One of the loveliest ladies I ever had the privilege of meeting was named Mary. She was funny and feisty until she transitioned into heaven in 2012 at age ninety-two, and she had an incredible memory. Among her favorite things to talk about was her son William, who had died in Vietnam in 1969.
I met Mary through my mother, Nadia, as they both belonged to the New York state chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, an organization dedicated to supporting mothers who lose their soldier child in war. One time Nadia asked Mary if she still mourned her son, or if she got over the grief. Mary's response: "It's been over forty years, but I still cry every day."
This week one of my Gold Star Mother friends was told by someone to "get over" the loss of her son, who passed away three years ago. It made me incredibly sad to think that people could be so insensitive, and, to be blunt, so stupid.
Gold star mothers and fathers, and ALL parents who lost a child (and all people who are missing someone they love who died): never let anyone make you feel ashamed or guilty because you continue to mourn the loss of your loved one.
In the unfortunate situation where a very insensitive and ignorant person tells you to "get over it," just ignore them. Perhaps even have pity on them, because anyone who could make such a statement must not understand what real love is, because authentic love is forever.
I've written about this before in my article "The Sides and Seasons of Sadness," but I want to again remind all those who mourn that the process is very individual and there is no time limit for how long different feelings will last. The new science of bereavement reveals that responses to loss vary greatly, as does the time it takes for one to move forward comfortably into the "new normal" of their lives.
The best way I've come to think about what I call the four Dreadful D's (death, divorce, disease, disability) is not closure, but integration. Closure is something final, something that can be achieved. But for those who have lost a loved one, most especially those who have lost a child, there may not be any finality to the grief. An integration can be a more encouraging and positive way to live, by acknowledging the loss while still finding hope and purpose for the future.
To all Gold Star mothers and fathers: I send you love and pray that you may find the peace that passes all understanding, which only God can give.