Like the Brits honoring their queen, give voice to your grief

  • Baheej in Paraguay, enjoying stuffed squash. His name means joyful.

    Baheej in Paraguay, enjoying stuffed squash. His name means joyful. Susan Anderson-Khleif

 
Updated 10/9/2022 9:31 AM

Once in a while, someone asks about your grief who really means it. They want to hear -- "How are you feeling?" or "How are you doing?"

Should you really talk about your grief? How much do they really want to know? Can you even put your deep grief into words?

 

I sometimes hold it half a sin

To put in words the grief I feel,

For words, like nature, half reveal

And half conceal the Soul within

-- Alfred Tennyson

Well, I think we should express our grief, or at least we should talk out loud about it. And we don't need to wait to be asked. We should say the name of our beloved, our mother, father, child or friend who died. Now, this is easier to say than do because, as we know, most of those around us would rather avoid the topic.

Certainly as the months roll along, most expect us to just not bring it up. They don't want us to dwell on grief or talk of that sad topic. But this is not healthy, not for ourselves and not for them. We can't just pretend the loved person disappeared, never existed, when he or she was such an important part of our lives.

The recent death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth reminded me of how important it is to give voice to grief, to express it. The Brits had 10 days of ceremony, speeches, processions, religious services, discussion, interviews, retrospectives on her life and death. A record, including all-day services and ceremonies. Quite a landmark series of events.

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Well, she wasn't our queen but she was important to the British and they loved all the pomp and circumstances. I was a bit surprised, but was impressed with how frankly the British media talked openly about her dying and death, usually in those words without euphemisms. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it. I was struck by how many onlookers in the crowds, while being interviewed by media, took the chance to talk about the deaths of their own mothers and grandmothers. I'm not suggesting the British are immune to death denial, but this was all interesting to me, even if it was under very exceptional circumstances.

Here at home in our U.S.A., I've heard many accounts of regular people being pressured to keep quiet about their grief -- feeling they can't even mention it after a short period of time. Neighbors or others sometimes become angry or rude when a bereaved mother or spouse mentions the death again, especially after some months. Well, all I can say is the angry person has a problem. They should be ignored, and avoided.

The point is: We need to talk about our beloved who died, to say his or her name. It's part of the normal grieving process. There is, of course, a large amount of literature on grief and grieving. It's clear to me that it is not healthy to keep grief bottled up inside. I personally mention my beloved Baheej's name anytime it's natural in a story or memory, in course of regular conversation. People seem OK with that.

It's been 10 years now. And as we know, sometimes it feels like yesterday.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at sakhleif@comcast.net or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.

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