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You can’t possibly be crying?

Guest Blogger Bio: My name is Malinda but I usually go by Lindee instead. I am a 23-year-old woman that lives in Iowa. If I am not running the sidewalks or attending graduate school, then you’ll find me boutique shopping in the eclectic East Village of Des Moines. Having lost my own daughter, I know firsthand how difficult it is to navigate through grief but to also be a young woman in a society that frowns upon showing emotions. So with mounting frustration, I felt inspired to devote my life to writing about child loss and just how misunderstood us young parents can be.

It wasn’t long into my adult life when I lost my daughter to Spina Bifida, very unexpectedly. Not only was the pregnancy unexpected, but so was her death. And I found myself thrust into a completely different part of life, in uncharted waters.  At 20-years-old I had an immense amount of grief to learn to cope with; but at the same time I needed to find my way back to “normal” life, whatever that may be.

So with several months of being on an emotional rollercoaster and learning how to reintegrate into my new life, I came to a realization. It suddenly hit me how alone in all of this I had been. Yes my family and friends had been there along the way but as a whole, the general public was very uncomfortable with my loss. Out in public I would come across many people who were passive, partial and very uncompassionate towards my daughter’s death. Never once did I need any sort of sympathy but it was apparent that society was unable to communicate with me about my loss.

One day I got to thinking, how many people does this happen to? How many young women struggle in silence like I did because society has made it socially unacceptable to be publically sad? Surely, I couldn’t be the only one going through this. With these questions in the back of my mind I started to watch how people treated me differently. Even out for a night on the town, I noticed how people that I had known for years seemed to avoid me. With all of my mental notes, I came to a quick conclusion; most people treated me as if nothing had happened. Whether they wanted to skip the awkward questions or just didn’t care because it hadn’t happened in their life, I am unsure. But neither of those options were enough of an excuse.

Society wants us to be strong, independent, vibrant people that hide our emotions. We are supposed to go to work, make money, have fabulous things and act as if life isn’t different after our loss. It almost feels like a punishment. Most people put on a façade as if they are fine even if under the surface the grief torments them. The force that society puts on people to return to normal life after a loss is a travesty.

With all of that being said, I choose to start writing about how misunderstood us young, grieving people are. What the world needs to realize is that most grieving people do not want your sympathy; all they yearn for is a little understanding. A simple acknowledgement of the loss would suffice. But society still stands in the way of allowing this to happen. Both the griever and the rest of world have a disconnect with each other about death because society has made it unacceptable to have sadness as a part of normal life. What the most discerning part is is that death isn’t a weakness. It is something that is a normal, healthy part of life that so many people hide from.

After having lived the nightmare myself, I know how insanely hard it is to open up to other people. But with how prevalent social media is and how advanced our society is, it is imperative to find the time to reach out to other grieving people. In time, if each of us grieving people found it within us to take the plunge and speak about our experiences, then it is we who are making the difference and changing societies views on grief. Rather than waiting on society to change, why don’t we put the change into motion ourselves?  The world is waiting for us to do something about this, and tomorrow is the perfect time to start

25 thoughts on You can’t possibly be crying?

  1. I agree with this. My own experience is that when we were 25, my best friend died very suddenly and unexpectedly. Many people were wonderful, but I have not forgotten the remarks that showed a…staggering insensitivity to what grief is, most made, I’m sure out of ignorance. “So, are you back to work?” my grandfather asked me, three weeks after her death. “You don’t have forever to deal with this,” said the instructor whose class I was TA-ing for, about a month after her death. “Try throwing yourself into your work” was the not-so-subtle message I got from more than one person at my university–well, that’s not how I handle grief. That’s not what’s helpful to me.

    I also remember the friends who came over before I got home and cleaned up my pigsty of an apartment for me so I didn’t come home to chaos, and other true expressions of support and kindness. But too many people don’t know how to handle news like that. And there’s a narrative that the grieving person is supposed to follow: grief, and then a rediscovery of the importance of life, blah blah blah. God help you if you keep relapsing into grief three years later; people don’t know what to do with that.

