You don’t have to just “get over” the death of a loved one 239



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Last week I was out at lunch with a friend I’ve known since the kids were in primary school. We’ve spent hours and hours together helping out at school functions, sewing costumes for ballet school, working on the rugby club tuckshop and socialising over the years and I consider her one of my closest friends. But while we were eating lunch and discussing things she said something that totally blew me away.

Another good friend of ours lost her husband five years ago to prostate cancer. And, like many widows, she still struggles with the fact that her most loved is no longer here. While Michelle was talking about an upcoming event she said, “I wish Mary would just get over Phil. It’s been five years so she has to stop being miserable. It’s definitely time.”

I was a little horrified. Since when has there been a “used by date” on the grieving process. And furthermore, since when do friends stop understanding and supporting and instead start expecting things to change.

Why? Because apart from being correct on an ethical, emotional and human level, it is also scientifically impossible. Grief for some people in some forms, lasts forever. And it is so sad that as a society we’ve forced people to believe that their sadness needs to stop. An article published on The Conversation was written by a therapist who so often has clients come in to ask, “why am I still sad?” as if they have an illness or a problem.

The saddest part, is that when the question “why do you stop wanting to feel this way?” is put to these clients, instead of telling the therapist that they struggle with their own emotions or don’t like feeling this way, their answer is very different. It is often because they want to stop upsetting, irritating and angering the people around them.

Someone who has lost someone they love in any capacity should not have to feel like their very real emotions are taking a toll on others – especially when “the others” are those who are meant to stand by you, support you and love you through times of turmoil.

Grief is a funny thing. For some people it lasts years and for others it is fleeting. We all grieve in different ways – some choose to forget, some become habitual, some don’t stop longing for what or who they have lost. But at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong to how we grieve. We shouldn’t box people into a stigma that their feelings need to change by a specific date or that they should follow some kind of timeline.

I think this week I need to talk to Michelle, because I feel so sad that Mary has people around her doing this and classifying her as one type of person because she has simply changed after a tragedy. Whether we like it or not, grief changes you. Life events, change you. And as the people who stand around others to love and support them, we need to realise, understand and accept that more. Because people like Mary don’t deserve to feel the pressure, when they are already dealing with something we can’t say we know.

Do you think as a society or a community, we are too quick to expect people to get over death? Do you think we need to be more understanding and supportive? Do you have your own story that you can share on the matter? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I was a palliative care nurse for many years and I have also lost a daughter. When attending a Palliative Care Conference I heard a Grief specialist say that just because you lose somebody doesn’t mean that your relationship with them stops. You may come to a point (in your own time) when it doesn’t hurt so bad and you are able to move on with life but that person will always be a part of your life and you never stop thinking about them, talking about them and relating to them.

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    • This article is just so true I cannot believe the likeness to myself and what has happened, thank you for posting these articles they certainly make you realise that there are other people dealing with these issues and it all helps just knowing how they cope, Thank You.

  2. Everybody grieves differently and there is no use by date. I once read that you don’t need to “get over it” you just need to learn to live without that loved one in your life. To me it sounds as if your friend needs the support to do this.
    We lost our adult son almost eight years ago and I still have a hole within me and I will to the day I die. However I’m learning how to live without our son and there are days when it’s very difficult. Will I “get over it”? The short answer is no.
    Don’t expect your friend to “get over it” any time soon but be there to show her love and compassion.

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  3. Totally agree it is different with each person. They need all your support whether it is 2 weeks or 4 years

  4. So sad for her. She definitely needs support and understanding, which means being able to talk about her beloved. That’s the part that others seem to find irritating.

  5. There is much truth in this article. I would go so far to say it also applies to those whose marriages have broken down for some reason. The sense of abandonment and the breaking of trust can have the same “grief” impact . Recently my husband of 20 years left suddenly and my heart is broken but I am often told I have to “move on” or “he wasn’t worth it” . It hurts all over again when your friends and family react this way.

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    • I too experienced this. My heart was broken. What people say may be true but we need to heal first. It is now 4 years ago for me and although I miss being in a relationship I don’t miss him.

    • My thoughts go out to both of you. When I read your comments, it made me realise just how lucky I am and maybe I should appreciate what I have, that others, no longer have. Take care.

    • Susan I read a beautiful selfhelp book when I lost my husband suddenly and divorce was classed in the same category as losing a loved one to death so you are right to feel this way.

    • Susan Sosic your right when someone divorces or separates the so called friends scatter when this happened to me I asked one female how come I never heard back from u she said well he told us u didn’t want us to be friends anymore ” what a load of crock in one breath she didn’t like him and then when I asked her that question she believed him you know something??? we are better off without those kinds of so called friends in our lives..

    • Yes, the loss of a relationship can be as ppwerful as death. Over 6 years ago I was parted from someone I loved more than life itself through circumstances neither of us had the power to control and it is a pain I would not wish on my worst enemy. It time I learned to walk, talk and look like a whole person on the outside again but I felt like a walking corpse. 2 years ago I met someone else who has helped ease a lot of that grief and fill some of the empty spaces in my heart. But I will never, ever forget my first love, nor stop mourning the loss of what could have been. But, I agree, people stop wanting to know about it very, very quickly.

    • Susan, I totally agree with you and grief through divorce is not given the same respect as grief through marriage. I was divorced 30 years ago and even though happily remarried still occasionally feel sad when I think about the past. I drove past my old house the other day and I felt sad thinking about the happy days when my children were babies. I tend not to think about the past and enjoy the present with my wonderful husband.

    • Susan my Heart goes out to you and I feel your loss must be devestating but at least you know one day there is the possibility of your partner/husband walking through the front door. With death it is Final. No second chances. I hope one day you do find Love again

  6. I lost my husband of 40yrs 2yrs ago and as time goes on I miss him more and more it gets harder as time passes

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    • I agree, I also lost my beautiful husband of 42 years, 2 1/2 years ago & the pain gets worse not better or easier. Thinking of you & sending hugs Sandra

  7. She definately needs Counselling.

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    • Who needs counselling – the grieving Mary, or the complaining friend Michelle? Mary may benefit from counselling, but Michelle needs some education in being a friend.

  8. I loved my Mum too much to just ” get over it” – it’s only about 15 months since she died but I am still grieving and slowly moving on. She will always be with me I know. No one can tell you it’s time to stop grieving. You learn to live with the grief, not fight it. It’s a hard but very special time.

  9. I’m in the same situation as mazz Hayes, it’s been 22 years since we lost our son aged 25, so no you don’t get over it, you learn to live with it, and we speak his name every day, he’ll never be forgotten, but I know he wouldn’t want us to be miserable all the time!

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