You may have experienced going to the funeral of a coworker or a distant friend and find that you are so broken up. You might think, I never cried this much at my parent’s death. You are grieving your prior losses.
At a grief support meeting I met a man who was a recent widower. He was so confused because it was his second wife who had just died but it was his first wife that he was thinking about and grieving. He was relieved to hear a death brings up all your prior losses and that it was perfectly normal that he was at his second wife’s funeral and he was grieving his first wife.
This man appreciated knowing he was not going crazy and you also need to know and understand that you are not going crazy. It is a typical and normal part of grief to have all your prior losses come to the forefront when a loved one dies. The behavior of these prior losses shows us how important it is to process the death of a loved one because grief does not go away unless it is attended to. We do this by telling our loved ones story, over and over again AND feeling those feelings not matter how uncomfortable they might be!
This characteristic of unattended losses rearing their heads poses quite a problem for those who work in the area of death and dying or for those who have experienced numerous deaths. During the recent death of my father, every family and their deceased loved one that I have ever ministered to in the past ten years processed through my head. Personally, I thought I was going crazy, as hundreds of stories converged with my father’s story. I had to realize i) I was not going crazy and ii) I need to do a better job of dealing with the grief associated with the deaths of those patients I work with. In other words, heed my own advice I blog about!!
Learning about grief helps us to understand what we are experiencing. This knowledge does not change how we feel as we are still sad, lonely, vulnerable, etc. but it sure feels good to know and understand that what we are experiencing is NORMAL grief behavior and that we are NOT going CRAZY!
What prior losses do you need to attend to?