Full text of stand-up comedian Kelley Lynn’s talk: When Someone You Love Dies, There Is No Such Thing as Moving On at TEDxAdelphiUniversity conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Kelley Lynn – Stand-up comedian
Best-selling author and widower C. S. Lewis said in the opening line of his brilliant book ‘A Grief Observed,’: “Nobody ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
It’s a powerful statement: fear. But fear of what? The fear of losing yourself. The fear of growing old alone. The fear that this intense pain will never stop. The fear of forgetting the sound of his voice or his laugh or that others will forget him, that his life won’t have mattered.
Grief makes you feel isolated, alone, terrified, and damaged, and scared of absolutely everything.
On October 27th, 2006, at the age of 35, I married my very best friend, Don Shepherd. Four years and nine months later, my healthy, active, beautiful husband left for work one morning and never came home. They found him collapsed on the floor – a massive heart attack. No symptoms, no warnings, no goodbyes – just here one minute and then, boom, gone.
In the past five years or so since my husband’s death, I’ve become friends with and met a lot of other widowed people. A few months ago, a dear widower friend of mine gave me a challenge. He said, “Kelly, I want you to change the world.”
“Is that all?” I said to him.
“I will get on that right after my morning cup of coffee.”
But when I stopped to think about that concept, a favorite phrase of mine came to mind: “Change your mind, and change the world.” In other words, the way that people see or perceive an idea has to change in order for everything surrounding that idea to also change.
So I’m going to speak the truth today about grief and then wait for that truth to then become contagious. Any widowed person or any person who has lost someone they love to death will tell you about the well-intentioned but sometimes insensitive comments coming from those on the outside.
“It was God’s plan.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
There are many more, but these are some of the “greatest hits.”
Now, the justification for these comments is always the same: They don’t know what to say. I feel like it’s time we change the conversation from “They don’t know what to say” to “Well, then let’s teach them.” Like the great Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.”
So let’s focus on the most insensitive comment of all time and the one that I feel is the most harmful: “You need to move on. Get over it! Get on with your life.”
Let me say this as simply as I can: When it comes to the death of someone that you love, there is no such thing as moving on. It’s a lie. It’s a made-up concept created by people who are too uncomfortable with death and sadness and grief.
But here’s the thing: It’s not their fault. They are only repeating what has become familiar to them throughout the years, what’s been taught to them by society over and over again. “You need to move on” is a phrase born out of centuries of ignorance and fear because grief feels a hell of a lot like fear.