The living room chair…

Today I was painfully reminded of the toll grief can take on someone in a world where you are supposed to be strong, trudging on like nothing happened with that “stiff upper lip” even though you’ve lost the love of your life.  What passed for support was food brought to the house and the usual sharing of stories of what happened, then invitations to dinner at siblings’ homes in months to follow and some consultation about financial matters but not too much mention about feelings and heartache.  Talking about those things just wouldn’t do any good, right?  How could that help?  It wouldn’t bring back her husband- it wouldn’t change anything- you just have to suck it up and deal with it.

Well, that person was my mother.  And here it is 35 years later and I see her still sitting in a chair in the living room in front of the tv, unhappy, negative, never having been able to make a meaningful and hope filled life for herself at somewhere in those years after my father died.

She was 48  when that happened- now she’s almost 84.  It’s not that she needed to find a new husband and go out and develop a career and do all kinds of crazy things but she should have been able to find some happiness, at least some relief, and them some joy in the future with her grandchildren.  I’m not going to say that it was all due to her not being supported to express her grief.  There were other issues too that influenced how she handled her loss as there are for each of us but the stifling of her emotions and containment of all the natural reactions that are part of grief truly took a second victim in my father’s death.   There were other victims too in my brother, sister and myself as we lived in the shadows.

Why our society had created this destructive environment, I don’t understand.  It is much better now in many ways but there is so much more that needs to be done.  There is still a great reluctance to allow people their grief past a certain time period. We become very uncomfortable when the subject of death comes up, especially if it’s with someone who is grieving. We still prefer to stick to specific rituals to address our losses, packaging it neatly and then hoping to just go back to life as usual.

I think that it falls to those of us who have experienced significant loss to help change this by being brave and talking about what we’ve been through and what we need and why it matters. In a strange way it’s our legacy; a memorial maybe to those we grieve.  In their names we can make it better for those who come after us so maybe their paths will be a bit easier.  I can tell you that from what I see here on the internet that my mother would definitely have benefitted from the support that I see here.

So when you write or talk about your loved one and your loss, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may feel for you, believe that you are helping someone, somewhere.  Had it been there for my mom, maybe she wouldn’t still be sitting in that chair…


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. momshieb
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 01:33:22

    Well said, Cindy, and so true. One of the things that has surprised me since my Father’s death is how open my Mom has been about her grief. I attribute her relative mental health in large part to the graceful way that my Dad died, and the fact that we had only three weeks to get ready for it, but they were a very fulfilling and rich three weeks. And I attribute a whole lot of it to her ongoing use of Celexa, too, truth to tell!


    • Cindyss
      Mar 04, 2012 @ 01:41:53

      Well, I think that the openness that exists today regarding medication is another important reality to dealing with grief (among other things). I know that there are people who think that we turn to drugs too often and too quickly but it is critical that people can face the benefits that it can provide for a short term when going through such a difficult experience. It was just never thought of before. I think that’s another blog subject!


  2. living4bliss
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 21:36:19

    Grief is a natural process. It’s like getting a deep cut in our soul.

    We must acknowledge the pain and allow time to heal, but after a while if healing doesn’t begin to take place, we must also seek help for our wound may have become infected. Without proper attention, it may become gangrenous.

    The healing time after death varies with person to person. We will always have scars from the wound, but after about 6 months to 2 years, we should be functioning at full capacity once again.

    Part of the problem is when we totally define ourselves in terms of our relationship with the other person. Once they are gone, we have no identity. We must work hard to build our own sense of self and include others in that definition. In that way we can heal more quickly if we should lose them.

    Thank you for a most thought-provoking post and writing about such an important subject.


    • Cindyss
      Mar 05, 2012 @ 20:05:59

      Yes, I know what you mean- my mother was raised during the time when women were meant to devote themselves solely to their husbands and children although she did participate in other things as we were growing up. She felt it was a “couples” world and in a lot of ways, it was at that time. For her it was also tough as she did suffer from a lack of self confidence but there were no supports available for people regarding grief either. We didn’t even have Hospice back then and Kubler-Ross was just becoming known. I am very happy to see how much things have actually changed since those days and hope that they continue to improve, including the part about not being solely dependent on someone else for our identities.


  3. Vince Chough
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 17:32:56

    I’m learning from your blog. Thank you.


  4. Trackback: 3 Things Optimists Must Do This Spring « Mental Health Food

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