Facing Life’s challenges – Dealing with Loss

By The Other Debra

In the past month 2 people I know, both around my age passed away unexpectedly.  As I experienced these episodes I was struck by certain life phenomenon and it hit me hard, in way I hadn’t expected.  I share these here from the perspective of a daughter, spouse, and friend.

My mother died unexpectedly at the age of 57,  and my siblings and I, her young adult children, were all in shock. Following years of conflict with my mother as a teenager, in my role as a new mother myself, I was finally beginning to appreciate my mother and empathize with her own struggles. I had so much more to learn and to share with her and I would never have that opportunity.  Guilt, among many other emotions and loss washed over me and maybe that experience sensitized me to how delicate one must be with loss.   I remember my mother’s friends being devastated by her sudden passing and to this day when I see them,  they tell me how it was all so sudden and still miss her. As children, we were in shock and preoccupied with dealing with our loss, practically and emotionally.  We really did not understand at the time how grief stricken our parents’ friends were and that they were also dealing with their loss. I have passed my mother’s age when she died, and I realize the mortality of someone close to your age is frightening, ”there but for the grace of God go I”.

I have a memory of my parent’s social circle of couples.  DIVORCE was definitely a dirty word and I could barely count on one hand friends of my parents who were divorced. Being unhappy in a relationship was just “par for the course”.   Now I am 60 and divorce is no longer a dirty word.  It is almost commonplace, often a courageous step to remove oneself from an unhappy marriage, and in some case an abusive one.  As the friend, I am faced with many difficult scenarios.  I have discovered that it is impossible to stay impartial and remain friends with both sides.  I sometimes feel viewed as if I am one of the main parties and embroiled in the divorce as well. 

My first experience with a friend’s marriage dissolving was when I was in my 20s and my college roommate divorced her husband after a brief marriage.  I loved both of them, she was my friend and confidante, and in a way, he was too. My husband and I tried to stay impartial and remain friends with both husband and wife, but she got angry did not speak to us for many years. Our relationship has since been repaired but it took a long time and lots hard work.

More recently another good friend of mine got divorced. In this case, the former spouse died after an illness. My friend shared how difficult it was for her to see her children in such pain.  Additionally, she felt invisible as the focus of shiva, the 7 day mourning period, is all about the deceased spouse and the children.   As she described it, it was as if the children were “hatched”, no mother who birthed, nursed and raised them. 

And most recently, an acquaintance of mine passed away.  Because of our small community, his first and second wives are also acquaintances.  At the funeral, one of the eulogizers talked about how the deceased had finally found peace in the last 7 years of his life when he remarried.  I felt it was appalling to say such a thing in front of the first wife and children, all present to console one another. 

These are all very delicate human situations.  All involved should be respected, mourn in their own way and we, the friends, whichever sort we may be, need some sensitivity training.

There may have been a divorce but let’s remember , there was a time when the first spouses did care deeply for each other, had a family together and you can’t divorce that relationship or the children, so let’s be considerate and caring.

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