Cuts heal. Incisions close. Infections resolve. But, does the pain of loss ever really heal? That is a question that I am often asked and quite honestly don’t always have the answer for. The complex manifestation that we call loss is such a convoluted mix of emotions, feelings, thoughts and memories. Age is a non factor. Doesn’t matter how old or young you are. It hurts all the same.
When you are young and lose someone close, you have some memories , but, in some ways, it is the familiarity of the presence that is more so missed. That’s not to say that you don’t feel the pain, of course you do. A child certainly misses the arms of their mother, no matter how old or young. But, if you are older and have spent many years alongside that loved one, is the loss harder?
If you have spent years making memories with that person, you have a whole lifetime to look back upon. On the opposite end, if you grieve the loss in your younger years, yes, you do have memories and always feel the ache of the loss, but, you live a lifetime without the presence of the lost soul. There is no right or wrong answer to this. People often will try to make one loss seem greater than another. Really, though, can we ever?
When I would ask my mom how she could love 3 kids the same way, she would smile and say, “Well, it’s like my fingers. I love them all. If I cut any one of them, it would hurt terribly. Each one is different, but the same.” That’s the perspective I have taken on grief and loss. The pain is no different for me if you are 22 and losing your mother or 66 and doing the same. A loss is a loss is a loss. Each age has different coping strategies. Each age is able to face it differently. Each age is able to grieve in its own unique way.
We can support people through grief and loss. Listen. Really actively listen. Comfort. Some people need to be heard in those moments. Expression is a huge part of the catharsis of emotions. No matter how planned or expected, death is painful, life changing and deafeningly silent. It’s like being put in a vacuum of some sort where nothing quite makes sense anymore. “Normal” is not normal anymore. Until things find their own flow again, which takes time, most anything will feel like you are putting a square peg in a round hole.
That shattering lightening bolt of the first days after someone passes eventually gives way to a very odd numbness. You have done all the rituals associated with one’s passing. But, now, you realize that the person is really gone. Now is when you actually deal with the loss. The anger, the sadness, the emptiness – all of those emotions and feelings all swirled together like some sort of emotional cyclone from hell. It’s not easy. I won’t sugar coat it or blow smoke up your butt. You will cry. You will yell. Hell, you might cry, yell, laugh and scream all at the same time. Do what YOU need to do. See a therapist. Let it out. One day, you will wake up and realize that the pain isn’t quite so acute anymore. There will always be an ache, for as long as you live, for the one that was lost. It dulls a little, over time, and we learn to deal with it, but, it is always there. It is almost like our badge of courage for being brave enough to love someone so much that their loss left a scar on our soul forever. That my friends, isn’t hospice nurse advice. That’s a fellow scar bearer’s take on things.