Friday, December 19, 2014

Grief in the media? It's total BS. And I'm calling it for what it is.

We have a cute little Charlie Brown Christmas tree this year. It's small, has lots of gaps, and didn't exactly come at a price to match. 

But still. It's ours. 

And it was fun to put on some hot cocoa and decorate with the kids. (Well, partially decorate. I let them put on the non-breakable ornaments.)

After the kids and my husband went to their respective beds, I put on cheesy Christmas movies to watch as I finished trimming the tree.

For my second movie, I chose an old favorite: The Twelve Dates of Christmas. The main character has to relive Christmas Eve enough times until she does what she's supposed to on her blind date.

Spoiler alert. Her blind date is a widower. 

And that is the one part of the show that rubs me the wrong way. 

See, it's been almost a year since his wife died in an accident. And the show seems to portray that as forever ago. A year IS a long time right?? It's TIME for him to move on. Time to find a new girl.

So here he is, on Christmas Eve ... The eve of his first Christmas without his wife beside him. And what is he doing? Going on his very first date. 

I suppose you could argue that I'm being picky. And maybe I am. But I am so tired of the media portraying grief as this little thing to get over. This wee little bump on the road of life. 

And it's not just sappy movies. 

Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning, I found this little gem of a read on ABC news. "Robin Williams' Son Zac Opens Up About His Lingering Grief." Check out the first line. 

Did you get that?

Zac is STILL grieving the death of his dad. His grief is LINGERING. 

After, you know, all of 4 months. (And they are selling this as news?)

Fall has passed since his father took his own life. One measly little season. Zac still has to get through Winter, Spring, Summer, and that ever-difficult first anniversary. But that's just the start. Many people, experts in their own right on the subject, agree that the second year is even harder. 

And the news portrays him as "stuck in grief?!?" Because 12 weeks should erase the pain of a loss of 30 years of memories?

I'm calling it.

Why is our understanding of grief so outdated? So wrong? 

Our social media these days is chalk-full of campaigns to make the media portray life as it really is. 

Passionate individuals write viral blogs about accepting a postpartum belly. Loving a postpartum belly. Suddenly bikini belly is out, and postpartum belly is IN.

Super-sized companies like Dove drive TV and magazine campaigns around accepting a normal size body, and normal looking skin. 

Normal is the new beautiful.

Families who are raising a child with autism or Down's Syndrome or another   disability share their stories and videos to normalize their experience with the rest of us. Maybe we aren't yet where we should be ... But we're making strides.

I think as a whole, this is all really a good thing.

I love that we are no longer accepting that a waif-looking creature is the body type we should all aspire to. 

I love that we are realizing that our bodies are more than things to put on display, but are these amazing instruments we use to serve our families in love.

But why -- please, please tell me why --  we are leaving the totally normal, totally human function of grief back in the dark ages?!

Why do we accept shows that portray a loss as a bump in the road. Why do we read articles that declare people moving through loss as "stuck" or "lingering"? Why do we accept this as news?

Besides love, grief is probably one of the most fundamental emotions a person can go through. And we ALL go through it. 

We lose jobs and pets and promotions. We lose parents and grand parents and siblings. We lose a friend. We lose a spouse. We lose adult children and children before they were born. 

And if we haven't experienced a grief of our own (yet), we are watching someone else go through it. The mom in the church whose daughter has inoperable cancer. The family whose husband and dad went to sea and never came back. 

And with Facebook and Twitter, grief is even more apparent. The 12-year-old shot suddenly. The mom who dumped her kid off a bridge. The beautiful baby whose kidneys aren't working. 

And we mourn as a nation. The kindergartners and teachers shot at Newton. The families killed watching Batman in a movie theatre. Little Caylee Anthony, who we all loved and mourned in our own way.

And yet with all this grief, and all this sickness, and all this dying, we STILL accept what media tells us about grief. 

That it should not last long. (Give it 5 minutes to 5 days.)

That is is not normal (no one wants to be stuck or lingering.)

That it is something to get over (and if you don't get over it, something is wrong with you.)

That joy over things like Christmas should trump grief, not trigger it.

That it is best dealt with privately or alone. If absolutely necessary, than with a licensed professional. (Why else do we tell moms it's for their benefit not to announce a pregnancy for 12 weeks ... So if they lose the baby no one else has to know they are grieving.)

Maybe it's just me ... But I am so over it.

What society tells us about grief .... What the movies say ... What reporters report ... It's all BS. 

The truth is you don't get over it. It changes the fiber of who you are. It becomes a part of you. Sonetimes, a big part, sometimes a small part. But true grief changes you forever. 

It stays with you longer than you could ever predict. It pops up unannounced, even when you think you have come to terms with your loss. 

You can do all the "right" things: journal privately, see a counselor, and maybe let one or two people support you. But you will not speed up grief. It refuses to be rushed through, to be checked off as a to-do list. 

Grief operates outside of the confines of time. 

80 years may pass, and a certain smell will trigger tears of loss. A child never known outside the womb may have only been around for weeks ... And yet the loss and knowledge of that little life sticks around for a lifetime. 

Grief only magnifies itself when it is coerced into a dark corner, away from the light, away from support, away from others. 

Isolate grief -- and you have a monster. Share grief -- and you have a friend. 

It is Christmas. A time for joy. But for oh-so many, a time of grieving. And the many subtle and not-so-subtle messages we've received about grief can make us feel so alone. 

"If everyone else is over it, why aren't I?"

"If this season is about hope and happiness, why am I crying at every ornament I place in my tree?"

"If I were stronger or a better person, it wouldn't hurt this much."

To you who are grieving, may I please speak to you from my heart.

The media? They know nothing. The person next to you grieving? Their grief will look different than yours. Chances are their grief even looks different than what they are letting you see. Everyone else? Put their expectations, their hopes and their losses aside. 

Only you can grieve your grief that way you need to. The way that is true to you. And you know what? It's going to take as long as it will take. No more, no less.

You, dear hurting soul, are doing well with your grief. I know you are lonely, but if you can, let those of us around you show support. Let us grieve with you.

No timeline. No expectations. No silly stages for you to walk through.

Just us ... here with you. Feeling your love. Feeling your loss. 

And right here ... Mourning with you.

No matter if you are 5 minutes or 50 years into your grief, may you know this Christmas, you are not alone.

P.S. One more little lie I'd like to clear up. You know all those grieving people in the movies? How they look so broken and weak? That is a lie. The strongest people in my world are the ones walking through grief.

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