Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Is There A Rule Book On Grief?

She looked down toward her feet at the end of her visit. “I’ve got one more question, doctor,” she said, hesitating. I turned toward her and waited for her, letting her ask on her own time. Clearly this was something difficult for her to ask.

“When will I get over the death of my husband? It’s been ten years, and I still wake up each morning thinking he’s there. I still come home wanting him to be there. Am I crazy?”

Her face showed the shame that was so clear in her words. I had been along with her during the death of her husband, and she handled that period with much grace and strength. Now the silence at home is deafening. People around her, on the other hand, are far too quick to tell her how to grieve.

“If you lost an arm or if your legs were paralyzed, when would you get over that?” I asked. ”You wouldn’t. You never live without the reality of your arms or legs being missing. You just adjust to their absence.”

“But people are telling me I should find a ‘special friend,’ and I have no desire to. I just miss my husband.” Her already moist eyes now let go of their tears. ”Sometimes I want to be with people, but other times I just want to be alone.”

I handed her a tissue and laid a hand on her shoulder. ”Nobody can tell you how to grieve. No one knows what your loss feels like, and there shouldn’t be a penalty for loving your husband so much. Everyone handles things differently. If I as a doctor lost the use of my legs, I’d probably adjust much quicker than a professional athlete. Some people are married for fifty years, and yet have an independent relationship with their spouse. Others are so invested in them that the loss is so much greater.”

She thanked me for my words and gave me a hug as she left. As she walked away I wished I could talk with the people around her. She has not shut herself off from the world. She has continued to go to church, spend time with family, and go out with friends. She just can’t get rid of the feeling of loss, which is not a wrong way to be.

There is no rule book on grief. Is it better to move on quickly, or does it show the person is self-centered enough that they don’t feel it as much? Is it better to grieve for a long time and deeply, or is a sign of pathological dependency?

People want to make rules for which there can never be rules. People don’t like the messiness of life, and don’t want to be made uncomfortable when others remind them of that messiness. But pain and loss are as much a part of life as joy and love — in fact, you could argue that they are more a part of life for many people. This woman’s grief shows the depth of love she had. It is a memorial to that love. She will never get over her husband, and I think that’s okay.

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles