Topic: Why all loss is not the same:
We all experience loss in many different forms from the moment we are born. A caretaker leaves the room and we are disappointed--this is loss. We find out our favorite toy has accidentally been donated to the local Good Will-- this is also loss. These are minor losses as opposed to what is to come in the future, but nevertheless, our first experience with something we cherish being taken away from us.
Obviously, as we become older, our losses often become more profound and life altering. Ultimately, we all eventually experience the loss of a loved one, whether that is a parent, a life partner, a sibling, a beloved co-worker or best friend. Unfortunately, some people experience this as a young person or baby, but we are often spared this heartache until we are older.
One of the biggest misconceptions some people make is that all loss is the same, and somehow the journey will be predictable with twists and turns that are typical of all people. A bigger misconeption is that "death is death' and it 'takes a year' to work through it.
Loss of a loved one is an indiviual expererience and many factors will impact how a person experiences it. The loss of a sibling can be a profoundly different experience than the loss of a spouse or even a parent. Loss that is sudden, such as from a heart attack is different than loss from a long, lingering death. Both of these types of death are profoundly different than loss from suicide or murder. The loss of a 5 year old child is different than the loss of one's 95 year old parent. ALL are heartbreaking, but very different in their experiences of those left behind. In the next few weeks I will be exploring different types of loss and its impact on our lives.
One major way in which loss is different from one person to the next is in the 'grief response.' Even members of the same family will mourn the loss of a parent, sibling, or other relative in very different ways. There is no 'right' way to grieve. Some people will display what we might consider 'traditional mourning' when a death occurs, such as crying or other outward displays of emotion. Others will become more stoic or quiet when they receieve the news of the passing of a loved one. There is no correct reaction when it comes to loss. Our reactions are based on our relationship with the person who has died, our own personality, our beliefs about ourselves and the world, and even our beliefs about death itself.
Another aspect of grief that is important to keep in mind is the length of time it takes to process a loss and feel as if you are finished with your grieving. First of all, we usually are never 'finished' with grief. We find ways to incorporate it into our lives and move on without our loved one, but feelings of loss and sadness can resurface for the rest of our lives at various times, just not with as much intensity as when the loss first occurs. Some people move on through the grieving process faster than others, and again, there is no 'correct' length of time it takes to work through those feelings. Be aware of others in your life telling you that you 'should be over it' by now. It takes as long as it takes as long as you do the work of grieving.
Death from a longer. lingering situation brings with it, its own special set of dynamics. A longer death allows us to prepare ourselves, as much as possible, for life without our loved one. We can allow the reality of the impending loss to sink in over time. We are able to make plans for life moving forward. It also allows us to be able to say goodbye to our loved one or to make amends if the relationship has been strained for whatever reason. The latter point allows for better emotional closure in that we feel we have said everything we needed to say.