I’m hoping this blog finds its way to the right people who need to read it. If you know someone who is going through grief please pass this on to them and if you haven’t experienced grief please read so you can equip yourself with ways to help your friends through this as best you can.
When the man I loved died I discovered three different responses in relation to my own grief from friends and family with varying degrees of hurtful/healing consequences:
The “Get over it” strategy.
This came in varying forms, the first was from someone who told me that if I didn’t “get over it” that my partners spirit wouldn’t move on, this left me guilt ridden that his spirit was hanging around not because he wanted to be there but because I was keeping him there. Our relationship was always one that was based on freedom, he had the freedom to do what he wanted, I had the freedom to do what I wanted, for the most part it worked because there was trust that if we screwed up somehow we would forgive each other. If anyone says that it’s you that it’s your grief keeping them around, seriously tell them to fuck off (politely if you can, remember they might be grieving too) there is no basis to it and is more to do with the fact that the people who might say that to you are simply not equipped to deal with your extreme sides of grief.
I can understand that it is a hard thing to watch me screaming myself to sleep, or the bursting into tears randomly in the middle of the shop next to the alarm clock isle. I assure you, it’s no picnic for me either. I have tended to spend less and less time with these people because there is no time limit on grief, this is a kind of trauma that people don’t just “get over” and I don’t really know about you but I don’t do very well with being told what to do.
The “You don’t deserve to grieve” strategy.
This conversation frustrates me the most, it comes from a selfish place where people are trying to compete who has the right to grieve over someone, I don’t usually do capslock on the internet yelling but I’m making an exception in this case. It is the MOST RIDICULOUS THING I HAVE EVER HEARD… EVER.
There is no race as to who can grieve better, it sure as shit isn’t a competition. My grief is no harder or easier than anyone else’s, it’s just different, it’s like comparing an apple to a cucumber.
I had said to a friend of my partner, who worked with him closely for a year, the words to express himself was almost to say that he didn’t deserve to feel this way, that his parents had it worse, my response to him was that he had every right to grieve as anyone, that he needed to give himself permission to grieve.
He had spent almost every day with my partner, it was just in his work life and I was in his home life. Anyone that ever met your loved one has the right to grieve and how you grieve will be different to everyone else because your relationship was different to the person who passed away. It is not fair to say that your grief is worse than mine, or mine worse that yours, grief is just grief, it will just be different, not better or worse.
The “You can feel whatever you want, whenever you want” strategy.
These are my favorite friends, this might sound a bit harsh, these are the people who just carry on like nothing happened, they acknowledge that there is one less person around but they treat me the same, I am still the same person I just have this new emotion to address with. If I burst into tears randomly in the middle of the shops, these friends will patiently wait for me to stop crying, they allow it to pass and than we continue on as if nothing happened. I had one conversation with a friend who I was sharing a story about my partner, he responded by saying “You know you have some pretty amazing stories about this man.” the relief it gave me to be able to talk about him, to be able to share the life we had together, to be able to share the lessons that I learnt from him that I will take forward into the rest of my life.
His life is an integral part of who I am, he had said once to me, “You know what, I’ve made you a better woman.” He didn’t say that he *fixed* me, just that he improved me, he upgraded me to be a better woman, a stronger spirit, a more empathetic human, I am simply who I am because of knowing him.