselling project I am Illustrating/doodling a lot, so it will be a graphic novel of my own, just the one copy though. I will have to watch Persepolis, it looks cool.

    @Jean-Luc Picard, I have realised that I think a lot more in pictures than I ever thought, so I really wanted to have a go at doodling this. That way if nobody wanted to read my ramblings they would at least see the doodle.

    @haleyhughes, aww Haley I am sorry about your dad. I really appreciate you writing about your experience here.

    @Olga, the Traveling Bra, You almost read my mind sometimes, thanks for being such a supportive piece of underwear.

    @C, Oh that makes me sad too, its hard to find the right words to say to someone when they have lost someone to suicide. People cant fathom it and struggle to get their head around why they would do something like that. Unfortunately they never really get the answers to those questions and are left with that sadness. I think your friend is lucky to have a friend like you to talk to. I have just started reading a book called "A special scar" which is about losing a loved one to suicide, if its worth reading or passing on to your friend I will let you know.

    @Meleah rebeccah, I definitely think giving up anything that is a big part of your life is a loss and fits into the grief category.

    (and thanks for the lovely commment)

    @Shinade, I am sorry to hear that you suffered so terribly after your mum died, that must of been awful for you. I think grief literally is a shock to the system and like haley said, your immune system takes a battering.

    I really appreciate all the comments, I know these posts arent the easiest or most fun things to read. It is great having you all follow me as I study.