Our Western culture has inadvertently conditioned us to avoid death and grief. Our society tends to isolate those who are struggling with illness, pain, death and grief — hoping that if we don’t see their pain and struggles, the pain doesn’t exist, and won’t alter our tidy and predictable lives. We tend to behave as if death and pain are contagious diseases, ones that if we stay away from, we can avoid contracting ourselves.
I don’t believe this insensitivity is intentional. Society has not prepared us for how to deal with pain and loss. We are brought up to believe that life will remain predictable and under our control. Then when the unexpected, death or illness, does happen in our lives, we are ill-equipped to deal with the emotional pain, and upheaval, that it brings. Society subliminally sends us the message that we are expected to quietly bear our pain, while still maintaining our daily lives, ‘getting over’ our grief in a timely manner, while not unnecessarily disrupting anyone else’s life.
Unfortunately, for those grievers who are experiencing these life altering challenges, this unintentional alienation by those we were looking to for support, only further increases our suffering. The griever’s life is in pieces and we have no idea how to start to put the pieces together again.
Society’s expectations of the griever are unrealistic. For a griever who has lost a loved one, who was an integral part of their life, nothing will ever be the same, and the pain will always be there. Life is turned upside down. Learning to live with pain and grief is a process and one that cannot be forced.
…Some of the details…are often kept quiet and hidden, our ‘silent grief’, as if these feelings are somehow shameful and aberrant. I have found that when we keep the details in the dark we are left feeling even more alone, isolated, and often doubting our sanity.