Conversations in Grief Blog: “Stuck”
“It is what it is.” What does it mean when we hear someone say it? What does it mean when you say it? When I researched the phrase, I discovered that used in sports lingo, it is a way to shake off a bad call or lost game and move on to the next game.
When I asked a bereaved daughter what she meant when she used that phrase, she told me, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” She wants to accept something, the death of her mother that she can’t change. In other words, she can’t fix it. My concern is that most people conclude that if it can’t be fixed, then we move away from it. In our moving away, we assume that we will move on because we have put the unfixable problem behind us.
How has that worked for us?
A bereaved son shared how his daughter was coping with the death of her grandparent. She didn’t like remembering how sick her grandparent had been and her idea was to get rid of all the possessions and pictures of her grandparent in an attempt to erase the memory of the sickness and death.
This granddaughter’s actions echo the words, “It is what is.” “My loved one was very sick and then died. I can’t fix that and I want to stop remembering my person because it hurts too much to remember, so I will get rid of everything that reminds me of that person.”
What are the things we can’t fix? A terminal diagnosis. A death. Job loss. A pandemic.
Feelings of sadness, despair, anger, blame, jealousy don’t go away just because we don’t want to deal with them. It is these feelings that we are trying to separate from ourselves. We don’t want to be stuck in our sorrow.
It is the stuck-ness that we cannot bear. In fact, the very word “stuck” implies that we are doing something wrong, that we’re not getting something done that needs to be done. Personally, I despise being stuck.
But when it comes to grief, a bereaved friend explained, “Stuck does not mean you are failing or not progressing. It means that you are walking it. You may feel stuck when in reality you are simply doing the work of living your new life,” the one where your loved one is no longer here. Our stuck-ness is our grief. Stay there. When we talk about needs of grief and mourning, Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt suggests that the first need is to acknowledge the reality of our loved one’s death and the second need is to feel the pain of our loss. These are the needs we are meeting when we remain in our grief.
A bereaved mother explained to me, “I can’t live as if my son didn’t exist.” She chooses to acknowledge her grief, embrace her grief. She participates in a grief support group; she writes about how she is experiencing her grief and shares it on Facebook; she shares openly with me; she weeps. “This is my life.” She is a bereaved mother. Her son lived and now he is dead. She is stuck there with all of her love and all of her loss and all of her pain.
My wish and hope for those of you reading this who are grieving a loss is this: May you remain stuck for as long as you need to be stuck and may you find compassionate people who will sit down and be stuck with you.
I would love to hear from you so that we can learn from each other and find courage from each other’s stories: How are you stuck right now?