All losses have their own private complications, and, whether we acknowledge them or not, their lasting consequences will show up somewhere- in the next relationship, in a drunken fight, in a panic attack, in jealousy. That’s why we should honour the heartbreaks that matter deeply to us, however insignificant we fear they might seem to someone else. The bigger challenge is how to carry those losses inside us without letting them distract us too much from our lives. Natasha Lun- Conversations on Love

Loss.

We all experience it.

We all experience it differently.

When someone is grieving, it is not up to us to decide how they should grieve. Grief, loss, recovery from these things is a very private matter, and there is no “right” way to get over loss.

I think we often think that there is a timeline on grief: you lose a parent and you should grieve for six months, and then after that, life is great. We lose a great job: one month. Serious illness: three months. But each of us comes with our own set of background experience, we all come with different personalities. No two people are the same and therefor no two people will experience grief and loss in the same way.

We have to allow ourselves the space to grieve and get over loss in the way that is best for us as individuals.

However…

Lun states, we do need to be able to get on with our lives, so the challenge becomes how do we acknowledge loss, grieve the way we need to, and still get on with our lives?

If your grief, recovery from a loss is hampering your day to day, is it time to try to figure out how to handle the situation better?

I think when people say that someone should be “over” something, what they might be trying to say is that there comes a point where you must move forward, because if you don’t move forward you are no longer living. If ten years after a divorce you are still talking about all the things your ex did that annoyed you, maybe you should ask yourself why you are still stuck in this loop. Are you still grieving the loss of a marriage, or is it something else? I have no doubt that people grieve for former relationships forever- hurt and love can last a lifetime- but are you living your best life by still starting out conversations and journal entries with- remember that time my ex did … You can still hurt, the loss can still sting, but is there a better way to deal with it?

Now it’s your turn:

How do you recover from loss?

Do you think people recover differently?

How do you get past your heartbreak and move on while still being true to your grief process?

Discuss

72 thoughts on “Loss

  1. This was a thought-provoking read. For me, faith makes dealing with loss easier. I believe the person has passed on to a better place and that we will be reunited. Here on Earth, I prefer to focus on the good times we had rather than the loss. I’m not a person to remember the anniversary of someone’s death, but I will remember their birthday even after they’re gone. I also don’t visit graves or cemeteries because they are just physical places. The person’s body may be there, but their soul never was.

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  2. What a thought-provoking post! It reminded me of the old saying “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” (Heraclitus?)

    I experienced loss in different ways over different people, and I think our grief over the the loss becomes part of us. My father told me that many years after his father passed away he would still “see” him for a second in crowds (the illusion faded after a second or two, of course). I’ve not experienced that, but I know that the loss of someone who was near and dear to me is still with me, even years after. And, yes, it has changed me.

    I see what you mean about harping about an ex years later can be more like being “stuck” than being charged. And for that I’d say, maybe if there’s no learning, it’s “stuck” (a negative change) and if there’s constructive leaning it’s a “positive change”?

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    1. My in laws have been divorced over 15 years. At a recent family event my mother in law was telling every person she met about her ex husband. At some point you need to deal with the feelings…doesn’t mean you can’t have them…but you have to make sure they’re not stifling you

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  3. People definitely recover differently. I saw it in my own family after the loss of each parent. Some moved on faster and easier than others. Each moved on in different ways. Some talk about the loss even now. I generally don’t unless someone else mentions it first.

