July 12th, 2020
There is no "normal" when it comes to grieving. And many people say it doesn't ever quite end, it just changes. While this goes against our brain's desire to know there's some sort of finish line we're going to cross and then we can go back to life-as-usual, it's really not a one-size-fits-all experience. We have heard consistently from people that they move out of a phase of acute grief - where it can be hard to tie your shoes or remember what to buy at the grocery story - after the first year or so. And yet, there does continue to be waves of grief that come decades later. It's the judgement around these feelings that can cause the most damage. Much of what happens around The Dinner Party table is normalization. We're not alone. We're not weirdos. Grief is normal, and can be way less sucky if we have friends who've been through it, too.
July 12th, 2020
I don't know slash forever. There are commonly accepted unexamined myths like: after a year things change. Some of that is rooted in religious tradition, but the main thing that I have noticed in my experience is that the really intense pain does get better. Other than that, love does not go away or change. For me, being in relationship with Paul, who died almost 4 years ago, hasn't changed. I don't mean that in a mystical way; I mean feeling connected to him, feeling like he is my family forever, thinking about him while I'm raising our daughter and loving him, and even feeling responsible to him in making my own life decisions that affect our daughter, or decisions about his book. He really figures in my life, and in particular, really loving him forever and feeling sad forever. Whatever you're going through is normal. People's experiences and feelings are so varied- sadness of course, but also guilt, anxiety, relief. These things are universal.
One last thing that is actionable - you don't want to stop thinking about or talking about your person. In Sheryl Sandberg's book, she talks about being at a dinner party where couples were talking about their origin stories, how they met, and nobody asked her how she met her husband who had died. And she felt totally lonely and invisible. Either people didn't consider it or they thought if they asked it would make her sad, but she needed to tell the story just like a normal person because she is and she still holds the story. We don't always give each other room to express, like, what would your mom have said in this situation or what was your sister like or what was your baby's name? It feels good to talk about those things, just like it feels good when that person is alive, because it's your people. There's a quote I love that says: "When someone dies, you don't "get over" it by forgetting; you "get over" it by remembering."
July 15th, 2020
The honest thing to admit is that you're never letting go of your grief. It's like gaining the holiday five. Those pounds that we mean to get rid of in January, but come March or July, it's still there. And you know what? We're used to it by then and it's alright, and we just start to walk through life with that extra five pounds.
It's worth mentioning that In America, we can clinically diagnose someone with depression two weeks after the death of a child. This is on the DSM-5. There are proponents who say, "Well good because then people can receive grief counseling covered by insurance". No. How about we adequately and accurately provide grief care for people that doesn't cost $150/hr. How about we do that instead of label them with a code that has ramifications? If a person is labeled clinically depressed two weeks after the death of their child, that can affect things like parental visitation.
I understand why people may not go to a psychologist or psychiatrist and get a diagnosis for mental wellness issues. I don't call it mental illness; I call it mental wellness.
July 20th, 2020
The short answer is no, it will never go away. But you're not always going to feel so raw as you do in the beginning. You're not always going to be knocked down by your grief or feel like you've been swallowed by a tsunami washing over you and you can't get out of bed. You're not going to always feel like you have no idea how to live fully again. Over time, your grief is going to soften, but it will have flare ups.
I had a client once who said that he was experiencing sparks of grief and I think that's sort of how it feels over the long term. It just sort of comes up suddenly, but it doesn't come as often and it doesn't last as long and it's not as raw. But the fact is, is that the person that you love isn't here anymore.
So you're always going to miss him or her. And that's grief. It's always going to be a part of your life over time, but it doesn't have to be the headline event.