Grief at a Year

Something I wrote a year ago around the anniversary of Laurie’s death.

A year ago, my spouse died. Sharing my life with Laurie and making a family with her was the best thing that ever happened to me. Losing her may very well be the worst thing that ever happens to me. I have lived an exceptionally privileged life.

I have spent much of the last year thinking about grief. I have been surrounded by people who loved her and have grieved with me, sometimes talking about Laurie, sometimes not. I have noticed a few things through spending time with sad people. The first is that we lack vocabulary and etiquette to talk about death. My loss is unique to me, but losing people you love is completely universal. We have trouble articulating how that makes us feel.

Second, when I speak openly about missing Laurie and being both happy and sad to talk about her, people are appreciative. Everyone has suffered loss. Not everyone has had the opportunity to really grieve. Being sad with other people is perfectly fine. It seems like we all need a space and time where we can talk about loss and being sad. Sometimes that is part of our everyday lives. Not a therapy session or a wake, but just part of our everyday lives.

Once I started talking about Laurie and our shared loss, I found that friends opened up about other losses, too. That Laurie’s death brought up buried feelings of grief and sadness. I heard from multiple people that missing Laurie allowed them to finally grieve for other loved ones. My impression is that there is a lot of unfinished or incomplete mourning out there.

As a society we deal with death poorly. People feel awkward and uncomfortable, as well as sad or angry or ambivalent. We feel that we lack ability to talk about it. We find language tricks that allow us to acknowledge death without really talking about it.

There are many ways to grieve. I would never dream of being prescriptive, but I would ask that if you have lost someone close to take the time to process your thoughts and feelings. Take the time to be sad. Being sad is not wrong or something to get over. It is a wonderful leftover part of your love for someone no longer there.

I had the complete privilege of being able to make choices about how to mourn. Many people do not have that opportunity. Creating space for grief in its many forms is important. As friends, employers, colleagues, and neighbours, we should all appreciate that death is part of our lives. A regular thing, not a special occasion thing.

Everyone dies. If we are lucky, we will mourn someone we loved. We will love someone enough to be sad. If we are really lucky, we will love someone enough that their absence is heart breaking. Really we should be celebrating being sad and not shoving it into a dark corner or letting it erupt over drinks or a poignant Pixar movie.

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