When I read about other people’s grief, I am ashamed. I cannot legitimately take my place among those who mourn the loss of someone they loved, someone who they miss every day and who they long to see again for just a few moments. My husband is dead, and the manner of his death was unnatural and senseless, but I don’t grieve for the loss of him in my life.
My grief is totally selfish.
I grieve the loss of my past relationship with him — that our marriage never survived, that we didn’t weather the storms of our differences like my parents. I am sad that I failed to achieve what I was bought up to believe was the ultimate goal of love — a partner for life — forsaking all others, until death us do part.
I grieve the loss of my future relationship with him — the fact that we can never reconcile our differences and approach some kind of tentative friendship. I don’t have the opportunity to say I’m sorry, or to watch him move on and fall in love with someone else. My guilt will never be eased by him finding happiness again.
I grieve the loss of control. Once I thought I could stage manage everything about my life and the lives of those I loved. If I behaved with good intentions, open-heartedness and genuine kindness, I believed the Universe would treat me the same in return. Now I know there is nothing I can do to prevent tragedy.
I grieve the loss of my innocence. Now I know that life can change in an instant, that bad things happen when we least expect them, that death leaves wounds that ache and throb for the rest of our lives. I can no longer pretend that I don’t have to worry about losing anyone until I’m older. I worry about those I love dying all the time. My fingers cannot grip tightly enough to stop them slipping through my fingers. I feel the Angel of Death’s breath on my neck and even though I don’t look around, I can never forget he’s close enough to touch me.
But none of these things has anything to do with grieving the loss of the man I married. He is no longer in this world and I don’t miss his voice, his smell or the touch of his hand. I don’t want to look at his photo, have his clothes made into a quilt or his initials tattooed on my body. I am a cold and heartless widow.
I mourn only for the things I have lost. My grief is totally selfish.
Life is one long process of grieving. We begin by grieving the loss of possessions and relationships, and we move toward grieving the loss of people or of our own physical or mental abilities that were once so natural. We grieve the loss of dreams and a former way of life.
This is the natural progression of grief and one that is to be expected as we navigate through our lives.
But there is also unnatural grief, and this is perhaps the hardest to accept. Sudden, gut-wrenching, life-altering grief – like a fatal accident or a fatal heart attack. Or slow, torturing grief that cannot have a good outcome. Like terminal cancer.
Nobody gets out of this life without experiencing grief. The one guarantee in this life is that you will experience grief in some way. We can’t change this, but we all must find a way to live with it.