As I was walking on the beach the other day, I got to thinking. It seems so odd that as more and more research emerges about grief, cultural support for the grieving seems to be at an all time low.
Grief wasn’t studied much before Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the 5 stages of grief in the 1960’s, and from a cultural perspective our understanding hasn’t grown far beyond that early research. Though ongoing research has continued to deepen our knowledge, what we’ve learned hasn’t had much impact on our cultural attitudes and behaviors around grief and grieving.
While all of the research and anecdotal evidence suggests people with strong support systems tend to do better than people who don’t, I continue to hear the same complaint from people who are grieving that I’ve been hearing for over 20 years.
It boils down to some version of “the people around me don’t understand what I’m going through and they think I should just get over it.”
Why is that?
- Is it that in our busy lives we forget to be there?
- Is it that we don’t know what to say so we practice avoidance?
- Is it a general a lack of understanding about the grieving process?
- Is it our growing cultural assumption that we’re never supposed to suffer? And if we do, there must be a pill to make us happy again?
- Is it because we assume this is a realm where only mental health professionals or clergy dare to tread?
- In a world where we are confronted with regular doses of gruesomeness, are we all losing our respect for death and for those who are grieving?
Maybe it’s all of the above. Clearly I don’t have a definitive answer as to why we’re not doing better as a society in honoring people who are grieving, but we need to keep asking the question…how can we better support them?
Photo Credit: weliton