The more I listen to bereaved people recounting their early days, weeks and months in grief, a consistent story emerges. Most of them can relate to or describe the pressure they felt (for some as early as the funeral!) to be healed, ok, and back to normal soon – a few weeks, couple months tops and definitely before Summer or Christmas.
This pressure to not grieve has complicated many grief journeys as people succumb to it and try to be “ok” when they aren’t. Using phrases like,
Each of these can be a signal that this person is trying their hardest not to grieve but knows in their deepest self, that grieving is precisely what they need to do.
What if I could be ok soon? Maybe I don’t have to really grieve this? Maybe there’s a shortcut or if I just pretend I’m ok, I’ll actually BE ok.
There is often a conflict for the bereaved person who longs for “normal”. The thing is, their normal is gone and that loss is the entire source of their grief.
So, grieving people live in this dance between wanting normality; joy, fun, regular living – and wanting to be in their grief. Grief can be a comforting source of connection with their loved one. Most grieving people who do the work of grief, hold their connection to the loss as a precious thing.
All of this conflicts with the desire we have in our society for people to be “ok”. This misplaced desire overlooks the fact that 1. Grieving people often want to maintain a relationship with their grief and 2. Grieving people are OK – they are doing exactly what they need to do in their life circumstance.
There is a dual desire to live with the reality of their loss and to find joy and lightness in life again. Life has so much to offer and joy is available to anyone seeking it. The obstacle grieving people encounter is that their familiar path to joy has been shaken, shattered, or washed out completely. It takes time to assess the damage, design the new road, find the materials, and start construction. It’s a massive undertaking that doesn’t benefit structurally by rushing the process or cutting corners.
To the person who is feeling the pressure to “move on” – I ask you, “What is the rush? Is hurry a wise move?”
To those who apply this pressure or just think this is how we should treat grief, – I ask you, “Why? What is the rush?” Letting a friend be honestly in their sorrow can be a very loving thing.