I overheard a conversation the other day in a coffee shop where two women were talking about a friend of theirs who had lost her eight year old child.
“It’s been two years!” one of them emphatically stated. “She is still so depressed. You’d think she’d be doing better by now.”
My heart sank.
I perceive this is the perspective of most in our society. There comes a point where the patience people have for another’s grief diminishes. Their capacity to engage the pain of someone else cannot last indefinitely, so the on-going nature of severe loss is met with unrealistic expectations, impatience and even annoyance.
For this reason, I have admittedly been more inclined to isolate and insulate myself as time passes.
When Judson first died, people anticipated my hurt and were not surprised or frustrated when I broke down in tears, felt depressed, or described my struggles. There was plenty of space and understanding for my circumstance. But as the days have worn on, I have felt more and more pressure to hide my grief. Even well-meaning people, because they do not understand or cannot handle it, seem to expect me to be doing better than I actually am. And strangely, this sometimes hurts me more than the actual grief of the moment. It feels as if people are being critical of me in my most raw and broken places.
I don’t want to hide or stuff my grief (though there are times this is absolutely necessary), so my growing tendency has been to keep to myself as a protective defense.
Living in grief is hard enough as it is, no person who has undergone extreme loss needs it exacerbated by uniformed criticism of the time it is taking to heal. These women in the coffee shop were oblivious to the intensity of their friend’s loss, but their comment had a critical tone, and as a grieving person myself, it hurt!
Therefore, one of the greatest gifts I am given is the friend who continues to give plenty of space for my sadness, validates my on-going pain, and even chooses to ask about my struggles, proving to be a safe place for my broken heart. This enables me to feel like isolation is not my only option.