Anyway, I hate being told how to be.
I sense that you're wondering just what the bloody hell I'm wittering on about now. It's this:
I think I know why it was posted. The site in question is founded upon the most generous of principles and seeks to offer support and solace - as well as excellent points of discussion - on the subjects of dying, being bereaved, grief, anticipating death - basically anything to do with a subject so often regarded as taboo or too scary to think about. I'm as sure as I can be that the quote above is posted with the very best of intentions, and I'm reasonably convinced that the quote comes from people trying to be emotionally generous (and the intent, after all, is important). As with so many things with me (perennially grumpy bastard that I am), there is a large 'However' in the room.
*Howevers, just for your information, are large, hairy, stand on their back legs and have enormous and deeply furrowed eyebrows, with which they fend off potential predators and signal their mates - although generally speaking, not at the same time.*
In this case, I was struck by the imperative, instructional tone of the quote, and that doesn't sit well with me when it comes to matters of emotion. I shall now very simply illustrate my reaction to the various parts of this quote (clears throat and as if by magic, suddenly appears in a tuxedo and for no particular reason, sits down at a grand piano):
- "The reality is that you will grieve forever." Erm - says who? Do you know me? No. How, therefore, would you know about my reality?
- "You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it." Wow. Now there's a very clear instruction to be unhappy. No thanks!
- "You will be whole again, but you will never be the same." Actually, you know what: I will, because I've decided that I would like to be. Oh I'll have some new memories in new contexts, but that does not have to make me a different person any more than the passing of time and any other event in my life might.
- "Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to." Double wow: I SHOULDN'T be the same, and (big implied 'should' here) neither should I wish to be. Hmmm...well I have another idea about that, along the lines of: why shouldn't I be the same after my grief has faded and passed?.
The rest, though, is a litany of instructions; the kind of suggestions that any decent therapist would be ashamed to have said to a client/patient. Why? Because our unconscious or subconscious minds (the bits that notice and retain stuff that we consciously miss) soak up suggestions like a sponge sucks in liquid - and does so indiscriminately. Direct suggestions (of the kind expressed in this quote) are powerful, especially for people who may already be emotionally fragile, vulnerable and ready to reach out for any crumb of what they may think is comfort.
Look, however, at the negative suggestions that I've highlighted. Within the frame of the entire quote, it's possible to feel that the speakers are especially sensitive and insightful people; that they are lessening the burden of grief by making it all OK. Think a little about the individual things that they are saying, though, and it's very obvious to me that this is a list of things that they have felt or that they have perceived in others - and that these are the ways that they believe grief should work. 'Should' is a dangerous and frequently irresponsible word when it comes to feelings.
The truth is, of course, that there are no 'shoulds' when it comes to feelings: they just happen. There are no rules for how to be around emotional events and experiences. There ARE choices that we can try to make, such as the ones I have voiced above in the first person, and nobody has the authority to impose their perceptions and feelings and thoughts upon others. In order to have choices, however, we usually need to be aware of them - and the language of this quote removes choice rather than opening up the possibility of choice. Remember that this is being put out onto the internet as some kind of accepted wisdom by an organization that has previously been very successful at breaking down harmful taboos. The suggestions take on an extra weight in such situations: people trust this site to tell them the truth.
What a sadness I think it might be if people - who otherwise may have chosen another, more helpful way to live - unconsciously follow this list of instructions upon how to feel. And you know what? Having seen the power of suggestion through my hypnotherapy practice, I can tell you with confidence that a great many people will unthinkingly do so. That's the beauty/danger of the quite amazing unconscious mind.
I hope that instead, people may try to find different choices, may become aware that there are no rules for emotions, and that they own their lives and feelings. On that note: my lovely old dad died almost four years ago to the day...To my own surprise (and delight), I've stopped grieving, and started remembering with love.