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  4. What a complicated question. As you know, I have experienced loss. The loss of a child. There is no greater loss than that of a child. Grief comes in waves. It’s been almost 25 years since my son died. I can speak ofJohn and be fine. But, there are still moments when grief rears its ugly face and I am brought to tears. There is no warning or reason. My husband and I grieved differently. Man vs woman. Different phases of grief. Sometimes, we revisit a phase of grief. Grief is like the Cha-Cha… one step forward, two steps back and vice versa. I can honestly say until I came t the realization that I would never know the answer of “why”, in this lifetime, could I begin to heal and move forward. For award is hard, as my life path has changed. Drastically. It is not a path I ever imagined being on or wanted to be on. But, here I am. Life can never go back to what it was, as a major part of my life is missing. It is my “new normal”. It’s through the love, prayer, and support of family and friends that helps this process. Checking in on the person. Sometimes, just sitting beside them in complete silence. If you do not know what to say, please just say “I am sorry for your loss”. Sometimes, less is more. I have learned NEVER to say “I understand “. No, you do not understand. Heck, I do not understand. NEVER say “I know how you feel”. Again, no you do not. Heck, most days I did not know how I felt. Through the years, I have had several friends and neighbors experience the loss of a child (various ages from young children to adults). I will say to them that “I can relate to what you are going through, but I do not know how you feel, as we all feel different things at different times”. On a side note, yes, the first year is hard. First birthday, holidays, special occasions and anniversary. But, in all honesty, year two was so much harder than year one because the numbness has worn off and reality has set in. I am here to say reality stinks! Check in on your family and friends who have experienced a loss. Include them. If the loss is of a loved one, it’s okay to talk about them. It shows that you remember the person who has died. And, that means the works to us. If you’ve read this short essay, thank you. And, yes, I have tears rolling down my face, as this is such a personal topic. Thank you LA, Mary and Anne Marie plus all of my other friends and family for being such an amazing support team. I love you all.

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    1. Gina, your comment is filled with the wisdom of first hand experience. It confirms what I years ago decided was the wisest most of the time (thinking here of when I go to a funeral visitation) No trite platitudes Period. Hugs, and telling them I was thinking of them. I have only experienced prolonged grief once in my 64 years of life. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. As much as I wanted to shake it and return to my former mental state, I could not. I can point to 3 different conversations with people who took the time to be with me when I poured out my heart, and none of them gave me any new insight. It was the fact that they listened, and I sensed they “got” why I was feeling the way I was. Those people were gifts. the intensity has lessened, but even 25 years later, a picture or some random event will trigger that grief and roll over me…then it’s past.

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      1. Thank you for your kind words. And, I am so sorry for your loss. Grief has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it.

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    2. I am so sorry about the loss you experienced and I found myself nodding my head through your story. I lost my brother and while that was immensely difficult, I didn’t understand until I became a parent, how much worse the loss was on my parent’s!
      Your advice about what to say to a grieving person hit the nail on the head!
      My heart goes out to you and glad you have an amazing support team around you!

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    3. Hi Gina, I too have lost a son. What you say could not be more true. Our biggest challenge is how family and friends treat us – like we have the plague and no one likes to mention our son. Granted we are only 5 years into our grief. Just the other day that “ambuse grief” got me. Came outta nowhere. Thanks for sharing.

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      1. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. I think people don’t know what to say or do, so it’s easier not to say your son’s name out loud because they feel like they are bringing you more sorrow. But, what they don’t understand is that by not remembering him, it’s like he did not exist. I had a neighbor say to me, “please don’t cry, because if you cry, I will cry”. What? Really? Let’s just cry together. I have always felt that it’s better to let it out than keep it in. A good cry is good for your mind, body, and soul. So, I went into my house. And, I cried alone. On a personal note, I have always found the shower to be a good place to cry and let it all out. The hot water if the showering is a calming feeling. And, no one sees or hears you cry.

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  5. Whoa – big topic, LA. And such an interesting and important one too. There’s a center for Integrated Grief (maybe at Columbia) that makes an interesting distinction between acute grief (grief in the early stages) and integrated grief.

    Here’s their definition of integrated grief “Integrated grief is the result of adaptation to the loss. When a person adapts to a loss grief is not over. Instead, thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to their loss are integrated in ways that allow them to remember and honor the person who died. Grief finds a place in their life.”

    I found that distinction helpful for thinking of grief as not something that will ever leave us but that can become a working part (and hopefully healthy part) of life going forward.

