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Tragedy, Death and the Need to Remember

The culture we mourners live in is not grief-friendly. Well meaning friends and family tell us they were hoping that we would be “doing better by now.” Bottom line and productivity-minded bosses give us three days bereavement leave from work when someone in our immediate family dies. Mourning employees are often expected to return to work and leave their personal business at home. As workers we mourners are still expected to make quotas and deadlines–as if nothing had changed in our lives.

Can’t we stop making mourners believe that they need to hurry up and get over their grief? Can we stop making mourners think that they have a mental or emotional disorder if they do not finish their intense grief on our timetable? Can we stop causing them to feel that remembering their loved one, feeling a twinge of pain and crying years after the death is unhealthy and abnormal?

Over sixty years have passed since the deaths of thousands that occurred in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Each year in December, crowds still gather at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii and cry over the deaths of brave young men killed there. No one walks up and says, “Oh, come on. It has been over sixty years since these people died. When are you weaklings going to get over it?”

This year eleven years have passed since the attack on 9/11. Each day thousands come to Ground Zero in New York City and cry over the almost 3,000 people killed there. No one walks up and says, “Oh, come on. It has been eleven years since these people died. When are you cry babies going to get over it?”

No one tells these Pearl Harbor and 9/11 mourners not to cry and not to grieve for two important reasons. The first reason is that those who died are important people whose lives need to be remembered. The second reason is that these are losses and historic days to be remembered because our world was never the same afterward.

Well, guess what? My losses of my wife and daughter nineteen years ago and your loss are our very own personal Pearl Harbors and 9/11’s. The people we lost to death are just as important to us as those who died at Pearl Harbor and on 9/11 are to those who continue to remember them. After our losses, our personal worlds will never be the same—just like the bereaved of Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Therefore, we as mourners will continue to remember our loved ones and the days that they left our lives for the sake of our natural, healthy mourning.

If our mourning bothers the bystanders observing our grief, we mourners are not the ones who need to “get over it.” No matter how well-intentioned the judges of our grief and its duration are they are ones who need to “get over” their clueless, uninformed evaluation of our personal grief. We mourners say this with all due respect to those trying to get us to stop mourning. We love and care for our comforters and supporters as much as they do for us. But we are not going to apologize for the discomfort or inconvenience that others experience watching us mourn in a healthy way. We are not going to compromise our emotional and spiritual health or well being by stopping our mourning for the sake of others who can not see what we need-to memorialize our loved ones on a regular basis.

Okay, I’ll step down from my soapbox now. I am sorry if my views seem a little harsh, but too many mourners starting their life path into healthy mourning and healing have their grief short-circuited by our culture. The problem is that our society considers talk about death and grief as unhealthy, morbid and taboo.

Living in an atmosphere where grief emotions and mourning are stifled we mourners sometimes feel forced to carry unexpressed grief and unresolved issues concerning a loss throughout our lives. We want to tell well-intentioned friends, family and helping professionals that mourning in a healthy way and maintaining a healthy spiritual and emotional relationship with a loved one who has died is not only beneficial and therapeutic for us–it is also our right as mourners.


From (c) 2011, Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT in “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore. Available now for Nook and Kindle.

Watch the Love Never Dies YouTube video http://youtu.be/-T0zt0ZSsNE. Follow me on Twitter.

Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT

Author Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT

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