Shouldn’t You be Better by Now? September 27, 2009Posted by johnbohlinger in Uncategorized.
Tags: grief, parent's who have lost a child. Depression
Society expects people to feel specific things in certain situations; For example, we should feel happy when our friends achieve enormous success and/or wealth, but honestly, that experience has never left me particularly euphoric: envious, sure; bitter, maybe; pissed, sometimes. Psychotherapy should lead to us feeling better about ourselves, yet as much as I’ve told myself, “this is good for you. You feel better,” those enthusiastic pep talks I babble while driving to and from my meetings are about as fake as the $50 Rolex I bought on the streets of Singapore. I feel bad for feeling bad, which makes me feel worse…if that makes any sense.
The people in our life, as well meaning as they may be, expect us to get over our grief in what they consider a reasonable amount of time. You can see the
approval on friend’s faces when you look like you are what they think you’re supposed to be, happy. You hear their disappointment when you answer the phone without sounding chipper. I don’t know if anybody ever really gets over living without their child, maybe we just get better at masking our sadness, or stay so busy that we never allow ourselves to think about how much we miss our kid. Maybe we just die a bit in side, beneath a facade of normalcy. I don’t know.
I quit blogging for a while because I thought I should be able to show some real improvement, be a model of recovery for any other grieving parents. I wanted to write something positive and inspire hope, but truthfully there are long spans of time when I’m plagued with horrific, negative thoughts. I hate myself, I hate my life, see all of my actions as meaningless. Paradoxically, life seems too short and too long at the same time, God seems nonexistent and some how responsible. In short, these are not the thoughts of a well adjusted person on his way to recovery ready to help others find their paths.
Some times, I get a good night’s sleep, wake up with the sun shining, get in a little exercise, wash down a big bowl of oatmeal with six cups of coffee then jump into some gratifying work and life feels great. I remember how I couldn’t sleep for months( I’d knock myself out with Ambien or Tylenol PM), I didn’t really eat, or move my body and work was a blur of depression. So, clearly I’m improving. But here’s the rub, people see me on a good day and think “Oh, he’s all better,” then they see me on a bad day and think “What the hell, I thought he was all better. If he can pull it together once, he should pull it together all the time. Enough is enough already, move on. He’s just not trying hard enough”.
Regrettably, we humans rarely move in a straight path toward our goals. Sometimes we take wrong turns; it’s impossible to make all the right turns when you’re not really sure where you are going anyway. Sometimes we get tired of fighting and we give up, like a boxer who decides to take the ten count laying down. As humans, we like time frames and schedules but when it comes to learning to live with loss, nobody can give an accurate estimated time of arrival; some people make peace with their loss, some people never make it and others learn to fake it. We are all unique. Some days I can see peace and acceptance, other days, and more often, nights, I can’t. This whole one step forward, half a step back semi-progress disappoints me and disappoints the people in my life. (I try to conceal it and limit the time I spend with others during dark days). Perhaps the best approach to recovering is to recognize that you have had your ass kicked by a horrible experience and some of that pain will not go away; like a car that’s been hit by a semi, you may never be just like new. However, this doesn’t mean we are sentenced to lives of depression. Life is beautiful and sweet; most of the time I can still recognize that even when I miss my son terribly. But go easy on yourself, losing your child is a catastrophe that’s going to leave an indelible mark which will show through some days no matter how hard we fight it. Let it be and don’t worry about meeting somebody else’s expectations of how you should feel. They don’t know.