Grief: What to do when someone says you need to ‘move forward’

light a candle for my child

Well-meaning and sometimes insensitive people often want you to stop talking about the death of your child, sibling, spouse. Usually, because it makes them uncomfortable.

Maybe your brother is tired of you talking about your child who died ten years after the death? He feels it’s time for you to move forward and leave all that grief stuff behind you.

A cousin might suggest that you’ve gone to your support group or grief therapist after a spouse’s suicide for too long and isn’t that stalling your sprint back to “normal”? Your sister might even be annoyed that visit your child’s tombstone too frequently for years after the death.

My question to you is, do you feel you should stop talking about your loved one to this person because the subject of death makes them uncomfortable? Do you think you should stop visiting the grave? Is there some statute of limitations to missing someone who died before their time? Or any loss for that matter.

I call this grief shaming. And I’m sorry others don’t understand. We tend to simmer instead of having a conversation with our loved one. Sometimes when it’s too soon after, survivors are too emotionally raw to be able to have the kind of conversation we need to have. But when you do get to a point, maybe instead of being angry, understand that others simply don’t know how it feels or that your rituals help you cope with insurmountable loss.

So for the sake of simplicity, we’ll say it’s your sister who is saying things about you that pain you as abnormal for still grieving the loss of your child six or seven years after the loss. Instead of getting angry and frustrated, why not have a conversation with your sister and let her know those visits to the tombstone are the only link you have to the child you lost, someone you loved with every ounce of yourself. While she will have old and new memories of her brood, you’ll not have any new ones with your deceased child. Ask her would she just forget her child because they died?

Explain that when she says those things to you it makes you feel as if you’ve erased your child from your life experience and then ask her if that was her intention? Ask gently and without malice, because most likely, she’s just been worried about you because she has no idea that your ritual is completely normal and healthy. Then ask her since she’s never been through any of this, can she honestly judge you on what has helped you make it through every day and every week since the loss.

Then ask her if visiting the grave once a week helps you, wouldn’t she want you to do that to cope? Why might she think it’s “unhealthy” if you are able to live and enjoy other aspects of your life? It’s what you need and that you are proud that you survived such a devastating loss and that while it’s softened over the years, it’s still hard to live without your child. Then tell your sister you feel hurt when she talks to others that feel as if you are being judged. Listen to what she has to say, too.

Try very hard to use “I feel” phrases and not accusatory terms. Your purpose is to educate and garner support.

Most likely she’s just never considered any of that. And while this could be a friend, a parent or anyone else it’s just an example that sometimes we have to spell it out to others who don’t understand. Choose the relative or friend who means the most to you or is the most likely to be empathetic. Then they can relay that information to other family and friends.

Or better yet just share this post on social media. 🙂

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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