Artist Celeste Roberge Physical feeling of grief in sculpture.
In April I lost my sister, my husband and my best friend. People usually respond by saying,
"I can't … I just can’t possibly imagine."
I think you can. I think you can, and I think you should. Why? Because, someday, it's going to happen to you. Not these specific losses in this specific order or speed, but you need to imagine it. The research I’ve seen will stun you: Everyone you love has a 100 percent chance of dying.
That's why you came to this BLOG, you came to find out about mourning and grief. A reader wrote, “Please, tell me what happened to ‘mourning?’ Where did it go? Why do friends expect it to be over after services? Am I wrong to want people who are near to me help?” I learned, through my patients, the most hurtful phrase uttered: “Move on.”
I spent years working with Hospice, watching people who were left alone during their mourning time. That’s exactly when they need friends––grief is working its way through them. People leave because they can’t stand to suffer. But, suffering makes a person courageous and you need friends for support.
When your person dies, your friends and family members may try to find someone who has gone through a similar event so you can talk and compare notes. That way your sadness won’t be on them. You two can talk about your ‘dead person’, and say things other people aren't ready or willing to hear. Yet. If they are not engaged and supportive they are merely grief-adjacent, and not yet grief-stricken. Sadly, some think ‘moving on’ or ’being in a better place’ is comforting. But it’s not.
Since my year of losses, I’m happy to say I’ve met a wonderful person and life is good. By any measure, life is very good. But I haven't 'moved on.' The last thing I want to hear is, “you have to move on.” That’s like telling me, that life and death and love are just moments that can be left behind, and probably should be.
I’m sorry. People we love and lose remain present for us. We find ourselves saying, "Oh, he or she is ..." and then we catch ourselves. It’s because they are in our hearts and minds. We think of them often. And not in the way that they are in a better place. They are indelible; ever present in our grieving.
Those I lost are present in the work I do, the children we raised together, even in those who came into my life after my losses. My new great grandchildren.
They are present in my new relationship. Their life and love and death made me the person that I am now. See, I've not moved on. Frankly, I’ve moved forward.
Grief doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens with and within many emotions. Dialing a number that will never be answered again. If only someone would say, “Call me, I’ll drop everything and listen.” And mean it. I want to hear, “I’m a good listener and I’ll bring the tissues.” That would really work for me.
Grief is one of those things, like, falling in love or having a baby–– you don't get it until…well, until it's your love or your baby, or your grief and you’re in the front row at a funeral. Then you understand what you're experiencing is not a moment in time, it's not a bone that will reset, you've been touched by something chronic. Something incurable. It's not fatal even though sometimes grief feels like it. Often you wish it was fatal.
As we mourn, we need to remind one another that some things can't be fixed, not all wounds are meant to heal. We need each other to remember, to know that grief is a multi-faceted emotion that can be sad and happy. A grieving person can laugh again and smile again. If they're lucky, even find love again. But moving forward doesn't mean that they've moved on.
In closing, this is a lesson learned from Metta Institute's End of Life Practitioner Training. “Suffering creates courage.”
Don’t be afraid of sadness, stay with grieving people, mourn, it is a gift of great proportion and you will grow immensely in character.