Grief is peculiar.
Exceedingly difficult to handle, in reality unbearable and absolutely impossible to describe or explain. None the less, that’s what I will attempt.
Just as ordinary pain, grief and the love it represents, is subjective as it is experienced on the basis of the individual’s identity and emotional profile. To the grieving there are various bereavement support groups that it can be helpful to join. For parents who have lost a child, there’s some comfort and security being with other who are not just grieving, but also grieving for a lost child. It can be difficult explaining to the person who has lost his or her partner or parent why we avoid general bereavement groups when special bereavement groups for parents are available. I would never claim our grief is stronger or worse than others, but I do claim it is different. You can think of it similarly as you think of love. Love for parents, partner and children can not be compared with respect to strength, exactly because they are all different in nature. The love you have for your children is infinite and not least unconditional and that’s what puts it apart from any other love. Love for parents might be similar, but it is still not the same. Here, I believe, we have a possible answer to why bereavement over a child is different from any other bereavement. It’s generally accepted, that grief is expression of love towards a party that are no longer present. And when that love is special in it’s infinite unconditional nature, it’s not so strange that the grief is too.
We are surrounded by the most wonderful people. Family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues – all have the greatest sympathy and do whatever they can to help. Often people do not know what to say when we meet, which is not so strange given there really is nothing to say. Nothing can reduce the pain, the loss or the grief. Typically, we end up with a careful “How are things?” and normally I reply honestly that things are not very well. “It’s improving”, I often say, “but very slowly”.
Occasionally I meet someone who has a desire to demonstrate that they they, to a certain degree, understand what I am going through. It goes like: “I know it’s not the same, but I also got hit very badly when I lost my…” here insert “father”, “mother”, “brother” etc.
I lost my father when I was 17 and I still have unresolved issues from my fathers death, something in connection with Hans‘ death, after nearly 40 years, I am finally beginning to discuss with a therapist. And believe me: It doesn’t even get close.
There was recently an article in a Danish paper, outlining how parents who have lost a child have a shorter life expectancy and a higher rate of sickness and injuries. Parents die from suicide and accidents. I am in two on-line and one real-life bereavement groups. There are over 200 parents who have lost a child in the on-line groups. I have yet to meet or hear from a single parent who has not at one point or another considered suicide. I have heard of old people who choose to follow their life-long partner to the grave, but I have actually never heard of anyone choosing to follow their parent. There are no-one among the parents I have gotten to know, who in the ½ year has taken their own life, but there are a few for whom I am deeply concerned, primarily because I unfortunately possess the translation guide enabling me to interpret their comments on hopelessness and lack of meaning in life.
Grief is subjective and impossible to explain. I have attempted, well knowing I would fail, but maybe I have still provided a small glimpse into what is happening under the hood. I don’t hope anyone thinks I am claiming that our grief somehow is more important or otherwise more “right” than anyone else’s. I have just noticed – with all of us – an expressed feeling that it is different, and I have now shared my thoughts with you as to why that might be.