This “Sickness” Called Grief

“They should be better by now. They need to move on. They should be over it at this point. This is starting to get unhealthy.”

In my world, I hear comments like this far too often. I hear it echoed from defeated faces feeling shame and guilt because according to the world swirling around them, they are doing this thing, this “sickness” called grief “wrong.”

Careless and ignorant statements like this waken the Mama Bear within me that somehow still continues to grow bigger and more protective with each passing year.

Our society is broken. Our society is broken in the way it handles grief and those deep within its trenches. Our society is broken in the way it turns its back on the sorrow-filled simply because it’s just too uncomfortable to look.

A trend has set in where those in mourning are not only isolated but put on the clock.

With a timer in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other, our culture looks down at the bereaved and says, “It’s ok that you’re not ok… for now.”

Our culture “accepts” grief to a point, but after that threshold is crossed, it is deemed excessive, over the top, or even unhealthy.

There is a deep tension between what is seen as normal and what is not. The bereaved are lined up and categorized by how “well” they handled their loss. As if intensity and duration need to be put in a society built box of what is considered appropriate.

I’ll say it again… our society is broken.

How can a broken society with broken norms and broken expectations properly care for the broken? Simply put, it can’t and it doesn’t. Certainly not in the way they deserve to be cradled, uplifted and loved.

And so the cycle continues to spiral downward and more and more out of control. As a result, the grieving are left to live in a world that makes them feel isolated, judged and crazy. They are expected to survive – and eventually thrive – in a world that is foreign, scary and seemingly against them.

Even in the most perfect of healing environments, the grief-stricken see the world as overwhelming and spinning far too fast. So what chance does that give them here – in a culture that teaches them and every new generation that what they carry is an illness?

A massive disservice has taken root. This wrinkle has comfortably made its home in the forehead of our society and continues to grow deeper and wider with each passing year.

Along with it? The distance between the REAL process of grief and our culture’s naive expectations. This disconnect has become nothing short of toxic.

And so here I am… one person looking up at a very big world and speaking for all those who are too weak to speak… standing for all of those who are too weak to stand.

This is my cry to you big world… if nothing else please hear this. Our grief is not something to cure. It is not an illness. It is not a disease. We are not an epidemic and we need to stop being treated as such. We are not sick… we are sad. Our sorrow is not something we need to get over… rather something we must go through. It’s messy and it’s ugly and it doesn’t ever fully go away.

You see… we grieve intensely because we love intensely.

If you have ever opened your heart to love, then you too are susceptible to this very grief.

You may see my heart beating and I may look ok, but what you don’t see is the ache behind each of those beats. For the rest of my days, my heart is going to hurt, because it is forever changed and now… incomplete.

So please put down your clock and stop looking for a treatment. Stop trying to fix me.

Stop trying to solve my problems. Don’t cover your eyes. Don’t look the other way.

Instead… sit with me. Cry with me. Validate my pain. Be ok with my sorrow and provide me a safe place to learn how to walk again.

And when your time of great sadness comes? I will do the same for you.

Change has to start somewhere. Too many generations have had to walk the road alone, ashamed and hiding their sorrow.

It wasn’t ok then and it’s not ok now.

It’s time to stop being uncomfortable with grief and shying away from the unknown.

Our children and our children’s children deserve a better world to grow old in.

And lastly, this is my whisper to you, broken friend of mine, sitting all alone in that dark and messy place, with a heart seeping countless tears and a mind wondering if the pain will ever relent …

It’s ok that you are not ok. PERIOD. I know this feels claustrophobic. Overwhelming. Unending. But the heaviness will begin to lift one day. You are not alone. Your sadness is for good reason and your tears are not too many.

Grief has no timeline. You are not doing this wrong. It hurts … and that is ok. The road you are on is long and difficult but can be traversed. You WILL learn to walk again, even if you must do so with a limp.

Until then, one moment at a time, one day at a time and one step at a time.

This loss, this pain, is a defining part of your life, but… it does not define you. You are so much more. You still have so much life to live. Even if they are too far off to see now, happier days ARE on the horizon.

Yes, you will always be broken. But even a broken crayon can still color.

They don’t know any better simply because they don’t understand. So help them understand. Tell your story. Share your pain.

Only then can we – the broken – break the stigma of this “sickness” called grief.

by Jamie Stewart in Still Standing magazine

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