I am often asked questions by those grieving a loved one, and here are the most frequent and pervasive questions I am asked:
- When will I feel better?
- How long will this last?
- What's wrong with me?
- Am I crazy, or going crazy?
- Why can't I just stop and feel better?
- Shouldn't I be over this by now?
- What good is all this crying anyway?
- I don't get it.
These are the first and most pervasive questions people ask me. I hope the answers are comforting.
"Not for a while" is my standard answer, it's like a bad car accident, and there is just all this pain at first. There is no focus on a particular area for a second or two, and then the damage begins to get specific and focused. The recovery time, including pain management, depends on a millions factors. Ultimately it is a stupid answer. The pain stops when we are healed.
It will last for as long as it takes. Another non-answer, the more you can grieve, the shorter the intense time. If you can permit yourself to ride the waves of grief, there is an end, if not there is some crashing on the beach. I remember how deeply I longed for everything to go back to "normal' I'm still waiting, fortunately another life grew from the ashes of that old way.
What's wrong with you is that you have lost a beloved child and your world is upside down and inside out. The whole world is crooked and off-center, that's what is wrong.
Maybe, a little, I think that is required in the beginning as we reorient to this alien place and foreign feelings. But, like all feelings it is not permanent. The shock and upheaval is so complete that I can't imagine a response that was completely sane.
You can. There are many drugs, defenses and distractions that can stop the process completely. The problem is that ultimately grief cannot be denied; it can be delayed, but not erased. So this is one of those adult choices where we have to pick the choice that sucks the least.
I have never understood what that means. "Over" like I never had a daughter? Or a person never had an arm that was amputated? We do heal and we adapt to the new reality, but we do not get over it. Our grief becomes part of the fabric of our lives; the color and texture of that life is woven from all the tiny choices made.
I'm not sure why crying is the mechanism through which we heal. What I do know is that when I refuse to grieve I become hostile, cynical and bitter. Sometimes I'm not sure which is worse. The stance of cynical seems more removed from my grief. The problem is no one wants to spend much time with a hostile person.
That's right, you don't get it and no one gets you. It takes a very long time to get our internal life. There are no manuals, textbooks or intellectual constructs to really understand what you are going through. It is all baffling and mysterious. The chaotic world of intense feelings is something we have all worked very hard to control and avoid. It is very unfair that anything could smash those carefully built defenses in an instant But it does get better, time really does heal Grief needs comfort and that is very shard to ask for.