Another’s Sorrow

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The other day a friend with whom I’d fallen out of touch let me know that her husband had died suddenly and unexpectedly in the last year. Although I’d met him only a few times, and his was certainly not the first death I’ve heard about lately,  the news struck an unexpectedly sharp chord.

The thought of one’s one mortality is inevitable when someone else dies. Death has becomes a tickle at the back of my thoughts over the last few years , and although I have more or less adjusted to the fact that Ralph has cognitive impairment, I don’t like to be reminded that I am aging too, that my capacities are altering. But I also found myself disturbed for reasons less socially acceptable, less acceptable in every way.

Even as I mourned his death and felt deep sympathy for my friend’s sorrow, I found myself comparing marriages. My friend and her husband had shared a long marriage, one of those rare solid marriages that withstand challenges, obstacles and the inevitable periods of disconnect that happen to us all, only to grow stronger with the passing years. While there had been physical impairments, they had shared travel and adventure right up until the end. Ralph and I share so little. The stab of petty envy I felt was ridiculous—she’d lost her husband for heaven’s sake—but I felt it.

And what’s worse. I also found myself envying the purity of her grief, longing to possess that capacity for heart-wrenching love for a spouse. My love has become so mottled.

These are embarrassingly ugly reactions to another’s loss I know. But I record and sort them out so I can put them aside. Grief is complex. I am only beginning to navigate its complicated waters.

 

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6 thoughts on “Another’s Sorrow

  1. A friend, who came here from Canada many years ago, and I were discussing the deaths of our respective fathers. Her father died when she was here so she had no chance to say goodbye and she was wondering if that was easier that way than in my father’s long drawn out case – and I didn’t say goodbye either as I expected to see him in hospital in half an hour. We decided we didn’t know the answer to her question but I think we’d both agree with your comment that grief is complex.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for writing Alice. Our writing often reveals some very raw, painful feelings and emotions. I’m so glad we have a safe place to do so. Your honesty is helpful to all of us, as we navigate these rough waters of dementia land.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Carole. In my other life, I am part of an arts organization that is in turmoil because some folks have trouble facing uncomfortable social realities about our community and would prefer to close down an art project that discusses those realities, while others (including me) feel that open discussion is the way forward. I had not made the obvious connection between my private and public life until I read your comment.

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