Apparently, it starts back around age two.
Two days ago, I'm looking out the window. It's dark and damp and threatening to rain. When I comment that I don't think we'll be able to play outside today, my daughter glances outside and says, "it's not dark out; it's nice out. Not dark. It's nice. It's nice, Mommy. Okay, Mommy? It's not dark; it's nice."
Last week, I sat down on the kitchen floor and started crying. My daughter came up and stared at me. Finally, after a minute of watching me cry, she tells me: "Mommy is happy! So happy!"
I know one thing that drives another person to minimize your pain or provide a new story about your emotions: when someone loves you, they don't want to see you hurt. Rather than allowing the couple to mourn after a loss, they're immediately told stories that are either comparative in nature (do you remember our neighbour back at the old house? Well, her daughter miscarried at 14 weeks) or minimizing in nature (at least it happened early. It's not as bad as it could have been). You're told to be thankful for what happened vs. what could have been. People want you to get through the mourning process as quickly as possible and seem surprised if you're still speaking about the loss long after the fact.
I know another reason why we do it. Mourning is uncomfortable: not just for the couple experiencing the loss but for the people who need to comfort them. Msfitza had a post this week about seeing a woman she knows at Costco. The woman, who knew about her loss, did an I-can't-see-you maneuver where she suddenly became deeply interested in a stack of books when their oversized shopping carts passed one another. I like to call this move the you-just-suffered-a-terrible-loss-and-I-don't-know-what-to-say-so-I'll-pretend-that-I-don't-see-you (or a YJSATLAIDKWTSSIPTIDSY. Which shouldn't be confused with the LBWWMTDASADFFIHAOTAC).
And it's not just pregnancy loss--we do this to each other over anything that falls into a sad-inducing category. Divorce, break-ups, job loss, bankruptcy, death. There's always someone there in your life who tries to convince you that it's not that bad. That it could be worse. That you shouldn't be feeling sad right now; or, if you have to feel sad, you shouldn't feel that sad. Or if you have to feel that sad, you shouldn't feel it for too long. Think back to any time in the past six months that you've been having a crappy day for no reason. I'm sure if you expressed that idea to someone, they gave you a sympathetic, "I'm so sorry" and then immediately changed the topic with the hope of changing your mood.
Because people don't like to see other people sad. Sadness is just one of those emotions that needs fixing. Like anger. If you're angry, you need to fix it. You need to get out of that emotion. And if you're sad, you need to fix it. It seems like the only emotion that doesn't need fixing is happy. No one tries to get you to stop being happy. Which would lead one to believe that we need to be happy 100% of the time or as close as we can get to that emotion in order for other people to be comfortable. People understand if you're sad for a period of time after a loss, as long as they also know that you're going to be working yourself back to that happy place. People who don't work themselves back to that happy place tend to be shunned in our society.
There just isn't a revered spot on the guest list for the party of life for the widow who has been in mourning for three years or the infertile woman who is miserable or the middle-aged man who suffers from depression. They're invited to the party because they have to be invited to the party. But secretly, most of the other guests are hoping that they snap out of it. That they don't bring them down. Because it's an uphill battle, fighting to be happy all the time. Fixing all of those emotions to only read happy. And it's hard to be around a person who still wants you to be mourning with them. Or who needs not to be cheered up, but be allowed to experience what they're experiencing. It's not that they don't want to move away from mourning--but not everyone finds that door out of hell.
Which leads to my question--if we know how crappy it feels when someone is trying to change our emotions for us (through stories, through goading--I mean, what is it with people telling those who have just suffered a pregnancy loss that they need to try again?), why do we do it to other people? Why does this phenomenon exist at all if we truly understand that golden rule: do unto others as you would want done unto you?
Hmmm...sorry that I can't muse on this any longer. I need to go convince some people that their feelings aren't valid and they should just be happy by now...