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  6. Ah… loss is tricky. There’s no time limit on grief . But, I think there is a huge difference between someone’s death and a relationship breaking up. Both hurt, yes. But broken hearts mend. The death of a loved one, a child, a parent, a sibling, spouse, some people never recover. That’s a life lost. I have two friends who lost children. One grieves outwardly, verbally, constantly. It’s heartbreaking to watch her but understandable. The other quietly endures it and yet she is suffering as much. The main difference is the quiet surviving mom has multiple children left. Either way, there’s not much you can say, just understand that their loss is immense.
    Losing a child would be the worst thing imaginable.
    Losing a spouse hurts a lot too. There’s a profound emptiness. I have a cousin who lost her husband to Covid. They were together more than 50 years. She is bereft and daily posts a grief post. Her loss after a lifetime with her spouse has crushed her. It’s been a few years now and she can’t seem to bounce back. Some people bug her to start moving on. She doesn’t want to. There’s no set time limit for grief. And she has decided there’s nothing wrong with missing her husband daily.
    I’m not an expert on loss. I miss my late husband now and then. But It’s been almost 13 years so it’s no longer daily. On birthdays, holidays, anniversaries etc. But he died when I was still teaching, my youngest was in college, my oldest’s wife was in bed rest with her second pregnancy etc. so while I was grieving I had so many other obligations that I couldn’t obsess on the loss. Yes I grieved, cried, Spent sleepless nights etc. But it came in waves and over the years it got easier. Time helps, but time is relative to each individual and We just need to give everyone their own space.

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    1. Lesley, I can honestly say I got out of bed every day because I had two daughters who needed me. I am not sure I would have gotten out of the bed, if I did not have children who needed me. They were grieving the loss of their brother. They were only 6 and 9 when their brother died. I had fabulous neighbors who made sure they got to practices, school, the pool, etc. It truly took a village to kelp with my children and with me.

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  7. LA, you pose the issue well and the comments have been deep and heart-felt. I have felt the loss through death of parents and a brother. I will always miss them. Estrangement is different kind of loss because until the estrangement ends, there can be no end to the grief. Prayer is the answer to survival…and putting one foot in front of the other, every day.

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  8. Such an important topic and so complex. You’ve done an excellent of framing those complexities. In a perfect world everyone would be able to move on from the stages of grief and carry the good memories within. Sadly, that’s a lot easier said than done for many. 😥💕

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  9. When a serious relationship ended just after I completed my cancer treatment, I broke. I cried every day for a month when asked how I was – and those closest to me told me to get anti-depressants, because that was too long to be acting that way. Foolishly, I took their advice. I’d thought I was coping well, especially as I was still doing my job competently.

    When my daughter found out, she was furious, saying how I felt was entirely natural. As she said those words, I knew she was right, and wished I’d spoken to her before. It made me realise I was always the listener, the nurturer, the carer – other than my daughter, no-one else reciprocated. As a result, I sought those qualities in new friends and my (now) other half.

    Subsequently, the grief I felt after my father’s death was less destructive. Recovery came with time, therapy, kindness, writing, talking, having people willing to listen, accept my feelings, and offer me love. You don’t move on, but you can choose to move forward.

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  10. You know I lost my mom on New Year’s Day. My grief comes and goes but spending a week with my kids really helped. One of the saddest things about my mother was that she never moved on from divorcing my dad when I was in college. She remarried but she wasn’t in love. She talked about my dad constantly. It was as if her entire personality was being his wife and she was lost.

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  11. Generally the tone-deaf statement or even the implication that someone should be “over” a loss or needs to “move on” from grief, reflects the person’s own discomfort with another’s sorrow and their inability to empathize. Can you tell you’ve hit a nerve here? My late husband has been gone for 35 years — he died at 32 of cancer. Only weeks later, I lost my sister, who was 33, also to cancer. I still remember the callousness of people who told me, “You’re young. You’ll get married again,” as if that was somehow comforting. It made me want to bite someone. I was blessed to remarry several years later and have a son. But I still carry the grief of those two devastating losses with me, and I always will.

