Every grief is different, and everyone processes it differently, but the
broad outlines of the grieving process are fairly consistent. It doesn't matter whether
you're mourning a parent, a dear
relative, a child, a friend, a pet, a home, a relationship, a project at work, or
something even more abstract: a possibility, a missed
opportunity, or your youthful sense of invulnerability. After a certain
age, losses become inevitable. It takes not only time but work
to get past a loss.
Remember that the objective is acceptance. Not forgetting your
loss. Acceptance. In some ways, it's even harder than forgetting.
Acceptance means coming to terms with your loss: making it part of your
experience, and putting it in its proper place in your memories. This may
involve analyzing what happened so that you can learn from it, in hopes of
not making the same mistake a second time. It may involve writing a poem
or song, or a letter you will never send. It may involve a very selective
kind of forgetting.
It means putting your loss among your treasured memories, carefully, so
that you're not thinking of it day by day or letting it get between you
and your life, or between you and other people. You'll always remember.
There will always be reminders: a chance bit of overheard conversation, a
long-out-of-touch friend, a scrap of memory, a color, a flower, a name.
You have to make it safe to remember. You must learn to remember
the person, not the pain; the lesson, not the loneliness, the good times,
not the grieving. You have to get past your loss: make a
part of your past, a landmark on your journey.
When most people tell you to "get over it", they mean for you to step over
it the way you would step over a mud puddle or a fallen branch: forget it,
and move on. (If your friends see you wallowing in the mud, or weeping
for months beside a fallen tree-trunk, they can be forgiven for telling
you this.) No. Build a bridge of smooth stones across that little
stream, and put a pebble in your pocket to remember it by. Take a
chainsaw to that tree-trunk, and carve your name on the fresh-cut surface.
It's a healing process; wounds take time to heal. Don't rush the process,
or let well-meaning friends rush you, but don't hold back, either. Do the
Make an entry in your journal, and tag it so you can find it again. Mark
its anniversary, if it's sufficiently important. Write a song, and
practice it to the point where you can sing it in public without choking
up. Not a miserable song that says how sorry you are for yourself. (OK,
write one of those, too; it's part of the process. Burn the manuscript as
soon as you can see how awful it is.) Perhaps wistful, perhaps angry,
perhaps ironic and funny. Preferably hopeful and maybe even happy. Tell
the world you're OK now.
Get to the point where you mean it, when you say that. You will.