Golden Grief Nuggets

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]tumbled across a few gold nuggets the past few days. Most have to do with processing grief (or not). All worth the watch or read, at least they were for me.

Can you believe I used to feel bad that I felt bad about losing my daughter? How ridiculous is that? Recent reads (Tim Lawrence, Megan Devine and others) have taught me that my grief is perfectly acceptable.

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“Sometimes grief sneaks up on you and whispers: I’m still here. Don’t shame me. I deserve acknowledgement. I am the pain of your love…” – Tim Lawrence

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“To say that grieving is “negative” is preposterous because grief is an aching wail of love for what we’ve lost. To NOT grieve is negative”. – Tim Lawrence

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The word “closure” has always irritated me, perhaps because it is so oft used to push grieving people into ‘moving on’ or even, sometimes, shaming them into hiding.

Let’s look at this word more closely. The word ‘closure’ originating in the 14th century means a “a barrier, a fence,” an “enclosure; something that walls off or creates a “barrier or division”. From late Latin, closure comes from clausura meaning to “to close” or “bringing to a close”.

Is it really wise to encourage mourners to ‘find closure’? And when we say that, what do we really mean? Do we want grievers to ‘enclose’ their grief? Do we want them to build barriers around their true feelings? Do we want them to bring their emotions to a close? And if we do, why? Because of our own discomfort? Because we need others to be productive, happy citizens?

There is a cost to pay ‘enclosing’ grief. There are significant consequences for what my friend, the great scholar and psychoanalyst, Dr. Robert Stolorow calls the “war on grief.” The cost is high: addiction, inauthentic emotions, disconnection from self, from others, from the earth and nature.

Closure is for doors and cupboards and windows, not for emotions, particularly grief. The concept of ‘closure’ does not apply to my grief.

When we are suffering, we don’t need more barriers from one heart to another. We need connection, affinity, and civic love. We need to feel upheld in our grief. We need others to accept our sadness and love us however we show up in the world.

So, instead of worrying about how to make grieving people find “closure,” let’s worry about helping those who aren’t grieving find compassion.

In that way, we aren’t closing our hearts – we are, rather, in a state of opening, unfolding, and becoming.

– Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

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Beyond Closure TEDx Talk with Nancy Berns

Worth the 17 minute watch.

6 Thoughts.

  1. What an exquisitely wonderful post! The word ‘closure’ raises my ire too. That word, so often spoken by those who have not yet walked a sorrowful ‘mile’ or by those who cannot touch their own grief for fear it would kill them or said by those who cannot hear of ours for it might ”condemn” them.

    Dr. Joanne Cacciatore nails a humane, compassionate truth!

  2. Oh Suz ~ “Can you believe I used to feel bad that I felt bad about losing my daughter? How ridiculous is that? ”

    Yes, I can believe it because I used to feel the same thing. I used to get so mad at myself, would think I was pathetic when tears would fall from thoughts of “the baby I couldn’t raise”. I was supposed to be proud that I had made such a selfless decision. I was supposed to be happy that there was a loving couple out there “ready” to become parents. I was supposed to be ashamed because I had sex at such a young age and became pregnant. I was supposed to look at the loss of my son as a redemption for my sins. Why was I using that innocent baby as an “excuse” to be sad?? Why did I even have to “make myself” think of him?? I was supposed to have gone on to forget that whole experience ~ not keep remembering it just to have something to feel sad about!

    Ughhh…. sorry for the vomiting of words there. I’m leaving it though because it’s the sad truth. That is what the adoption industry did to me. And apparently to other mother’s too.

    I found all the posts over the weekend very therapeutic. Thanks for sharing them!

  3. Oh Susie, I hope you don’t truly feel you need apologize for putting those words out there. Those excruciatingly painful soul shredding words. I remember hearing those and that “using the baby as an excuse to be sad”. Oh, how can people justify themselves for saying such things? How would any one of them feel if we told them, “you have to walk away. Just forget your child. Do it now and with the prospect of forever and do not ever feel sorry, sad or mourn that child”. I strongly suspect they would look at us as if we were quite insane.

    I’d add to that list, “well, YOU signed the papers!” Uh, yeah, day of or maybe (but I doubt it) one day after delivery, heavily medicated, distraught, desperate, dead of winter, no hope, no help, no guidance and out of possible places to turn and no where to go, “baby go to better people, real humans with worth and value. Not you”.
    Nope! Nothin’ to be sad about there, nothing to feel hurt or terrified or violated by.
    “Stop feeling sorry for yourself!”
    “Well, somebody needs to show compassion and empathy to this hurting mother, as you (whomever) sure don’t.”

    Susie maybe you’re right, maybe it is a “vomiting of words” as I feel I have just done. Oh goody (sarc), more to feel shamed about). It’s still ok. Adoption (for the loss side) is enough to make anybody ”sick”.
    “What have you got to cry about?” is another one I’ve heard. I pray their memory stays intact. Maybe they’ll ‘remember’.

  4. Suz, as you know, I’ve been following and reading you for many years. I think this might be the most universally important post you’ve ever written. I’m going to share it widely, hoping that people will realize there are all kinds of grief. The death of a loved one. A loss by divorce, the loss of an important relationship. But also for mothers who have lost a child to adoption. The video made a good point about “closure,” a useless expression and goal. Losses never leave us. It stays and we deal with it over time, to the best of our abilities. Compassion from others is what we need, a demand for closure.

    • Glad you enjoyed Denise. I know I did. Found the quotes and more very insightful and hugely validating. I encourage all to consider readeing Tim Lawrence and Megan Devine (linked above). Tim writes about a number of topics but all incredible. Megan is largely focused on Grief. Good stuff.

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