When my mother died by suicide in July 2008, two well-meaning loved ones made comments a month later. One pondered whether the fact that I lived alone intensified my grief. Perhaps if I had roommates, I might not be so upset. The other said that if I had a child, I wouldn’t be so self-absorbed. I would have to care for another person instead of feeling sorry for myself. The latter statement was particularly painful because I desperately wanted to be a mother, yet I was thirty-nine and single. I wondered if she wanted me to get myself knocked up by a stranger, so I could circumvent grieving.
There was also the ex-boyfriend who emailed me, “Onward and upward!” when I notified him of the suicide and shared that my mom had always been fond of him. But this is not a blog post to roast people for the odd things they say. It’s simply a cautionary tale to be discerning and protective of what you personally need when you’re most vulnerable and raw. In my case, I wasn’t just grieving my mom’s death. I was grieving the mom I never truly had. And it had only been one month.
When we’re in the heart of deep pain, not every one understands or can tolerate it. Because everyone has their own issues and opinions. For these reasons we must discern who is equipped to witness our experience and hold it with compassion while also acknowledging that people are not always available or able. In these situations, we must ultimately hold space for ourselves.
Grief entails a type of intra-psychic death. We feel like parts of ourselves are dying and life as we knew it has irrevocably changed. In the process, other relationships often fall like dominoes compounding the sense of loss. If you find yourself in this situation, see if you can embrace it as a time for personal transformation. Allow yourself to trust your process. Even if it’s messy. Even if it’s non-linear. And even if it doesn’t follow a set of prescribed rules or steps.
Nothing in life ever does.