Understanding Complicated Grief Syndrome, Hoarding & The Death Of A Loved One…
In psychiatry, complicated grief disorder (CGD) is a proposed disorder for those who are significantly and functionally impaired by prolonged grief symptoms for at least one month after six months of bereavement. It is distinguished from non impairing grief and other disorders.
Understanding the symptoms of complicated grief isn’t easy but, there are signs: Persistent or intense yearnings, frequent or intense loneliness, or feelings of life being meaningless without the person who died, inability to accept death, emotionally numb, anger or bitterness regarding the death.
These symptoms cause significant stress or impairment in social, occupational and other areas of the survivors life.
How does hoarding tie in with complicated grief syndrome? Well, it can be a complicated explanation of the survivor “trying to hang on to possessions of the loved one they’ve lost,” or trying to fill the void by hanging on to things they no longer need or even buying things that remind them of the loved one they’ve lost.
I’ve seen various degrees of hoarding after a death that include animal hoarding (having far too many pets and continuing to add more pets). There are many causes of hoarding exhibited after the death of a loved one.
Yesterday, I went to the Northside to view a possible estate liquidation sale aka Pawning Party. The yard itself gave an indication of the interior and although shocking, didn’t deter me from the Appraisal Appointment and attempting to help this elderly woman from liquidating what had value and dumping what didn’t.
I’ve seen many homes, trailers and barns loaded to the rafters of items that the owner never planned to use. Often, they themselves have no idea that they are hoarders and refer to their items as a “collection.” Ms Baxter explained that “she didn’t want to leave all of this for her children to sort out.” Many Liquidations are based on the clients inability to part with items on their own and this Liquidation is no exception. I normally ask that they set aside items they can’t party with but in this case, it was everything. My digging for buried treasure will take some time but, it usually does. Organizing and separating items isn’t easy, it’s hard work and you can plan to get a little dirty while finding a few unexpected items (empty bottles or boxes, cockroaches or mice feces).
On Saturday July 6, 2013, my family lost our beloved Gretta Fern Ozee. Gretta brought a breath of fresh air to my dads life and after losing her previous husband, Olin Ozee, suffered from complicated grief syndrome. If you had met her outside of her home (a few blocks from WorthamWorld), you would have never guessed that Lovely Lady Gretta was a hoarder!
“Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty of discarding or parting with possessions because of the perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, often occurs.”
Although many hoarders may have other disorders, hoarding is an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OPCD), or attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and occasionally based on depression.
The first time that I ever met Gretta was at Baylor Hospital heading into my dads room where he was awaiting a quadruple bypass. Perfectly dressed and driving a pristine Cadillac DTS, Gretta stepped out of her car and introduced herself to my twin sister and I. She had a laugh that would command a room, a smile that lit a dark sky and she was exciting, funny, warm and inviting. We had never met anyone like her and perhaps never will again. Lady Gretta was one in ten million.
Our first visit to her home was a bit of an eye opener mainly because I had expected someone like Gretta to have a home mirroring my own with no pillow out of place and everything glistening just like her.
Cindy and I had never actually been into a home as “loaded” as Gretta’s in 2007 but, overlooked the rooms filled with boxes, racks of clothes and miscellaneous other items because we accepted Gretta as she was and although we didn’t understand the situation, knew she was a wonderful person who had spent her life caring for others with her big heart and taken care of both her previous husbands who died while in her care. I knew that she had done everything possible to make their last days comfortable due to the way she had cared for our father after his heart surgery and with the love she showed to our little Pawners, Maryssa and Makenna Mahaney who often enjoyed slumber parties with Gretta and Dad.
Even today I can’t believe I won’t hear her hollering “come on in Sug! I just got more packages from QVC or HSN.” She loved home shopping channels and loved getting her packages daily. Most folks who don’t often leave home and suffer from complicated grief are dedicated viewers of home shopping shows and Gretta truly enjoyed opening a new box of something shiny and wonderful.
It was very difficult to officiate her funeral and my role as a funeral clergy is to comfort the mourners and most certainly not to mourn myself but, assisting with her hair and make up while choosing her last “outfit” and putting on her jewelry for her last appearance gave me an opportunity to grieve privately at Greenwood Funeral Home and “get it out of my system.”
My dad would never be the same after six years with Gretta. She always had a Dr Pepper in one hand and a cigarette in the other and she always had a smile and elegance about her. She truly was a southern star with the ability to bring a smile to anyone’s face and make you feel comfortable whether there was a chair for you to sit on or not. I shall forever miss her grace, her smile, her laugh and her warm heart- she impacted our lives and while she loved acquiring new stuff- she was bright, she was different and she was outspoken and hilarious.
Our friend, Tammi Leggett also loves to shop and recently moved to a new home. It’s going to take a bit of time to get everything from one home to another because Tammi loves getting new packages too and enjoys a full house with three dogs & two cats. Like Gretta, Tammi is fun loving and quick with a smile and we often visit by laying or sitting on her bed where like Gretta, she spends a lot of her time. Tammi struggles with foot and leg pain and while she would love to accompany us on our many adventures to Appraisal Appointments, Weddings, Divorce Parties, Pawning Parties, Baby Showers & More- her pain often prevents her from leaving her house.
It isn’t “easy” to understand complicated grief but Tammi lost both of her parents and was especially close to her mother. It’s a loss she may never recover from and it isn’t as unusual as you might think.
My brother in law, Steve Daniel is a good ole country boy who can tell you the exact moment his mother died and tell you of his childhood memories of going fishing with his parents or his friends. Steve Daniel will miss having his mother for the rest of his life. He enjoys fishing because it reminds him of happy and simpler times.
Have patience when dealing with grieving families and attempting to help them sell or liquidate their possessions because my friend- you will certainly need it…