A hope note
I know several people who have come down with a bad case of the shingles. For many people, shingles runs its course in a few weeks or months. But, some victims have what unfortunately appears to be ‘ several years out ‘ a life sentence. Their shingles won’t kill them. They’ll eventually die of something else. But they itch and burn every day.
Shingles strikes me as being a lot like the grief process. Some people, after a significant loss, grieve for a few days or weeks and then start putting life back together. Others are crippled for many months, even years.
A sudden and unexpected human tragedy, like the school shootings in Columbine, Colo., quickly brings calls from ministers and other community leaders for closure. But premature closing of an open wound can set up enormous trouble later. Medical personnel clean the gravel or glass or grass out of a wound and thoroughly irrigate the wound before they stitch it shut. If they just sewed it up, it would look good on the outside, but it would soon fester.
How long should a grief wound stay open? The correct answer is: As long as it takes.
We can do two things to help the bereaved. We can occasionally mention their loved one by name, as in, ‘I’ve been thinking about Jesse a lot lately, and about you.’ The ultimate insult for the bereaved is that their loved one has been or will be forgotten by everyone else.
And we can cut them some slack, knowing that healing requires tincture of time.