"Get on with it"


I wanted to pick up on a similar discussion from last week when we looked at the hurtful statement "get over it". Another classic comment made by (potentially) well meaning people is "get on with it".

This thought provoked a slippery slope of thoughts throughout my day today, leading me to the notion that;

To get ON suggested that we got OFF. To get on with something, suggests that we got off from something.

More simply, I believe it is relating to the fact that when someone dies, it so deeply impacts our lives that we often stop our 'normal' routines, to deal with the loss, the funeral, the business that occurs at the point of death etc etc. To do these things we often need to get OFF the daily treadmill to focus on what is now requiring our immediate and focused efforts.

After a period of time however, we do need to reengage with life, albeit now different. The timing for this to happen varies massively depending on the individual, the relationship with the deceased, the cause of death, as well as so many other possible contributing factors.

The problem with the "get on with it" statement is that people seem to be saying "ok, the loss has happened, you took the time to organise the funeral and what needed to be done so now PUT ALL OF THAT BEHIND YOU and simply ‘get on with it’ .... go back to normal.... be the person you were before the death because I liked and understood that person". Perhaps subconsciously they are also saying “I don’t know this new you – I can’t cope with this new you, thus for ME, I need you to just get on with it and return to who you were before the loss".

The hard thing about loss, is that those whom are desperately trying to navigate this new season with you, actually have no idea of your inner world, your inner turmoil, your inner pain, thus they default to what they know and who they know.

Nearly every person I know whom has experienced significant loss would love to just snap their fingers and simply “get on with it"; skipping through the pain of having to navigate the NEW them....but that, in most cases, is entirely impossible.  

When someone goes through a great loss it is expected that they will be different. For better or worse, grieving changes people. It’s not the issue of grief that many battle with (both those immediately affected and those supporting the bereaved), but rather the time one takes to process and journey through such.

A common statement heard by those in deep grief is:

“I don’t want the new normal – I don’t want to get on with it because that means that she or he is really gone”.

This comment and many like it, often affect one’s journey of grief – and as hard as it is as friends, it is unfortunately not up to us to judge one’s journey. I heard it said once that “frustration is the chasm between expectation and reality” – and I believe this to be true. Sensitivity and patience are paramount when supporting and loving those who are grieving, even when we are getting frustrated at the seeming “lack of progress.”

It was only last week that I sat with a friend whose mother passed away one month ago. She spoke of the pressure people are placing on her to simply “get on with it”, to plan her future and to be actively seeking out and participating in her new reality. She so desperately wished that it was that easy.  

I reminded my friend that in her eyes, her mother had only just passed away. For others it may well have been a whole month, but for my friend, it was like yesterday. Perhaps against the advise of other friends, I encouraged her to not make any significant decisions before this Christmas. I encouraged her to “do the things she can, even if it is achieved by simply being on auto-pilot” …. and that’s it. The fact is that her best friend and mum just died.

The fact is she is in deep grief and is in so much pain that the world doesn’t make sense anymore. Food has lost its taste, the beautiful colors of the world have become a dull grey and sleep is a distant memory now filled with tears, fears and loneliness.

I am not sure about you, but if I were experiencing some or all of those things, being told to “get on with it” would wound my soul more than I care to say.

So I left our time together over a cuppa giving her 3 of the 9 keys I teach people and I pray now that she does in fact find auto-pilot in order to survive. That she gives herself time…. (quite possibly lots of time) while actively applying the 3 strategies I gave her to assist her in getting unstuck from the place she is currently in.

Yes, we must continue to function, we must continue to put one foot in front of the other … but more importantly, we must be kind to ourselves and kind to others. Let’s do our best to not judge the pace at which one chooses to walk, crawl or run through their journey of grief, let’s strive to not place our own expectations upon them – nor as the bereaved, take on the expectations of others.  

People can, and do, live fabulous lives even after the loss of a loved one, an ended career or relationship, or whatever causes the significant loss.


By Steve Morrison