Grief changes relationships

Over the last 11 months, I have found myself reaching out to women I know who are further along in their mourning process. It doesn’t matter if our losses are similar, because grief is specific to each of us. As I negotiate this life, the guiding hands of those who have gone before hold me when I am stumbling. One wise friend told me she now sees people as a kind of Venn diagram: In section A are those who have had a devastating loss; section B contains those who haven’t (yet); and the overlap, section C holds those who haven’t but are willing to venture into a deeper understanding of what it must feel like.

When grief first knocks at our door, there are great outpourings of love and support. Gradually it fades away and we are left to our own devices, to our own processes, to our own sadness. We belong to group A in that diagram and it slowly becomes clear where everyone else stands.

My husband has his own moments of mourning our son, though they are less frequent and less obvious than mine. This makes sense. He is able to hold me when I cry, as hard as it is for him, because he has learned that this is how I process the pain. Though it is not his way, he understand that it is mine.

My daughter wants her mama to smile, to laugh, to play with her. She watches me closely. She speaks of her brother – less often now – but she is a child. It will only be later, as she grows, that she will begin to understand what this experience means and how it will shape her life.

My parents have their own moments of sadness, though we don’t speak of them often. My in-laws too, hold their eleventh grandchild in their hearts. We give and receive the support we can, loving and forgiving each other for our strengths and weaknesses.

It is with friends that I have seen the biggest changes. Most of those who know loss or are willing to taste it are able to hold space in their lives for me and my ups and downs. Those on the B side want things to return to some semblance of the way they used to be. They have no idea the energy it takes to recover, to stand on two feet after being knocked flat. It seems they want me to do what I did, be who I was and I cannot. I’ve tried.

I do not wish to be that person anymore. I like the new me, though she is not always graceful, has plenty of rough edges and falls apart on a regular basis. I like the way I’ve grown and many of the changes that have come. Most importantly, I accept the new me, in a way I’ve never accepted myself before. This, in turn, allows me to let go of judgments that have held me captive for a long time. It is like shedding a weighted skin. I am raw, born anew, learning to walk again.

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12 Responses to Grief changes relationships

  1. Roos says:

    O yes, the friends on the B side… I have my own B side here as well: people who (often unintentionally) cannot relate to anything ‘after’ and keep communicating with the ‘before’ person. Grief touches a person – not only me, but the children as well. Hearing well meant (but so off placed) advice over and over again is pretty tiresome 🙁

    I wish everybody could see the incredible new life that has opened its doors for you and could truly be happy for you! I guess part of the whole acceptance process is dealing with the fact that grief changes everything, including relationships…

  2. Though I have not experienced the devastating loss of a child, I have nonetheless experienced a devastating loss of a different kind, and with it the pain, grief, suffering and anguish that one feels on a cellular level. I therefore consider myself to be in group A, and I relate to everything you are saying. I too have found that I relate most to people in groups A and C. And while I have had to walk away from some friends who remain in group B, I have found that the level of understanding and recognition that comes from new friends in groups A, makes the loss of old friends a little bit easier.

  3. Christa says:

    This rings so true…

    I like you now, whatever version this is.

    And I send love, as always.

  4. Lindsey says:

    What a thoughtful way to describe and understand the world, and people. I haven’t known loss like yours, as you know, but I’ve always sensed that there are people who are willing to look at the darkness, willing to tolerate both ambiguity and sadness, and those who are not. Perhaps this is just a slightly different manifestation of what you describe.
    Sending you lots of love.
    xox

  5. Well written… spending much of this weak frustrated with how many of my friends seem to be Bs..

  6. Pamela says:

    Beautiful Alana, as always. My heart always feels more at home after I read your blog. Thank you.

    I loved this: Most importantly, I accept the new me, in a way I’ve never accepted myself before. This, in turn, allows me to let go of judgments that have held me captive for a long time.

    Thank you for the reminder to let myself off the hook so that I can in turn be more forgiving and accepting and generous to others. xoxoxo

  7. melissa dechandt says:

    Very thought-provoking post.

    As I read the words, it made me think of my own family’s experience with the loss of dear loved ones and also the heart-breaking journey that we all have been on with the drug and alcohol addiction of a family member. I found that many people were understanding and at the very least, attemped to understand the losses that our family went through in the last two years with losing a brother and father.

    The addiction loss, and it is a loss that all suffer when someone has an addiction, provoked interesting comments and thoughts whenever discussed. I realize that for a very large majority, understanding the devasation of addiction is not something that can easily be grasped unless it touches one firsthand. As a society we are not terribly accpeting of this disease nor the impact and burden that comes along with addiction. I found many “friends” and family members asking “why can’t he just stop?” and I always think, oh, if it were only so easy….maybe this is the group in your ven diagram who has not experienced loss and can’t quite comprehend loss and unfortunately need to have loss hit closer to home. I hope not, as I consider myself an optimist. I think that we all recover from loss but loss leaves a tangible mark on us and shapes who we are, become, how we process and view life and sometimes people don’t want to see and accept that mark.

  8. Stacy says:

    Yes, sadly this happens. Isn’t new skin delightfully tingly, soft and translucent?

  9. Jojo says:

    such truth Alana. people want things safe. they dont want their sense of control of reality shattered. i can certainly say i have been there (section B). it is when i embrace life wholeheartedly in all its uncertainty i feel more alive. rough and bruised. but alive. i am moved to (as you say) venture into the deeper understanding… and like theawakenedlife points out, i too had to walk away from many B’rs. it is much more moving on the other side…

  10. Emma says:

    Halleluja, chica. xo

  11. Nienke says:

    Dear Alana,

    You do not know me, nor do I know you. I found your blog by reading the blog Roos is writing (roosrustenregelmaat). I had found your blog before but it was hurtfull to read. So I ignored it for a while.
    I too have lost a son. My son was our second child too. And his name is Benjamin. (just for info; we had a third son after Benjamin, Raphael who is now 4 years old).
    Long intro to come to the point, sorry. What I wanted to share was this:
    The most difficult people for me to be around are/were friends or family who grieved more, or more openly than I did and relied on me to comfort them. I do not have the will, nor the power to lighten their grieve. Do not ask me this. I don’t want to feel guilty for not having as many tears as they do. So this asks even more power from me to find my own center again where I am comfortable with my own way of grieving.
    I feel softened and warmed by the way you are finding your new self. We walk a similar path. And you let me take a peek in how you do this.
    I wave enthousiasticly to you from my own path and cheer you on in your journey . Go Alana!!
    Warm regards from Holland, Nienke

  12. Krista says:

    Your words ring with truth. I appreciate my “A” friends so much. Thank you for listening, writing, reaching out, etc. So glad we’ve reconnected…..so sad on the terms of how we did. Sending you loads of love. xo

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