Copyright 2005, Joshua Wood
(Editorial Comment After the Fact: My wife suffered greatly as she read this article for me. She felt I didn't make a clear enough distinction between legitimate grief and the self-involved grief that is crushing the American spirit. Her words, if I may quote her imprecisely, we something to the effect that, "If I died and you didn't grieve, I would torture from beyond the grave." Touché, dearest. If my lovely wife died, I would be grieved. A lot. But, and here's the distinction, I would not wear that grief around expecting something from everyone because I'm a victim of one of life's horrible tricks.)
Occasionally you can even learn something from television.
I was watching a somewhat entertaining despite being unusually sappy cop drama called "The District." For some reason I find this show incredibly watch-able.
During today's rerun Chief Jack Manion (Craig T Nelson) told one of his subordinates that, "When there is no longer any value given to suffering, healing is instantaneous."
Or something pretty close to that.
Simple, yet precisely accurate. I'm sure this bit of wisdom was taken from a famous general or philosopher. Jack Manion is always reading and quoting such men.
Regardless of who said it first, my question is why aren't we saying it more often?
America is many great things. But America is also the whiniest nation on earth. Despite seeing daily the images of the horrors of living in non-industrialized, non-capitalist countries, we still think we suffer more. If a child goes to bed one night in thirty without dinner, we whine that he's "malnourished." Oh the suffering. If a parent spanks a child for acting like a moron, we scream "abuse!" and seek to have that parent publicly flogged. When we publicly flog parents, we get even angrier and start calling ourselves horrible names like "Republican" and "Conservative" and "Hate-Monger."
And when we hate ourselves, isn't that the ultimate suffering?
I'm sure anyone currently living in fear of genocide, disease, communism or unshaven French women are thanking God they don't live in America where we hate ourselves.
All our legitimized pseudo-suffering provides great cover for those among us with real aches. It's much easier to cry when everyone else is. It's much harder to heal when healing is out of style. And this self-serving, "gimme" grief is an insult to anyone really suffering for any real reason.
And rather than helping the really hurt heal, we* find some reason to join the whining chorus.
We* value pain in the country. We* relish our role as victim. And we*'ll apply the full power of our trademark American creativity to find new ways to cover more people with the victimhood umbrella.
And the psychology business is booming. Maybe all this whining is good for the economy.
Good Grief is no grief.
And don't start grieving my lack of sensitivity. When grief is no longer greeted like a hero returning from war, when Oprah stops glorifying the misery industry in this country, then healing just might occur. When healing is actually a distinct possibility, then those that are truly hurting will "miraculously" (Should I say "magically" for all the suffering witches) find healing.
"When there is no longer any value given to suffering, healing is instantaneous."
We* value suffering. And so, we* suffer.
Why don't we try valuing health? Why don't we aspire to transcend suffering? Why don't we stop whining about how bad life has been to us?
Bluntly: Get over it.
And stop whining about how unfair I'm being. I've suffered plenty in my life. I grew up with curly hair when straight hair was a coolness must. I know suffering.
But you don't hear me whining about it anymore. I shaved my head and moved on with my life .
I know it seems like I'm making fun of people that are holding on to their pain. That's because I am. If you're still holding on to pain from something that happened 20 years ago, 20 months ago, 20 weeks ago, 20 days ago.. maybe 20 minutes ago...you're hurting because you want to be. You've given value to your suffering.
Maybe it's how you've come to identify yourself. In that case, you can bet that no one likes you and maybe a little identity reformation might be helpful.
Maybe it's how you were raised. In that case I would bet that you really don't like your parents in which case why are you bothering to live your life like them?
Maybe you think your suffering is nobler suffering because you're suffering for what you believe in.
Don't insult the consequences of moral decisions made by equating them with your silly desire to be pitied.
Whatever the "case," your continued suffering is a direct result of your continued choice to continue suffering.
And that doesn't make you a victim at all.
It makes you a manipulative 16 year old girl (or the emotionally retarded adult equivalent).
My recommendation (reiterated): Get over it.
Devalue suffering by trying, if only for a minute, really living.
Good Grief is no grief.
* - I say "we" only to be polite. If anyone is emotionally healthy, it's me. I just didn't want to embarass you by pointing the finger.
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR,
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I have been told that publicly I "look so well", and "you are so brave". When I hear this I want to spit bullets. It is only a facade that I am too weak to take off. I often say "vanity saved my life", not that I cared much to be saved after my daughter died. But I put my makeup on with even more panache, dressed "just so". You never saw me in sackcloth and ashes. I think the thing that doesn't work in your article, is that your distinction is not clear. The word GRIEF is perceived to mean, to MOST people, the desolation one feels after the death of a loved one. That is why I came to your article. If the distinction were more clear, the wording more precisely defined, I would easily accept your premise.
By the way, you have a wise wife, in that she knows, should she die before you, you will be a better man for having grieved the loss of her. I remember my husband actually standing in the garage putting away the boxes of our dead daughter's life, 10 days after she was buried and telling me to "get over it and rejoice because she was in heaven". I could have sent him to heaven then and there. No humor in that statement. I hated his stupidity which I now know was his inability to grieve. I have accepted it. He does not miss her..as I do. Not even close. It is a lonely road but I have accepted it. The day after Diana died, I cried out to God, "make me a man!" I wanted to be a man so badly. At no other time in my life have I wanted to be a man with such complete truth.
By the time I am 68, I will have mothered 7 children to adulthood. But at that time, I wanted to be a man.
Please accept my comments as the effect your writing had on me. In fact, I am now inspired to write again. Thank you and Godspeed,
PS If you have a chance, read my work, The Wraths of Grief and Where Does Love Go
Wow. Thank you for your openness. Also, thank you for reading the article as it was intended. I know that was not easy. Also, your critique about making the distinction more clear is a good one. In fact, the whole purpose was to seperate out the phoney "guilt" so that those truly grieving will be more able to find healing. I hope you have found yourself able to embrace God's healing!
Wow, I can't imagine. But praise God for the perspective he's given you! I wish we all were able to look so honestly and healthily at whichever challenge God has put before us! My prayers are with you.
God said "Mourn with those who mourn." Yes, grief is something to eventually get over, but it's the getting over part that's hard. My dad died 2 years ago in June. I wasn't even able to do the Father's Challenge because I didn't want to think. The pain of the moment is gone, but the absence of the kiss, embrace, hug is never satisfied again. If I never grieved I couldn't help someone in grief. If I never rejoiced, I couldn't rejoice with those who rejoice. It's all a mystery and it all contributes to character.
It is important to note that I am not talking about natural, healthy mourning. I'm addressing "our" tendancy to become victims about our pain. "We" latch on to hurt like it's essential for life and woe be to anyone that would encourage us to move on. The quote I referenced ("When there is no longer any value given to suffering, healing is instantaneous") is entirely true. And there may be value in holding on to grief over the death of someone close. But when your grief becomes your identity, you've become something very unhealthy and undesirable... That's all I was saying. Thanks for reading and leaving feedback!
After I leave the mental health facility from visiting my grown son I balance my grief with all the well and good blessings that is happening. If he attempted to comb his hair? Yea!! I cheer! If he is able to smile? Praise God! Grief and smiles come and go, like the filtering light through the leaves of a tree. I watch his beautiful face grow older, but I tell him he is my best guy. Grief is a companion to happiness.
....but yes brother, I understand what you are saying. Thank you.