"Just get on with it."
I don't think so. Grief is as personal as the color of your eyes. Anyone in the throes of grief who hears 'just get on with it' must turn around and away from the person who speaks those words. They don't get it.
Grief visits after many traumatic events, not only the loss of a loved one, for we grieve the loss of many things including our health, jobs, friendships, divorce, and the family home whether taken away by sale or fire or flood. We grieve in stages, carefully described by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) in her highly regarded work On Death and Dying. While Dr. Ross outlines five stages of grief, a friend has brought to my attention a different organization that honors the fluidity of grief as written by Dr. Ross, yet expands the concept to seven stages.
In both wonderful explanations for our feelings in a defined order, I find there truly is no timetable; nor is there a simple step-by-step guide. It's more like hopping across scattered stones in a pond because you can go through one stage just to revisit it again and again. Grief is simply total anguish - when we become awash with feelings that seem out of our control. They are out of our control.
There is also something called chronic or complicated grief. A 2008 UCLA study reveals that such grief actually stimulates pleasure centers in the brain - a kind of addiction to the good feelings one had with the person or thing that they lost. This type of grief can last for years. I guess that explains a co-worker I once knew back in 1984. She was talking to me about how much she missed her husband and how her divorce had been so hard on her. Thinking she had recently been divorced, I asked her how long ago it happened. She replied: 18 years. I was shocked at the time and thought poorly of her inability to move on but now I understand. I completely understand.
Another group brought to my attention is the Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support, an excellent resource for peer support, support groups, a library of publications, etc. My friend that relayed this information to me - and prompted me to write this blog post - lost a great friend and her husband within one month. It was just four months ago - four very long months. I suspect she will be in mourning for a good, extended time. As long as she needs. I'll say it again - as long as she needs.
Here's my dirty little secret: I was once hospitalized for four days for grief and grief alone. It was a culmination of several deaths and my declining physical health and I needed support 24/7. I asked for help and I got it. I am not ashamed. So there you have it - my simple musings for today. I sometimes feel like I am treading water when I discuss topics like these but, based on my readers' reactions, I am hitting some positive nerves with such topics and I hope it is not hurting or you will turn away when the topics get tough. We are all in this together.
My memoir, DYING TO LIVE: Running Backwards through cancer, Lupus and other chronic illness, will be available soon. I am in the final stages of polishing and primping it for publication. I believe I will grieve when it is done; when I am no longer immersed in the written craziness of my childhood and the sickness of my adulthood and find my hands empty.
But following the advice of the excellent resources I've linked to above, I have a new goal, a plan, a dream. I will have something else to do. I hope you do, too.