There’s a phrase that is used, after loss, or grief, or infertility, that causes me to cringe. I’ve noted before that others use it to silence us, and ease their feelings of awkwardness. Yes, it is “getting over it.” But many of us continue to use it, using the instances where grief returns, or we feel isolated or hurt by comments years afterwards, to justify saying that they will “never get over it.” Personally, although I understand it (and I'm not criticising anyone who chooses to use it), I am not comfortable saying it and will, I promise, avoid it at all costs.
In the throes of loss or in the depths of infertility, or when facing that ultimatum that our quest for children is over, our feelings are intense, and getting over it seems impossible. I’ve seen many men and women object to the idea that they will “get over it,” because it seems as if that minimises their grief, and the extent of their loss. They feel, in the moment, they will never get over it.
But likewise, I imagine how it must seem to them in that moment, to hear someone else – five years or twenty years on – agree that “you will never get over it.” By saying this, I worry that we are telling those people, already in almost unbearable grief, that they will feel these intense emotions for the rest of their life, that they will feel this loss forever. What they thought was their worst nightmare will be, we are telling them, their worst nightmare. I don’t want to do that, because not only does it add to their grief, it is just not true.We adjust, we heal, we blossom. We don't live in a nightmare.
So ultimately I don’t think that it is helpful to say we never get over it. It needs to be qualified. What do we mean? That at times, it will hurt even many years later? Isn’t that different to saying we’ll never get over it? It may not feel that way to you. But for me it is. We’ll never go back to where we were before this all began, but that’s different to never getting over it.
So, given that I called my blog No Kidding, I feel a responsibility to be honest! Part of that honesty is admitting that pain over our losses – at some level, and often when we least expect it – makes itself known to us time and again. I’m not denying that, by any means. And I know that this is what most people mean when they say “I will never get over it.”
But I also feel a responsibility to be honest about the fact that we get better. We heal. We still have the scars, still feel the after effects of an injury, but still be healed. We can be changed forever, but still be healed. In healing, we accept these changes. In healing, we retake our place in the world. In healing, we refind joy.
So for me, it is simply this balance, that I am confident comes to all of us in the end, if and when we are ready. The balance between the past and the future, between pain and joy..
I think balance is admitting that we have changed, and that our changed circumstances will affect us every day until we die. It is admitting and recognising the pain when it visits, neither ignoring nor exaggerating it.
But balance also ensures that we are able to accept our new circumstances, and not be ruled by grief. It is in finding joy, choosing not to dwell in sadness, turning towards optimism and happiness,. It is celebrating when the pain leaves us as well, celebrating all the gifts of our life. It means embracing happiness, and sadness, and knowing it all passes, and knowing that we will be okay.
So you’ll never hear me say that I will never get over it.