“Nothing dies slower or more painfully than a dream. How true. How sadly true.”
– Melody Beattie, in Codependent No More
In the movie, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a young couple, Cindy and Jim Green, discover that they will not be able to have children of their own, as they had so long wished to do. Devastated, and as a way to bring closure to the dream that they’d had for so long, they wrote their ‘perfect’ child’s characteristics, personality traits, and accomplishments on slips of paper, put them in a box, and buried the box in their garden. They had dealt with their grief in a way that served them best, and then were ready to ‘move on’. After that, something miraculous and unexpected happened.
See the movie trailer: http://disney.go.com/the-odd-life-of-timothy-green/
Like Cindy and Jim, before the first time we ever laid eyes on our children, we developed lots of hopes, dreams, and aspirations about their lives. We set high expectations about who they would become, how successful they might be, and how closely we would grow together. This is natural, everyone does it. And nowhere in these dreams was there a place for treatment of any kind, for any reason. This was simply not what we had in mind, in any way, shape, or form.
Yet here we are, very much in treatment, and very much living what we never imagined would ever happen. And it has messed with those hopes and dreams, in a very, very big way. Though no physical death has occurred, there is still very much a sense of loss that is deep and very very real. The loss of what might have been, the loss of the vision of what our lives, their lives, were going to be like.
Grief and loss is different for everyone. Some are able to get past it fairly quickly. For other it feels like a knife through the heart for a very long time, while most of us probably fall somewhere in between. There is no right or wrong way or duration. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler in On Grief and Grieving outline the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person’s duration of time in each stage may range from a moment to months or years. However it is important not to get ‘stuck’ in any one stage, and thus never complete the process.
Unfortunately, our present day society for the most part does not acknowledge grief and therefore does nothing to foster the grieving process. The world seems to tell us, “Get over it, stuff those feelings deep, and get on with business as usual”. Yet experts tell us that unresolved grief can plague us indefinitely, and is extremely unhealthy.
It is for this reason that I invite you to acknowledge your loss, whatever it is, and make sure you grieve it as needed. In a world that may not acknowledge your pain, there are still ways to journey meaningfully through it. There are grief therapists and coaches, clergy, self-help books, support groups, friends, and family, who may be able to support you. I encourage you to contemplate what you need, explore how best to get it, and take action for your own sake if you need to.
My wish for you is full and complete grieving, however that looks for you, no matter how long it takes. Whether you seek professional help, read books, write a journal, or bury symbols of what you’ve lost in a box in your garden, please take the time to do what is right for you, in your way, on your own time. And once you are able to let go and move on, like Cindy and Jim, your own unexpected miracle will happen.