The Myth of “Getting Over” a Loss

The idea here is to find a way to live with grief, not just get over it. The “get over it” language is just terrible. When people ask me if I still get upset about my sister, I say yes. I do. I’m smiling because I had this very delayed grief response. When my sister passed, I really rammed myself back into life. I immediately began caregiving for my parents, ostensibly because I felt that their pain was bigger than mine. I thought that was the right response– a strong response. Bit by bit, the pain faded over the years. I felt as though I had processed her death the further I moved from her in time.

It’s been 20 years now. Several years after her death, I began to finally feel the suffering. It took me a long time to feel the pain in a real way.

And it took me even longer to consider what I should do with the pain. It was only recently that I could actually think of her and actually imagine her presence. When I would try to remember her before, all I would see is black. A black monolith, a black space– an empty space. It was hard for me to even summon her image, because the second I did, I felt guilt and regret.

Now I’m at the point where I can actually picture her. I can picture her smiling at me. I can picture her crying. I can picture all sorts of things.

I can picture her with me.

I’m 20 years in, so I’m a very late bloomer. But my point here is that grieving is active for a long time, as long as you’re around.

In some ways, it’s never too late.

BJ is a hospice & palliative medicine physician who sees people at and speaks on topics of illness and palliative care around the world.