No timetable for grief

In your December Family Counselor, Theresa Shaltanis answered a question about grieving. I did not write the following, but I copied it after losing my husband and struggling with the feeling of overwhelming loneliness. I don’t know who the author is. However, it made me feel better knowing I wasn’t strange just because I couldn’t seem to get over the empty feeling,
even amongst people I loved, when others I knew seemed to cope so much better and so much sooner. The title of the piece I copied was “Grief Doesn’t Run on Schedule”:

I don’t remember when these words started being said after a loss. But now it seems in every public or private death, every moment of mourning is followed by a call for “healing,” a cry for “closure.”

At a Christmas party, a man was concerned about a widowed mutual friend. “It’s been two years,” he said, “and she still hasn’t achieved closure.” The words pegged her as an underachiever who failed the required course in Mourning 101, who wouldn’t graduate with her Grief class.

People can have completely opposite responses. One may say, “It’s time to move on,” and another describe her heart this way: “Sometimes I feel like it is bleeding.” Another may say, “I have an emptiness inside of me that’s there all the time.” Or describe their life as “having a huge hole that can’t be mended.” Sometimes we confuse sadness with depression. We expect, maybe insist upon, an end to grief. Trauma, pain, detachment, acceptance in a year. Time’s up!

But in real lives, grief is a train that doesn’t run on anyone else’s schedule. There simply are no one-minute mourners. Normal grieving may be a lifelong process. Hearts heal faster from surgery than from loss. And when the center of someone’s life has been blown out like the core of a building, is it any wonder if it takes so long even to find a door to close?

The pain lasts as long as it has to. We are all different, and we all grieve at our own rate.

And God will continue to be with us no matter how long it takes.

Dolores Hatfield
Spencer, Iowa


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