While reading Patrick O’Malley’s Getting Grief Right (New York Times Opinionator column for January 10, 2015), I thought again about how each of our grief journeys are as different as we are from each other. O’Malley, a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, writes about a patient who lost her baby daughter and wondered why she was not “back to normal” six months later. “She was trying to get her grief right,” O’Malley said of his patient.
When my daughter first died, I wanted someone to tell me how to get my grief right and how long the pain, sorrow and sadness of this uncharted journey would last. Some did. And I appreciate their sharing the experiences they had with grief even if the patterns or time frame did not match my own.
And of course I discovered that one person’s time frame is not a one-size-fits-all standard anyway. One friend sent me Granger Westberg’s Good Grief, which offered some comfort, but which offered ten stages of grief to Kübler-Ross’s five stages. Each of us who has ever written about grief, specifically or generally, may try to offer help, solace, comfort and hope to others based on our own experiences or those of helping others. We are humans trying to walk beside other humans who are hurting.
O”Malley’s column included this: “The truth is that grief is as unique as a fingerprint, conforms to no timetable or societal expectation.” I wish I had heard that so clearly years ago.
I do remember that a hospice counselor told my family and me, the four of us now left, that we should respect each other’s differences in grieving and realize that we could not do each other’s grieving for him or her, but that we might walk beside each other as the other grieved. It has been a powerful reminder to me that we are all grieving differently and at different times and places.
And, I think, one of the reasons the mothers in our writing group continue to write about our children is that we do not want to give up that grief, that part of our hearts that keep our loved ones near to us, the part that keeps them from being forgotten. Instead of being lost, they are part of our story, not just a painful event to be put into our past. “Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning and all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who died,” O’Malley said.
(Follow the linked title of the piece above or here to read it, and notice the comments from others too.)