Get Over It. Move On.

I notice that my latest grief posts have an edge to them — not anger exactly; more like disapproval.

This aversion is not towards grievers — never toward grievers — but towards those who don’t understand, won’t understand, can’t understand, and yet still feel they have a say in how people grieve.

Not all comments from non-grievers are as appalling as the one that prompted my post a couple of days ago, Grieving at Christmas. The comments are generally more clichéd, such as “get over it” and “move on.”

Luckily, I am past receiving any comment on my grief. Not only do I not let anyone know (except here on this blog) when I am feeling a bit of a grief upsurge, but I have mostly found an internal place to put my loss so that I can think of him and not think of him at the same time. (Or maybe I mean think of him sadly and think of him happily at the same time.)

But there are always new grievers, and the newly bereft do not need people’s attitudes. Do not need to be told to get over it. Death does not negate love. Telling someone to get over it is like telling someone to stop loving.

Sometimes when people urge grievers to move on, they are not expressing insensitivity so much as a misplaced understanding of the nature of grief. (Which is why my book Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One was written both for grievers and for anyone who wants to understand this thing we call “grief.”)

Although people often think they are helping by urging grievers to get over it and move on with their life, they are merely showing that they themselves can’t handle the griever’s grief. Showing that they can’t handle the new person the griever is becoming. Friends and family want grievers to be the way they were before their loss, and the griever can’t be. Loss changes you. Grief changes you.

If those people were truly caring and sensitive to the griever, they would simply be there for the griever even years later, listen to the griever’s pain, understand that grief is a necessary mechanism, realize that no matter how much the griever’s pain upsets them, the loss suffered upsets the griever even more.

What I really want to say to all of those people who are impatient with a griever’s grief is, “Get over it. Move on. Their grief does not belong to you.”

See? Edgy. And not necessarily kind or helpful.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

12 Responses to “Get Over It. Move On.”

  1. Vartan Agnerian Says:

    Thank You for stating so clearly what it is exactly ‘ that great divide between the griever and non griever’ between the widow and the non widow ‘ – that simply ‘ the non widows and non grievers merely can not handle themselves the grievers enormous grief’ and all the accompanying profound character and mental and behaviour and attitude changes of that person they used to know – A widow of a year’ that’s where I am’ I’m a complete stranger to myself and to my family’ everything is purposeless and every day is just meaningless’ I’m just a half of a loving ‘olden days’ traditional couple’ that once was’ and now is no more ‘ A difficult passage indeed’ . . . . . . Laura

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The divide is really hard, harder for the non-griever, I think because they get over the loss (assuming they felt the loss at all) so quickly, and they can’t understand why we still grieve. It’s as if we’re supposed to put our shared life out of our minds as if it never happened, and we don’t want to do that; in fact, we can’t do that.

      Wishing you peace in the new year, both the calendar year and your new year as a widow.

  2. rodmarsden Says:

    My parents are gone but I do remember them more strongly around Christmas time and other times of celebration. I wish I could have done more for them but they lived good lives and had more retirements years than I am likely to have. I am more grieved by the people I shouldn’t have spent time with over the years. Some lessons are painful. Well you can’t go back and change you but you can more forward and do what you can with what you’ve got. I have a new novel coming out in 2020 and I am planning a trip to New Zealand. Both are a grand start to a new year and I expect to make new friends and to reestablish old connections. Forward doesn’t take all the sting from the past but it is the only viable direction open to you.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It sounds like a great future! Or at least a great new year. I planned to visit both Australia and New Zealand, and never managed either. I am looking forward to you New Zealand photos.

  3. Sarah's Attic of Treasures Says:

    Well said. It’s been 13 years since my only child died. Bobby was 25 , almost 26. I still HAVE to had the ”ALMOST 26″. I don’t want to forget a second of his time here on earth. I refuse to let anyone tell me how I should grieve.
    I have extreme highs and extreme lows.
    Merry Christmas. Sending Love And Hugs.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, jeez. He was so young! Of course you don’t want to forget a single second of those years. I’m so sorry. Sending love and hugs and hopes for peace in the coming year.

  4. SheilaDeeth Says:

    What a perfect response that is. Yay! And surely at Christmas, celebrating the birth of one who died, we should all be more sensitive rather than less towards the grief of others. I love your posts, and I love your reminder to remain sensitive this season to my mother’s long grief.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I wish I’d thought of this back when people were telling me I needed to move on. I should have told them, “No, YOU move on.” Maybe others will be able to do what I didn’t. It seems to me you’ve always been sensitive to people’s long grief, especially your mother’s. Wishing you and her peace this Christmas and into the New Year.

  5. Judy Galyon Says:

    True & very wise!

  6. Mary Says:

    Hi Pat! It has been a long time since I sent you a message, but I wanted to say that this post was actually very helpful to me! My loss of my boyfriend is coming up on its 8 year anniversary in June, and I remember very well when I first started reading your blog, how much of a salve it was on my heart. I try to keep up with your posts when I can, and find it to be amazing how grief evolves, yet never goes away. It is as etched on my heart today as it was 8 years ago. It helps, when looking back on my past 8 years, to be able to put some kind of a label on my emotions in terms of those who kept telling me to get over it. How could anyone who has not been through it possibly say that (or even imply it) with a straight face? Edgy is the right word for sure! I sometimes feel sadness and regret and yes, even anger, about several of those people no longer being a part of my life, and it seems to hit me the hardest around springtime every year these past few years for some reason, perhaps as a subconscious preparation for the anniversary. But- then I read this post and am gently reminded that I’m just not who I was before, and that the decision to change the people I surrounded myself with was not only an act of self-preservation at the time, but one of authenticity in that my loss freed me to admit that perhaps those people had been meant to exit from my life years earlier and I hadn’t had the courage to admit it – to myself or to them. Grief does change you. In many ways it weakens, and in others, it gives you courage to change your life! I cannot believe the twists and turns my life has taken since that day! I think, though, that I will always need to be reminded occasionally that I have nothing to apologize for or analyze about how I reacted to that terrible loss. Readings like these keep me from falling down that treacherous rabbit hole. Thanks again!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Like you, I am surprised how grief evolves but never goes away. I really thought, during those first horrendous months then years, there would come a time when grief was not an issue, but the truth is, it’s always there.

      I’m glad you’re carrying on with your life, making accommodations with all the changes. That’s all we can do. And oh, so healthy to have removed non-supportive people from your life. It’s hard enough to live without that special person without others making it seem less than it is. And no, you never have to apologize for anything you feel, especially not to those who can never understand what you went through.

      Wishing you a peaceful year, especially as you approach the anniversary.

      Thank you for stopping by and letting me know how you are doing.

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