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What Does It Mean to Heal From Loss?

An all too common response to the seeing someone suffering the pain of a loss is to assure them that the pain will end. We use well intended if worn clichés such as, "Someday this will all seem like a bad dream" or "Time heals all wounds." This rhetoric is meant to give hope to those who seem hopeless. However, these kinds of statements are based on the false assumption that closure brings an end to suffering at the end of the grieving process; it presumes that the end of pain is the ultimate goal for everyone who is in mourning. This is not always the case.


When my father passed away after a prolonged battle with heart disease, my mother was devastated. She cried endlessly for weeks. She stopped eating, and drank very little. She was taking too many anti-anxiety pills and was becoming somewhat incoherent. In fact, her behavior became so erratic that my siblings and I felt it necessary to remove all of her the medications from the medicine cabinet and put our father's old revolver in storage. Over a period of many months we had resolved our own grief in various ways. Mom was still an emotional train-wreck. In time, we children moved from being supportive, to mildly irritated, to emotionally drained by our mother. Finally, I had enough. I demanded to know (for her own good, of course) if she ever planned to "get over it" and get on with life. I heatedly asked her if she ever planned on leaving Dad in the world of the dead and joining the rest of us the world of the living. I will never forget the anger and passion in the response of my usually soft-spoken mother, "I will never stop loving Johnny! I don't want to forget him and you can't make me!"

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