In our society, for whatever reason — perhaps because of the manic need to be positive, because of a short attention span, because of ignorance of what grief entails — after four to six months, most people seem to lose patience with outward shows of grief from the bereft. No wonder depression peaks six months after the death of a loved one — grievers are left alone to suffer in silence when they most need comfort.
I am still a long way from that six-month period, but already I sense impatience from others whenever my grief bleeds over into my real life, though my grief doesn’t often show. I can carry on a conversation, smile and laugh at appropriate times, concede that yes, I am finding closure.
I don’t know who wrote this, but it reinforces what we grievers have come to understand:
At some point we begin to find the road to life again and begin to retain a productive life. This is not closure. Closure is a term that was invented to make other people feel better. We will not experience closure and shouldn’t. We will miss our loved one and will never forget. As time goes by it gets easier and we learn to cope with the necessary changes, but there will not be closure.
Sometimes there is closure, especially if the deceased did not play a major role in our lives, but after any significant loss, we muddle along as best as we can with a big hole in our heart. It might scab over. We might learn to love again. But there will not be closure.
Very few people manage to live their entire life without a major loss, but still grief makes people uncomfortable. Almost no one knows what to say to the bereft, which adds an interesting bit of irony to grief. It is the bereft who must be sensitive to the needs of would-be comforters, to be understanding when confronted with insensitivity, to bring comfort to the uncomfortable. We’ve all encountered insensitive remarks (like “how could he have allowed himself to get cancer?”) yet we take the comments in the spirit we hope they were given.
Even though I have to let others feel better by thinking I’m finding closure, it’s nice to be able to tell the truth here in this blog: I am still grieving. And there will not be closure.
August 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm
You are still grieving because you miss him, and I expect you always will, even when the loss gets easier to deal with. Closure is a strange word and perhaps it was coined by those who don’t know how else to explain how grief’s edges never quite disappear but finally blur. Perhaps it has nothing to do with being finished with grieving but more to do with the acceptance of reality replacing resentment of the loss.
I don’t think it’s necessary to make your comforters comfortable. You can always tell them it still hurts, but thank them for their words, or their presence, or their desire to be comforting. That’s truthful. And you have blogging friends (and I’m sure also real time ones) who stand with you in silent understanding and are always ready to surround you with arms of love.
August 19, 2010 at 6:42 pm
Carol, acceptance has such a peaceful sound to it, yet now that I am beginning to feel in my depths that he is never coming back, I feel as if I’ve lost him a second time. It is so good to know that you and my other blogging friends are standing here ready to surround me with love. It helps me get through the bleak times.
August 19, 2010 at 12:55 pm
Pat, I know. Already, there are some who expect me to hide my grief from them. I can’t. At any given moment during the day, I can be struck by a wave of sorrow. It’s something I can’t and don’t want to control.
There is no closure. For me, knowing I will never come to terms with Dan’s abrupt departure from our life together brings me a strange comfort. It means he’ll never fade from my memory.
One of my friends who stood by me during that horrible week before the funeral and who called multiple times a day has been silent this week. A mutual friend told me she’d said she was uncomfortable around my “uncontrollable” sorrow.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and writing about the road ahead. It helps me to prepare for the days to come.
August 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm
Jan, it is way too soon for you to hide your grief, and no one should expect you to. When your life has been ripped apart by the too early death of someone you expected to grow old with, it takes a long time before you can even begin to separate out all the different emotions that overwhelm you, let alone deal with them.
I think about you often. Sending you hugs and tears. If you need to talk, I’m here.
August 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm
As time goes by, Pat, you’ll become better at showing that “face”, the one that makes others feel more comfortable. Thankfully, there will always be those who you can show your real face to. I know that’s sad, but …
August 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm
I think closure means different things to different people. For me, it’s the realization he’s gone and not coming back. Making peace with that so I can function. A lot grieving still goes on under the surface but, having been through this process before, the ripping of the grief lessens. Doesn’t mean I forget, or have periods of missing him isn’t there. Just means it doesn’t hurt like it did. This time the pain and grieving is different. I’m not over it all by a long shot. But every day I move forward.
I refuse to live my life a martyr to loss. Life is meant for living. And Roland would kick my ass for living a half life or merely existing in my life. I personally feel it’s an insult to the one who died. I still live and he doesn’t but wanted to so bad.
I know I still have rough turbulence of the rapids of grief, but I know the peaceful pool of water is coming. I just have to hang on until I get there.
I’ve also found that when I need someone not to wait for a friend to contact me. I contact them. No rule says it HAS to be friends or family checking in with you.
All I can say Pat, is keep moving forward even when it feels like you take 3 steps back for every forward step.
February 24, 2012 at 11:36 am
[…] Pat Bertram shares her experiences with grief on a blog. Shortly after the loss of her partner, she wrote about people’s response to others’ grief: […]
April 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm
well written pat
January 14, 2019 at 8:48 pm
I totally agree. The grief of losing a close loved one changes the way people interact with you. So many people after a time think oh you should be over it by now. But it never goes away it sometimes fades into the background while you middle back into daily life. But then something triggers a memory, a smell, a thought and the grief in our hearts is just as real as the day you first experienced it. So often I find myself pretending I’m over it for the feelings of others yet even as I write this tears are welling in my eyes a little over a year later. Grief has no timeframe. Grief resides in us until we pass how we feel and respond to it is the only changes I’ve found nothing about it finishes.
January 14, 2019 at 9:11 pm
At a little over a year, you’re still fairly new to the whole grief process, but things do get better mostly because we become people who can live in new alien world of loss. It just takes a lot longer than a year or two. But the truth is, grief never truly goes away because our loved one is always gone. That’s the thing that kicks at me even years later.
Wishing you peace.