Welcome back to the blog series on Grieving an Unfulfilled Future, during which I will explore 5 different aspects often included in grief for the single and childless by comparing our grief with that of someone who grieves the death of a loved one. For the fifth and final theme, I will explain how our society’s obsession with happiness makes grieving even more difficult, especially for those who don’t get the “happily ever after” our culture presents as the goal.
Our culture – modern America, the media, and the white evangelical church – allows for grief up to a point, then expects us to move on. When we lose a loved one, we are hugged and cared for for a period of time. We are expected to be sad, to cry, and to withdraw a bit. For awhile. But there comes a time when every grieving person will hear “didn’t they die awhile ago?” “Why aren’t you moving on?” “Shouldn’t you be better by now?” We are expected to process death in a healthy way, go through whatever the steps are in popular psychology or biblical counseling at that time, lament, grieve, and move forward.
America, the media, and even our churches worship happiness. We are allowed to be sad for a time, but if we don’t get back to happy at a certain point, we must be doing something wrong. When those of us who have lost loved ones realize you don’t “move on” from grief, you just learn to live with it and grown around it, it can be a shock to those around us.
Imagine this expectation to process grief, then get over it and get back to happy, when lots of people don’t even realize we’re grieving? When we ourselves might not even know that’s what is happening? Imagine the expectation for us to be just fine while we are actually in the middle of trying to understand the greatest loss of our lives. Imagine people being sympathetic, but to an even lesser point, because it’s not like anyone died or anything.
Imagine trying to deal with the sadness, heartbreak, regret, anger, and fear that come with true grief, all while trying to convince ourselves and others we’re ok because we don’t realize we’re allowed to take the time to lament and grieve. Because others certainly don’t understand this – not pastors, not friends, not family, not even some counselors. Because there is not GriefShare for those of us who have lost all hope for our future, but no one actually died. Because there are very few books that address this. Because we are still expected to be happy for everyone else around us while we have a gaping wound inside our hearts that is still untouched by any healing.
When we accept that happiness is not always the goal, and that much of life will include a complex mix of joy and sadness as well as the entire range of emotion and experience, we will be in a better position to help those who are grieving, including ourselves. We need people to weep with us and sit quiet as we lament, recognizing our loss for what it is – a deep heartbreak, not some shallow papercut. We need people who will walk alongside us when the grief hits hard, and remind us that our lives are still valuable, that God still loves us, that our pain is real, that we are seen.
Thank you for joining me for these past few blog posts on grieving singleness and childlessness. These 5 points I’ve presented over the past few blog posts are by no means the only aspects of this type of grief, I just wanted to give you a window into what this experience can be like for many of us.
If you are heartbroken over the loss of your dreamt-of-future with a spouse and/or children, please know you are not alone and the grief you feel is real. It is valid. And you do not have to suffer in shame and silence.
If you are the friend or family of someone going through this grief, I hope these past few posts help you better understand some of what they may be going through so you can walk alongside them, just as I hope you would if they were grieving the death of a loved one.