“You never get over a death. You just learn to live with it.”

See that title up there? It’s my most loathed phrase in the whole world (yes, even above “YOLO”).

Why am I drinking the haterade? Because while this statement contains a (small) nugget of truth, it’s potentially the most soul-crushingly bleak thing someone in the grips of grief can possibly be told.  I’ve seen it in a number of ‘self-help’ articles, and it’s not fucking helpful.

When a person you love dies, you search desperately for hope, for something or someone to tell you that it won’t always hurt this much. You feel like you can’t take another hour, another minute, let alone the rest of your life. How can you go on if it never gets better?

Well if you’re grieving, and you’re reading this, let me tell you something for certain: it does. It will.

Trust me on this one, because I’ve stood where you stand more than once. Sometimes completely out of the blue, sometimes after long harrowing illnesses. Either way, it hurts. Oh man, does it pack a wallop. No words I can write will accurately convey how shitty it is when you’re faced with Death’s ugly mug.

But you know that already. What you don’t know is how you’ll feel a month, six months, a year from now. And that’s scary.

I can’t promise you that you’ll wake up tomorrow and find it easier than today. I can’t promise that it won’t get worse at times, particularly after the initial shock wears off and you start to really miss the presence of the one you’ve lost. But I can promise that with time, you’ll be able to look back on today and see how far you’ve come. The bad days will come less and less often, until finally they stop becoming ‘days’ and start becoming ‘moments’.

Now, back to that ‘nugget of truth’ I mentioned earlier. I think what the original phrase coiner was getting at is that you’ll always have those occasional ‘moments’. A place, a smell, a memory will remind you of the person you lost. You’ll have a sudden urge to tell them something … then remember you can’t. You’ll shed a tear at momentous occasions in your life, because they aren’t there to share them with you.

No, you don’t ‘get over’ a death the way you get over a breakup or a spat at work, where the goal is to look back and feel nothing.

But why would you want to?

The initial agony of your loss will weaken and disappear with time, but your memories will not. And recalling the memory of your loved one without emotion would deny the strength of the feelings you had for them.

You’ll never forget the one you lost. But with time, the pain of loss grows smaller and smaller until you can see it for what it really is: a very small price to pay for the times you shared.

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One Response to “You never get over a death. You just learn to live with it.”

  1. Michael G says:

    I think this one has become so popular because people love being able to give out little pre-packaged nuggets of wisdom. It sounds wise. It’s snappy. It gives people something to say to people who are grieving (when people might feel like they don’t know what they possibly can say).

    However, this particular nugget is fool’s gold, as you say, as it only serves to depress the person who has suffered a loss. Plus, I – like you – don’t think it’s true.

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