Why you shouldn't put a time limit on someone's grief
Photo courtesy Myra Sack

Editor's Note: Recently it was reported that the DSM-5 would include a new diagnosis "prolonged grief disorder," likely opening up new pathways for treatment, including therapy and medication. The inclusion, which has been debated for decades, is considered highly controversial by critics who say it stigmatizes and further isolates those living with grief. The following op-ed is a response to the decision. Upworthy has not taken an official stance on the decision but is sharing this article as a means of furthering the discussion about mental health, grief and how we as a culture and community address such challenges.



Dear Beauty,

I wonder if they understand that the root of the word "care" is from an Old High German term chara, meaning grief or lament. If only our healthcare system would let us hold our sorrow and help us understand that it moves and changes as we try to move through life after losing someone we love, too soon, too young.

When you were diagnosed with a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disorder that we knew would destroy your mind and body, every assumption about what is right and natural and good in the world was shattered.

Despite having done extensive preconception genetic testing, a fatal mistake was made by a physician. The wrong test was ordered, and your dad‘s carrier status was misreported. Your life, the one that was supposed to be long and full and ever-changing, would last 12 to 18 more months if we were lucky. We’d never watch you grow-up. We’d never hear you talk. We’d never hold your hand to take a walk.

Today, 14 months after your death, the missing, the aching, the craving and the longing still exist just as much as it did on December 17, 2019, the day we learned you would die.

Now, the American Psychiatric Association has added prolonged grief disorder to the most recent version of Diagnostic Statistical Manual. Now, I live with the marker of a disorder. Am I grieving too long? Too deeply? Is it my fault that the world as I once knew it will never be the same again? Is it crazy that I don’t want it to be?



Am I disordered? Am I crazy when I walk our neighborhood streets with your sister and reach my hand down to squeeze the place where yours used to rest in the stroller? I write to you everyday in my journal and tell you all about the goings-on — does that mean I think I can talk to the dead? Would it even matter?

I think I’ll keep writing, if you are okay with that. It makes me feel close to you, even though I just wish you were here.

Love,


Mom

When parents of living children do whatever it takes every day to keep their children in the front row of their lives, does that mean they too are disordered? Should they be prescribed naltrexone so that they can “end their addiction” to their child?

We live in a world that is afraid of loss, afraid of death and afraid of the feelings that they stir up. For grieving people, this means it is not safe to share pain, it is not safe to be honest, it is not safe to be real. We are told we need to move on, readjust, find the silver lining and appreciate the life and people we have.

The thing is, living inside tragic loss allows grieving people to feel things on a different plane. Embodied grief is a portal to finding beauty in the mundane. And the thing is, when grieving people are allowed to feel for however long and in whatever way they need, they can become a superhuman. We can hold the deepest, darkest pain and offer the fiercest compassion. All in the same tear, all in the same smile.

But, if you tell us we are disordered, and you wave drugs in front of us before we know whether they are helpful or even necessary for us, we will hide and withdraw from the feelings that can bring so much richness to our lives, and to the people who are still here on this earth, and the ones who aren’t. If you take a look at the long arc of history, it’s those who have suffered and have found their voice that have made the world a better place.

So if not a diagnosis and medication what can we do for people who have lost a loved one?

We can help them remember their loved one, actively. We can say their name, celebrate their important dates and keep them present in daily life. Not only for one week, or one month, or one year, but forever. We can ask about who they were, what they loved and what made them smile. We can show up—when we’re asked, and sometimes when we’re not. We can send a text or a note when we see a beautiful flower or a red-tailed hawk that is a symbol of their loved one.

- We can honor them through microrituals—in our family this looks like dinner and dancing and song and poetry and tears and laughter every Friday night.

- We can read and get educated. Read "Bearing the Unbearable" by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, read "The Wild Edge of Sorrow" by Francis Weller. Watch videos and read articles on the Courageous Parents Network.

- We can sit by their side when they cry. We can hold their hand in those moments, instead of helping them reach for a bottle.

- We can ask, “What do you need to be OK, today?” and not be afraid of the answer.

I promise these simple actions work. They are the best medicine. This list really does go on and it doesn’t cost our country anything.

The medicalization or minimization of grief, however, could cost us our humanity.



Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

Keep Reading Show less