Sunday, April 20, 2014
Time and Grief (Part 1 of 2)
Editor’s note: This second story about ‘time’ is by Pat Schwiebert, R.N. – Executive Director, Grief Watch. This is Part 1, Part 2 will continue next week.
What does time have to do with grief? Everything. Just consider how, in normal life, our lives are run by the clock and the calendar. Some of us have a clock in every room so we can keep close track of the time. Few of us have the courage to live without wearing a watch because we’re afraid we might be late for something. Time is precious to us. We live in a society that reminds us that every moment counts, and some of us are masters at cramming as much activity as possible into every moment. And when we are grieving, our experience still has much to do about time.
TIME STANDS STILL
When we are grieving we may feel like the rest of the world is going on as usual while our life has stopped. Just last week, after my friend died, I passed a neighbor watering his lawn. He seemed totally unaffected by, and most likely unaware of Sarah’s death. How could that be? He only lives a block away. Didn’t he feel the same shift in the universe that I felt when she died? Doesn’t he realize someone really special is missing?
Most people will allow us about a one month grace period where we are permitted to talk about our loss and even to cry openly. During this time friends will probably seem to be attentive to our needs. But when the month is up they may be thinking, if not actually telling us, that it’s time to move on and that we need to get over “it,” They want us to get back to normal. We may be surprised how many of our friends (and relatives too) will become uncomfortable with our need to dwell on our sorrow. They may not appreciate that it takes time to readjust our life to the loss. Maybe what they are really saying is, “Time’s up for me to be able to be present to you in your grieving time.” Because of this, we may need to redefine what is normal for us, and choose some new best friends- friends who are willing and able to walk along side us on our personal journey of grief, and who will allow us to determine when our “time’s up.”
Grief may make us feel imprisoned in our own version of hell. We won’t like who we are. We won’t like it that our loved one has gone. We won’t like it that our friends can’t make us feel better. We just want out of here, and we’re not sure we want to do the work that grief requires in order to be set free from this bondage. Some of us will remain in this uncomfortable place for a short time while others of us may feel like we have been given a longer sentence.
Though in real life I pride myself in being a master at multitasking, in the land of grief I’m much less sure of myself. I find it hard to make decisions because, in my new situation, I don’t trust myself to make the right choice. I want someone else to be responsible if something goes wrong. Sometimes my wasting time is about not having the energy to get started. I am physically exhausted and my body refuses to make an effort to reclaim my former self. And I admit, quite frankly, that I’m not sure I even care enough about anything to make the effort. What’s the use, since it seems like everything I love sooner or later gets taken away from me.
LOOKING BACK IN TIME
When we grieve we spend most of our time, at least at first, looking back. It seems sfer that way. That’s where our missing loved ones are. If we were to look forward, that would mean we would have to imagine our lives without those we have lost. And that’s what we aren’t ready to accept—not yet. So we spend a lot of time thinking how we should have been able to prevent their dying or wondering if we used our time with them well, as we remember the good times, bad times, silly and sad times. We think we have to keep those memories in front of us, or surely we will forget those whom we have lost.
to be continued next week…