Getting On With Life---What Does It Mean?

Of all the statements and spiritual platitudes quoted to me since my son, Daniel’s, death the phrase that I hear most frequent makes me squirm the most. “You have got to get on with your life.” Recently, I quit squirming long enough to ponder the meaning behind this phrase that is usually said to the bereaved in the form of a command. Exactly what does this phrase mean? What are people implying when they say it?

I was pregnant when Daniel died and three months later, I gave birth to a baby girl. Wasn’t that getting on with my life? I nurtured my three children, took them to school, the park and birthday parties. Now wasn’t that going on with my life? I even cooked dinner four times a week!

At first after Daniel’s death, I would have liked to have had my life literally stopped and been buried next to my son, but I kept existing. Like the plastic bag tossed about by the wind, I was fluttering, being carried by the events of life. Seasons came and went. In the spring, I planted marigolds and tomato vines. In the autumn I jumped in fallen leaves with my children. I continued and I am still continuing to live.

Now, I may be bereaved but I am by no means a fool! As I ponder the meaning behind “getting on with life.” I am capable of knowing exactly what those who say this have in mind. “Forget about your dead child. Quit grieving. You make me uncomfortable.” Getting on with life means don’t acknowledge August 25th, Daniel’s birthday anymore. Forget how he slid down the snowy bank in the recycle bin, sand in the van and ate gummy bears. Forget he had cancer, suffered and died at only age four. Don’t see the empty chair at the dinner table, don’t cry, just live!!!

Some who are more religious would like to believe that a bereaved parent can claim, “My child is safe and happy in Heaven. Therefore, why should I yearn for him?” Perhaps, I pose a threat to certain types because I let it be known I question God. I weep, I have been angry. I miss Daniel. Many old friends feel if they hang around me too long I might convince them that a few of their illusions about life are just that, only illusions. As my cries of anguish are heard, there are those who can only think how to make me quiet. To stop my heartfelt they say quite sternly, “You must get on with life.”

I am living. I do move on with life with Daniel in my mind and in my heart. Although he is not physically here as I continue to live, I continue to love. To sever his memory totally from my life would be creating destruction and damage that would ruin me. To push Daniel out of my life and not be able to freely mention his name or write and speak about who he was on earth would only bring more pain to my life. I’d shrivel up. Comfort for me comes in remembering with smiles how he drew with a blue marker on his sister’s wall, ran outside naked and picked green tomatoes. For the reality is getting on with life means continuing to cherish Daniel.

~ By Alice J. Wisler, first published in Bereavement Magazine, 1998.

Ever since the death of her son Daniel in 1997, Alice has found solace in writing from heartache.  All five of her published novels pertain to grief and loss. Her new devotional, Getting out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache, is available on Amazon.  Her online grief writing workshops are offered throughout the year at her website:

About the Author
Alice J. Wisler is the award-winning author of six novels (the most recent being Under the Silk Hibiscus), all pertaining to grief and loss. Her new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache, is a companion through grief. In memory of her son Daniel, she designs many products, including tote bags and bereavement cards. She teaches Writing the Heartache workshops and Journey through Life's Losses workshops, both online and at conferences across the country. Visit her website for more information.
I'm Grieving, Now What?