Grief isn’t fast food, slow down already

America is the fix-it nation. If something is not as it is supposed to be, then we immediately want to fix it. This is great in most cases, but impossible in others. Great for America’s infrastructure. Not so great for things like grief or depression.

Of course, if someone is in pain from grief or mental illness of any kind, we all want it to go away. Yet in our desire to instantly fix everything, could we be harming the very people who we are trying to help?

Having lost Mama Bear to dementia a few weeks back, and Papa a year ago, I have been trying to heed the words that I heard right after Mama died: don’t rush grief. When I first heard that phrase I didn’t immediately understand what it meant. But processing it over time, and especially when talking with my sibs, it started to make sense. Whenever something hurts it’s natural to want it gone and gone NOW. But for grief and certain types of depression, it’s not a flip of the switch process. Yet the way we treat it, often with pharmaceuticals, gives patients the idea that the pill will fix everything. Tah-dah! Magically back to normal now. That’s what those who are suffering want, usually, and it’s especially what their loved ones want. Always, always, we want everything to go back to “normal.” And if it doesn’t go back to exactly how it was “before” the grief or the depression, then we’ve failed.

Yes, we’re a nation of problem solvers, innovators, fix-it folks. So naturally we have set ourselves a high bar for fixing people and ourselves. When Mama Bear’s dementia roared in like a bullet train that had lost its brakes, my sibs and I immediately looked for solutions that would return Mama to normal. But dementia isn’t reversible. And normal is not possible. So we then developed our own mental health problems, centered around worry, guilt, grief that our Mom had left us despite being still here in the flesh. Earlier this year I wrote that we were haunted by Mom. We were, and now her death brings with it a new type of haunted. The conclusion has come — Mama Bear’s death — so the haunting has changed in its tone and tenor. Without her physical presence, which since November had been through the glass pane of her memory care facility, the grief remains, but now it has begun to be healed, lessened because now we are focused on all the memories that each of us has stored from the many decades that he were privileged to have her as our mother.

Mama Bear was the storyteller of the entire extended clan of her family. Her own mother, Great-Mama Bear, asked of her daughter before she died to make sure that she kept the family together. This meant throwing parties and functions, going on camping trips and cruises, making soup for her brothers and delivering it with fresh bread to their houses, even if that was two hours away. Then as the last of her generation to survive, Mama Bear became the link to the past for all of my cousins. Mama would tell them stories about their parents that they never knew, bringing wonder into their faces and hearts, and in so doing, bringing their parents back into the room, back even closer to them as they had a new touchpoint on which to feel the love of their own parents.

Now, as I grieve for Mama, in a quiet, energy-less fog, I see why this should not be rushed. It is a gestation. A getting used to holding her close in a different way. Instead of being able to call her, now I talk to the sky and the ocean and the pink flowers in the vase. I say hello to her picture and it seems sometimes that she hears me and answers back through the smile in the photograph. Yes, the pain is there still, physical in its attributes, but it also signals that Mama remains close. A spirit that was so strong in life, remaining strong in death. So despite the hurt, it is not to be rushed. There is no fast-food fix that takes moments to relieve. And that’s okay. Mama Bear had a big life and touched hundreds of people. It should hurt. It can do nothing else but hurt that she’s gone.

So patience, patience Lulu, I now hear her say, I’m not going anywhere. I’m in your heart, her voice on the wind says. I’ll always be here. And I promise, it won’t hurt so much, be so close to the surface some day. Love eventually pushes out the hurt and only the joy remains.

Thank you, Mama. I’ll count on that. I’ll count on you, just like I always have.

From Lady Proverbs, somewhere on the Oregon Coast.

See more from Lady Proverbs at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s