Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bereavement - A cause of anti-smoking behaviour.

It is with some trepidation that I post on this subject, however I feel it is better not to ignore the anonymous comment on my earlier post linking to Enstrom's new paper. The poster's comment raises issues that are of importance to the cause of the pro-choice minded individual, but also are germane to the bereaved. It is a known phenomenum that the anti-smoker will post bogus remarks such as these but I will assume that this posters situation is genuine.

The process of emotional upheaval after the death of a loved one has been the subject of much analysis over a long period of time. Psychological opinion breaks done the turmoil into several sections and variably suggests that for the process to run a complete course leading to resolution these stages must be traversed. Some experts believe that the order is not set in stone and that some of the processes may need revisiting or iteration.

These processes theoretically lead to solutions for the all too overwhelming emotions of "Guilt", "Sadness", "Loss", "Anger" and "Blame" to mention a few. The negative and powerful emotions brought by the feelings of guilt, anger and blame are often too easily dealt with more immediately by assuming or assigning a "scapegoat"; an easy peg to hang the blame on; a person or concept to explain the unpleasant event.

Commomly health professionals see this manifest as anger directed at them and are trained to deal with this as compassionately as possible. Guilt, usually wholely inappropriate, is natural and it is the case that, sometimes, the only way to deflect this guilt is to search for an outside source for fault. If the bereaved smoked, as a result of 50 years of public health information, it is reasonable to think that this habit may have contributed to the death of the individual. However, some go further than this and blame tobacco, the tobacco industry, smoking, the bereaved for smoking and even other smokers for the event and furthermore find it difficult to pass onward from this position. The position harbouring and nurturing feelings of guilt, blame and anger.

It is my belief that this can halt the bereavement process and if such a process is mandatory for for resolution, then the bereaved persons life is scarred for eternity. A very well known example of this is the family, friends and fans of Roy Castle. He didn't smoke and so it is the misinformation of the WHO, who probably awoke this idea that his exposure to ETS was to blame. My anonymous commenter is another one although early in the process.

For the pro-choice protagonists reading it is well recognised that this phenomenon contributes to the numbers of anti-smokers as detailed by Michael J McFadden in his book, "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains".

My mother died a year ago on the 9th December and my personal experience of loss has naturally coloured my views, as has a very considerable experience of contact with the bereaved. My mother died of ovarian cancer and was a smoker for a short period of her life. She accepted her lot with consumate dignity, there is a family history. My guilt was immediate as the symptoms had been present for a good year or so before diagnosis. This is however a well recognised problem with ovarian cancer. I am helped by this and knowledge of the poor treatment results for this condition. I am resolved to accept that death is an inevitable consequence of life and can fondly remember my mother for her strength, support and her smile. I could blame multitudes of health professionals who had contact with her in the year before diagnosis but this would serve no purpose. I could blame her for not making more fuss. However, there is no blame, it was and always is inevitable that we will die and I prefer to praise the care she received and her heroic attitude.

I'll conclude for now, and hope that if this post causes any discussion, it is constructive.