Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hierarchy of Grief

I know that every loss is a loss within its own right, and that to the person who has suffered that loss, it is unspeakably painful. I also understand that grief is cumulative, so that each time you lose someone (including companion animals), previous loss(es) are added onto your "running total" and it is for this reason that old wounds can be opened again, the salt freshly rubbed in ... sometimes causing a bereaved person to exclaim, "I seemed to be more affected by my dog dying than when my colleague/friend/neighbour/grandmother ... died."

That said, I was interested to discover that there is indeed a "hierarchy of grief" which my counsellor told me about. I can't remember all the details but it is laid out something like this.

Loss of a child - through murder
Loss of a child - through suicide
Loss of a child - through illness/accident

Loss of a spouse/life partner

Loss of a parent

Loss of a sibling

Loss of a grandparent

Loss of a friend

Loss of a pet

It really made me think ... over the past fifteen years we have lost both my parents, Cliff's Mum, our dog, six aunts and uncles, five friends, and now I have lost Cliff.

I know that it's a difficult and sometimes dangerous thing to do - to categorize feelings into neat little boxes ... but this is undoubtedly the single hardest thing I have ever had to go through in my 45 year old life. And then I think about people who have suffered losing a child and wonder how on earth they endure it. I mean, this is HELL. And there's something worse? It simply doesn't bear contemplating. It's humbling.

Today I spent some time researching grief and mourning across different cultures (no idea why) and came across this article. OMG, I thought I had it bad ... again, it's humbling:

Perhaps reading about this is a form of self-medication ... a way to keep myself grounded.


  1. Humbling is exactly the right word. After reading that article and compare the lot of so many women with my own, I feel almost like a spoilt child when I think of how my circumstances have allowed me to grieve at my own pace.