RE: Language

Where in I try to remap words.


When your life is impacted, there’s “an event” which requires acute care. If that’s medical, you go to the ICU. While in the ICU, you receive care for any emergent problems. Then when you, hopefully, are no longer in need of critical care, you leave the ICU. That doesn’t always mean you leave the hospital. It can certainly mean you move to a new floor where Physical Therapy (PT) or Occupational Therapy (OT) begin working with you to get you back to a “new normal” sense of life or what one might term “chronic care”.

So you have `ICU ->

But what happens when your event includes grief?

What do you call the acute pain and deep sorrow at loosing someone? grief

What do you call the years afterward when you’re trying to figure out what to do about Thanksgiving? grief

What do you call it when you’re 80 and the son you lost was 13, but that was 40 years ago and you still miss them? grief

The Problem

Have you ever been walking down a long hallway, and you see someone coming towards you? When do you say, “Hello?” When do you stop trying to hide your face because you just want to get down to the cafeteria to get some lunch and be left alone, thank you very much? The problem is there’s no good mile markers for when it’s socially acceptable to move to the next phase of interaction.

It’s the same with grief. I don’t need Relief Society dinners anymore. Does that mean I’m “cured of grief?” No fricken’ way.

But if the 80yo me is still dealing with grief… How do I mark my progress? How do I say to the neighbor, “No, I’m not pretending. Today is actually okay?” and not sound like a heartless parent because he’s only been gone for 6 weeks?

The Recommendation

I believe there are (2) problems with what happened to me:

  1. The trauma of death and chaos and having my life thrown about. The weeks of constant anxiety and having to bury myself in layers of artifice to make sure Asher received a helpful, optimistic parent who could help him through his difficult time.
  2. The grief of losing my son. The deep, gouging wound caused to my core because he had to go and there was nothing I could have ever done to make his life longer. The sinking pit when I realize my middle child loses (2) brothers in the same year. One to physical disease, one to pubescent idiocy.

Trauma is Mechanical

I don’t know many things about trauma, but I’m learning fast. It feels mechanical to me. Imprints in my brain attached to hormones that make me go from okay to !okay in a single bit flip. It feels like if I can reprogram my brain to be okay with breathy sounds or sounds of electrical beeping… then I win at PTSD right? Sure, there are probably interwoven emotional components, but it feels more like a mater of conditioning and “working through it.”

grief is Temporal

grief, on the other hand, feels more like a function of good soil, good light, good water and time. A lack of preparation or mental constructs will make the soil poor, and the time will need to be longer. Additionally, a few drops of fertilizer in the form of an awesome memorial service will encourage repair. We use a phrase in the church and it’s often spat out of my mouth like bitter chemicals, “endure to the end.”

It’s impossibly long. The end is forever away. I hates it my precious.

If, however, we say grief is the acute pain and refers to the time when the plan finally has enough of a start it doesn’t need to be babied any more, then we have a terminus. We have a moment where we are no longer “grieving” but are instead “bereaved.”

Loss is Chronic

I think someone who is “bereaved” is someone who’s working through someone’s loss. Long term. Chronically. It’s a softer word. Needs less attention or coddling. I will always carry that label. I will always be deprived of a close relation.

Or at least in this world I will be.

But I’m done with grief. Mostly.