The Language of Grief
By Darciehttp://nataliasfriends.blogspot.com/?expref=next-blog D. Sims, Ph.D., GMS, CGC, CHT
Once I lived the American Dream. We were a happy family, military by career, parents by choice. And with the birth of our son, our family was to have been complete. We were the American Dream—at least for a little while.
And then, as it happened to you and to so many, it all ended. We learned you couldn’t paint a rainbow on the wall and expect it to stay. The dream came to pieces and we were shattered. No longer the American Dream, we became the American Nightmare. We were bereaved.
We had entered a world we knew nothing about. Suddenly we were strangers in a strange land. We needed help. We needed understanding. We needed someone who could speak our language . . . the language of grief.
We discovered we were grieving, not only the death of our child, but the loss of close friendships, self-esteem, and self-identity as well. We were SO alone . . . left untouched by those around us who must have been afraid, too. Perhaps Death is “catching,” or maybe no one knew what to say. I didn’t know what to hear. But, as the months passed, it only grew darker and we began to wonder if we would ever know peace, joy, or love again.
Eventually, we began to wander and found a few support systems (Thank heavens for TCF!). The Compassionate Friends became a lifeline for us. We found we were not as alone as we feared and we began to struggle through the valley of grief. But as the years went by, I noticed that we and all the other bereaved people we began to know were still struggling with something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until one day, I listened to the words we were all using to describe our grief journey. As I listened to my own words and those of fellow strugglers, I began to realize it was not the journey we were having trouble with . . . it was the language we used.
So, I want to create a NEW LANGUAGE! Can we speak in terms of HOPE instead of sorrow? I want to create a new language where Denial is a river in Egypt, not a sin in grieving. Maybe denial isn’t really denial but Postponement. Sometimes I’m just not ready to deal with reality. Before you can deny anything, you have to acknowledge it and once you acknowledge it, then you can postpone it until you are ready or able to cope. Postponement just seems to be a more accurate and usable word.
Perhaps we can replace Acceptance and Acknowledgement. Acceptance, to me, means agree with and I Will Never Agree with what has happened to us! But I can work towards Acknowledgement of what has happened.
Maybe we can change the words we use. Change the Language of Grief into the Language of Hope. Let’s get rid of the word LOST and find the word FOUND. People die, but we do not lose them. They are forever threads in our fabric, memories in our heart, love in our being. They are now and always will be a living and loving part of who we are.
And then, perhaps we can change one more word in the Language of Grief. Can we use the word Healing instead of Recovery? Recovery is a medical word, designed to describe broken bones, not hearts. We recover from a broken arm or the chicken pox. But recover or get over the death of someone I love . . . ? We don’t Get Over the death of someone we love! We get THROUGH IT, one moment, one hour, one day, one hurt at a time. Healing is a hopeful word and I want to be hopeful in my journey.
And let’s get rid of Closure as well! There is no such thing as closure! YOU DON’T STOP LOVING SOMEONE JUST BECAUSE THEY DIED. We grieve because we loved someone! And we WILL CONTINUE TO LOVE THEM FOREVER!
If I could just see HOPE. I kept looking for the aisle marked happiness. I thought it was a place. I kept waiting for it to get better and it only grew darker. If I could just see hope . . .
Hope isn’t a place or a thing. Hope isn’t the absence of pain, fear or sadness. Hope is the possibility of renewed joy. It is the memory of love given and received. Hope is you and me and the person next to you and across the room, down the street and in your dreams.
We are each other’s hope and we need a new language to reflect our hopefulness, not our despair. If we could just change these few words, I believe we might be able to make some progress towards healing. I am tired of struggling to accept when acknowledgment is more honest. I am tired of being in denial when I know exactly what it is I want to deny, so how can you say I am denying anything? I just want to postpone it for awhile. When I feel more capable, less tired and have some skills and tools, then I will work on my “denial.”
And nothing, nothing closes at the funeral except the casket! I will always continue to love my child and hold him within my heart, my spirit, and every fiber of my being. I will have an ongoing and continuing relationship with him until I can once again hold him in my arms. If that is “crazy,” then yes, I am! As a psychotherapist and a bereaved mom, I believe it is my right to continue to love my child forever and loving your child should not be considered as mentally unhealthy. Good-bye? You want me to say good-bye? I wasn’t through saying Hello!
I want a new language, a language of hope and healing instead of denial and death. I want to remember my child’s LIFE first! And that is the new language of love!
May love be what you remember the most!