On Comparing Loss

Should we? It's done. Divorce gets compared to death. I have opinions about that.

We are even fond of comparing how we grieve our losses and their scale of impact in our lives—was my loss greater than yours? Did I grieve the same as that other widow; was it long enough; was it too long?

I do know one thing: it's not a contest. Everybody experiences grief differently.

How I experienced the loss of my husband to cancer is going to be different from how another young widow experiences her loss of her spouse to an unexpected traffic accident. It's going to be different from the widow who loses his partner to suicide. What about the widow of the murder victim? Or the man who was estranged from his wife at the time of her death—what does that grief look like?

So. Many. Things. Affect. Grief.

I had time to say goodbye to my husband. I had time to grieve WITH him. I had a lot of years WITH him. I was never angry with him. I never felt like he left me on purpose. I wasn't surprised. Nothing was left unsaid. Our marriage wasn't an unhappy one.

But, I absolutely understand how that kind of pain and grief exists. I have cried with friends in that kind of pain, who have that kind of confusion and those unresolved feelings and questions. 

I also had children with him. Does that make it easier or harder? I don't know. It just makes it different from not having kids together. It makes it different from if we had grown children or an infant at the time of his death.

So. Many. Factors.

I wasn't left penniless or in a mountain of debt. I wasn't left without a will or specific instructions about his funeral and final wishes. 

I was left with some other weird shit to deal with, but that's pretty normal from what I can tell. If you make it through the loss of a spouse at a young age with ALL of your exact same friends and family members still by your side in the same configuration, I want your name and number—and so will a bunch of other widows, because it is NOT the norm. 

When life changes you, there is often a changing of the guard around you. Learn to roll with it and life will be so much easier. You can't control their grief process any more than you can control your own, and quite frankly, it ain't your job, Scarlett. 

What I was left without was my best friend, somebody who knew me better than I knew myself, and my compass in the world. THAT was some scary shit. I was vulnerable to being taken advantage of by opportunistic people who could smell blood in the water, and that sucked. 

But I was also left with a wonderful new world of opportunities, friendships, family, and LIFE, which I keep living. Every day I chip away at a little bit more of this thing, and it's been good. 

Our losses aren't the same—none of them, except to say that we are missing something that is no longer there. In my case, the loss is permanent. I wouldn't change it, though, because it would mean not having had him, and I cannot imagine giving that back. Our lives are too enriched by that experience. Loss makes room for something else, even when it hurts like hell. The memories and the love and the awesome that he and I shared fill in all around the life that comes next, at least that's how it works for me. 

I can't write your story.