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My Loss Isn't Big Enough to Count?


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Bear with me. I'm processing here.

I went to a grief recovery group tonight. I was anxious about it (I was afraid it would be too 'come to Jesus-y.' Though, I'm totally ok with Jesus). But I thought I would at least check it out and see what it was all about. When I called to ask about it, I made sure to ask if all types of losses were included, and I was assured that they were.

But... I felt really invisible tonight.

I was there with a group that was totally made up of folks who had lost their spouses--including the leaders. I have ALWAYS understood that the loss of Mom is totally different than the loss of a spouse and the pain I feel probably pales in comparison to the pain of losing one's husband or wife. But I wasn't prepared to feel invisible because of that.

It felt like questions were asked around me. I wasn't included in the discussion. I didn't say anything during the time when we were talking because there really wasn't a time TO say anything. Nothing applied to me. There were parts of the video session that especially emphasized that the loss of a spouse or child were the hardest losses, but seemed to infer that other losses weren't big, and weren't as worthy of big grief--and as I say I am NOT denying or begrudging the idea that they are larger losses. I have never for a second deluded myself into thinking that what I went through dealing with Mom being ill and Mom dying was anything near what those of you who have lost spouses went through. I never thought that. I have that in perspective.

Then, a moment came up where the leaders suggested it was easier for those of us who had lost loved ones to terminal diseases because we had time to prepare. Again I won't deny that a sudden loss is VERY different and VERY hard, but I wouldn't say they are necessariliy easier. There is a lot to process through with both. I am still processing through my experience caring for Mom even as I work through my grief.

I don't know. Maybe I felt out of place because it was all people who were much older than me. Maybe I felt out of place because all of these people had a common kind of loss and I was the odd one out, but all evening I felt a sense of, "Why is SHE here? She only lost a mother." And that hurt.

I know that it is the natural order of things to lose a parent, and less natural or normal or expected to lose a spouse or a child. But you still go through life thinking it will never happen.

My loss WAS big. I lost my MOM. The woman who shared her body with me for 9/10 months. The woman who taught me how to be a woman. The woman who was supposed to be here to help me through being a Mommy myself. I lost her just as I was starting to get to know her as a person and not just as a parental entity. Maybe it was the natural order of things, but it didn't seem natural to me. It seemed like one of the largest chunks of my world--one of my stabilizers--fell away beneath me, and I'm still not sure how to stand up without it.

Why do we have to minimize the losses of others and decide that a person has less business feeling and grieving than others? I can be just as guilty of that as others... but I don't want to be. Especially now.

It just really upset me. I went hoping to be able to process through some of my grief, and left feeling minimized. My loss might not be as big as the other ladies's, but it was BIG. It did hurt. And I feel like I have a right to hurt, and to have it take a while to get through this too.

The one saving grace of the night came at the end when the lady next to me took me aside and asked when I lost my Mom, and how old she was, and shared with me about losing her Mom six years prior to losing her husband, and how hard that was for her and how now she is re-identifying herself with her Mom. If it wasn't for that ONE person I wouldn't think of going back. I might try it again just because of her.

But if I feel this every week, it's going to be very, very hard.

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I applaud your efforts and your courage.

I am glad that you will give it another try. It can't be the most comfortable place for anyone there. They are all hurting to some degree, yes?

I would give it three meetings, if it still doesn't feel right, then it probably isn't. There may be another grief group that would somehow be a better fit for you.

I am glad that woman reached out to you. That was nice.

I still think of you quite often and the wonderful skills that your mom left you with. Carolyn is so lucky to have you for her momma.

love, Cindi o'h

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You're right, Cin... Everybody there IS hurting... And I do need to consider that. I think more than anything it was the leaders that gave me the feelings I had. Everyone else was legitamately expressing about their experience--and I welcomed that. My experience though, felt facilitated around. And I guess that makes sense because the loss the leaders know best is the loss of a spouse.

Three meetings sound sensible. I'll try....

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I hear you loud and clear. When my hubby passed, I went to a support group and I felt very uncomfortable. I was very uneasy bc when I was asked how long he had been gone, and I responded 6 weeks, I was thrust into listening to everyone else go on about how "Gosh, I was still in bed at week 6" and so forth and so on.

It was also for young widows, I was 27, so the next closest person I think was early 40's. I just felt so stupid during the whole meeting and it did not help, I felt even more helpless that I was reaching out and that it did not help either.

So, as far as my first experience with a support group, not helpful at all. But, keep reaching girl!! I continued on my quest and saw many counselors and went to some other support groups. I can't say there is a magic bullet bc there is not. In my experience, it just takes time and you staying plugged in to your feelings enough to keep reaching out, you may pick up a few tidbits of helpful info. Mostly, though, what I learned from the support groups is that when you go, it means you want to heal. It means that your mom taught you to recognize how important you are, that you want to as emotionally strong as possible.

I actually started seeing a counselor soon after my mom was diagnosed bc the thought of losing her, the only other person (other than my hubby) who had my back, no matter what, is devastating. I have stopped my sessions, but as I see things closing in, I definitely need to go back to counseling. I guess I see it as OK and not that I'm weak or nuts!

