Monday, July 23, 2012

Feeling Pressured to "Move On" in Grief

[Reviewed and updated September 26, 2021]

A reader writes: I was married to a wonderful man for 26 years. At the age of 45 he suffered a massive heart attack and was given a life expectancy of two to five years, but with pacemakers, meds, and various procedures, he was able to be with us another ten years. They were not always easy years, as illness does not bring out the best in any of us. Nevertheless, we fell back in love and had the opportunity and blessing of this past year. We grew very close and he was my best friend. We have a grown son that my husband cherished. My question is this: Why after only six weeks do others think my son needs to move on????? I'm not usually one to get upset at my dad, but today I shared with him that my son had a sad day yesterday. His response was that he would "have a talk with him about moving on." I am so angry right now. Why can't people educate themselves on the grief process and understand if we don't deal with it now, it could cause problems in the future? I tried to help my dad understand, but no way can you win with him. I love him dearly, but he has no clue. My son is going out as usual, and he just left for a holiday with friends. So what if he has a bad or sad day? His dad was his best friend as well as his father! Another reason for me to really think about moving as far as I can get from here once a year has passed. Sorry, but I just needed to vent.

My response: I'm so sorry this happened to you ~ and coming from your dad, I'm sure it cut you to the core. It certainly speaks to the fact that we all have a lot of educating to do, doesn't it? Your dad may have been raised to believe that "moving on" was the healthy thing to do following the death of a loved one, but now of course we know better. Your dad may not realize that today we recognize that grief is a process and mourning takes time ~ and great effort as well.

Unfortunately this sort of pressure to "move on" conveys such a negative message, especially at this very early point in your family's grief journey. You've just lost a husband and your son has lost his father, and barely two months later it feels like you're both being judged by your dad for not "doing" your grief properly or quickly enough! It's what Rabbi Earl Grollman once described as being treated like a bereavement failure or, in his words, "an under-achiever who has flunked a grief course." The truth is that grief takes as long as it takes, and there is no right or wrong way to "do" it.

People in the freshest throes of grief are wounded: we are more vulnerable, more easily hurt, and more sensitive to the comments and behavior of others. In an ideal world, at times of grief we would be surrounded by those who deeply care, understand and accept the depth of our loss, and who will give us all the time we need to come to terms with it. But the world is not ideal, and we do have to deal with others, both at home and in the workplace. I want to encourage you and your son to continue to seek the support of those who do understand your experience and accept your feelings. Reach out to your close friends, other family members or acquaintances, and even strangers (such as those you'll find in a grief support group or in the forums in our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups) who are willing to listen to your story. And no matter how good their intentions, don't let others judge how well you or your son are doing with your grief.

I don't know if you're of a mind to do so, but if you think it would help, you might consider printing out one or more of these articles, and giving them to your father to read:
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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

    1 comment:

    1. A sensitive response, Marty, thank you. I can think back on that great generation that didn't allow for the grieving and so it became the "unlived life of the children." And,yes,we know better now and so we take it one day at a time.


    Your comments are welcome!