A friend of mine, whose husband died less than a year ago was recently asked, “How long are you supposed to keep grieving?”
I was compelled to share my reaction to the question.
My first answer was, “What a stupid question. That is all I have to say about that…for now.”
Then, I pondered the question for a few moments and formulated this response:
I am not going to go into too much detail on my grief story but, rather, how I was a volunteer grief counselor in the 1990’s at Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago’s Heartlight program, a bereavement support group for children and their families. I was trained to honor where each grieving child was in their journey, that each of us has the innate ability to heal (that, in itself, is another term to ponder), and that everyone grieves differently.
I was honored to have been selected to speak at Heartlight’s annual fundraiser and talk about my grief journey and the loss of my mom. I likened my grief to a dark blob that encased and oozed around my heart and whole being. “Perhaps,” I said, “in time, the shape and size of this dark, sad blob will change and morph into something other than grief and only grief.”
When I gave that presentation, I was 27 years old. Two years since my mom had died of breast cancer.
Yes, I still grieve the loss of my mom. No, I never wanted to hear, “Oh, she’s not in pain anymore.” That is just reasoning that someone says to the griever to make themselves feel good instead of sitting with the pain, grossness, loneliness, hopelessness of grief. When in the midst of and depths of grief, it is essential to have people in your life who will sit with you as you are a puddled mess of tears and smudged mascara on the bathroom floor. You need friends who don’t care if you have snot running down your face as you cry, “But, she’s not there!”
People will try to do their very best to “be there” for you. And, sometimes, their “being there” ends up being “doing for you” or trying to “fix you.” You don’t need that. Grieving requires just being there…without a timeline. Without judgment. While a person asking, “How long until you are no longer grieving?” may have, in their mind, been a genuine curiosity about the grief process, it can still put the griever on the defensive.
One young boy at Heartlight had shared that his teacher had told him, “Your mom died three months ago. You should be over that by now.” And, THAT is why there are grief support organizations like Heartlight…so that children—of ALL ages—can grieve, mourn, and process on their own time.
If you know someone who is grieving, simply BE there for them.
That is what they need from you.
About the author: To find out more about Julie Ostrow, please click here.