Grief Myths: Isolation and Moving On
There are many myths about grief. Last week on Kirby’s birthday, I referenced a blog post by Ed Preston, the founder of the Grief and Trauma Resource Centre, concerning the idea that when grieving, one should learn “to move on.” But to those of us suffering traumatic losses, a simple “moving on from grief” seems quite unlikely; more realistic is a learning to live with grief. While profound grief can bring you to your knees, it does not have to cripple you. Another myth is the idea that people want to grieve in isolation.
While each person addresses their sorrows uniquely, I have learned that often a person who is suffering does not know what they want or need. Friends, not knowing what to say, retreat to allow privacy, which leads to isolation. Everyone’s experience is different, but I believe isolation is the very thing many grieving people do NOT need.
After Kirby’s death, I did not need a lot of platitudes or advice, but I did need to feel connected to others when I felt torn apart. I needed people to tell me they would be there to listen and to be a shoulder for me to cry on. I know when your world is totally ripped apart, you need others to provide assurance that you will still be able to live normally, be a part of everyday activities, and build new memories.
Not Isolation, but Reassurance
Since October, 2009, I have been sought out by other parents who have lost their children to traumatic deaths (accidents, overdoses, or suicides), who simply needed to see another grief-marked parent to know that they too could survive. Yes, there are times we need to cry alone, but we never want to be LEFT alone. When you tell a friend, “I’m here for you,” actually call and show up at the door to spend time, share a cup of tea, play a game, watch a movie, bring a meal, go out together, help with the garden… Just BE there, helping them hold their broken heart together.
Ed’s educational website has helpful videos and articles as well as links to professional resources. He brings a sensitive and deep understanding to the grief journey. Ed writes more about this myth of being alone in grief and covers some interesting points about the cultural history of grieving in a community. He writes that we need to do away with this myth and revive the ancient traditions of listening and being present for one another’s sadness in times of grief. Read the rest of his post here.
What about you? Have you had a profound grief experience, and if so, what was it like for you–did you want to suffer alone, or did you benefit from having friends and family surround you?