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Old 01-31-2015, 10:57 AM
 
Location: Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
First of all, I do not consider it a "loss" -- they are not mine to lose.

Personally, I never experienced the death of a person upon whom I had any significant emotional dependency, so I cannot relate to that.
With those you're close to, it's not that they are 'yours' but have become 'part' of you so it's more like having that part ripped out.
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Old 01-31-2015, 11:22 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
Personally, I never experienced the death of a person upon whom I had any significant emotional dependency, so I cannot relate to that.
There's a whole field relating to grief and loss and death (thanatology) and from this we learn that intensity of grief is basically a function of how much a part of your day-to-day existence a person was and therefore what sort of void they leave. It is not emotional dependence as such; it is broader than that. When a spouse perishes there are, at every turn, massive changes in routine. For example when my wife died I once found myself turning to remark to her in the car about some landmark that had changed in a city we hadn't visited in a long while. Of course she wasn't there to listen or respond. Every day at first is a death by a thousand cuts like this one. Gradually you establish a "new normal" and how quickly that happens is a function of a host of factors -- your personal maturity and mental and emotional health and flexibility, your worldview, the degree to which you have dealt with your own mortality, the (un)expectedness of the loved one's demise, the complexity / (dys)function of your relationship with them, how much of a support system you have apart from them, and on and on.

There's also a "grief spiral" where your subconscious spoon feeds your new reality to you at a rate you can handle; just when you think you're getting on top of things emotionally you turn into a blathering puddle again. Eventually the seemingly endless layers of the onion are peeled, at least for most people.

Finally there is variance in the completeness of the grieving process. Nearly eight years on, I seldom think of my late wife on a daily basis, and it is almost never wistful, though always respectful and grateful. I have, as they say, Moved On. At the other extreme, some people I met on death / dying / grieving forums years ago are still there, pining away, and observing the anniversary of the death, often with an accompanying depressive episode, as well as the deceased's birthday, their anniversary if it's a spouse, even the anniversary of the Fatal Diagnosis. They become more or less permanently "stuck" in their role as The Bereaved or The Widow(er). I even knew one poor woman who was stuck in the "shock and awe" phase of the loss, pretty much emotionally frozen in the early days where you're paralyzed and devastated; I was shocked at the time to find out her husband had died two or three years before because her affect was what you would expect from two or thee DAYS after the death, except for the absence of the merciful numbing that gets you through the funeral, etc.

This whole process exists whether or not you are a believer and regardless of your afterlife beliefs. Theism will of course modify it, for both good and ill, but no one is exempt from being human, having needs, and mourning losses.

What I can't speak to, at least not fully, is the difference in the experience between theists and atheists. When my wife and eldest brother died I was already an unbeliever. When my mother died in a car accident and my father died of old age (both perished in their 80s) I was just barely, nominally, still a believer, but those kinds of deaths are (1) relatively expected and (2) by that time they were not a daily part of my life so the practical grieving was minimal.

I believe that being an unbeliever made it easier on me than it would have been for various reasons, though. There was no "why me" or "why her" or "what did I do to deserve this sucking horror". As an unbeliever I understand that those are entirely the wrong questions.

Last edited by mordant; 01-31-2015 at 11:58 AM..
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Old 01-31-2015, 02:12 PM
 
Location: Florida
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Good summation, Mordant.
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