Getting “Over It”

“It has been a week already! Aren’t you over it yet?” This comment was part of a conversation I overheard during last week’s high school parents’ meeting. A friend shared how sad she continued to be since dropping her son off at college. The “Aren’t you over it yet?” comment came from another mom with younger children.

This conversation caught my attention for a couple of reasons. First, I also dropped a child off at college recently. So, I could relate. But also because what it means to “be over things” and how long “getting over it” takes are concepts that I had been thinking about all summer.

As you know, I have undergone many changes in the last few months – some by choice and some, well, not so much. Regardless, I have spent most of the summer with a feeling of loss (and impending loss) hanging over me. I think I have spent a lot of the summer low-key grieving.

One of those changes was “forced” upon me: dropping off my older daughter at college. When we left her on “the Hill,” I did not cry. I thought I would. After all, I had been crying for months in anticipation! (Not kidding!)  But when it happened, I was “okay.” And I nearly broke my arm, patting myself on the back on how “well” I had stayed in control and how quickly I had “gotten over it.”

I was “over it” for about fifteen minutes.

On our way back home, we stopped to grab some pizza. When the three of us, my husband, younger daughter, and I, walked into the restaurant and requested to be seated, the hostess asked, “How many?” An innocent enough, non-triggering question, right? Then my husband said, “Table for four.” And there we have our trigger.

We were missing our fourth person. My younger daughter and I started to cry right there.

The next several days were full of tears for me. I missed my daughter terribly. And while missing her and crying, I asked myself for about the billionth time in my life, “What is wrong with me?  This isn’t a tragedy. Why can’t I just be happy with how well she is doing?”  I kept that thought at the forefront of my mind until a good friend reminded me there was nothing wrong with me. I had experienced a loss. There was no hierarchy that ranked the importance of different types of losses and whether these losses warranted grieving.  She said exactly what my friend Jodi Brandon said in a guest post that she wrote for this blog earlier this year: “No one’s life is perfect. Everybody’s got something . . . My something is not your something. Your something is not your best friend’s something or your spouse’s something or your colleague’s something. But whatever that something is, it matters to you.”  

Yes, I had experienced a loss. Yes, I was allowed to grieve. I was allowed to express it in any way I needed. This is another example of needing to “feel the feels” instead of trying to beat them down with my unrealistic expectations of myself. 

I have since realized why the other mom’s “Aren’t you over it yet?” comment has stuck with me:  it was the sense of judgment. Her judging my friend. My friend judging herself. Me judging me. 

And while I might not be “over it” – any of “it” – I finally have started (yet again!) to let go of my expectations of myself. A loss is a loss. And If I need to grieve as part of processing the loss, I will grieve. And I am going to do it for as long as I need to do it. And I will not apologize for feeling how I feel – to myself or anyone else.

Grieving over a loss takes as long as it takes. Grief is grief, and everyone deals with loss differently. There are some losses that we may grieve over for a lifetime. Maybe not acute, raw grief. But grief nonetheless. We go months or even years thinking we are “over it,” something triggers us, and the wound starts to bleed again. (Not unlike a scraped knee that I have from not one, but two recent falls!)

Wounds take time to heal and often leave scars. But remember, scars are not only a sign of trauma but also a sign of healing. The longer we live, the more scars we will have. Scars are a part of life. Scars are part of everyone’s lives.

With that in mind, the next time I am tempted to judge how “well” someone else is processing their emotions – or how “well” I am handling my own, I will stop myself. I will be kinder. I will be more empathetic. We all have scars. We all are healing.

And, in the end, those scars and our ability to heal remind us how much we can endure.

Together, we got this.