A reader writes:Seven years ago I fell in love with a wonderful man I met at work. Although we never dated, we spent many wonderful hours together talking about everything and nothing. We spent a year getting to know each other, and I fell more in love every day. After I was transferred to another department, I was sure we would spend a wonderful summer getting to know each other in a more romantic atmosphere. That never happened. He didn't return my calls or emails, and never spoke to me again. I was heartbroken and never understood why he dumped my like that. Since then I have married a wonderful man, who has been a great stepfather to my children and a wonderful husband. He loves me and supports me in all I do. Last month I found out that my co-worker "love" of seven years ago had died in a one-car accident earlier this year. I feel like I'm going crazy!
Only he who suffers can be the guide and healer of the suffering. ~ Thomas Mann
Grief is the normal response to significant loss, but it doesn’t necessarily wait for death or separation to happen. It can occur both following a loss and in anticipation of it. Anticipatory grief and mourning can be felt as soon as the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness is given, at the moment when we become truly aware that death may happen to us or to someone we love.
If exploratory surgery, diagnostic testing, biopsies and the like are required to determine the extent of the disease, the ambiguity and uncertainty of awaiting a definitive diagnosis can be excruciating.
Surely one of the most painful aspects of losing a loved one to death is that somehow, on top of all our grief, we must tolerate all the insensitive comments and empty platitudes we may hear from friends, relatives and others who think that they are helping us. If they don’t know what to say, they may talk about the weather or some other mundane topic – anything except to discover how we’re doing and how we are coping. Those who are unable to face us may avoid us altogether, as if we no longer exist for them.
Sometimes people say things out of ignorance and inexperience, and we are left feeling angry, frustrated, disgusted and hurt. Stunned with shock and disbelief, we think to ourselves, “How could they say such an awful thing? Don’t they know how much it hurts?” The answer is simply that No, they don’t know, because they haven’t been where we are and they haven’t walked in our shoes.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger. ~ Friedrich Neitzsche
A reader writes: I think we need to seek out whatever help we can to be able to balance reality against our fears . . .When we lost an infant to SIDS some time ago, the one thing that really convinced me to get help was being told that many marriages end after the loss of a child, since the couple's grief is different and they find it harder to communicate.
My response: My friend, I agree completely with your statement about seeking help and balancing reality against our fears, and I'm so pleased to know that you followed your own advice. Nevertheless, as a grief counselor, and as a wife and mother who several years ago experienced the unexpected death of our own baby, I feel a need to respond.