We say, "She's taking it so hard." Why-because she cried? Then we say, "She's holding up so well." Why-because she didn't?
Have you ever seen foreign people on television who've lost a loved one? They scream and cry and get loud and maybe even beat their chest or fall prostrate onto the ground. They don't shed a civilized tear, take a Xanax and go on. They aren't 'holding up'. They aren't quiet and sad and holding it all inside with a brave, noble face. They experience their grief and their pain.
They make a scene.
When my mother died, I did the quiet tears, the 'normal' behaviors, the usual. Until one day I began screaming in my car. I couldn't scream loud enough or long enough. Even though I was alone, I was embarrassed and soon stopped. Never did that again.
It took seven years for the pall death had cast to disappear. I only realized it was a pervasive presence when it was gone. What if I hadn't kept it all in, hadn't 'held up' so well, hadn't masked the sorrow, hidden the grief? Would I have healed more quickly if I hadn't pretended all those years?
Why do we want everyone to get over everything so quickly? We get annoyed and impatient and start withdrawing when someone doesn't just "move on" with their lives after a great loss.
I'm impatient with myself right now because I should just get over that man. I can tell, when I occasionally speak of him, that some others agree. But should our loved ones be that disposable? Should I think that little of a seven year relationship and the one I gave my heart to? Should I disparage my sorrow and my tears because, after all, it's been over five months?
My best friend's son died a little over a year ago. I can't even fathom losing a child! The grief sites she visits say it's worse the second and third years after the loss of a loved one. My first thought was, "People want you to be over it after a year." You feel the withdrawal and lack of response and support. So you don't talk about it. You internalize your grief. You're alone with it.
There's an expression I've heard, "A problem shared is a problem halved." Maybe if it was acceptable to 'share our grief' and keep on sharing, it wouldn't turn inward and grow depression, alienation, introversion and more grief.
I need to listen to my own grief and accept it. I need to listen to others' grief and accept it.
WE ALL DO.