On a walk with friends recently I fell into step and conversation with a close friend who had lost a parent many years ago. We spoke about grief, about mourning, about how waves come and about how waves go. We discussed all sorts of emotions around the death of a loved one. At some point during our memorable talk I finally articulated a feeling/thought I'd been having for a number of weeks. It's a tough one to understand but one she immediately related to and empathised with. Here it is:
"My grief is more powerful than yours and I own it"
I have since realised that the first half of this sentence is not true. I don't think any one person's grief is more or less important/powerful than the next. I believe that the pain and suffering of one person is utterly unique and can/should stand alone rather than be compared. Every relationship is different.
The second half of the sentence is what I want to look at. I thought that by being Liane's husband I felt the hurt of her death more keenly than anyone else. I found it really hard to see friends and family so upset. "You aren't feeling what I am feeling" I thought to myself. But how could I know? I don't know what Liane said or did with others, what effect she had, what they feel in return. It's not for me to say or guess. But the feeling remained - a sort of odd possession of the hurt. I saw people sharing photos, memories, ideas, feelings and felt like they were insincere and taking something from me that was mine. I then disliked myself for that thought. My heart and my mind were in a turmoil of pain, jealousy, confusion and I couldn't get on top of it.
What I've come to see is that nobody owns grief. It is an intensely personal and sharp emotion but can/should be shared. The relief I feel when I pick up the phone and talk to Liane's family/friends and hear that they are going through so many things I thought I was facing alone is huge. So many have said it but living it is harder - together we are stronger.