Getting over you not getting over me not "getting over it"

Friday, January 27, 2012

A friend of mine lost someone very close to them a couple of years ago.  It was a fairly sudden loss and the person who passed was way too young....and a parent....and a supportive spouse.  My friend went into hiding, put his life on hold, looked for answers, stopped engaging in the celebrations of life, and became very depressed.  Many months afterwards, I remember is time for him to re-engage in life.  It is time for him to "move on".  His loved one would want him to enjoy life!
I had NO FRAKING CLUE!  In my heart, I meant well.  I wanted to see this person happy again.  I wanted to see the people around him happy again.  I had no experience at all to tell me that grief doesn't work that way.  I just didn't know any better.

I remind myself of that every time I hear people saying (to me directly or to others who then tell me) that Ted and I need to "snap out of it", that it is time for us to "move on".  They just have nothing in their experience at all to help them understand.  There seem to be two kinds of understanding people with respect to this situation - the people who get it because they have experienced tragic loss themselves and the people who get it because they trust that those of us who have been there are legitimately feeling authentic and "normal" feelings in response to a tragic loss.  The ones who don't get it, in my mind, believe that they know better...even though they have no experience to base that on.  I actually think it is extremely arrogant (and I admit that my feelings about my friend were based in complete ignorance).  My hope thus far has been that the ones who think they know better will begin to believe that what I am telling them (as someone who is actually experiencing the grief) is true.  That complex grief and tragic loss is not something that one gets over in six months.  If they can't learn that by trusting those of us who are going through it, I hope that they never will learn it themselves. Sadly nobody is immune from tragic loss.  It may just not have happened to you yet.  Tragedy can happen to anyone.  If it does, you can come to me to talk.  When others don't understand you, I will. What I am beginning to understand is that most of those people will not learn this....that instead, I will be the one to learn to accept the arrogance and ignorance of others.  I will learn coping mechanisms to be able to tune these people out.  They don't matter to me and my process at all.

I have often wondered over the last six months why nobody told me to "get over it" in the year or so following the break off of my engagement twelve years ago.  Friends and family continued to be supportive for as long as it took me to heal.  Six months after a divorce, most people are still hurting.  Six months is NOTHING.  I remember people saying to me that it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them completely.  So that if you were with someone for 4 years, it would take 2 years to get over them completely.  People "get it" because most people have had a broken heart at some point or another.  They remember it taking time to get through the loss.  You don't believe me....but you should....losing a child is not something that takes six months to get over. It just happened.

I am getting better at "getting over" these kinds of comments.  I spent a few hours yesterday fuming about the latest person I have heard is saying that I need to "snap out of it".  Then, I just snapped out of it (fuming, not missing Max).  Even though she was close to Max too (or so I thought), she just doesn't get it.  It seems she is getting bored of everyone being sad.  She never will understand unless something tragic happens to her and then I KNOW she would be destroyed.  She is the kind of person that gets very upset about much less.  When I see her, my expectations will be low.  I will not be surprised when she tells me that everything will be ok because I can have more children.  I will practice deep breathing and try to tune her out when she gets all worked up about things much smaller than losing a child.  The fact is, I am not getting closer to "getting over" Max...because that will never happen.  It is not even something I am striving for.  Rather, I am striving to eventually incorporate this loss into my life and find new hope and blessings.  Over the last six months, I have gotten incrementally better at coping with this very difficult life of mine.

You can think that we should behave any way you want.  But, don't EXPECT me, or Ted, or my mom, or my dad, or anyone who was close to Max to ever "get over" him.  He will be in our hearts and in our minds for the rest of our days.  If you are waiting for that magical day when we have moved on from Max, you will be waiting a long, long time.  And, I suppose if I am waiting for the magical day when you shut up about moving forward and getting over it, I will also be waiting just as long.


Steven Stuart said...

Normally I do not link to my own blog as a resource as I do not want to appear as self-promoting, but you have sparked something that I think I may be able to help with in possibly educating other. The post is called "complicated grief" and has some of my sarcastic responses added to what this grief is supposed to be. I hope it helps...


maxiesmommy said...

Your response to number 11 is so right on! People think it is odd that you don't want to hang out with them or attend social functions but why would you ever when you know that everyone is just thinking about your loss and nobody is mentioning it? I tried a few social outings (lunch, a small party, dinner with friends) in the early days after our loss and found them to be more isolating than sitting at home all alone. Now that I know who can be real with us, I can sometimes get out with an appropriate person but it continues to be nearly impossible to contemplate going to a party or a bookclub meeting or out to lunch with a colleague.

Steven Stuart said...

I wish that I were wrong with all of my feelings and responses to thing, but unfortunately I wind up being right way too often. The only thing I try to do now is stick with the people who understand or are at least caring and compassionate. As for the rest, I have had to make some tough choices, but I have cut many of them out of my life all together. It got way too tiresome managing my grief as well as their insensitivity.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

Steven beat me to it. I was actually going to post that same link to his blog entry for you, too. :-)

Stephanie Sajjadieh said...

I was struck so much by your comment about your being able to have more children. I remember when Olivia was little, many of the people around me used to urge me to have more children. Their mantra revolved around the idea that if I lost Olivia, that I would have other children to get me through. I used to wonder if they really felt that Olivia was an interchangeable child. If I had 100 children and I lost Olivia, I still would have lost OLIVIA! Abby--I think of you, Ted, and Max every day. I realize that I have been one of "those" who have not reached out, not known what to say, but you all are in my thoughts and my heart.

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