Grief, and not letting go

Bereaved people will often find they are encouraged to ‘get over it’. Sometimes those who are deemed excessively grief-stricken will find themselves on anti-depressants even. Society allows us a little compassionate leave to sort out the funeral and any other practical details. Then we are supposed to ‘get over it’ and be back on form.

Some losses aren’t that hard to take. The death of an elderly relative or friend who had lived a good life and passed over gently, is not always that traumatic. We grieve the personal loss, celebrate the life lived, and wish them well on their journey. Such losses, along with those of people we weren’t so close to in the first place, it is indeed possible to ‘get over’ in a reasonable, socially acceptable time frame.

But what happens when it isn’t? The devastating loss of a soulmate, or a child, or of someone close who was far too young to be taken, can leave gaping holes in the lives of those left behind. When death is entirely unexpected, traumatic, brutal, or leaves too much unresolved, there is no quick and easy way of healing.

About a year ago, a friend of mine died. She was in her thirties, and left a husband and young child absolutely devastated. I’m still grieving for her too, quietly. I regret the things I didn’t tell her, and the things we weren’t able to share. Some deaths its possible to accept, others take a lot more getting used to.

For the sake of the living, we are supposed to put on a brave face, and cope, even when loss has broken us. This is a cruel nonsense, perpetrated (I can only assume) by people who have never been ripped apart by the loss of a loved one. Some people never form close bonds, or get a fair way into life before they lose their grandparents. It’s not an easy thing to understand until you’ve been through it.

About the worst thing to do to a person who is grieving is to suggest that they will feel better in time. Part of the point with this degree of devastation is that there is no desire to ‘get over it’, the loss is too great. Learning to live with the gap a loss creates can take a lot of time, whole ways of thinking and being have to change. The best thing to do is listen, let the bereaved one speak of their loss, as much as they need to. Let them tell the stories that make them laugh, make them cry, and share those recollections with others. It is ok to grieve. It is necessary, and it takes some people longer than others.

 So do not demand of yourself, or anyone else that they ‘get over it’. Sometimes that isn’t an option, and there is nothing to do but carry the loss and have it become part of who you are thereafter. That’s a valid choice to make. If there is nothing to do but live with the loss, that should be honoured and respected. Some people in our lives cannot, must not be forgotten or let go of, and there should be no obligation on the living to ‘move on’ or ‘get on with their lives’. So long as a person is reasonably functional, no one has the right to demand more than that in the face of loss.

4 thoughts on “Grief, and not letting go”

  1. Thank you…how brilliantly put. It is a valid choice to make to have that remembrance and grieving become a part of who you are. The loved one was a part of you and that cannot be shed. You are different after a terrible loss…you carry on and live as “normally” as possible, but will be forever changed.

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  2. Wonderfully written.

    Over the past seventeen years, I’ve lost both my parents, and a dear friend. There is nothing more devastating than losing a loved one and we all grieve in our own way and our own time.

    My father was the first I lost. He was 62 and died of a sudden heart attack. Our relationship had been volatile mainly due to issues that he no control over and I was a foolish child about. The last thing I’d said to him when we were together was ‘I hate you and I never want to see you again.’ — I didn’t. It took me a decade to work out those unresolved feelings of guilt and loss.

    My friend was the second I lost. He was 28, dying of cancer (his second bout) and he’d been given six months to live. Rather than tell anyone he chose to come visit his family and friends then went home and killed himself. He planned everything, down to picking out his funeral suit, and left multiple letters and instructions. None of it made things easier even though he tried to make it so.

    My mother was the last to date. She passed from bone cancer three years ago at the age of 65. Her death, though not unexpected, was complicated by the oldest of my two younger brothers. She was on the phone with him when she passed. No sooner than she took her last breath he called the mortuary arranged for her cremation, paid for everything up front, and informed the funeral director that her ashes were to be sent to him in Washington state. He had to have our permission for the cremation, but the rest he could do without and the only recourse I or my other brother had was to take him to court. After three weeks of fighting back and forth I let her go. No funeral, no memorial service, and I walked away my heart broken.

    I dealt with each loss differently, but all of them are in my thoughts still. I tell stories about them, some that bring tears to my eyes, and others that make me laugh so hard I can’t breath. As long as they are in my heart, my soul, and my memories for me they are still alive. I know when it is my turn to make that journey they will greet me on the path; whole, beautiful, and with open arms.

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    1. Yes, it was difficult and still is in a way, but the losses in my life have shaped me into the strong woman I am today.

      My dad was who gifted me with the ability to write. He always wanted to be a song writer, but his dream never came true. Every day that I sit down in front of the computer and write whether it is one or one thousand words I honor his memory.

      My friend, well he was one of the many gay men I’ve known that inspired my writing in the m/m genre. His passion and spirituality was inspiring when he was alive. He said in one of the letters he wrote before taking his life “I hope God understands why I did this. It wasn’t because I couldn’t take the pain I could, but rather I do this hoping that I spare my friends and family the pain of seeing me waste away.”

      My mother was and continues to be the reason I know what true love and strength is. Even in her illness she fought until her body and mind was exhausted. She didn’t have an easy life, but she never lost her sense of humor.

      Sadly, loss is a part of life. If you grieve by honoring the memory of those you love then you not only grow as a human being, but can pass on the lessons those you’ve lost taught you.

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