In early 2007, an old friend of mine lost his mother after a long and tortuous illness. This is not a man who shows his emotions easily - but he was devastated. He had made it into his 50s without losing anyone close to him.
He knew that I had lost my mother in an instant, and my stepmother over a three-year odyssey, the latter being similar to the passing of his own mother.
So at the time, he asked me - which is harder, losing someone quickly or watching them suffer through a prolonged illness?
I've thought a lot about this conversation in the last several years, as I have lost so many of my nearest and dearest. And the best answer I can come up with is actually many-fold.
When a loss of a loved one occurs, there is no "harder" or "worse" - to make such comparisons trivializes all concerned. When you feel the loss deeply, the pain is immeasurable, even if you have seen it coming for years. Pain is pain - plain and simple.
The idea that the pain might be less if it was unavoidable makes no sense either. That person is gone and you watched them suffer - how could that not be painful? Some may feel a relief that the suffering has ended, but one cannot assume that is what a Griever "should" feel without asking. And what one THINKS they are going to feel and what they feel when it actually happens may be two (or more) different things.
Even if a loss was foreseen, the reality of their energy being gone from your life can still knock you off your feet - and that must not be discounted or disregarded. This can be especially true if you have spent years being their caregiver - not having that task anymore is also a shock and another layer of grieving that will have to be addressed.
You see what I mean? It can get very complex indeed.
BUT! I must add this point.
If one is lucky enough to have time with a loved one before their passing, use it wisely.
As you know if you have read my story or my book, when I lost my mother, I learned of it with a phonecall at midnight - no warning, no discussion, no good-bye - just gone.
It knocked me to my knees and changed my life forever. Of all the things that knaw at me about my mother, that loss of time has not gone away.
And when I lost Eva, we did get the chance to talk, at least some, in her final days.
I was then able to pass this lesson on to a client, Paul S., a few years ago, when his mother was ill - this was his response:
"Claire’s guidance both before and after my mother’s death was invaluable. I had been very distraught over mom’s illness and closed myself off from facing her death. Claire’s coaching led me to create beautiful lasting memories with my mother, which will be with me forever."
So if you are lucky enough to still be able to use whatever time you have, don't waste it in pain.
Talk - share - apologize - forgive - laugh - cry - celebrate. It is priceless precious time, time that cannot be replaced. Those memories can be treasured and a great comfort later.
As always, one caveat - if the person involved is one with whom you have had a difficult or traumatic past, tread carefully - very painful things can come to the surface and ugliness can occur. Sometimes an abuser can become more intransigent or angry, when we try and seek an apology - although some may surprise you. Just be aware, things may not always go as we would wish. Seek counseling if you feel you need extra support.
But I do hope that you will embrace the idea of taking action with your loved one if it is doable.
And if I can be of service in this regard, do reach out.
If you would like to speak to me personally about the above subject or any topic surrounding Grief, Loss, coaching or healing, click here to set aside a personal Free ½ Hour Empowerment Call. You are not alone.
Claire M. Schwartz
Leading You Back into the Light after Loss