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Carolyn Hax: You’re right. Being told to get over it is not one of the stages of grief.

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)
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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: How do you respond when a very dear and close friend says she thinks you should be "over" your grief at the loss of your brother, who died 11 months ago and for whom you are still deeply grieving (and crying daily)?

— Grieving

Grieving: Ugh, I’m sorry. That was a really thoughtless thing for her to say. Grief is not linear, and you don’t get “over” a loved one’s permanent absence from your life. You only adjust to it, react less (or differently) to it, learn to live around it, at your own pace.

I hope for your friend’s sake that it is merely her ignorance talking, which would suggest (a) she thinks she’s being helpful and (b) she’s had the good fortune of not having suffered as severe a loss.

If that’s the case, then you can explain to her — kindly, calmly, when you feel ready — that correcting someone in mourning is not helpful. To the best of your ability, explain why.

It could also be that your friend sees your struggle, suspects you’re “stuck” and thinks you might benefit from grief support or therapy — and just didn’t have the language handy to say that. That would make it a thoughtful concern unhelpfully phrased. Even though grief does have its own timetable and there’s no “should” to it, it does happen sometimes that people aren’t able to progress in their healing without a little help.

From readers:

●Eleven months?! That's nothing in terms of the grief timetable, in my opinion. Has Grieving considered explaining to her friend there is no closure or "getting over" a death? Some people really do not know this. That even though things do get better over time, you carry that sadness with you always, just compartmentalized so life can go on. And sometimes all it takes is something small to transport you back to that grief temporarily.

If someone doesn't have experience with death, then they often don't know. I learned this after losing a sibling a decade ago. And my condolences.

●I hit an aha moment a day after the anniversary of my brother's death. I used to believe my grief would be like a switch and one day it would flip and I would be okay again, and my therapist made a point that maybe my friends view grief like this, too. Maybe they see me struggling and believe we'll stumble on something that will flip the grief switch off. Obviously, grief doesn't work like that. She and I came up with a strategy to say, "I really miss my brother today, and I need you to be okay with me not being okay today." It has helped me give them the message that I need to be sad and I don't want someone trying to make it better. Sorry for your loss.

●My sister died six years ago — I still get teary whenever I think about her. I do hope that one day I'll be able to just talk about her without getting teary (as I am now, just typing this), but I don't feel like I need to move any more or less quickly.

Me again. Thank you to all of you who have carried this awful burden, for stepping forward to help Grieving carry theirs.

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