An article about the rituals of grief caught my eye yesterday. The article in and of itself made some good points about ritualizing. They should have stopped there. The language used in the article took my attention away from its’ merits.
Try this on for size:
“Even so, while some of the grief-stricken remain depressed for long periods of time-developing what’s called “complicated grief”, most people move on”.
Let me, for a moment, put out the fire that is flaming from my ears to just say…”What the fuck do you mean? Are you kidding me? They remain depressed? Are you seriously using that word?
This was written by so-called experts. Experts used the word depressed to describe the natural emotions resulting from grief. To describe what is felt naturally and normally when someone you love dies and is gone from your life, never to be seen again.
If those experts were standing next to me, I’d slap them upside of their heads.
You know what’s depressing? People like that. People who want you to “move on”. Hey, its been a while, nothing happening here, folks. Move on. Medicate yourself. Feel what I call normal so that I don’t feel unable to help you and therefore feel uncomfortable in my helplessness and I myself can move on. Don’t have a pity party. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Yeah, move on.
I’ve had people ask me what I’ve been doing lately, as if I’ve been on holiday. I’ve had people comment that I must be enjoying myself as I travel this Odyssey of Love. Hey, you’re out there in this cool pink car towing that awesome trailer, meeting new people…wow, what a thrill!
What am I doing lately? How about I’m trying to remind myself to breathe (when I remember to remind myself) because each breath and each heart beat is agony? How about I feel like I’m starving for the touch of my husband’s arms around me, for his kiss on my lips, for his hand in mine? How about I feel an unquenchable thirst for the vital, happy woman I used to be who is as gone as he is? How about I tell you that the adrenalin runs at such a high point in me that I wonder I don’t suffer a heart attack because it’s the adrenalin of grief and I listen to soothing music and hypnosis tapes and breathe and get massages and it doesn’t make a fucking difference because I still wake up in the morning and he’s still dead? How about I tell you that anything other than a few bites of food gets my stomach all whoppered and I want to vomit? How about I tell you that my grief is just going deeper because of assholes like those so-called experts or people in general who aren’t comfortable in just being present with grief and even I (and I say even I because as open as I’ve been about my grief, even I feel the pressure to put on the pleasant face and say oh I’m just fine how are you?) struggle with being up front about my grief at the 11 month point? As if I’m committing a gross social faux pas by still grieving….
Grief is not a disease, people. It does not mean depression. It does not need to be medicalized. Yes, unfortunately, grief is listed in the DSM 5, the holy bible of shrinks, as a disorder. Oh, great. As if it isn’t normal. As if we don’t already question if we’re crazy.
Pathologizing grief is easy. Our society wants that easy fix. You’re sad? Here’s a pill. You’re different? Here’s a pill. Don’t hang onto your feelings for too long or we’ll give you a pill. Fit in or we’ll give you a pill. Your depth of emotion is making me uncomfortable. Here’s a pill. You need to be positive. Here’s a pill. Stop being so negative. Here’s a pill.
Here’s what’s hard to do with someone in grief. Just fucking BE with them. Don’t feel like you have to fix it. Guess what? You can’t fix it. Stop trying!
Don’t say “it makes you stronger, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, at least you have your memories, he’s in a better place, God must have wanted him more than you, its God’s plan, there’s a reason for it” and other drivel. Bullshit drivel. Those phrases diminish grief and they dismiss the heartfelt pain and can induce guilt and agitation, especially if one is religious. Which wouldn’t be me.
You know what it helps to hear?
It sucks. Tell me your story. Let’s sit down and maybe you can share a memory with me. What was your life like together? How has this grief impacted you in the deepest ways? Tell me how you met. Tell me how you get through a day when you can’t even breathe? How do you deflect the mindless chatter of ignorant people saying ignorant things to you? How about a drink of water? Hey, I’m going to have some toast-want a piece? No worries about the tears-I’m right there with you.
Those words are good for the immediate time after the death and for….yeah, eternity. Try them.
Loving someone through grief is an exercise in vulnerability and that is intimidating for someone uncomfortable with emotion. For myself, I’m grieving hard and if you’re uncomfortable with my grief I give you permission to not be around me. I’m in a dark place even while I’m creating a life for myself. There is no self-pity, there is no depression. This grief has broken me wide open and there’s no going back. There is my grief and there is a fire in my belly determination to change the language and perception of grief in our culture.
What am I doing lately? Grieving my husband and wondering why I’m still alive when the pain is so intense I thought I’d have a heart attack by 10 AM. How’s your day been?