Friday, May 4, 2018

The curious misunderstanding about grief

Last Sunday, Grey and I took the Beats to go visit their cousins for an impromptu lunch date. So far, we've been fortunate that the kids are curious enough about one another to get along, making these visits mostly pleasant. While setting up for lunch, Grey's brother Lucas and I made small talk, chatting about work and upcoming projects. As the conversation started to die, I asked Lucas where Moon was, knowing she was out of town but unclear to the details why.

Prior to this conversation, I had heard snippets of the story Lucas would elaborate on. That one of Moon's friends and classmates had just suffered a horrific family trauma where her family was mowed down by a driver who failed to yield as they were in a cross walk. How the father was severely injured, leaving him in chronic pain. How her 5 year old son had died and the father didn't remember saying good-bye due to the pain killers. And how now they are all struggling given this friend is going one direction with her grieving process (one that others around her vocally support) while the husband/father is very angry and clearly going in another.

As Lucas told me that Moon was on the East Coast for the funeral, he talked about how much this family was struggling. Then he said something that made it painfully clear that neither he or Moon understood what this family was experiencing: This father need to buck up and get with the program of forgiving and moving on.

In 2012, while deep in the trenches of treatment, I found myself feeling very alone in the world. Grey and I were fighting a lot due to ongoing losses and failed treatment cycles, finding no support from family during that period. Instead we encountered a mindset of "it wasn't meant to be" or "why don't you just relax," with anger from others when they were told their advice and platitudes weren't helping.

Even after finding myself pregnant and the arrival of the Beats, I had a lot of anger over how those that were suppose to love and support us effectively abandoned us. If I'm entirely honest, until this week that anger remained and I was struggling with dissecting why. Why could I not let all that happened go?

Stumbled upon an article about sorority hazing rituals gave me the answer I was looking for.
The “banality of evil” was a term coined by Hannah Arendt in her work on the Holocaust to describe how the great atrocities in history are generally not committed by sociopaths or crazy people. Instead, it is the ordinary people who accept the premise of their state and therefore participate in evil while perceiving it as normal.... We all knew each other, and in some cases had developed intimate bonds of sisterhood. They, like the women before them, only did to me what was done to them. It is strange how a cycle of violence is perpetuated through intimacy. 
With that one paragraph a floodgate of realization was opened, identifying the root of my anger which I hadn't been able to voice. Because prior to infertility and loss, I had trusted Grey's family; my own too. I had a deeply held belief that when trauma hit, they would support us. And when they didn't, my world shattered further.

But the worst part is that they were unable to see the wrong they were committing. How deeply entrenched they all were and continue to be on what grief and loss should look like.

And with this realization, I finally found the answer to the "why" I've been asking for the past 7 years, with the anger and hurt dissipating to reveal nothing but sadness for a group who were unknowingly hurting others they claimed to love.

Honestly, I don't know exactly why I reacted to Lucas's flippant observation the way I did. Frankly, I blame this community for the reaction I did have given that I know the Cristy from even a year ago would have been outraged and actively attacking. But somehow, calmness found me and I decided to  take the road of asking questions and being curious.

Calmly, carefully, I responded to Lucas by stating that I intended to play Devil's advocate and pointed out that this father was actively grieving in a way that was actually not only common, but healthy. That not only was the life he knew forever gone, but also that he now lived with an ever waking reminder due to chronic pain. Working with Grey, the conversation slowly turned, not to one of judgement but of empathy, talking about the fact that though we understood they as friends and loved ones wanted to see this family move on, grief is actually a far more complex and life-long process and that it should be the father, not those around him, who decides what that journey should look like. Even if that includes anger, rage and sitting in the courtroom during the trial of the driver who took his life away.

To his credit, Lucas listened and expressed that he was open to accepting and passing on resources of support for this family. I sent him links for Still Standing, The Miss Foundation and CarlyMarie Project Heal, including special links for Bereaved Mother's Day, Bereaved Father's Day and The Sea Shore of Remembrance (NOTE: If anyone has any additional recommendations, please let me know!!!) and I ended by advocating again that what this family needs, wife, husband and child, is not outside judgement for their grieving process but simply unconditional love and support. All of it received without any backlash.

Oddly enough, being able to finally share this aspect has brought about healing for me too. I wish that this wasn't the case, but with this situation a window for understanding has been presented. A way of educating them about what grief like this actually looks like. And tools so that this time, they actually can support.

Here's hoping that's what happens.


  1. Wow. I'm blown away by your ability to be present with yourself as you remembered your own grieving, and present with Lucas as you used this moment to help him see another viewpoint. What a ripple effect your own grieving process is having for those around you. And around them.

  2. I'm so glad you've had this breakthrough, both with your family, and with yourself. I found that when I accepted that people act the only way they know how, they were easier to understand. And it was easier to forgive.

    It sucks that you had to go through what you had to go through. But what a gift you now have to give. Brava.

  3. Whoa, what a powerful moment. To be able to forgive the hurts and see that how people see grieving can cause so much harm, and that trying to understand how they feel about it and educate on the complexities of grief and resources to understand and pass on to the What an incredible experience, and a great lesson to me and others on the power of empathy and giving it to those who seem to have none.

  4. Oh my goodness, that poor family... and no doubt your brother-in-law is not the only one having those "time to move on" thoughts. Bravo to you for taking a deep breath, biting your tongue & using this opportunity to express compassion & educate. A great lesson for all of us!

  5. I feel so sad for this family. And who's to say what grief looks like? If that's how the father is processing it, I think all that should be given from his friends and family is support for that.

    Good for you for communicating what you did!


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