Now in print for a quarter of a century, Virginia Ironside’s ‘You’ll Get Over It’ is a frank and insightful book about dealing with the death of a loved one. Here, we present an extract
A book on bereavement is difficult to end because there is no ending to it. There is always another anniversary; the pain is always present. It never ends. I wish I could, like so many other books on bereavement, end on a consoling and comforting note and not a howling draught of reality. I wish I could say that ‘This, too, will pass’ and mean it. But however many endings I write, whenever I cast them in a comforting light, or add any hint about acceptance, or the cycle of life, I feel sick and ashamed of myself. I’m lying. I was glad to read Freud who wrote this to his friend Binswanger:
We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else.
Bereavement is a rite of passage. Death has to happen. Death does happen.
And now, as the end of this chapter marks the end of this book, I find myself presented with yet another kind of personal dilemma. Even if I do find the right way of ending it, I can’t bear to print it out. Why? Possibly because I’m incapable of letting my own feelings of bereavement out. Perhaps I am hanging on to them because they are all I have, a painful thought in itself. Perhaps because, since they are all I have, I am jealous of sharing them with others. Possibly, too, because by printing out this book I feel I am perpetrating a lie to myself – and to you. That I am saying, ‘Ah, the bereavement book is over,’ and making the corollary that the feelings of bereavement are over, too. A book on bereavement should never end because bereavement itself never ends. You never get over a death. It’s with you always, a scar like a brand that will never fade. Unless you are an exceptionally spiritual person, I doubt if you will ever come to terms with it, either. The very best that most of us can do is to live with it. On and on and on and on… until we die ourselves, when the feelings of pain, anger and confusion will be handed on, a legacy of truth, to someone else to bear.
Taken from ‘You’ll Get Over It’: The Rage of Bereavement (Penguin) by Virginia Ironside, in print since 1996 and still used by Cruse Bereavement counsellors in their training. Buy a copy here.
Virginia Ironside is a guest on A Drink with the Idler on 25 February.