Because I'm the Mom

How mothering pervades all relationships in life.

War on Grief: Why Does My Grief Make You Nervous?

What if my grief has no stages, no movement? It just is. So, deal with it. I am.
Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D.
This post is a response to The War on Grief by Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D.

Stop pathologizing my grief.

I know I speak for a lot of us who walk around carrying our Great Ache. I've heard from so many of you who'd like to carry your burden without judgment, without your pain somehow triggering other folks. But there's something about unvarnished pain, pain with no 'closure,' pain with no end in sight; unruly, unmitigated, relentless mourning that invites, somehow requires people to try to name it and fix it.

Stages of Grief? Nope.

People seem to feel compelled to assess, to lift, to get you to that next level, that next stage. Friends, family members, professionals…Why is movement necessary? What does it even look like? If you're a fully functioning person doing your thing every day, but you refuse to stop talking about or being open about how deeply sad your loss makes you, why does that seem to cry out: FIX ME?

Indeed, why do so many folks seem compelled to diagnose my deep, immediate, raw pain over the loss of my beloved brother four years ago? Why are folks so deeply comforted by calling it "complex" or "complicated grief" or making sense of it as "a magnet of grief where this one loss pulled in others…"

What is Healing?

Can't I just miss my best friend/brother/guide/mentor/teacher/co-writer/co-teacher? In one person I lost so, so many deep connections to my personal and professional world. He was my life's witness. My dearest confidante.

We were supposed to have 40 more years to laugh, teach, write, collaborate, parent, raise our kids, care for our parents together. And he died in a horrifying, unnecessary, senseless, brutal way, a way that could have been prevented.

A Grief Life

So yeah, it feels like it happened two seconds ago. And I am inconsolable. Now what? I did talk therapy, EMDR therapy. You name it. And here it is. I remain in a walking grief coma. Exhausted, depleted, desperate. Highly functioning as a parent, at work, in love. But gone in so many ways. I live my living life and my grief life.

What If This Is Simply Life…Til It Isn't?

What does the world do with a grief like mine, like those of so many folks who reach out to me and say—me, too? It's awkard, uncomfortable, too honest. I refuse to pretend I'm grateful. I refuse to be inspired or inspiring in my pain. I hate my birthday. I hate Tuesdays. What if this is simply how life is, until it isn't? What do I tell people for whom my grief feels so threatening, so crazy?

Who gets to say how I should feel two weeks, two months, two years, five years, 25 years later? And more interesting to me, why the urgency to make this, me, these unruly feelings—something sick? We talk about grief as a process and a journey, so how can there be a scorecard, a time table evaluating how much is too much pain? How long is too long to be feeling this or that way?

These are my feelings. They don't roar. We're simply sitting together. For now. Or forever. They won't bite. I'm just sad. Deal with it. I am.

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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