Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The hall pass to grieve

Remember when you were in elementary school and had to not only ask to go to the bathroom, but had to get a hall pass and maybe even a buddy to go with you? In most cases, you were perfectly capable of making it there and back on your own. Still, you were forced to ask permission to do what you needed to do.

Grieving feels that way, at times. People, under the guise of trying to be helpful - and they probably are sincerely trying to be helpful -- throw all of this information and judgment at you. Some will discuss the stages of grief and comment on what stage they think you are at and whether or not it is healthy to be at that stage. Others will put a timeline on your grief based on where they think they would be if they were in your situation and judge you against their hypothetical standard. At times, friends and family have implored me to stop crying...be happy...focus on the good times...remember that he would want you to be happy.

I've heard:

"Do you know how many cupcakes you have had today?"

"You've had a glass of wine EVERY DAY this week!?!?!"

"Maybe instead of what you are doing to help yourself, you should do _____ or _______ or _______ because that helped my friend.

It is human nature to do and say all of those things. I'm confident I have said some combination of those things to another person grieving. It is human nature to try to "stop the bleeding", or at the very least, put a band-aid on the situation. Nobody wants to see someone they care about in so much pain, and they will do what they think is right to stop the pain.

The truth is sometimes the griever does not want to stop the pain. They want to work through the pain. Working through the pain means doing what is right for you, and this is different for every person. It may mean crying, writing, laughing, getting angry, stuffing your face with sweets, individual counseling, group counseling, talking in circles with people who understand the situation best, or just asking a person to sit beside you even if you don't say one word to each other. It takes different forms at different times.

There is no timeline to grief. You can have a really great week and then be slammed with grief and pain for a day or two. One thing you know is that you don't know and there is no definitive end. Unfortunately, grief can resurface years later at a birthday, anniversary or significant event. What I've learned is the key is to work through grief early on so that if it does return, it is not as intense and you know what works to manage it -- to manage it and not stop living your life.

But sometimes you just need the hall pass to grieve.

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