A big myth perpetrated on those who are grieving a profound loss, and what leads experts to postulate that some people’s prolonged grief isn’t normal, is the prevalent belief that all losses are equal. But all losses aren’t equal for the simple reason that all relationships aren’t equal.
Sure, we grieve the loss of the person, but we grieve the loss of the relationship and the many roles the person played in our lives.
The son of a friend who’d lost her spouse was contemptuous of his mother’s grief, thinking she was overdramatizing herself. He’d gotten over his grief quickly and thought she should have, too, but what he didn’t realize — what most people don’t realize — is that although they lost the same person, they didn’t suffer the same loss. He’d lost a father he hadn’t been particularly close to, and his life didn’t change at all. Her life changed drastically — not only had she lost the one person who had always been there for her, the person she needed to help her get through her devastating loss, she lost her constant companion, her lover, their shared friends, their shared dreams,, her sense of her own identity, a big chunk of her income, and a whole slew of other losses compounding that one big loss. (Including the son since he refused to have anything to do with her.)
And each of those losses needed to be mourned, which makes mourning the loss of a life mate/soul mate a horrendous and horrendously long task.
Most of us who have lost our live mates have had the experience of someone comparing the loss of their pet to our loss, which leaves us speechless. Even if we could think of a suitable comeback, most of us are sensitive enough to understand the other person’s pain, so we don’t say anything, but the truth is, as traumatic as the loss of pet can be, the relationship of a person with their pet is far from the multi-faceted relationship of a person with their life mate/soul mate.
Although most people have experienced grief, all grief isn’t the same. All losses aren’t the same. All relationships aren’t the same. If you know someone who is grieving the loss of their life mate, please be patient with them even if you think they are being melodramatic. Especially if you think they are being melodramatic. They’ve probably lost more than you can ever imagine.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.
October 13, 2018 at 1:24 pm
October 13, 2018 at 5:53 pm
October 15, 2018 at 4:57 am
I read an essay this morning from a book designed to assist people with grief. The entire 200 pg. book offers about as many single essays and this one comes at the end under the topic “Resolving”. The title and summarizing lines are “I never thought grief could teach me so much. It is good to grow wise by sorrow. This” survivor’s wisdom” has to do with valuing the very essence of life,of having a clearer understanding of life’s purpose. And once gained, this is a knowledge no survivor would wish to discard if it were possible to do so.” It struck me some version of this gets told to me by others in their attempt to be helpful or supportive (your current topic). It isn’t helpful for me. It feels like I am under pressure to “find the good” (AKA wisdom ) because we are suppose to get back on the sunny side of the street…(doesn’t get much sunnier than being soooo very wise!) My psyche says “Keep your sage wisdom and I’ll keep my husband…thank you anyway!” Maybe it is about timing and at 3.6yrs I am not there yet. Just wondering your thoughts
October 15, 2018 at 10:09 am
“No survivor would wish to discard it if it were possible to do so.” What the heck?
I do admit I that in a bizarre sort of way I’m glad to have experienced grief — I’d never known such a wild and elemental state even existed. And I did develop the ability to convey what grief feels like and to explain the process, which has brought comfort to some people. And perhaps I am a wee bit wiser. But I would exchange all that in a heartbeat for one more smile from Jeff.
To try to find meaning in another person’s death seems egocentric to me. A person who needs someone to die before they can learn the worth of life is someone who isn’t worth listening to. I am not a big proponent of sorrow as a teacher. I learned more about life from loving Jeff, being there for him, and sharing my days with him than I ever did from grief.
I think most people who have lost their soul mates would agree with your psyche: “Keep your sage wisdom and I’ll keep my husband…thank you anyway!”
October 16, 2018 at 12:14 am
I really don’t think grief should be compared at all. Perhaps the person who had lost a pet was just trying to relate. I remember a co-worker whose father had died and then her dog died and I said to another co-worker, “She seems a lot more upset about the dog than her dad” and she said, “I think she got a lot more love from her dog than her dad.” That stuck with me. And then when I was going through a divorce and an aunt had lost a loved one through death and she and my mother would get into a debate about which was worse. I never looked at it that way and it’s annoying to to say the least when grief turns into a competition. All losses have to be dealt with in different ways. They’re different and people are different.