How We Say Good-bye
My niece Tracy passed away in the early hours of yesterday. This morning we got word that her body had been cremated and a memorial service will be at some future time. Her departing was short-lived and we’re still trying to take in what has happened.
During her illness, her immediate family discouraged the rest of us from making calls or otherwise communicating with them about Tracy. In her final weeks of hospitals, doctors, and agony (and from all accounts it was agony) she was attended by her husband and parents-in-law. Most of us kept our distance and depended on the occasional family member able to get updates.
Now we are dealing with devastating emotions without the consolation of being together. This is not a criticism nor am I suggesting this is a bad thing. It’s an observation that our experience is unlike what is usually expected.
Years ago my husband worked with a colleague whose father died. This man went from the funeral in the morning to the office in the afternoon and didn’t miss a day of work. We wondered if something was wrong with him, or with his relationship with his father.
We’ve come to believe the normal way to face grief or hardship is to pour out our feelings to others, even strangers. We’re told that suppressed emotions cause mental problems, even cruelty or criminal behavior. Sharing our emotions is supposed to help us avoid personality defects.
The ubiquitous advice is to find a support group, make connections, get help. Join group therapy. Share your feelings with others, even if it’s online with somebody you’ve never met.
Are we getting to the point that we suspect we’re not having an emotion if we don’t share it with others? Do we think that the more people who are “sharing” our suffering, the stronger our emotion and the greater the benefit?
What about those of us who want little if any emotional “support?” Or even those of us who find other people as an intrusion to our grieving? What of people who prefer to deal with death (or whatever the problem) alone?
As for Tracy, she brought a bright light to our family. Even the tone of her voice projected a sense of happiness—it could be heard in a crowd, adding a note of cheer. We will miss her.