A recent writing prompt from Megan Devine (refugeingrief.com) included the following passage. “I was tired of well-meaning folks, telling me it was time I got over being heartbroke. ... (A death in the family) is like having a pile of rocks dumped in your front yard. Every day you walk out and see them rocks. They're sharp and ugly and heavy. You just learn to live around them the best way you can. Some people plant moss or ivy; some leave it be. Some folks take the rocks one by one, and build a wall.”
― Michael Lee West, American Pie
It's true that many (most?) people expect you to "get over" your loss at some point. We seem surprised at someone "still grieving" years after the death that dumped the pile of rocks in the front yard. "She's just never really gotten over it." How many times have you heard something like that said? Or even said it yourself? I have, back before I had my own pile of rocks.
What do you suppose such a "getting over it" looks like? Maybe they're expecting that we never will mention the name of the person who has died. That we won't get teary-eyed or choked up if we do talk about them. That our life will be about something else. The fact I have daily involvement with the foundation we started in Rader's memory— promoting mental health awareness, suicide prevention resources, and grief support, as well as our scholarship fund—is a sure indicator I haven't gotten over it. Right? I definitely have not moved on. Evidence: I'm writing this piece right now. "Still grieving." Rocks in my front yard.
I clearly remember when I was approaching the six-month mark from the day of Rader's suicide. Oh, how I wanted to stop time. You know why? Other people. I knew that when I reached six months, I would not have "just lost" my son. My terrible loss would begin to be viewed as something in the past, and I knew it would quickly continue to recede into what was perceived as the *distant* past. Six months would become a year, which it has. And people are noticeably less moved by anything when there's a little time and space around it.
Yet when my 15-year-old son, Rader, ended his life, it felt as if that pile of rocks was dumped not just in my front yard, but on ME. Imagine going along in your regular life, when suddenly you wake up under a pile of rubble. It sounds like I'm describing surviving an earthquake. So you come to, and you're under all these rocks. You try to make sense of it. What happened? How did I get here? You do a physical inventory: what parts are hurt, what can I move, what's just bruised and what serious injuries are there? Then you have to figure out how to begin. Who, if anyone, is going to help you get out from under? What extraordinary measures might you have to take to help save yourself? But then here's the next question. Once you're out of immediate danger, what will your ongoing recovery look like? In the parts of you that were crushed or gashed, how much function will you regain, and what kind of work over time will it take to get there?
Sorry, not sorry, world. I'm not getting over it. I'm not moving on. I never will have achieved "closure" to your satisfaction. I might not have "just lost" my son, but I always will have lost him. Maybe eventually, though, I will build something pretty with my pile of rocks.