The differences between grief and loss are dissected by our guest writer Wendy, who lost her husband. She explores the related losses which result from becoming a widow and how these affected her experience of grief. She describes the feelings of loss during the transition from being part of a couple to being a new single entity:
For me grief is the overwhelming feeling following the death of a loved one. Grief includes a sense of abandonment, a feeling of helplessness, an awareness of the fragility of life, the pain of separation and the fear of the unknown future. As the Queen said “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
It is assumed that loss is part of grief and perhaps at the beginning the emotions are so extreme that the two cannot be delineated. Later, when the emotions are less extreme but none the less raw, the sense of loss emerges as a different part of bereavement.
Loss is the hole which the bereaved can feel physically within themselves and within every facet of life. It is not as extreme as grief but rather a persistent dull ache. It is a sense of amputation.
Two individuals joined together and lived a life together. While remaining individuals a third entity emerged which was 'the couple'. The sense of couple becomes predominant, but in death as part of the couple goes, what is left is neither the couple nor the original individual. This is the essence of the sense of loss. Finding what is left and who this is, is the challenge for the bereaved.
Loss is felt in many situations.
Socially, life is set up for couples so for individuals starting again it is almost impossible. There is no one to share the jokes with, no one to tell what happened. Loss is what makes you realise you are alone. This is different to being lonely.
Loneliness comes from the isolation you feel when bereaved. When you are first bereaved your feelings vary madly between extreme sensitivity and frozen. One day you are super sensitive to everything. The next day you seem frozen and numb. You are just not in touch with the world.
You feel lonely because you cannot get in touch with the world. However aloneness is different. You can feel, you can react to and join in the world but you are alone, that extra dimension which made you a couple has gone. You are different, you do not fit. For a while you are pointed out as a kind of freak and then, especially by wives, you are suspected.
I have grieved deeply for Geoffrey and I know I shall do so forever. Necessity dictates that I learn to live as the new me. However what I find difficult to deal with is the loss. I go to a restaurant we enjoyed as a couple and while I recall our fun together I want to tell him that the food is still as good as ever. I want to put my legs over his as I watch TV and have him massage my feet after a game of golf.
I have friends with whom I have fun but they are not Geoffrey and he is what I want. While I know I cannot have him, yet I wish there was a means of communication for just a few minutes a week. Thus I still talk to his photo and while I intend to spread his ashes as he wished very soon, I intend to keep a small amount to hold forever. This helps me deal with the loss. I keep telling myself that to feel Geoffrey’s loss I had to have him once and that some people will never be loved as I was. For this I am grateful.
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