Monday, November 17, 2014

Death: Forget closure, normal grief can last forever

Queen Victoria wore mourning for the rest of her life after Prince Albert's death.

When I was three years old my brother was born. He had a heart condition, and after being in and out of hospital for the whole of his little life, he died when I was five. The time after he was gone was a long and empty period of terrible loneliness and the hollow aching of grief. His death has quite literally marked me, the way all tragedies mark us, particularly when they happen when we’re small.

Even after all these years, there is still a raw place inside that is close enough to the surface to open up again with any big blow and all but double its impact. Even after years of therapy. Even with a long and involved period of training to be a therapist. Even with everything I supposedly know about losses and their impact.

There’s nothing particularly special about this story. While most of us imagine grief should be temporary, our optimism about the transience of loss is not supported by the facts. The death of children and of siblings affects the quality of the rest of our lives. The death of a parent when we are young has long-term measurable impacts on our mental health.

Closure doesn’t appear to be an accurate metaphor for the general course of our human bereavements. Instead, “normal” grief can last in some form for a lifetime.

Read the rest here.


The Anti-Gnostic said...

This is true. There are some wounds that just don't close. We just continue to bear them and they become part of who we are.

Matushka Anna said...

"But what is still so hard for us to face, is that his death, like all unwanted deaths really, would still have been an unmitigated disaster. It still would have hurt like hell. It would still have opened a door that could never fully be closed again."

Having lost four babies, I can say with all honesty that I will grieve in some form or fashion for the rest of my life. And I tried to do everything "right" - I held them, took photos, spent plenty of time with them, and buried them. I've given alms in their memories and said memorial services. Even when you cross all the t's and dot all the i's, grief doesn't somehow disappear after a few days or weeks. We need to stop classifying normal grief as a pathology to be "fixed" as soon as possible.