Time. It is not always on our side, especially in the grieving process. Since losing my son eight years ago, I’ve heard many well-meaning folks tell me how much “time” I should be taking to heal. One month? Absurd. One year? A common marker, but certainly not common for everyone.
We are told, “It’s time to move on. Time to get over this. Time to get back to life.” How much time is enough time to “get over” death? And can we ever “get over” something as life-altering as the death of our child?
If you’re reading this, chances are strong that you have experienced devastating loss. I know that after my son, Steven, was killed in an accident, I cringed at the mention of any timeline to grief. Was there some magic date on which I was supposed to feel better? Some point at which I wasn’t allowed to mention my sadness or pain when out socially? Was there some mathematical formula to calculate the duration of grief based on the severity of the loss?
My head was spinning.
I decided that it was up to me, and only me, to know when I felt the start of healing. No one should be able to dictate to me when enough minutes, hours and days had been taken to be on the road to grief recovery.
I know now that I will never get over the loss of my child, yet I have now come far enough to “move forward” with positive living again. Simply moving on without my eleven year-old could never happen. Moving forward, by taking each step slowly and thoughtfully working through my feelings, has.
I spent the good part of the first three or four years in private grief therapy, sorting through the pain, guilt and ashes left from the blaze of Steven’s death. How could this have happened? Why did I let him out the door that day? How do I continue to raise my other children to be well-adjusted and happy? When will we ever feel ourselves?
Through the time I took, I was able to move forward, to move away from “living death” to “living life” again. Yes, I still grieve. I will always grieve the death of my little boy. The difference is, I laugh again, I love again. I have even danced at a few weddings.
Indeed, taking our time is vitally important on this most important journey. It is a journey we will forever be on, but one that can withstand how long each of our steps take.
Maria Malin, a bereaved mother and certified grief and life crisis specialist, can be found at www.movingforwardhangingon.com.