Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On Categorizing Loss and Broken Hearts

My father-in-law went to work one early morning in May of 2005. I imagine he probably said hello to a few co-workers, maybe had some coffee, and went out to load up his truck with mail.

Then he fell down and died.

It was horrible. Just two days earlier he had dropped Frank and me off at the airport saying "See you Wednesday!" and waved as we walked toward our waiting plane and our Florida vacation. Then he was just gone.

It was really hard for everyone to accept.  How could someone just go off to work and then not come home?  None of his loved ones were able to get closure.  His kids didn't get the chance to tell him how much they loved him. His two grandsons and two granddaughters didn't get to give him one last hug.

When he died, it was horrible for his whole family.  

The loss was huge.  Our hearts were broken.

In early 2010, my Dad went to the hospital with pneumonia.  This was the first in a chain of health events and diagnoses that culminated in his death that September.  Dad knew he was dying.  He was able to talk to us about his wishes for his last days.  He told me I could ask him anything, because after his parents died he thought of so many things he wished he had asked them.  We had sweet, loving conversations.  We had closure.
My Dad with 8 of his 9 Grand-kids
When he died, it was horrible for his whole family.              

The loss was huge.  Our hearts were broken.

I don't like when someone finds out that Sue died and immediately asks, "Was it expected?  Or was it sudden?"

When I say that she had been sick for a long time, they visibly relax. "So it was expected." The implication is that her prolonged illness softened the blow for us emotionally. That her death was not as horrible or heart-breaking than if she had died suddenly.

Why do people feel the need to place other people's loss into 'very bad' and 'not as bad' categories?

It does not matter if a loved one dies suddenly or if a loved one dies after a prolonged illness. A beloved person is dead.

The loss is huge.  Someone's heart is broken.

On some level I understand the feeling of needing to decide someone else's loss is not as bad as it may seem. If you really care about the grieving person, you want them to not be in the type of pain you suspect they might be. But the most kind reaction you can have is to not make assumptions about another's grief.

Only the person who has suffered the loss can say just how much he or she is affected by it.  If you are not the person who has suffered the loss, you can't know how "bad" it is. Allow that person to explain to you what it feels like.  Assume it has affected the person greatly unless specifically told otherwise.

Whether it is the loss of a 99 year old grandmother, a terminally ill special needs child, a perfectly healthy 16 year old, an unborn baby, a 66 year old Dad with Cancer, or a sick-for-many-years 47 year old sister, loss is loss.  It is awful and it hurts horribly.

It really doesn't matter if the loss was expected or sudden.  

The loss is HUGE. Hearts are BROKEN.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this, Andi. We can all be clumsy when trying to "comfort" someone we love. Your experience with loss can help others. It is helping me.