Thursday, June 24, 2021

Comments by Susan1970

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  • Joanne
    I contracted my “prolonged grief disorder” when my healthy 3 year old died suddenly of an over-whelming infection one day. She was my only child, and her death, apart from being the most excrutiating painful and debilitating experience of my life, swept away every organising structure – my friends who usually had similar aged children, my job, chosen to suit my role as mother and every future plan that I had in place. Despite this, within days of her death, certainly within a few weeks, pretty much everyone was expecting me to have “moved on” and re-grouped, when in reality, I could barely take a shower and make a ham sandwich.

    I found myself nodding rigorously at your article. It is very much my experience, and I cannot but agree that the issue is a societal pathology, not complicated grief. The Church (where we had been active members) were supportive until she was buried, but the Minister was clear that after that the Church must move on. At the End of Year prize giving 8 weeks after she died, he refused to have her name even mentioned. Friends quickly began to press me to “get back to normal”. Going back to work was a particular bug-bear, as apparently it makes you feel better. I ONLY took 4 months off. I remember one friend who was especially vocal on the issue confided a few months later that she couldn’t bear to go into her child’s empty room when she was staying at her grandparents for a night, as it upset her too much – yet everyone seemed to expect me to assimiliate my child’s absence more easily because she was dead. – as though being dead is somehow easier.

    People kept talking about me accepting her death, but I always felt that it was me who was excrutiatingly aware of her death in every one of my breaths, whilst it was others who wanted to behave as though she hadn’t existed. It was like they were missing out this crucial stage where we sat down and wept together. By the time I fell pregnant with our second child, 6 months after our daughter died, I think most people had moved on completely, as though our daughter’s death, our stint as childless parents and our now little broken family, separated as it was by Heaven and Earth didn’t exist at all. As you can imagine, as I struggled with the pregnancy, I was bombarded with stupid comments about I should “enjoy” my childfree time before the baby (gawp), and after she was born, about how easy it is for me – only having the one.

    People often say “I know I couldn’t say anything that could make it any worse”. The thing is – that’s not true. When you are so vulnerable – and you remain like this for years, not days after the death, it is bloody easy to make things worse. I remember being distraught for 2 or 3 days after a friend, complaining about picking her children up from different parties, remarked that it was easy for me as I didn’t have the stress of children in different places! I was so hurt. Here I was, trying to press on, as everyone had told me I should, and people didn’t even notice our huge loss – even though she knew my eldest daughter and had a child who was born the same year.

    It is a societal pathology – my grief is normal and understandable. The net effect of society’s coldness is to force bereaved parents underground – where they socialise with each other in private spaces, and share together, relieved to be amongst others who “know”.

    Couldn’t agree with your last paragraph more – what a shame that such loving care, in my experience, is rarely apparent.