July 12, 2022

Death, Loss or Loneliness—all Types of Grief are Equal.

grief is equal

There are those who claim there is no worse feeling or deeper sense of grief than the grief that results from the passing of a loved one.

I am not one of them.

I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. Not for one second.

You see, as much as there are all types of pain, which are affected by personal levels of tolerance, different experiences, perception, and degrees of longevity, so too are there individualized and wide-ranging manifestations of the physical and mental effects of grief.

In short, pain that seems “painful” to you is painful for you.

It is true for you, in your experience, and as such, it is not up for discussion. Grief that “feels devastating” for you is in fact devastating for you. No matter the cause or trigger. Again, not up for debate or judgement.

To be completely transparent, there was a period of time in my and my husband’s life where we were both unquestionably drawn into the gripping depths of grief. It took us both and shook loose our sanity, our health, and our ability to function, and it promptly distinguished any flicker of joy that existed. Our experiences were in part similar, both debilitating and heartbreaking, though the exact root cause of such pain could not be more different.

Whilst we simultaneously danced with this agony, at times affected by the other and certainly triggered by the actions, we could not have been more separate. His grief stemmed from a sudden loss, a friend’s tragic passing. A devastating event. Mine was the result of overwhelming loneliness, neglect, and a deep-seated belief that I was, in fact, completely and unquestionably unworthy of love, time, effort, and fulfilment.

And I can say with deep conviction, and hands-on-my-heart sincerity, that the grief I experienced was in every way comparable and equal to the grief he was immersed in.

In every way, I processed the anger, the despair, the guilt, the sadness, the anguish that comes from having someone leave you alone and desperately lonely of their own free will. In the same way, I would crouch on my knees, broken, pleading sobs wracking my heavily pregnant form, as I absorbed the enormity of the fact that my grief was brought on by the choices made by someone else.

There is much despair in that. Much despair.

I watched helplessly as someone close to me was immobilized and paralyzed by a grief so intense that they were nearly unable to function, following the choice made by someone else to leave them in the throes of loneliness, rejection, and agony.

You cannot tell me this is in any way better, easier, or kinder than the grief that is felt following death. I am fortunate, personally, to have lost only grandparents (those we kind of expect to pass due to age or health), though I can tell you the grief I felt in the days, weeks, and even now years later is just as fresh, gripping, all-encompassing, chilling, and inescapable as the time when I deeply grieved my loneliness and separateness.

The grief itself is the same.

It is the same agony. The same chaotic upheaval. The same slow drowning of your inner world. Why do we feel the need to measure, weigh up, or judge any level of pain? There is no scale that measures heartache.

Were I to reach in and weigh the heart of someone wrestling with grief from heartache, loss, loneliness, death, separation, rejection, or unwanted change, I would be willing to bet that their hearts would all be equally as heavy and equally as tortured.

Perhaps, it is time we considered all types of grief are equal and valid.


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