Sunday, October 14, 2018

The sameness and uniqueness of grief

Photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash

Something I’ve long pondered was suddenly brought into the light of my consciousness recently when I discussed with a friend the polar-opposite situations of grief we have experienced.
Astoundingly, I have always wondered whether the grief I have experienced has been any different or similar to the next person’s. I mean, having experienced stillbirth, is it worse to lose a living child? Or the loss of a parent? Or the suicide of a partner or best friend? Or having the child with special needs? Or the loss of a marriage? (Was my experience of divorce harder or easier than the next person’s?) And there are myriad kinds of other losses. How do they compare? And is it even warranted to compare?
Then, having dealt with the type of loss, another important variable is the person who grieves and how they grieve; how is it that their personality, background, experiences, culture, resilience, amongst a bunch of other factors, bears upon their experience of loss.
Then, having dealt with the person, we come to the kind of support networks that we either have access to or are denied us. Some of us have had marvellous support networks, but there is also the factor of what we seek out. Others of us have had very little support, and perhaps little chance to grieve or grieve well.
The thrust of this article is that there is no comparison.
There is a sameness and a uniqueness in all grief.
There is a sameness in grief. This sameness connects us. Any of us who have had losses have been through the crucifixion of character, and anyone who has grieved appropriately has come out more patient and compassionate and kinder for the experience, notwithstanding the pain they might continue to bear.
Grief tends to make us kinder,
more compassionate persons.
The common outcome of grief is a softness of heart; the pliability of a weakness made available through vulnerability. There is a beauty resplendent within the person who has grieved well.
There is a uniqueness in grief. Losses never occur in isolation. There are always a bunch of factors that make the grieving the loss unique.
One experience of grief cannot be compared with another,
because of the myriad factors that differentiate experience.
All we can do is respect the experience that someone has had. This is why it is normal to revere another person’s experience of grief. I still don’t understand why people revere my kind of experience, yet I cannot see mine through their eyes, I just have the utmost respect for their experience. Theirs stuns me, and I cannot contemplate it. But it’s not mine to bear.
One conclusion I can draw is that the purpose of loss and grief is to join us together in community with others who have experienced the same kind of trauma. We cannot say whether one grief is worse than another, and perhaps we would miss the point if we did try to compare.
All we can do is dignify the experience of another person’s grief through an appropriate reverence and admiration.
Our grief both connects us and sets us apart. We share affinities with others who have experienced loss, yet our experience of grief is matchless.

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