How Much Have You Forgotten By Your Thirties?

I finally saw Inside Out tonight. It’s a movie that all of my favorite people have been raving about and begging me to go see. I’d only heard amazing things about it, and Jane even mentioned and exalted it in her last post, Shake It Up, Mix It Together, and Reassemble. The movie was as good as everyone said it would be- in fact, I think it was even better than all the hype. It has become my absolute favorite Pixar movie.

Warning: Inside Out spoiler alert ahead…stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie…and go see it.

There were quite a few moments in the movie that left me in tears..sometimes happy ones and sometimes really sad ones. One of the saddest moments for me was the disappearance of the protagonist, Riley’s, imaginary friend, Bing Bong. This imaginary friend was walking with another character, Joy, through the land of forgotten memories, and while he was there, he started to fade. First he lost a piece of hand, and then an arm, and then, in a moment of sacrifice, he let himself stay in forgotten memory land and fade away completely in order to let Joy escape.

When Bing Bong faded away, I lost it. I started weeping uncontrollably once Bing Bong was gone, even though I kind of saw it coming. And I saw it coming because I couldn’t remember my imaginary friend. Maybe I never even had one. Or maybe I forgot him or her. But it didn’t matter because that memory was gone. And so were many other memories from my childhood.

There’s so much we remember, and so much that fades. At this point we have 30-something years of memories. I realized recently that many of the memories I have repeat themselves over and over. The others are simply gone. It feels like such a shame to lose so much time but I guess that’s essentially part of the process of growing up. And we never stop growing up. Just because we’re already adults doesn’t mean that the growing up stops. It just keeps going and evolving. And fading.

As much as I uselessly grieved tonight over lost memories I can never get back, I was grateful for the ones I still have and for the present moment, where I can experience new things that aren’t gone or only memories yet. The disappearance of most memories is a darn good reason to try even harder to appreciate the present moment and to stay in the now- if you don’t grab onto the moment as it happens, you won’t ever experience it again and you may not even remember that it existed at all.

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How to Talk to A Grieving Friend in Your Thirties

Sheryl Sandberg wrote a beautiful statement today on Facebook about mourning the death of her husband. He died very suddenly in a tragic accident on a treadmill while they were on vacation in Mexico.

The statement was made after she came out of 30 days of intense mourning for him- a tradition in Judaism known as shiva. Even though it’s been 30 days, I can’t imagine her pain is anything less than fresh and intense, so I’m amazed she put out an incredible brief on Facebook so early on in her grieving process.

Sandberg’s statement is incredibly sad, but it’s also helpful as well as brave. I remember trying to talk to a friend last month whose grandmother had recently died. I didn’t want to upset her and I didn’t know what to say, so I ended up shamefully trying to avoid her until I gathered up my nerve to speak.

Even now, in my thirties, I feel like I never really know the right thing to say to a grieving friend, or relative. But there are definitely better things to say than others.

Sheryl has some great ways to approach (or not approach) this difficult subject. Here are a few:

1. Don’t tell your friend that it’s going to be okay

“A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not.”

2. Ask your friend how he or she is doing today instead of a simple “how are you doing?”

“When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.”

3. You don’t have to reassure the other person in order to empathize

“When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth.”

Other things to say to someone who has lost a loved one include:

– Simply addressing the situation: “I heard your _______ died. I’m so sorry”

– Be genuine: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care”

– Offer support: “Is there anything I can do for you?”

– Be willing to just sit and listen with compassion.

Things NOT to say include:

-“I know how you feel” – You can never really know how the person feels.

-“They’re in a better place now.” -You never know if the person you’re talking to believes this.

– “It’s part of God’s plan” – This can cause the person to get angry and actually say something like “What plan? I wasn’t aware of any plan.”

– “You need to get on with your life.” Grief moves at its own pace. This statement is unlikely to help anyone to actually get on with their life.

Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable and devastatingly sad yet extremely positive statement, Sheryl. I’m sorry for your loss and am extremely sad for you and your family.

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