Many years ago, there was an acclaimed fantasy movie viewed by families everywhere. “The Neverending Story”. The movie was not about grief but it would certainly be a fitting title for documenting the grief reaction to a significant situational loss. Why ‘neverending’, you may ask, when people are striving to get over their grief, to move on, to obtain closure after a loss? Why ‘neverending’, when we live in a culture that has a low tolerance and discomfort with an overly emotional display – depicted as a weakness?
Most grief experts would not dispute that although reactions to significant loss dissipate over time, that does not mean that the grieving experience is over. If grief was food, there would always be leftovers to taste from time to time, each time with a different flavor – whether we like the flavor or not.
Acknowledging the’ neverending’ nature of grief assists in coming to terms with the experience and can provide some peace. Such was the case for Emily Rapp who cared for her son, Ronan with Tay-Sachs for over two years until he died. She wrote about our culture on grief and how much she missed her son in her article Why it is Okay to Never Get Over Your Grief.
Her grieving process brought her to a place since her son died where “this thought—I miss my boy—didn’t make me feel wild with despair, or hot with anger, or just manic with helplessness”. She assessed that ”
.....admitting my grief is never going away, that I’ll never ‘be over it,’ as our culture likes to encourage
us to do when it comes to grief, I can sit in that space of sadness without getting lost in it”.
" I’ll never overcome my grief about losing Ronan, I will always miss him, I will never believe
that it was OK for him to die in the way he did, or live in such an epically compromised body.
But recognizing and acknowledging all of these realities can create a pocket of safety………
She went on that "dropping the expectation that grieving gets easier or more manageable makes me feel more relaxed.”
Although Emily Rapp’s experience was death-related, there can also be some relief in acknowledging and assessing the grief that you experience as a caregiver witnessing the situational loss of your family member to illness. Grieving is a process, and can be especially challenging in dealing with a series of losses while caring for those living with progressive illnesses such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and MS.
More assistance is provided for strengthening caregiver resiliency by acknowledging, assessing, assisting through the grieving process as it impacts well-being and caregiving behavior in my book Keeping It Together To Preview, go to caregivingwithstrength.com