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  12. Gina’s wisdom is remarkable and Lesley’s point about grief not having a time limit is also born of wisdom. We lost Entrepreneur’s dad unexpectedly to Covid last year. My dad died sudenly in 1991. I’m facing a future where my husband’s cancer could take him at any time and our remaining parents are all in their 80s so how much longer they have is anyone’s guess. We have a family member battling mental health issues who contemplates suicide on a regular basis. Life is full of potential loss. Some of which I don’t know how I will ever get over when it happens.

    Sometimes my mind wanders to the movie Elizabethtown where Kirsten Dunst’s character, Claire, counsels Orlando Bloom’s Drew on failure and loss. She says, You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it, embrace it, discard it. And proceed. Even though her reference is about failure, that quote has always stuck with me as how to embrace loss, learn from it and use it to shape how to move forward. 💜

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  13. Do you think people recover differently? Yes, and therein is the fascination of observing people. Most of my childhood was dealing with loss. Am I over it now? Probably. Would I ever think that someone else would do as I did? Never. Does any of it really matter? No.

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  14. I don’t think anything is more personal than grief. How do you deal with a loss? I think that when one realizes the loss of a loved one can’t be retrieved, you can begin to move on. Not forget. But, in order to honor someone’s memory we have to think of them fondly and go on with life. This may sound cold, but I can’t imagine anyone with feelings for you who would want you to stay mired in thoughts only about them. Others in your life want and need your attention. That likely can’t be done by only looking back.

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  15. When I was first going through my divorce, I read that in general it takes one year of healing for every 5 to 7 years of marriage. This was a daunting thought, that I was looking at possibly 5 years of recovery. I had no intention on spending 5 years of my life grieving the loss of my marriage. I’ve known women who 20 years later still have bitterness. It’s no way to live. If you ask me, some losses aren’t worth grieving. As far as losing someone you love through death, there’s a different path to travel. But in the end, we always have to find a way to press on. Not only for our own sake but for the other people in our lives that we love.

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  16. Timely topic for me. It’s been almost exactly a year since I lost my mom (the 14th). I still miss her a lot. Sometimes I’ll hear a song while I’m out walking the dog and just start crying. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought, “I’ve got to call mom and tell her…” Lately I’ve been helping my MIL a lot since we’ve moved her from Oregon to next door to us and I admit that occasionally I get a pang of guilt thinking that if I had done more for my own mom she’d still be here and at the same time wondering if my mom is mad at me for helping MIL. I know I did what I could at the time for my mom and I know she would’t really be mad at me for helping but still the mind plays those games doesn’t it?

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  17. Grief is different for everyone. That’s a given. But grief can become a crutch for some. They hold onto it for years like it’s a lifeline. I have several friends in this position which drives me to despair. Having said that I’ve learned with age that some of us are “stronger” than others. It is what it is.

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    1. I will say I’m pretty strong (I was at coffee with friends yesterday and they laughed that I am the one you call in a crisis) however, as I haven’t had a devastating loss, I don’t know for sure how I would handle it.

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  18. Love this post. I think people often confound grief and grieving with being stuck, and unable to move forward. That is a limited view of the grieving process. It is perfectly normal and possible to continue to grieve while moving on with your life. Healthy even.

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    1. I agree. I think you must move forward, even if it’s hard. I don’t think it means you’ve forgotten someone or don’t care, it just means you need to continue on

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  19. When my mother died, I was a teenager and the people around me didn’t have the tools necessary to help me process. As a result, it affected my life, and I was also one of those people who started every sentence with…when my mother died. By the time my father died, I was much older and had learned to process emotions in a healthy way; however, the way I did it, may not be the best way for someone else. I guess my point is, it has to be done, and there is a point where it MUST be done; otherwise, the grief will be a hinderance.

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  20. Allowing the present to be at the mercy of the past is no way live. Figuring out how to move beyond resentments, anger, and pain is vital. Grief is different. That you have to learn how to learn to live in tandem. You can’t get the years back. Hugs, C

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  21. Seems like another one of those things that varies from person to person. I must say, though, that realizing that the commonly acknowledged final stage of grief is acceptance, is helping me to get over losing both my marriage and my family, as I’d previously thought of both of them.

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