People are so kind and compassionate toward children who are grieving. We make allowances for them, and celebrate when they do “normal” things like go to school, play with friends, or make jokes. We say how wonderful it is that children can bounce back, and we marvel at how resilient they are. It makes me wonder why aren’t we the same way towards adults.
After Madeline died, I had no idea how scrutinized I would be. I know part of that was because I was writing publicly about my grief, and while the majority of the comments I received were hugely supportive, there were plenty that were horribly negative. It wasn’t just from strangers, either – I had a person I interacted with in real life make plenty of remarks here and there that the things I was doing were inappropriate. Little jabs like, “Oh, how wonderful that you’re already moving past Maddie’s death, since you’re going to a movie.” or “You and Mike went away for the weekend? You must be feeling better.” (Needless to say, that person is no longer in my life.)
Unfortunately, these emails and remarks got to me, and at times I was nervous to live my life. I felt like if I laughed at a joke, or ate at a restaurant, or celebrated a birthday, everyone would think that I was disrespecting my daughter. How I dealt with my grief became less about what I needed and more about what I thought was expected. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone thinking I wasn’t “properly” mourning my daughter, and that greatly slowed down my immediate healing process.
I used to wait for my therapist across the hall from a children’s grief therapy group session, and sometimes the door would open and I’d see the kids playing tag, or coloring, or all laughing. I’d have the typical “Oh, it’s so great those kids are smiling” reaction, followed by pangs of jealousy. Those kids weren’t worried about what people thought, but they also didn’t have to be. No one would ever think a child was “over” the death of a parent/sibling/whoever just because they witnessed a happy moment. Yet, some would judge a grieving adult’s moment of happiness or escape as being improper.
I don’t know why some people choose to judge others during their hardest times. Every person and situation is so different that even those who have walked the same path can’t always relate. Everyone deserves the same compassion when they are grieving, regardless of age.