    1. Oh, I’m sorry. I should’ve started out by saying how sorry I am for your loss. I’m shouldn’t have launched right into blathering about myself. I’m so, so sorry.

      1. Don’t worry that wasn’t insensitive at all; I have spent the last few years navigating through my grief so I am not easily offended. But yes, you see exactly what I am getting at. In our mid 20s, to some people we still might seem like children while to others we are adults that are supposed to get over our loss immediately. It amazes me how some of the people that are the most inconsiderate are our closest friends and family. Just as you said, rediscovering life isn’t a carefully calculated set of rules that each of us need to follow. Perhaps society won’t ever catch on but I do have hope that there are many more people out there like you and I that aren’t shaming people out of their grief.

  2. I too am so sorry for your loss.

    I’m not comparing it, because it’s not exactly the same thing, but my mother died suddenly (from injuries suffered in a car accident in which she was driving and I was a passenger) when I was only 20. Nobody knew how to talk to me about it at the time, and most people assumed that because I was young I would “bounce back” quickly. Even my father assumed that I was sufficiently “over” it to start law school two months later. (A huge mistake which I’ve bitterly regretted ever since.)

    It’s been more than 35 years since she died, and I still think of her just about every day, and occasionally still dream about her, and still have to turn my head whenever I see a car accident on the road, or even see one depicted in a movie. But I’m usually much too embarrassed to mention to anyone that I’m not over what happened, and probably never will be. Because nobody seems to understand that, or understand how much it affected my life.

    So I’m always grateful to anyone who brings up the persistence of grief, and the fact that being young when you suffer a terrible loss doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, let along to “get over.”

  3. A few years ago I started going to a karaoke bar, just for something to do. I went there every Saturday night for about a month. Each time I noticed this woman sitting alone & sobbing as quietly as she could, not to draw attention I guess.. It bothered me enough to ask the regulars, what was wrong? They told me her husband died suddenly at work.. And she’s having a hard time! I asked these same people why they don’t do something. Their response was quite weak. “uh, we really don’t know what to do”

    So I walked up to her, sat down and just held her hand siilenty for about 5 minutes, then she looked at me and smiled.. I gave her my number in case she needed to talk.. Well sure enough she called me later, and I just listened. She told me later, that no one seemed to care, or snap out of it. Just awful things.

    She didn’t want me to fix it, and of course I didn’t know how.. I offered to her someone that cared.. That’s it

    We slowly became best friends

    1. It’s a tricky thing, people crying in public. It sounds like you did exactly the right thing. Times when I’ve been crying in public, though, I’ve felt so embarrassed about the whole thing I just wanted everyone around me to pretend they didn’t see it. I don’t know, it’s a hard call to make.

      1. I’m one of those people that prefer to be left alone if I am crying, mostly because I cry at everything, and I have a lot of shame about it. Drawing attention to it tends to make it worse, for me. But that’s only my experience.

    2. When I was really struggling with my depression several months ago and my best friend had abandoned me to my suicidal impulses, there were at least 2 or 3 separate times I burst into tears in public in NYC. I’ve NEVER forgotten the people who just sat and listened to me (insert proclamation of love for you and people like you here).

      I hope that I can be that person for someone else. I was when I was in the psych ward, but it’s impossible not to be when you’re surrounded by people in the same boat. I do think it’s harder when grief is more ambiguous. Does this person want to be reminded, am I accidentally going to say something that hurts them more? It’s trickier when you can’t tell that someone is in a crisis, and even then, as EG points out, grieving is so individually structured.

      OP, I’m so sorry about your loss, but I’m so happy that you’re voicing your experiences. The ambiguity arises when we can’t talk about sensitive issues.

  4. This reminds me of a song I wrote recently. It’s called “Dark Lullaby” These are the lyrics:

    You will find sadness and
    You will have fear
    You will get sick, your love
    Will disappear

    There will be violence and
    There will be hate
    What made you think there’d be
    A different fate?

