Because I'm the Mom

How mothering pervades all relationships in life.

Grief Shaming: Who Made You the Grief Police?

Mourn at your own pace. Whether your grief is 'complicated' or not, it's YOURS.

Here's the thing that amazes me. So many people are grieving so hard. All alone. 

How is this possible? Everybody is fighting a mighty battle, as a Greek philosopher reminded us. Why must these battles be fought alone, in some kind of cocoon of shame and isolation?

I know this because I write a lot about my own grief and that of others and because I am open and bracingly frank, folks tell me their stories. And their stories -- regardless of the source of their grief or the length of time that has passed -- their stories are remarkably similar. Huge loss. Shocking, sudden or long-time-coming losses. Guilt, shame and blame about the death. (I should have been there. I should have hounded the doctors. I should have noticed and called an ambulance. I should have said I love you. I should have found forgiveness. I should have or shouldn't have or would have or wish I had.... Fault and blame and loss and guilt and isolation follow.)

Folks don't feel entitled to their grief - it's been too long. Why aren't I over it? The rest of my family has moved on. She was 96 years old. Why am I in so much pain? He was just a family pet! I didn't even see him that much. My dad was a jerk and I can't stop missing him! WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?

Not a damn thing, I say. Complicated Grief Disorder, some experts say. The kind of grief wrapped in a riddle, swaddled in layers of tightly wrapped pain that needs extra time/support/space/work to manage.

That is the kind of grief I exist in and the kind of grief so many folks share with me. For example, here is a response I got after a post on complicated grief from someone struggling mightily. To her and all of us doing our very best - keep noticing what's different and breathe with the rest. You are not alone.

"...thank you so much for writing this. I was afraid to read it thinking you were going to start talking about the normal things one reads about moving through grief--all of which are correct unless one has complicated grief. I appreciate the acknowledgement that it wasn't a choice to go numb. And the part about becoming Buddhist--I so get it. I too, have kept doing all the things of life, going to work, all the basics and sometimes even beyond the necessary, but deep inside the pain still lives and the sense of "what for?" remains. I am not suicidal, I am just grieving. But, also like you, I know that as time has passed (4 years and 10 months) things have changed some, and I believe it is important to do as you have, and that is to name that change. It is not like we want to stay like we are, and its not like we don't make some effort. Its almost too complicated to describe, but I can tell you know. Thank you again."

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

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