Also, there are a few grief counselors from churches that I visited and I did not find them to throw the book at me, they were compassionate and reassuring.

Val, I have had to live both and although the shock of being a single parent afer losing my hubby and missing him was terrible, you are right. Losing our moms to this disease is gut wrenching, it hurts to see them in pain. Chad at least never suffered a day in his life. I have to agree that this is comparable, if not worse than loss of a spouse.

Maybe you could PM me if you ever want to talk.

I'm sorry you felt unimportant bc you are. You should be proud that you took that first step.

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Val, I am so very sorry that you had such a bad experience. Thanks goodness for the one nice lady that approached you at the end. I really think you should go back and give it another try. This time, don't sit quietly. Make an opportunity to be heard, even if you have to raise your hand. Let them know that you're there for the same reason they are...because you lost someone you love. I had a similar experience after Dennis died. I went to one session of Hospice grief counseling, specifically for widows and widowers. Most of them were very much older than me and their problems were very different. I could see that I didn't fit in the group and never went back. Looking back, I wish I had given it another try.

As for the debate over long term illness or sudden death...I have my opinions. Although I am sure it is hard to have your loved one walk out a door and never be seen alive again. But...they are spared the agonizing pain and suffering that long term patients often experience. I am glad I had the time I had with Dennis but if the pain he suffered could have been avoided by a sudden death, the sacrifice on my part would surely be worth it.

Val, you are such a bright and strong young lady.

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That's exactly why I haven't gone to any groups - scared of what may happen.

But I recently joined a support group over the internet similar to this one where everyone is in the same predicament. They even have a section for over 50 and moving on - which is where I belong. They have trained moderators in the chat forum who have made me feel so good!

I learned of it from this forum actually and I'll share it for those who are interested:


I am the type who wants to talk to people, but have found that over the internet is easier for me.


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You have had so much to offer all of us here. You had so much to offer your Mama. You are wise and articulate far beyond your years. I am sorry you could not find the support you were seeking at that group. Know that we, here, do not minimize your loss. I lost my Mother when I was 38. I mourned a VERY long time. I still do in my own way some 20 years later.

Try again. Speak up for you have much to offer. What you experienced is HUGE. Your husband is deployed! You are pregnant...then a brand new Mom. You were caregiver to your own dear Mama. You were supporting your Dad. Your cup runneth over. Do not let folks in this group minimize this past year of yours, Val.

Many of us here would just love to hug you to pieces and try to make some things right in your world, which right now must seem totally out of kelter.

We love you, Val. Your grief is legitimate and just as real and as important as the next person's.

How can we help you?



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Val, I know what you mean. I've always been a little confused about why some people need to compare levels of pain or grief. It's hard to compare losses because each type of loss is completely individual.

For instance, when my mother died, all four of her children grieved and suffered. I still miss her 12 years later, and sometimes I still cry when my granddaughter says something or does something that I wish I could share with Mom or when my son graduated from college. For my little brother, however, the loss was even deeper. She was the one person who loved him and would stand by him no matter what, and it was a huge loss for him. I would have to say that losing Mom was much harder for him than me. Does acknowledging that make it easier for me or for him? Nope. We still feel what we feel.

On the other hand, I remember when my husband's grandfather died. His wife of 65 years didn't appear to suffer at all. In fact, she seemed relieved that he was gone because he had been so overbearing for 65 years. I'm certainly not going to judge her response or resent that she didn't appear to feel much pain or grief. It was her loss to feel or not feel.

I recently had to have my dog put to sleep. She had cancer of the spleen. That dog was a big part of my life for 10 years. For 4 months I prepared a special diet for her, sat up with her at night when she couldn't sleep, cleaned up vomit and diarrhea, and agonized over the decision about when it was time to let her go. I have not discussed that with most of the people around me because I know that they do not understand the pain of losing my friend. I know that they think I'm silly for caring so much about an animal. They dismiss my pain, and I accept it because I know they just don't get it.

Would I compare the loss of my dog to the loss of my Dad? Why would I? By saying that the loss of my Dad was worse, does it make the pain of losing my dog go away or make me feel silly for grieving a dog? Nope. It still hurts.

Pain is pain. Grief is grief. I don't feel the need to defend or justify or compare the pain I feel at the loss of my Mom or Dad. The loss of my Mom was completely different from the loss of my Dad. The loss of my dog was in a totally different category. It's like comparing apples and oranges and kumquats. What's the point?

If I live long enough, I will experience more losses, and each loss will have its own place in my heart and life, in the same way that each relationship had its own place in my heart.

I'm glad you posted this. The truth is that you are forever changed by your mother's death. It is a uniquely significant event because your mother was unique and your relationship with her was unique.

One more story. A few years ago my Dad recounted the story of being 12 years old and his father dying. It had been 60 years, but my Dad literally sobbed when he talked about it. When he talked about his dad, it was clear that he still missed him.

Just my thoughts. If anything offended anyone, it was purely unintentional.


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Oh Val, I wish the meeting had been more comforting to you. Even if the leaders of this group don't offer these tidbits, I have something to share that might help you get past their bias.

