The New York Times published an article recently, "Why We Write About Grief," a conversation between two authors who have written memoirs about grief: Joyce Carol Oates ("A Widow's Story") and Meghan O'Rourke ("The Long Goodbye") about the death of her mother. Something O'Rourke said about the passage of time in this conversation resonated with me and I thought I'd share it here:
"As for time passing: It’s been two years since my mother died. I — like my entire family, I think — am certainly less in grief’s grips than I was a year ago. But it’s not gone. I’m changed by it, the way a tree is changed by having to grow around an obstacle. Every now and then I see article by journalists or scientists who say studies show grief should pass in “six months” or what have you. But loss isn’t science; it’s a human reckoning."
What those who haven't suffered profound grief have yet to learn is that the anguish doesn't "go away." That those suffering don't "get over it." Grief stays, weaves its way into your DNA and is carried along with you, changing as the days march on, ebbing and flowing like the tides.
There are no absolutes in grief, no timelines, no maps. No day when you are "over it." It is not a malady which can be cured with pills or potions or the passing of days and years. I'd like to live in a world where there is more compassion for the bereaved, more understanding, less trying to hurry through. Less quantification by scientists and therapists and researchers, and more human understanding. Is that too much to ask?