    Lies, sweet lies, they
    Rocked you to sleep
    Lies, sweet lies, you
    promised to keep

    We won’t remember the
    Time of our lives if
    All we believe in is
    Beautiful lies


  5. After reading all of these amazing comments, I am really starting to wonder if we do in fact ever “get over” our grief. Yes we learn to live with it, and yes it somewhat lessens as time goes on but does there ever a come a point where we learn from it, grow from it, heal from it? I would like to think that my loss made me into a better, more understanding person but maybe that is just all in my head.

    As I read your post Kristina, I actually felt as if I were an onlooker seeing you approach her. Seriously all that grieving people need sometimes is someone, anyone to just spill their heart out to. The world needs infinitely more people like you.

    Those lyrics really resonate with me. I feel almost as if I am reading about society and how they think people should perceive sadness and grieving.

    1. I think I agree that one doesn’t–or at least I don’t–ever “get over” deep grief. I’ve made a good life, I have an amazing best friend, I am, I think, a happy person, but I have not gotten over my best friend’s death. It was almost 14 years ago, and there are still times I miss her intensely, and my voice still catches and stalls when I talk about her. She was in a coma for a week, and we took her off life support on my birthday, and the week leading up to my birthday is terribly difficult for me emotionally every year. I don’t think I got over it. I think I just live with it. Quite well, most of the time, don’t get me wrong. But still.

  6. I am so sorry for such a terrible loss when you are so young. I’ve never had a loss like that, but I imagine the pain must be indescribable.

    As far as grief — I don’t really know if it does go away. I lost my father when he was 62, and my mother when she was 75. They both had long happy lives, but — If I hear a certain song, or catch something from the corner of my eye that reminds me of how my mom walked — It hits again.

    I think that it never goes away, but time does soften it. But there’s no reason ever to feel like you should “get over it” — how can you get over losing a piece of your heart and your soul?

    It is very brave and very kind of you to show sympathy for others in the same situation. You might find it helps a little with you own.

    I’m going to stop here before I say something stupid.

  7. I think this is a really important topic. I know I have failed to say what I should’ve on at least one occasion that I can think of, and probably others that I am not remembering at the moment.

    Mine is even more egregious, because it was the death of my uncle, my father’s twin. I had a hard time expressing to my cousins or my dad any kind of sentiment at all. I know it was hitting them harder than it was me. I know I failed to do the right thing. I have problems relating to my family in general, so this is fairly typical of me, but that one I regret.

    Another time that I did try and step up and listen a little and lend some support was a former boss that I was visiting at work, and I choose a bad day, because his best friend had passed I think within a couple of days, maybe just the day before. I did my best to help that time, but I am sure he would’ve rather I hadn’t chosen that day to stop in.

    I’m sorry to hear about all the loss expressed here on this thread. I wish everyone the best in coping with their individual grief.

  8. I, too, am sorry for your loss.

    IME, North Americans have this weird duality in their thought processes where we treat death as the *worst thing ever* while simultaneously treating it as something something should just be able to get over quickly, like a bad meal.

    I guess the two attitudes are kind of intertwined, though, as a result of our profound discomfort with death, western society (as a collective whole, not commenting on individuals) only want others to ‘take all the time {they} need’ to grieve as long as their method of grieving is quiet, convenient and doesn’t force us to think about our own mortality and that of those around us. But you can’t be TOO quiet and reserved, otherwise you may not be grieving ‘properly’ (whatever that means).

    Again, though, I speak from my own experiences. YMMV.

    1. “Take all the time you need, as long as it isn’t too much time, and it doesn’t interfere with anything we need you to do.”

      1. Like my boss basically having a tantrum last May when I told him that I needed more than one day off after my father died.

      2. “Oh, and could you try not to look so sad all day? It’s making all your coworkers and the customers really uncomfortable, so I know it’s hard but could you just smile through it?”

        –actually said to me by the supervisor at my high school job after my grandfather died. If I hadn’t been sixteen and terrified that fucking up my first job would ruin my life forever, I would have beaned him with the toe shoes I was boxing up. Grishkos are heavy.

