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Grieving together ... but apart

Grief is a funny thing. There are probably a thousand ways that people have attempted to describe their grief. It should be straightforward but it’s actually very complicated.

Marie found out just how complicated when Kenny died. In theory her whole family was grieving the same thing, the loss of Kenny. But in reality they were all grieving someone different.

We often don’t realize what’s happening in relationships when we’re not there to see it. For example, Marie says she is still learning about Ken’s relationship with Kenny. Ken and Kenny spent many long days together at logging sites, around the dinner table in remote communities, and even when Ken would try to help Kenny during his days on drugs. They talked about things and saw the world together in a way Marie never experienced. That meant Ken was missing and grieving different things about Ken than Marie was.

And Marie realized they grieve in very different ways. One talks it out, the other holds it in. One searches for answers and meaning along many intellectual and spiritual paths, the other takes different paths.

Different ways of grieving can make it hard for couples to find the best way to lean on each other through the devastating days, months and years after a child dies. Many don’t make it through. But Ken and Marie did. And Marie attributes it to the respect they give each other’s process. That was a respect earned while they struggled to find the best ways to help their children through addiction.

Grief is further complicated when you have an extended family, also grieving very different ways of missing Kenny. You feel you have to be there to help others but sometimes just don’t have it in you. And sometimes that can play havoc with family dynamics.

There’s no easy formula for grief like this. As Marie says, maybe the only answer is simply kindness. Kindness for everyone else and kindness for yourself.

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