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Why Are People Quiet When Grief Is the Loudest?

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“I’m sorry about your grandmother,” my neighbor said as I was walking my dog down the street. 

It had only been a week since she left us, and I was trapped in the ebb and flow of fresh grief, finding pockets of joy and caverns of despair, anguish, and anger alike. In that moment, I was looking at how green the grass was, and admiring how warm my skin felt in the early spring sun. For one second, I was living in the moment and practicing mindfulness just like all those annoying blogs preach about, only to crash back down to Earth due to five well-meaning words.

I was shell-shocked, not sure how to respond. 

“Thank you,” or some other form of gratitude would have been the proper response, but those words didn’t come to my tongue. 

“Me too,” is how I wanted to respond, but that made me feel like a jerk. 

In all honesty, I don’t remember what I said back, but I do remember the way she, along with how everyone else looked at me for the first couple weeks. I remember all the “I’m sorry for your losses,” and favors rang in from friends without me having to ask. It was all very kind and sweet of them, but it was all still too new. It’d remain “new” as my family gathered to celebrate her life, and then into us all going our separate ways after. 

It’s now over a month later, and the support that was almost as loud as my grief is fairly quiet now. I’m back to work, back to my writing group, and back to real life. And in real life people can’t have you breaking down constantly because of who you lost. Loss is a part of love, and thus a part of life, so yes it’s normal, but it shouldn’t feel so normalized that we don’t talk about it after the fact.

Last night I found my final birthday card from her. I studied the script and the brush strokes made with the black ballpoint pen she held between her tawny fingers. I lay on my floor, sobbing louder than I thought possible. When I sobered up, I couldn’t help but wonder where all of the support I had a month ago went.

In reality it’s still there. I just have to reach out and tell people I need them whereas before it felt premeditated and intentional. I still have love and support, and friends willing to jump in at a moment’s notice, but that doesn’t change the overall silence that comes with being a month or so in along your grief journey.

We get the support when we’re still processing and stuck in constant fits of snot-infused tears, but not when the grief is causing us to move slower and forget more. When the grief grows into a persistent depressive spiral that invades every single sect of your life, you can’t help but wonder, “Where did everyone go?”

Speaking on your grief starts feeling taboo, because it’s been three months, or six, or even years. Grief, death, and loss are universal experiences that touch every soul on Earth but the only time we feel comfortable speaking on it is when the wound is still openly gushing, instead of steadily bleeding over time or weakly scabbed over. 

Time doesn’t always heal all wounds, and grief is included in there. I argue that as important as having the support when you first experience loss, it’s just as important to have it in the weeks, months, and years to come. We grow around our grief, sure, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over a longer period of time, and having support throughout the entirety of that time is what ultimately makes the biggest difference.

Getty image by LSOphoto

Originally published: April 5, 2022
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