It’s now been almost nine months since Dad died. Nine months, enough time for an egg to become a fetus and a fetus to become an infant. Because I am still writing about the experience, some people approach me with concern and ask, “How are you doing? Are you all right?”
I am really, really all right. Maybe better than ever. The experience of caring for my Dad, losing my Dad and grieving my Dad — hard as it was — enriched my life in ways I find difficult to express.
Then came a little blue flyer in the mail from the nice folks at Sutter Hospice, who made such a difference in Dad’s life and mine between December 21 and January 12. I’m sharing it here in the hopes that it may speak to others, as it did to me:
Reflections About Time and Change by Dennis Klass, Ph.D., Webster University, St. Louis, MD
I often wonder what people are thinking when they say, “You’ll get over it.” Sometimes it sounds to me as if they are talking about a case of mumps or my despair at income tax time. But what can they mean when they say it about grief? Maybe they mean that grief is just an interruption in life. Their theory seems to be that life is basically happy — buying stuff, working, watching TV — but that a time of death and grief is an unnatural sad time in that happy life. I can’t agree with that view.
Time can lessen the hurt; the empty place we have can seem smaller as other things and experiences fill our life; we can forget for periods and feel as if our loved one didn’t die; we can find sense in the death and understand that perhaps this death does fit into a bigger design in the world; we can learn to remember the good and hold to that.
But we cannot “get over it,” because to get over it would mean we were not changed by the experience. It would mean we did not grow by the experience. It would mean that the child’s death made no difference in our life.
There is an interesting discussion in the Talmud, an ancient Jewish writing. Jews had the custom of rending their garments – literally tearing their clothes – to symbolize the ripping apart that death brings. But the question was asked, after a period of mourning, could you sew the garment up and use it again? The teachers answered yes, but when you mended it, you should not tuck the edges under so it would look as if it had never been torn. This symbolized the fact that life after grief is not the same as before. The rent will show. The next question was, can you sell that garment? The teachers answered no. The rending and mending of our life is ours and others cannot wear it.
No, we don’t get over it. We change and grow. Our life has a difference which is ours alone. Perhaps we can help each other make that difference — the kind of difference that increases the world’s supply of compassion, love and healing.