From Mary: We lost our most precious son Nov 14, 2006. He was 27, a firefighter, preparing for his wedding, had just bought a house on five acres, was so enjoying his life. He lived with us till a year before. We talked to him every day and saw him almost every day. He was my baby and my pride and joy. I miss him so badly, I cannot function. I am so tired of people telling me to move on! My life is over, my future is over, why can’t they understand this? What can I say to people (even my doctors) who think grief should last only one year?

Dr. Norman Fried responds: Dear Mary: You are correct in saying that friends and family (even and especially doctors) don’t fully understand. This is because our friends define our healing only through our happiness. They long for our return to our earlier, “lighter” selves. Few people understand that the person we were before grief entered into our lives has changed, and forevermore. If only they could acknowledge that we are changed, that we are different. Yes, we will laugh again, but not in the same way. We will dance, and smile, but inside we will always have our private sorrow.

This does not mean that your friends can’t be there for, and with, you at times. But you are in need of more: Namely, kindred souls who speak the same language and have walked the same or similar traumatic paths. You have a story to tell. The story of your beloved son. Of his past. And of the future that should have been. Surround yourself around these people, even one person who gets it, (as in a grief specialist), and ask him to listen to your stories of love. For when you find someone who is educated, wise and truly understanding, the telling of your story will help you  to lay claim to the person you once were, and it will help you to lay claim to the person you are capable of becoming.

Dr. Norman J. Fried, Ph.D., is director of psycho-social services for the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Winthrop University on Long Island, New York. A clinical psychologist with graduate degrees from Emory University, he has also taught in the medical schools of New York University and St. John’s University, and has been a fellow in clinical and pediatric psychology at Harvard Medical School. His website is www.normanfried.com.

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Norman Fried

Norman Fried

Norman J. Fried, Ph.D., is director of psycho-social services for the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Winthrop University on Long Island, New York. A clinical psychologist with graduate degrees from Emory University, he has also taught in the medical schools of New York University and St. John's University, and has been a fellow in clinical and pediatric psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Fried is a Disaster Mental Health Specialist for The American Red Cross of Greater New York, and he has a private practice in grief and bereavement counseling on Long Island. He is married with three sons and lives in Roslyn, New York.

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