One of my friends IRL sent me the following link to a Washington Post story.
One Way to Handle Grief: Just Get Over It
I don't know how long that link will work, but go check it out. Very interesting story about an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Christopher Davis. I googled him, but couldn't find anything in primary literature, so it's the Post story for now.
He studies how people respond to tragedy - in this case, the death of a loved one. His team spent years studying a group of family members after a mine explosion in Nova Scotia took 26 lives. After extensive interviews with their families, he divided the grievers into three groups.
We're familiar with two of the groups - the first are the mullers. They process the experience, look for meaning in the loss, and ultimately come to find a positive lesson from their loss. This group is also referred to as "successful grievers" - the ones the psychologists seem to enjoy working with the most - analyze the experience until you come to accept it for the meaning it brings you. The second are the chronic grievers, the ones who still ask why this happened, and have no answer for it. The loss experience shattered their belief in justice.
And the third group was a surprise, one not previously identified by others who study grief - the copers. They didn't ask why, and they didn't find meaning from the loss. They sort of said shit happens, and that's just the way it is, and yeah, it sucks but you move on.
This has really spoken to me in a number of ways. First, my counselor and I spent a lot of time (and money!) talking about how it's not ok to express emotion in my family of origin. It never really felt right to me. My family has emotion. My family doesn't dwell on emotion. Life happens, and you go on. They are copers. I am a coper, under relatively normal circumstances. This past year - 18 months - was an extraordinarily abnormal circumstance. Reading this article, at this point, this far removed, resonated.
In the (deadbabyland) blog world, there's periodic discussion of how the loss has changed you. And discussion - from me, too - about being a pessimist or optimist, and how everything has killed that optimism. I think now, for me, that's the wrong framework. It's more about how I cope with the loss (and subsequent loss of faith in my husband and marriage) than if my essential nature has been changed.
In a lot of ways, I've experienced all three strategies. I think, 18 months later, I've coped with the pregnancy loss, for the most part. I'm definitely not a successful griever. There's still bitterness and regret and a whole heap of other things there I don't want to deal with, cause I don't see the point. There's no greater lesson, there just is. I'm not one of the butterfly people - you know, the ones who get the butterfly tattoo because the soul of their dead child visited them in the form of an unusual butterfly in the garden one day (or repeatedly showed up just when they needed said soul to do so). Not to denigrate those people, but I am Not One Of Them. That strategy doesn't work for me. I went through a chronic griever phase - it sucked, and there was no meaning and no butterfly and no happiness and soulfulness and light. But now I've mostly moved to coping.
The loss of trust and faith in my marriage has been harder. It's still ongoing. I'm still very much in chronic grieving phase. But I know, intellectually, if we are to successfully keep this marriage going, chronic grieving isn't helping. My public face is very much of having coped and moved on. Our joint counselor, and my husband, tried the line that we needed to go through this experience to emerge stronger on the other side - the muller strategy. Which I reject with every fiber of my being. No, you don't have to treat your grieving wife like a psychological punching bag to revitalize your marriage. You don't, and I refuse to believe you do.
I think a lot about grief as I click through my blogroll and the other blogs not yet on my blogroll. And the IRL blogroll, untouched by any grief at all. I think a lot about Niobe, actually, who says repeatedly her grief is not like others, that it comes up short against the tide of grief on her blogroll. Every time she types that, I want to write a comment that says, to me your grief seems no more or no less than anyone else's. Different around the edges, in the particulars, yes, but essentially the same early dark days, followed by your own way of coping. I never leave that comment, it's too personal/complicated/something, and yet here I am with a whole paragraph about another woman's grief. And yet another woman's grief, too - Antigone is going through an impossibly rough time right now, and she write eloquently of getting through, of doing what needs to be done.
I think a lot about people experiencing the worse life has to offer. Of horrendous childhood survival rates, and how our ancestors (and many people in the world today) survive unfathomable grief of losing half their children before their 1st birthday. Or losing their entire families to horrible, tragic, senseless murders or genocides, whether it be the Holocaust, or Rwanda, or the latest multiple murder that makes the news. Or disease - cancer, HIV, depression. Is our way of coping, continuing, different today than it was 50 years ago? Is there a larger lesson to be learned, or is it just the way life works?
What do you think? Do you find a deeper meaning, or no meaning at all, from loss?
6 days ago