Not Over It Yet

March 18, 2019

Not Over It Yet

At some point after a loved one dies, we stop giving ourselves permission to grieve openly. After the first wave of empathy that (sometimes) comes after a death, the world just moves on. After all, everyone dies. Life must go on.
 
It is hard for our friends to tell the difference between healthy sadness and wallowing, so we are cautiously asked to stop being sad under the well-meaning guise of protecting our mental health. Society wants to sell us things that make us happy - and so sadness is treated as a disease rather than one aspect of the healthy spectrum of human emotion.
 
We are asked subtly but aggressively from all angles to cheer up because people miss how we used to be. They mean no harm. But we take it as “you should really be over this by now.”
But grief is healthy. Avoiding it is impossible - it will all come out somehow - and we are better served when we guide it ourselves rather than letting our subconscious take the wheel unpredictably.
 
Grief also doesn’t end. Ever. And we do ourselves an injustice to think it will. It changes, of course. Everything does. But it is now part of us and there is no shame in continuing to carry it.
Grief can become unhealthy just as literally anything can become unhealthy. Sometimes we need gentle guidance towards professional help, sometimes we dig our heels when letting go of the things we Must Let Go Of, and loving pressure can sometimes be helpful.
 
What isn’t helpful, however, is saying Get Over It. And I’m talking to us here. The grieving. Because it is something I believe we should say far less to ourselves. To get over it.
Cope, adapt, develop, change.... but never Get Over. In my mind that implies forgetting. It makes us feel shame when - many years after the death - we find ourselves unexpectedly and randomly crippled with the same intensity of grief that we felt in the beginning. We must give ourselves permission to fall apart sometimes.
 
When my uncle was dying recently, in his 70s, I gave him permission to fall apart with me on his deathbed. And he did. He sobbed over his mother, who he’d lost when he was 4 to suicide. 70 years later and when grief came knocking, it was as fresh and devastating as ever.
What changes is the time. Rather than being consumed by it 24/7, we adapt and are only consmed by it occasionally. We adapt more and are only consumed by it when triggered by certain dates or events. We adapt more, and are only consumed by it for moments before we regain our composure.
 
It just never goes away. But we do always manage to cope, to love again, to be happy, to find comfort, to adapt, and to grow more gentle with ourselves and others.
 
So to anyone feeling an acute sense of loss right now but finding it difficult to give yourself permission to feel how you’re feeling, then consider permission granted by the odd lady on the internet who knows very well what this feels like, and can see you. x



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