Do you ever have someone else's loss overwhelm you?
A couple years ago, someone close to me lost someone close to him. I'd only met the person once, briefly. I didn't know the person, and that person didn't know me. Yet, when he died, I could think of nothing else. I'd lie awake at night, and I thought about what transpired on the night he died. I thought about all the things I wanted to tell him. I thought about his child. This went on nightly for weeks.
Of course, I couldn't really talk about it to anyone but my husband. How self-absorbed can I be to make the death of someone that I don't know about myself? So, I kept my mouth shut.
I'm sure we've all been in situations like that. Perhaps a coworker loses a loved one in a tragic way, and it affects you. You can't really discuss it because you know it's your coworker who's hurting. It's your coworker who has to deal with the loss. Not you. But, then, why can't you stop thinking about it?
I'm an empathetic person. I've lost people I've loved, but I've always tossed and turned over the feelings of others. I remember screaming when I heard my aunt died. I screamed. This is the first time I've ever written that because I've never felt like I had the right to. You see, when she died, my cousins lost their mom. That's a bigger loss than me losing my aunt. They will never get to show their mom who they are today. They'll never get to show their mom their babies. My mom lost her sister. She's never been the same. My grandma lost her daughter. Telling her was the most difficult and heartbreaking thing I've ever done. I relive seeing her go limp in the chair over and over...
I guess I felt like I didn't have the right to hurt. When my grandma died, it was a big blow to me. She was very close to me, to us, throughout my entire life. Yet, when she died, I knew I wasn't the only one hurting. She had dozens of grandkids. We all felt her loss. She had dozens of great-grandchildren. And, of course, she had her actual children who lost their mother. As much as I hurt, almost all of my thoughts went to my mom.
When my great uncle died, I was hurt, but I was mostly hurt for my father. Knowing what my great uncle did for my father and my father's siblings is just... it's so overwhelming. Yes, I lost a great person in my life, but my dad lost his father figure.
A childhood friend of mine is dealing with a tragic loss right now. I don't know her well enough anymore to discuss it with her. In fact, the only reason I know about it is from Facebook. She lost a pregnancy that was very far along. I've been up all night, tossing and turning, wondering how she can deal with her loss. Thinking about how she had the nursery all painted. Remembering all the bleeding I'd had during my pregnancy with Jo.
Why am I making her loss about me? My aunt died, and I made it about her kids. My grandma died, and I made it about my mom. Yet, when people who I'm not close to experience loss, I get overwhelmed by it. I seem to make it about me. I put myself in their situation, and I think about it over and over. It really, really affects me. Yet, it's not OK for me to talk about with people close to the situation. You can't really walk up to someone and say, "Hey, remember me? Yeah, I'm really hurting over your loss." Yeah, that's not OK. I'm trying to imagine a scenario. If I lost someone dear to me, and a near stranger came up to me and told me how much they were hurting over it... wow. Yeah, that's not OK at all.
Last year, the anniversary of the death of my loved one's friend arrived. I wasn't even close enough to the situation to talk about it with my loved one. Yet, it consumed me. I had to tell my parents and remind them of the date so they could be the ones to be there if they were needed. How pathetic is that? I did not lose anyone I loved in that situation, but, in my mind, I'd made it personal.
Funny, isn't it? We're told to be in touch with our feelings. The minute someone dies, though, we seem to have social norms regarding who has the right to be hurt by the loss and who doesn't. Me, I know I don't have the right to be hurt about this loss. It is not about me. It's about her, and her family. So why have I been awake all night?