The Love of my Life, Cheryl Strayed idolizes her dead hero, her mother. Instead of following the conventional and “famous five stages of grief” Strayed renews her life exactly the way many mothers would not have wanted her to. In many situations like this, the victim should be able to lean on others for help, but Cheryl sees her stepfather erasing her mother’s memory and cannot accept help from anyone else. She pulls the entire burden of her mother’s passing onto herself since it appeared to her that no one else would.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the five stages of grief. Everyone knows them and everyone has put them to use in one way or another. They are the closest way we have to a textbook method of recovering from a significant loss. Strayed states in her essay that “we don’t bear witness to grief” and we don’t. “The burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad”. This is the sad truth about the society that we live in. We don’t want to help those through their pain. We tell them that we will always be there if they need us, a shoulder to cry on. But as soon as the pain and suffering come, we hesitate on the sidelines because the game looks tough and we don’t want to get involved or defeated by the overwhelming grief that is all around. If they think like Strayed did, that they are unable to live without this person in their life, then “we call their suffering a disease”. We really don’t understand how to help them through this process. We only know the five stages because that is what has “permeated our cultural consciousness” and we are uncomfortable and confused by the fear of being involved with someone who won’t or cannot follow those five stages.
Many of the people that first surrounded Strayed after her mother’s death wanted her to move on. Like good friends and family should do they wanted her to keep her mother’s memory alive by celebrating her life and accepting her death. Yet Strayed saw it and acted differently. She states that “we act as if all losses are equal” yet she feels strongly that they are not. I believe that losing a person is any form of them never going to return your texts, calls, or emails, that they will never be the same person again, or that they are gone. Strayed also says that “every emotion felt is validated” and I agree with the idea that “it is un-American to behave otherwise”. People do feel like they cannot live without their significant other and some will even commit suicide because they cannot continue to live. Does this make it right in society’s eyes? Absolutely not. Does it make life bearable for them? Yes. So should society really be concerned with who we allow into our “boat”; the small opening we have in our hearts for only those who mean the most to us? I do not think so, it is none of their business and it’s definitely not their call on how we should act if they choose not to come or die before they can board.
As many people do when they lose something or someone, Strayed pulled the entire weight of her mother’s death on her shoulders. She may have been able to keep her life if others had seemed interested in keeping her mother’s memory alive. Her stepfather had a new family, and they “moved into my mother’s house, took her photos off the walls, erased her.” If he had maybe shown more sadness and maybe a hint of respect for his wife of ten years then maybe Strayed wouldn’t have felt like she had to take on the entire burden of her hero’s memory. I agree with Strayed that he should have been the one who was suffering the most; she was his wife for goodness sake! He should have been so upset that he felt like he couldn’t continue to life, that his existence wasn’t worth much without her and it should have been his life that was turned upside down because of her death. It shouldn’t have been left on the shoulders of her daughter. If adults know anything it should be that their children shouldn’t have to face the harsh, cold and cruel facts of reality all of the time. It’s the same reason they tell us that there is a Santa Claus or that our hamster ran away instead of making us face the fact that Christmas is really just a surviving holiday because of human greed and really Dad just forgot to feed him while you were at summer camp. Children are their children, no matter what age the parent or child is. Ultimately what Strayed’s essay shows is that the entire unit that surrounded a person in death needs to continue to be there for one another until they are positive that every person in that unit is ready to move back to their previous life.