"Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement often refers to the state of loss, and grief to the reaction to loss." - Wikipedia
I feel like I have been exposed to number of grieving people lately and it has been really interesting to see how different people cope and react to the loss of someone close to them. I have never suffered the loss of someone I am really close to. Yes, I lost my grandparents and other relatives, but no one close enough to me that I noticed the loss on a daily basis. I know the loss of such people (ie parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, friends etc) is inevitable, because we all will eventually die. I am not sure if a lot of people who are grieving the loss of a spouse/child/friend stop to think about the actual process of grief, but I have had it on my mind a lot lately.
I think this started with a blog. I follow a blog called Blog by a Herzog fairly regularly, and a couple of months ago she wrote a short post about a friend of hers who had lost her baby shortly after he was born. I followed the link and read back a few posts about how this little baby had come into the world by way of emergency c-section because there was not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, and he lived for a few short days before his body succumbed to death. His mom, Jordan, has written very candidly in the last couple of months about what it has been like to lose a child. Not just the overwhelming sadness, but about the social awkwardness of talking about losing a child. People obviously knew that she was pregnant, and she is visibly not pregnant anymore, and people ask questions. She has talked about how you answer those questions without making the other person feel awkward for asking, but at the same time, not violate the memory of her baby by not talking about him. It has been a real eye opener.
I know every person grieves differently, but I was interested when Jordan wrote about how she loves to be hugged and appreciates all the notes of sympathy and caring that she has received, even from people who don't know her very well. I think if I knew her, I would feel awkward and likely avoid her (not so much if she was a good friend, but just more of an acquaintance). And she has admitted that she understands that people might react that way, and that she understands why. I am not sure how I would want to be treated after such a heart wrenching blow. Not that I would want to be avoided, but I have a feeling I might like to be left alone for a while, wallow in self pity for a time, but I suppose you couldn't say until you are in that situation.
The next place that got me thinking about grief was a client I had at work this week. She lost her husband to cancer a couple of years ago. She told me that the worst part of losing your spouse of 35 years is the loneliness. Not having that person to go home and talk to every day. She was 56 when her husband passed away. She said she was told that it gets easier in time, and she said that she maybe doesn't feel the crushing sadness every day anymore, but said the loneliness is overwhelming at times. What I found interesting was how other people expected that after a year, she should be getting back to normal. Friends suggested that she go back to work or get back to her old hobbies. She said she didn't need to financially, most of her friends were retired, and didn't have the desire to have to work because she did still have 'bad days' where she didn't want to be at work.
It does seem like sometimes society doesn't appreciate/accept/respect the grieving process. After 35 years of marriage why in the world would someone expect you to be ready to move on within a year. I don't know if it is good to allow someone to wallow in depression for years, but this lady seemed to have a grasp on her feelings. She had attended a support group for those who had lost a spouse for about a year and had learned a lot from the other people. She said more than anything, she was able to learn that she was not alone in the way she was feeling.
The final bit of grief I heard about this week was an old friend who was expecting a baby and had a miscarriage. I have never been in that situation, but I can only begin to imagine how tough that would be. I would think it would be especially tough with a first pregnancy. There is so much excitement, anticipation, hopes, dreams and plans that you have as soon as you find out you are expecting. I can only imagine that you are consumed with thoughts of everything baby. And to suddenly lose that has to be so sad. I think that people tend to be a little less sensitive to the loss of parents in this situation. Maybe they were only a few weeks pregnant, but it is still a significant loss. It still hurts, and there is still a grieving process.
I know that grief is experienced and treated differently by different people. After learning about these different circumstances, I hope to understand grief in general a little better. I will do my best to offer support to people who are grieving without saying something that is insensitive. I know most people mean well, when they say things like: you should get on with life, you're young you can have another baby, at least they have gone to a better place, etc. but I think I will take the position that more often it is better to support people in ways other than words.