I hope my mom doesn’t mind me using her as an example as I write this, but talking to her and reading the words she has expressed to me recently, has me thinking about the stigma of grief. Time.
I call time a stigma of grief, because there seems to be an unspoken timeline that people expect you to “get over” the grief you feel after loss. Most people are aware of the idea that there are five understood stages:
- Denial and Isolation – Denying the reality of the situation and rationalizing the emotions and pain.
- Anger – The pain surfacing after denial and dealing with it by projecting anger towards people/places/things as a coping mechanism and often in a search for answers.
- Bargaining – Trying to regain control by using “If only…” to come to terms with the situation.
- Depression – Sadness, regret, sometimes verbalized, sometimes dealt with quietly and often helped by understanding and support both verbal and physical.
- Acceptance – A stage some never reach.
The last stage, Acceptance, is one that that sticks out to me most significantly. It is the stage that not everyone will reach and it isn’t a stage that means you are happy with the situation that has unfolded, but rather you have reached a point in your mourning that you are able to move forward with coping mechanisms. The waves of grief still come, but you may not be searching for answers still, you may have let go of the anger you had felt.
So with understanding that there is somewhat of an order, then surely there is no real timeline to how long you mourn. Yet, I often see people using terms like “Aren’t you over that yet?/Can’t you just let it go and move on?” to people who are in the thick of this emotional storm. Would you ask a person who has been given a bed of nails, whether they slept well? What answer would you expect?
I’m not writing this to put anyone down for feeling this way. Some people haven’t dealt with great losses in their lives, and thus, don’t have first hand experience of grief. I certainly didn’t have a significant connection to grief other than looking from the outside in, until my father died.
I hope that when faced with other peoples grief I can offer some sort of comfort or support, even if it’s just being there to listen when they are really in the rough of it. I don’t want to hear only about the good days because you may be afraid of sharing the negative feelings with others. I want to be there for you and love all facets of you, whether they are joyful memories, or sorrowful cries.