I’m supposed to be writing my next Fine Art Views article, but I got sidelined early.

A dear friend posted an article by an author dealing with the devastating loss of their parents. This friend was going through the same experience, and it was hard.

Many chimed in with similar sentiments. Then someone read the article as saying this was “the worst” felt unnecessarily competitive. They felt there is no “worst”, there is just “devastating.” The original author of the article never said those exact words, but that is obviously how they felt. And it could be the worst for them (the author of the article), because usually our first death is the loss of our mom or dad, and it’s big. They just haven’t gotten to their next “worst death” yet. This commenter I call “not necessarily the worst” or “NNTW.”)

Someone else agreed, that not everyone has “stellar families”, as in “not my parents”(“NMP”).

And then someone else felt the need to chastise those folks. They are the (“rebuking commenter” or “RC”).

And here is where I say “stop”.  Just…stop.

Here’s what I wrote, expanded and styled with protection for privacy:

Welp, you are ALL correct.
I “heard” what (NNTW commenter, whom I know very well) “heard” when I read the article. I know  the original poster and I am very close to NTW, who was a hospice volunteer before they became an eldercare social worker. They’ve had a lot of experience with grief, including their own major grief in the last couple years.

Both NNTW and I know the article resonated with the original poster (“OP”), just as it resonated differently with NNTW.

(“Not my parents” or “NMP” commenter)  is correct in that not everyone had a loving, healing relationship with their parents, (and boy, do I appreciate their comment!)
And yet…. I am not a trained professional, but as a hospice volunteer and grief workshop leader, I know that even complicated deaths (murder, suicide, addition, abuse, etc.) can devastate us. We know we will never have resolution, we know there is no “fixing”, and we will always wonder whether we could have/should have done something differently.
My Aunt Edith sent me a poem years ago, after she lost her parents and her husband (no children.) It said we expect to lose our parents (with the additional pain that it foreshadows our own mortality), and we know either our partner or we will go first. No one expects the loss of a child. (Thank you for acknowledging that, RC.)
Rather than assessing which loss is the most painful, I prefer this more universal acknowledgment of grief.
Acting on this article, I respectfully ask that no one judge NMW when you don’t know their grief, nor NMP for theirs.
We are all broken, and we all seek solace.  As Roseanne Cash wrote in her book, COMPOSED: A Memoir
You begin to realize that everyone has a tragedy, and that if he doesn’t, he will. You realize how much is hidden beneath the small courtesies and civilities of everyday existence. Deep sorrows and traces of great loss run through everyone’s lives, and yet they let others step into the elevators first, wave them ahead in a line of traffic, smile and greet their children and inquire about their lives, and never let on for a second that they, too, have lain awake at night in longing and regret, that they, too, have cried until it seemed impossible that one person could hold so many tears, that they, too, keep a picture of someone locked in their heart and bring it out in quiet, solitary moments to caress and remember…
All we can hope for is that our grief eventually “softens” so we can bear it a little more easily. That takes time, a lot of time, more than our culture accepts as “reasonable”.
And it will never disappear entirely.

Grief is not a contest. It’s okay to have feelings when it seems someone else’s grief seems to invalidate ours. It’s okay to envy someone whose grief is more “expected” and the relationship they had with that person is based on love instead of pain. It’s good to recognize, as RC did, that losing a child, or children, who never got to even to be in the world, someone we were sure would outlive US, can dash all our hopes and dreams.
Because it doesn’t seem to fill the “natural order” of the ends of our relationships.  We unconsciously believe that the oldest people will die first. Not the ones who are here with us, in step with us. Certainly not the who just got here, nor the ones who never ‘legally’ made it all the way here to begin with.
But life always shows us that none of that is true. We have no control over who dies first. Every loss is painful in its own unique way.
Grief sucks.
And the only good thing about it is, it means there was love. Love is part of being human.
Or it means we craved love and acceptance, yet never got it, and we will never get over that. Craving love is human.
It means even losing the ones that hurt us can destroy us. Knowing it can’t be fixed is hard. Learning how hard it is, is human.
Grief is so powerful, all we can do is to hope that things will get better, to hope it will get softer. Hoping for hope is human.
It means we have a heart, and when it is broken, we suffer greatly. Having a broken heart is human.

All of this is overwhelming.
And yet we persist. Which is also human, and our superpower.
Our other superpower? Listening to John Pavlovitz and Roseanne Cash
Learning to be kind, even when no one is looking.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

11 thoughts on “GRIEVING”

  1. Dear Luann, It is all different depending on our relationship to the deceased. Thanks for passing all this on. It goes into my archive and I hope the next time I have to use your thoughts here, is a long way off. My best to you. >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Luanne, for yet another important piece of advice! It’s so hard to respond to people who have lost someone. I think that ALL losses are terrible for those who experience them. I feel very uncomfortable with the usual FaceBook “condolences” and I prefer personal contact , and hugs, and a comfortable tea or coffee, if at all possible. I plan to share your thoughts with Sandy, and I’ll save your article . Thanks again!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish I could post a favorite photo here. It is of Barak Obama and Michelle Obama spontaneously, unscriptedly, having the back of Melania Trump and helping her up the stairs to the White House, her own husband having barged ahead, leaving her in the dust. Let us all try to be vessels of unscripted kindness, no matter how we are feeling. Every good deed HERALDS through the universe, said one survivor on a Near Death Experience. I learned a lot about kindness and non-judgementalness from my own NDE, but I learned a lot more from my Down syndrome brother, my best Teacher of all, who I was blessed to have for 67 years. Looking forward to seeing him again, in his true glory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Obamas are amazing people, and they show us that every day, in the tiniest moments and in the big picture. Thank you for sharing your own powerful insights, from your own experiences. And especially the ones from your brother. I hear that a lot from others who have such people in their lives. They offer us a whole nother way of engaging with the world, in ways we cannot see ourselves. They are a gift!


  4. There is no worst compared to others, we can never compare the extent of our situation with another. But that doesn’t mean that when we express our own personal grief, we’re not going to use words which mean something different to us. Even if we’re grieving a common loss, we all feel it in different ways and can be at different stages of our own grief.

    We also grieve differently, and we grieve different things. My daughter wanted a third baby desperately, but miscarried almost s soon as she discovered she was pregnant. She estimated she carried that tiny group of cells for barely two weeks. But she grieves the baby she lost. She has since had her third baby, we all love him. But she remembers her ‘angel baby’ too.

    We never knew she had been pregnant until she was able to talk about it a few months later. So for us, we did not have time to get to know and love the expected child. Our grief is different.

    But our daughter – we have to respect her grief, to value the life that never was and to understand her feelings towards that lost life. it has touched her and changed her. It is part of her. While it doesn’t consume her, neither can she ever forget.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love everythinge you said, Helen. I love that your last couple paragraphs especially, your compassion for your daughter, and seeing that her grief is different than yours. I found a great visual on Facebook awhile back, showing the “circles of grief”. The person who suffered the loss is in the innermost circle. The people who love them have the next circle out, and friends/families of those people occupy the next circle out. It works when we don’t put our grief on the next inner circle, and instead, reach for support to those in the next circle out. I love that you understand it may have “only been two weeks”, but that is enough to make it so painful. And that you know although it will soften, it has changed her, and she won’t “get over” that part. Thank you for sharing this!


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