Grief is unique to each of us. For example, two siblings can have very different relationships with a parent who has died. These differences make our grief experience unique. For this reason, it is unhelpful to compare your grief to that of another, even when speaking about the same loss. In this light, we can be free to feel what we feel without having to compare it to others or be critical of our honest experience. Each of us will feel 100% of the intensity of our own sense of loss. The intensity of our experience is shaped by the relationship we have with the loss.
So, when someone meaningful to us dies, it means that the intensity of grief we feel will be influenced by the following four qualities of the relationship:
- The absolute uniqueness of your one-of-a-kind relationship with the person who died.
- The combination of time*, intensity, and value the relationship had for you, which could include negative value as well as positive.
- The degree to which you felt emotionally complete with that person before they died. Many people who had bad relationships with someone who “should” have been a loved one are often left with a great deal of undelivered emotional communication.
- Even though you may have felt emotionally complete and had communicated nearly everything important before an important person in your life died, their absence can affect you profoundly. This includes the fact that they may have been the one person you shared your intimate feelings with, and they no longer here.
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* There’s at least one relationship that may have had a very limited amount of time, but the maximum emotional impact on us. That is your relationship with an infant child who has died. A great deal of your relationship with the baby was based on the hopes, dreams, and expectations you had for them and your life together.
This also applies to relationships with a child who didn’t make it full-term, with whom you may have had a powerful relationship, even though you hadn’t met them face to face. This is part of the reason that miscarriages can be so totally devastating to the parents-to-be.