I'm not much of a 'support' group person but the Bereavement Counselor for a Hospice associated with a hospital here in OKC holds free 'grief seminars' throughout the year. He shares a lot of information and gives us tools (and homework!) to help us process our grief. You could talk if you chose to at certain points in the seminar.

Some of his wonderful comments, paraphrased:

"A ground rule in the seminar (and in life). We do not compare grief. Everyone's grief in this room is 100% to them. No one's is 99% or 101%."

"No one's death is any more or less traumatic than anyone elses, whether it was illness or accident."

Our group had lost parents, children, siblings, spouses, grandmothers, etc. Our leader shared his grief experiences surrounding the loss of his Dad. I was one of the younger widows but everyone was so compassionate and concerned over the other's losses.

Saying all that, I think Cindi offers great advice to give the group another chance. However, if that doesn't feel right, ask around and see if there is another group available.

You mention the terminal illness vs. sudden death debate. Loss is loss. A friend of mine who lost her husband to pancreatic cancer and I were discussing this issue. I asked her "You mean you and Sam weren't having long talks about your love, your life after he was gone, your dreams, your wishes, blah, blah, blah.......". Oh, you mean you were spending all of that 'advance notice' helping him walk, helping him eat, soothing his soul with a rub when he hurt, crying with him at the scan result news? Hmmmmm.....I never saw THAT movie. (Val, guess I have that same hot button!)

I can't imagine how hard this must be for you missing your Mom. Hang in there. I will try to dig up some information that may help and PM you this week-end.


p.s. Pamela, I agree that pet grief can be just as intense. When we lost Dumbo in 1995, I lost weight, was depressed, etc. I heard "it's just an animal". I also read that the loss of a beloved pet can evoke feelings as strong as the loss of a human loved one, but maybe the intensity won't last as long.(?)

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Val Wrote: "... I have never for a second deluded myself into thinking that what I went through dealing with Mom being ill and Mom dying was anything near what those of you who have lost spouses went through. I never thought that. I have that in perspective..."

I'm not so sure you really do have this issue in perspective.

I don't believe that the loss of a spouse or a child is greater than the loss of a parent or other loved one. They're different types of losses, but pain associated with the loss of someone is equal only to the emotional investment you have in that person. Some people really, really, really love their husband or wife, but don't have those feelings for their parents, and sometimes their own children. And then there are those who have a close and loving relationship with their spouse and their parents and their kids. And then there are those who don't really love anyone.

Grief can't be quantified.

Having said all that I have to say everyone in that group was there because they had suffered a loss, and that means everyone there was hurting enough to seek out the company of others. I just wish your pain had been accepted for what it is...a different kind of loss, but just as valid as anyone elses.

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In my opinion, losses are not BIGGER or SMALLER...they are just DIFFERENT. Losing a spouse is different than losing a parent....but harder or easier....just different.

We were so fortunate, the grief recovery group we went to so so diverse and no one compared grief....there were parents that had lost children, children who had lost parents, folks who had lost spouses and even one lady who had lost her home in a fire....by the end of the twelve week program, we were very close and learned so much.

I hope things go better for you, Val. If this group isn't right for you, then don't give up.....there are so many out there!

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A thought: in our area there is a support center specifically for cancer victims and their families. They do not have a specific group for l.c. (a fact which jerks my chain a bit :? ) but they do have a caregivers group which includes everyone and every kind of cancer. They also offer individual counseling which is free.

I just wondered if you might have a similar support center in your area where you might find it a bit easier to "fit in"?

The other thought I had, is that as a "newbie" in the group...others already know one another AND each other's "story" a little....so it might take another session or two for you to feel more a part of things.

I give you much credit for seeking out someplace to share and deal with some of your feelings. It can be enormously helpful...even if initially you feel a bit "out of the loop".

I tell you what....you take that gorgeous little girl of yours to a meeting, honey...and you'll have everyone flocking around you! :wink:

Nobody's grief is less than anyone elses. I understand that the loss of a child is like no other loss (my MIL lost two of three sons, leaving my hubby an "only" by age 14 :( ) and surely the loss of a spouse is horrendous. But so too, is the loss of one's parent...and in some ways, particularly a mother. My oldest cannot even TALK about the possility that I might die...let alone anytime relatively "soon" (ie: before I'm 197 years of age! :roll: )

Hang in there honey...try the group again...and raise your hand and speak out. ASK if anyone else there has lost their mother...and how they coped. That question will open doors...because you can bet, even if it's NOT the most recent loss for others...that a good many of the older folk in the group HAVE lost a parent!

Good luck, Val....and report back to us...ok?

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Oh Val...my heart just aches for you.

I'm so sorry that on top of losing your mother you had to feel that way at the group you were going to because you needed help/support.

Don't ever think your loss wasn't huge. I haven't been through losing my Mom. But, we're on the roller coaster and occasionally I think about what it will be like when I do. I hate to even say that, but I'm being very honest with my feelings. I can't even imagine the pain. I'm just so sorry.

I hope you find a place that will offer the support you need and you will begin the road to recovering from such a huge loss. We are here for you....please keep us updated on how you are doing.



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