One of the things I hate about grief is the feeling of being alone - that no one can understand you, no one can feel your pain, no one can share it with you.
And this is at least partially true. No one person can ever fully understand another's grief, or the myriad of ways that they respond to it. Dan and I have both been impacted in different ways by Vincent's death. We've responded differently as well. And that's OK.
Grief is isolating by nature.
But when grief is shared properly, it has the power to bring people together. I've seen this happen, but it requires a little risk on both sides. I know some people don't want to talk about Vincent with me because they're worried about saying the wrong thing. It feels risky for them to step outside of their comfort zone to address a grief that's larger than they've personally experienced. (For the record, that doesn't help at all, to at like nothing happened. Of course I want to talk about it.) What has helped, though, have been moments where people just looked into my eyes and said "We're so sorry you have to go through this" or "I can only imagine what you must be feeling right now." There are people who talk about Vincent with me, his life, his treatment, our grief now. That helps a bit.
It's also a risk for the griever to allow the other individual to share their pain. Just the act of opening up the wound to the other person is risky because of how they might respond. I remember the Christian mom on a field trip with us who smiled at me after learning Vincent died, and said, "At least Theo won't remember any of this because he's too young!" (awful on so many levels!)
So sometimes it's just easier to withdraw from people and grieve in seclusion. But it's not as healthy, because I as the griever need to know that even though I'm walking this path alone, there are people cheering me on. And it's healthy for you too, having grieving people around you, as it enlarges your heart and helps you be more thankful for what you have. Plus, grieving enables all of us to identity more with the rest of the suffering world where awful stuff happens every day. (Like what's going on in Japan! Ugh!)
My husband Dan is very clever. He likes to comes up with these little witticisms, some of which are better than others. (Sorry babe, it's true! :) After Vincent died, Dan said this - "The journey through grief is an unpredictable voyage, but the ship is more stable with many hands on deck." Doesn't that sound like an ancient Chinese proverb?
Dan's right. Grieving in community can be better than grieving by yourself. So next time we're hanging out, ask me how I'm doing. Ask me about Vincent, about how his treatment went, about how his personality was and how much we miss him. And together, we'll grieve for what's been lost.