I’ve talked about it, and we’ve talked about together here on this blog, the fact that grief is different for everyone. The introvert and the extrovert. The person who wants to be a part of a grief group, and those who want to process alone. Keep their clothes or giveaway their clothes. Most of us have the luxury of enough emotional space to figure it out as we go.
What about parents who have lost a child? What if their grief makes itself apparent in different ways? I have some friends whose child passed away in an accident. As they consoled me in the days following Pete’s death, I could see in their eyes that my grief triggered their own, even though it had happened many years ago. I could see that it was as fresh as ever, and, in an instant, I knew that I would probably always grieve.
We’ve had subsequent conversations, and it came up recently that this couple grieved differently. One wanted to be surrounded by the things that belonged to their child, and the other didn’t. One parent wished to have photos out in plain view, the other said it was just too painful to encounter them all the time. The parent who didn’t want to be accosted by all the reminders—who wanted to erase the physical presence of their child in their daily life—didn’t do so out of a lack of love, but because of an abundance of love. The one bond these parents shared so deeply, the trauma of that kind of loss, couldn’t be completely shared because of their need to grieve in unique ways.
They are a very close married couple. It did not cause a marital rift, but I can just imagine how tough it would be to remain present for your spouse and still be there for yourself when you approach loss from opposite directions. It’s not like the normal type of child rearing disagreements that show up in a marriage—Where shall we send the kids to school? How much TV should they watch? What’s the appropriate age they can start dating? Couples are used to having to come to some sort of agreed approach on these kinds of issues, but grief is personal and can’t be dictated.
I know so little about this topic, but it is something I think about often as I realize that I have 100% ownership of my own grief.