GRIEVING

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.