Article: How Did Grief Get an Expiration Date? By Lynne Hughes

How Did Grief Get an Expiration Date?

by Lynne HughesFounder of Comfort Zone Camp for Grieving Children

Certain things need an expiration date. Milk, eggs, mayonnaise, meat, fish — there is a time we need to be done with them, and throw them away. I get all that. But does grief have an expiration date? For some reason, there seems to be an acceptable shelf life — 6 to 12 months — and then grief should be off the shelf, out of the home and permanently removed with the weekly trash service. If it was only that simple…

The grief expiration date myth must come from people who have never experienced a close death — otherwise they would know the truth. Everyone fears facing such a loss. They are hopeful that should death touch their world, it will only take 6 to 12 months to recover. No one wants someone they love to die. So, until faced with the reality, it’s easier to think ‘this won’t happen to me, AND if it does it will only be bad for a finite, short  amount of time and then there’s an expiration date and it is magically all gone.’ What a wonderful world that would be.

I’ve heard time and time again there is a societal expectation to “get over” grief in six months, and at the longest, a year. Those who aren’t grieving believe it, and often those who are also believe it — this sets grieving people up for false, and ultimately disappointing Continue reading

My Failed Attempt to Ignore 9/11

I was going to ignore that today was 9/11.  But when I turned on the radio this morning,  it was of course the main topic of discussion, as it should be.  Then I went to a church service and it was the theme of the sermon, again, as it should be.

The incidents on 9/11 in the US were indeed horrible and we were all affected on that day.  I was in Washington, DC at the time and lived just 8 blocks from the Capitol and congressional buildings.  I didn’t have a TV so I walked down to an Irish bar that opened up it’s doors early for others like myself.  It was mostly full of hill staffers in suits.  They were streaming out of the Capitol and into the streets, walking who knows where.

It’s horrible to think of the approximately 3,000 people who died that day from the attacks.  Though what first went through my mind when I heard the preacher say that number was what about the millions who’ve died in Congo over the years of war?  Acts of terrorism in the Congo are being committed every day, particularly against women.  That is just one out of many examples of unrecognized atrocities around the world.  It is of course not a numbers game, I realize this.  It is not the death toll that matters.  Though what does seem to matter is that the voices which cry out are heard.   The US, being a superpower is of course going to have one of the loudest voices on this planet.  And even more importantly, a voice that will  most certainly be heard.

Though honestly, at this moment, I feel detached from both the deaths of 9/11 and such devastation in places like Congo.  In fact, I don’t really care.  There was a time when I would tear up thinking about such losses, but all I can think about now is the loss in my own life.  As it should be.

What I mostly thought about this morning during the sermon was I want to see my mother’s death commemorated every year on newspaper front pages and magazines.  I want NPR to spend the day discussing my mother.  I would like to see two huge beams of light streaming out of New York City in remembrance of my mom.  She had nothing to do with New York, but I want that recognition.

Realistically, I know these things will never happen, but to me, her death deserves just as much time, attention and honor.

I want to scream from the tops of New York City sky scrapers and let everyone know that my loss is greater than theirs.

Big Island wanderings

Lately I have acted unlike myself though I am sure that is not unusual under the circumstances.  I spent Labor Day weekend on Big Island, mostly diving, snorkeling and meeting up with some friends.  Though I couldn’t for the life of me commit to any particular action.  Nothing felt quite right. In each instant, I would change my mind and decide that, yes, I should go do this or that instead.  Or wait, maybe not.  Maybe I should do this other thing.

I started the 2-hour drive toward a friend’s house from Kona, though ended up stopping to snorkel for a while and then later ended up at a black sand beach.  As I drove by a Bed & Breakfast I contemplated staying the night there.  But wait, I was supposed to stay at my friends house on the other side of the island.  So I drove on.  When I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself and decided going to bed was the best option.

The next day, I planned go to a birthday party and camp on the volcano but instead took off in my rental car and drove to the other side of the island without knowing where I was going or where I was staying.  It eventually became dark and I figured I needed to sleep somewhere.  I ended up Continue reading

Beautiful underworld

I long to be in the ocean, feeling the water swirl up around me as I descend.  Diving and snorkeling have been a soothing distraction these days.  When I enter the underworld of the ocean I am immediately in awe.  How could I not be distracted by the beauty?  And the silence. I love it.

As a child, many of my drawings were of mermaids.  I was obsessed with them.  I wanted to be a mermaid or at least be able to breathe underwater.  Sometimes I still daydream of being a mermaid.

From the surface, you would never know what lay beneath the water.  Once you enter, it’s a completely different realm.  I want to live there.

 

Baggage

When I walk into my bedroom, there staring at me are three unpacked suitcases.  With stuff piled around them.  I find it somewhat unbelievable that I still haven’t fully unpacked from my trip to Mozambique which I returned from 2 months ago.  Summer school took priority I suppose.  Then there is the suitcase from my last trip to California.  It’s been less than 2 weeks so I’m giving myself a break on that one.

I can’t help but wonder a little bit as to why I’ve waited so long and if it correlates with my state of mind.  I haven’t had much time at all to process my time in Mozambique which would help explain that one.

As far as the other suitcase, there is no explanation really needed.  How long will it stay unpacked?  I feel almost afraid to empty its contents.  Will I just stare at it for months to come?

I was going to skip class today to clean up my bedroom and unpack those suitcases.  But I came to class instead.