cancer, family, healing, health

The Hierarchy of Grief

As I've watched and listened to the grieving process of loved ones in the last few weeks, I have found it the most difficult to watch my dad. I think this is fairly natural, since he's the one that has been with her most, especially in the last 15 years .

His emotions are different in each moment, and I admit I don't always respond correctly….and sometimes I feel like I don't respond with much empathy at all.

I've watched as he has responded in anger….demanding something be done.

I've watched him find solace from visitors around him, and I've watched him dodge her bedside…out of fear.

I've watched as his body has convulsed with tears of realization, and I can't imagine the emptiness he must already be experiencing.

He constantly apologizes for crying, as it is a sign of weakness in his mind. He says he can't figure out why he keeps breaking down at random intervals…times when he thinks its not necessary to cry at all. He tells me that he should be consoling me, not the other way around.

I've told him almost a thousand times, that every minute he has a reason to cry. He doesn't listen…he's a stubborn man. He admits that he sometimes feels like he's made of stone, and it helps him remain strong through this process. I reminded him that he isn't made of stone, but is experiencing numbness…something our bodies do to allow us to cope.

He has so many questions about the end…things that can't be answered. I wish I could have stopped the people that gave us that book about the end of life. He has himself so focused on the signs, that his anxiety is out the roof, each time he sees something that may be on the list. He panics….and I understand why.

He worries and wonders whether he wants to be in the room at the time of her last breath. He feels indifferent about giving her permission to leave him. He's terrified to enter the room and see her gone. I often try to go in before he does, to ease his fears, but he always looks at me with panic in his eyes, searching for an answer in mine.

We talked about our abilities to hold ourselves together, when having to comfort someone else. I find this to be an interesting concept. He doesn't cry when someone else is crying, hugging him for support, but allows himself to be supported when someone else is strong. We tell him that he is the one who is hurting the most…he is a part of their whole…he is her heart and soul.

I never cry when listening to him, but allow myself to grieve when I'm alone. I like to listen to music, think, and cry by myself…. Everyone grieves differently. But I started thinking about the hierarchy of grief. How do we really know who is grieving more….and is this a coping mechanism in its own right?

Do we make it easier on ourselves by minimizing our own pain, and by telling someone else that they are feeling worse? Do I hurt more than her friend, because I am her daughter? Does her sister hurt less, because she hasn't been near her? Do my feelings outweigh my brothers, because I had more in common with her? Do her grandchildren hurt less, because they haven't known her as long?….

The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that this is the way we cope in life. Someone is always hurting worse than us in our mindset… I thought back to my dad saying that he should be comforting me. Does he also tell himself that I am grieving more??….I don't know.

I've come to believe that no one is grieving more or less, but just differently. My brothers and I are grieving the decline of our mother…the loss of our weekly phone chats or random texts, the races that are dear to my heart, our vacations/get togethers, and the multiple selfless memories of our time with her in our youth. Her sister is missing their chats or texts…and the million childhood memories of their youth, where they spent every minute together. Her friends, from the past and present, with their own thoughts of this amazing lady….a lady that has graced their lives…with memories of love, compassion…..and stories that none of us have heard.

My dad has a much bigger hole to fill… He has spent every moment with her…. EVERY moment will remind him. I can't imagine his devastation. My heart goes out to him today….

……Now that I think about it again….. He may be at the top of the hierarchy 🙂





9 thoughts on “The Hierarchy of Grief

  1. I wait anxiously for the next post from you, checking nervously every few minutes for some word on Patty. Tears fill my eyes at a moments notice and I have to keep swallowing them back. I see her signature on a document, a phone message she took many years ago, or a file she opened and I cry for her and for me and for you. So many “rumors” are flying around up here, but I wait to hear from you. You have definitely learned your grace and compassion from her! Again, many many hugs!

    • I know how much you love her:)…. I feel so grateful for that. She weakens daily…and has few moments awake. But she still manages a hand squeeze or a faint smile every now and again… Thank you for all of your support during this difficult time. The flowers you sent were beautiful, and are right beside her bed:)

      • I am so glad she got the flowers!
        I am the greatful one and so blessed to have known her and worked with her! What an amazing woman she is. Thanks for the updates.

  2. Hugs. You are right we all grieve differently and at different moments, but we all grieve. So sad for you. Mind yourself during these difficult days. Hugs.

  3. Pingback: A Journey of Grief - Blog

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