  9. It amazes me how many of you have said they just had a loss and were expected to bounce back into their life as if nothing happened. I am happy to hear that I am not alone. It is the same people telling us to “get over it” that expect us to stop crying in public, the same people that shame us out of our feelings. I would like to say that if we all stood together and confronted the people bullying us grievers that things would change but I am not fully convinced that it would.

  10. I’m so, so sorry for your loss.

    I was a teen/young parent and part of that struggle was my reconciling my excitement at the pregnancy with the social stigma. I had to fight for the right to feel excited in my social sphere — I imagine these feelings compounded by the grief and disappointment of losing that child must have been life-changing.

    Did this play any part in your experience?

  11. I’m sorry for your loss. I have been through a similar (except we never found out the cause) loss myself and it was devastating. What was interesting to me was how many other people came out of the woodwork with their own stories of losses. And we didn’t have a vocabulary to talk about it. Sorry is so small. I think our language is fundamentally lacking in language for navigating grief. We don’t want to be made uncomfortable by other people’s messy feelings. I remember one of the hardest things was when someone found out, and that look on their face, they almost needed me to comfort them, because the whole thing is just so sad and shitty.

    And on top of that, it wasn’t part of a plan. I know people mean well, but that grated on me so hard. It was an evil plan if that were true.

    When a couple of years later a dear friend lost twins later in her pregnancy I didn’t know what to say. “I’m so sorry. It doesn’t make sense. It is so shitty and sad. What can I do for you” was all I had.

    I hope people continue to have this conversation, because I think it is important.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through and lost.

      I agree; nothing made me angrier–or makes me angrier or made my stomach curdle–like people trying to somehow make my best friend’s death okay. It was not okay. It was not part of a plan, and as you say, if it had been, that plan would be stupid or evil. I still remember the person who told me that it sounded like my best friend had “lived a full life.” Fuck that. She was 25, and truth to tell, her life had been shitty. She’d made the best of it and was turning things around, but things had sucked.

      I far more appreciated people like you, who were able to acknowledge and sit with the fact that something horrible and shitty and unfair had happened, without trying to make it okay.

  12. People are incredibly judgmental about grief. I am a mod in a pet loss chat room, and the nasty remarks people have had to endure has driven some of them to near suicide. (Really. A few have had to check themselves into the hospital)
    Pet loss and miscarriage are know as Disenfranchised Grief, because it’s seen as “stupid” and “not as bad”as other types of loss. I call it the Grief Olympics, kind of like the Oppression Olympics, it’s just as pointless, cruel and dismissive.

    I am terribly sorry for your loss, and for having to deal with thoughtless remarks. I don’t know if this will help you, but the parents who lost their children in the Oklahoma City bombing went through the same thing: after a couple of weeks, people expected them to be over it. I don’t get it.

  13. These comments have been so, so cathartic. When I was 16, my best friend died when TWA Flight 800 exploded. I didn’t know how to grieve really, and my peers definitely didn’t know how to respond. A very close friend told me years later, in a sort of apology, that she hadn’t been there for me because she didn’t understand what I was going through (at 16 who does really?) and at the time felt I should have “gotten over it” a lot faster.

    I still miss her. I still cry when I chat with her mom on FB or when just the right song comes on at the end of a shitty day. I was sad when I had my first child because she will never have a child. I was sad when I got married because she will never get married. Or have the choice to not get married or not have babies.

    One thing I’ve tried to do as a learning experience, is be better with people who are dealing with their own loss. Although I am a very religious person, I never, ever talk about “God’s plan.” What an awful, horrible god to take a life. I don’t believe in plans, or in lessons learned. Loss is hard, mourning is hard, but it’s a reality. There is no escaping it. What helped me the most, in dealing with my friend’s death and others, is accepting that the pain and the missing, and the sad never leave. They weave themselves in with the happy, the joy, and the love. It’s all part of being human. My missing my friend keeps her close to me and makes me grateful I knew her for her short 15 years on this planet.

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