Of all the statements and spiritual platitudes quoted to me since my son, Daniel, died, the phrase that I hear most frequently makes me squirm the most. “You have got to get on with your life.” Recently, I quit squirming long enough to ponder the meaning behind this phrase that is usually said to the bereaved in the form of a command. Exactly what does this phrase mean? What are people implying when they say it?
I was pregnant when Daniel died and three months later, I gave birth to a baby girl. Wasn’t that getting on with my life? I nurtured my three children, took them to school, the park and birthday parties. Now wasn’t that going on with my life? I even cooked dinner four times a week!
At first, after Daniel’s death, I would have liked to have had my life literally stopped and been buried next to my son, but I kept existing. Like the plastic bag tossed about by the wind, I was fluttering, being carried by the events of life. Seasons came and went. In the spring, I planted marigolds and tomato vines. In the autumn, I jumped in fallen leaves with my children. I continued and I am still continuing to live.
Now, I may be bereaved but I am by no means a fool! As I ponder the meaning behind “getting on with life,” I am incapable of knowing exactly what those who say this have in mind. “Forget about your dead child. Quit grieving. You make me uncomfortable.” Getting on with life means don’t acknowledge August 25th, Daniel’s birthday anymore? Forget how he slid down the snowy bank in the recycle bin, sand in the van and ate gummy bears? Forget he had cancer, suffered and died at only age four? Don’t see the empty chair at the dinner table, don’t cry, just live!!!
Some who are more religious would like to believe that a bereaved parent can claim, “My child is safe and happy in Heaven. Therefore, why should I yearn for him?” Perhaps, I pose a threat to certain types because I let it be known I question God. I weep, I have been angry. I miss Daniel. Many old friends feel if they hang around me too long, I might convince them that a few of their beliefs about life are just illusions. As my cries of anguish are heard, there are those who can only think how to make me quiet. They say quite sternly, “You must get on with life.”
I am living. I do move on with life with Daniel in my mind and in my heart. Although he is not physically here, as I continue to live, I continue to love. To sever his memory totally from my life would be creating destruction and damage that would ruin me. To push Daniel out of my life and not be able to freely mention his name or write and speak about who he was on earth would only bring more pain to my life. I’d shrivel up.
Comfort for me comes in remembering with smiles how he drew with a blue marker on his sister’s wall, ran outside naked and picked green tomatoes. For, in reality, getting on with life means continuing to cherish Daniel.