In our household we have a saying. It comes from my wife, of course, who is the keeper of wise aphorisms in our home. The saying goes like this, “You have to grieve the loss.”
Usually this means about the same thing as, “Just get over it already!” but with a more gracious tone. It works great for children around, say, five- or nine- or eleven-years-old, who have a tendency to mope for an inordinate amount of time after they don’t get their way.
“No, you may not have another brownie. You’ve already had three.”
“But I’m still hungry.”
“You can have a piece of fruit, if you’re still hungry. And if you ask for a brownie again, you’re going to be in trouble.”
With a look that says, Arrrr! She questions, “Why?”
“Because you’re not in charge. Now, get over it and go play.”
Sulking naturally entices children toward the corners of the house, where they believe they will look more sorrowful, like a weakling animal seeking shelter from a predator. But the corners are the places that children normally do not spend time, and so the corners are the places where they’ve strewn toys that they’ve forgotten about for weeks. Toys that become suddenly interesting again when seen through sullen eyes. Not uncommonly, it takes about ten minutes, sometimes an hour, for a child to grieve her inability to control the world and then move on, with a once-neglected toy in hand.
It should be said, too, that as a child grows more mature, the ability for her to engage her rational and spiritual faculties to go through this grief process increases. She can “grieve the loss” without first throwing a fit.
We’re not in control of the world. Sometimes the frustration of that truth makes us mad. Really mad. Sometimes the sadness causes us emotional upheaval. Sometimes it even throws us into a state of depression for a time.
So then, when it’s time to “grieve the loss,” how much time does it take? Well, according to the proposed draft of the new DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s manual for diagnosing mental illness, not very long in case of bereavement. Apparently a person grieving the death of a loved one -- the death of a spouse or child -- should “just get over it already” in about two weeks.
I suspect that there’s more to this story. I suspect that there is considerable debate among medical professionals about the notion that prolonged sorrow over the death of a loved one is a mental disorder. I suspect that, but I doubt I’m right. It troubling to the extreme that the proposed recommendations of the APA could become the standard treatment for people who seek council during a time of bereavement.
This reminds me of Brave New World or the more recent Hunger Games, in which all that is human is distracted or medicated away. Is there anything more appropriate than grieving -- for more than two weeks -- the lose of a child? Obviously, if years later the child’s room has been turned into a shrine and the person has not really “grieved the loss” then it’s appropriate to get treatment. But the notion that if grief lasts for more than a scientifically comfortable moment it becomes a disorder is what’s unnatural about the APA’s recommendation.