Is It Okay To Let A 1 Month Old Cry Grieving With Gusto

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Grieving With Gusto

Years ago, when my elderly father-in-law died of natural causes, I often took my beloved mother-in-law to his grave. Each time she broke down in tears and cried, “Why did this have to happen? Why? Why?” I felt terrible for her loss and was more than willing to stand by her side, rub her back, and give her nose bags to ease the pain. But as the months passed, I found my patience wearing thin. One Sunday afternoon, about six months after his death, we were standing at his tombstone, when he again cried out, “Why? Why?” It took me some self-control not to grab him and say, “BECAUSE HE WAS NINETY YEARS OLD FOR CHRIST’S GOODNESS. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?”

I mean, anything and everything dies, right? I couldn’t imagine why it was still a shock. Why couldn’t he just move on?

As karma would have it, the loss of compassion improved shortly after my husband died, followed two months later by his then doubly grieving mother. This time I was the one who stayed by the family plot crying, “why, why, why?” No doubt I did my share of exasperating and worrying my friends and family as two, three, four years later I was still struggling with grief, holding constant memorials, keeping poster-sized photos of him in the house, and toiling away. a novel about our life together, trying to make sense of it all.

That’s why when a friend of mine recently told me she was worried about her cousin because she had a picture of her dead daughter tattooed on her stomach five years after the child’s death, I insisted it wasn’t weird. Unusual? Yeah. But what is our obsession with judging other people’s grief? Leave him alone, I said. He’s fine.

Also, it’s pointless to advise people to express grief. Shortly after my husband died, I had a heart-shaped locket made from our wedding ring’s gold and filled it with pieces of his cremated ashes. I wore it proudly around my neck, thinking it was a lovely way to carry him with me, close to my heart, while leaving my bare fingers free to tempt suitors. When I later suggested to another widow that — two years after her husband’s death — she should get his voice off the answering machine, she said, “At least I don’t have him shackled around my neck.”

That day I decided to let go of my opinion about what is normal and what is not in the grieving process.

We are expected to last at least one year in this culture to successfully move on from a loss. After that, our supporters may become concerned or even fed up with our continued attachment to the past. But I wonder if the reason grief is sidelined, affected, or prolonged is that our culture rejects the raw displays of pain needed to move it through and eventually out of our system. And I don’t just mean grieving the loss of a loved one. This extends to all the people, places, dreams and ideas we fall in love with, become attached to, and then have to let go of.

Perhaps if the unpredictably timed bouts of grief were accepted as tolerantly as the common cold, they wouldn’t turn into unhealthy guilt, anger, depression, pills, booze or bitterness. We might just recognize them for what they are—dramatic but temporary flashes of raw pain that need expression. Why don’t we indulge ourselves and others in a good old fashioned rant, knowing that – like a simple virus – if we let it go, it too will pass.

Maybe it’s the exhibitionist in me, but I’m a big fan of public displays of grief. That’s why I love the annual Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. Losing is a given, why not accept it? When my husband died, I had a funeral for him, which a friend called a “gala”. I followed this up with a love fest in her name to benefit a local hospice. Then a bench was installed in his honor on the Golden Gate Bridge. At one point, my mother warned me that I needed to stop throwing parties and start grieving. But for me those events were all part of the grief.

We celebrate life’s increasing joys in community with christenings, barmitzvahs, weddings and anniversaries. Why not make more room for our growing losses—the endings of relationships, businesses, political campaigns, or dreams that just didn’t take off? Why carry that sadness and disappointment around when you have friends who can share it—even help you let it go?

As I am inclined to make grief public, I am now planning a funeral for a book I have written about my husband’s family, which I hope will one day be a bestseller. But the publishers rejected it; so I bury that dream and move on to find another path. At this funeral, I also invite others to bring any dead dreams they are willing to release to be placed in the casket with my book. We can lighten our burdens together and make room for the next big thing.

After coming up with so many creative ways to embrace loss, I feel like a happy poster child who practices grieving with gusto. If we let ourselves cry, scream, complain, curl up in a ball for a few days and even come up with funny rituals to help the process, something wonderful will happen. Regular and healthy grieving enables our pain to turn into rich emotional compost, which is useful for growth in the next phase of our lives.

If we learn to grieve, we become a more compassionate bunch. This also prevents us from being hurt when someone in their innocent attempt to associate our pain compares the loss we face to something we judge to be lesser. After my husband died, I got all kinds of comments, including, “I know how awful you feel, I lost my dog ​​last year.” When I looked into the eyes of the man who said that to me, it was so clear to me how much he really, really missed that dog. Later, when a divorced woman said, “You’re lucky your husband is dead. I still have to see mine,” I realized she didn’t mean to be callous; it’s just that he was still struggling with his rage at the loss.

Yes, people do and say strange things when dealing with the loss of loved ones. Sir Walter Raleigh’s widow kept his head in a leather case 29 years after his execution. Perhaps we could spare people the need to make these extreme gestures by providing more frequent and socially acceptable ways to fully express pain, ultimately strengthening our ability to let go.

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