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Grief, Loss and Abandonment

Yesterday I learned that a Facebook friend passed away in his sleep; it was sudden and unexpected. I never met Atlee in “real life,” but he was a presence online that was a constant for me. He was a fantastic runner; this man ran 100-mile races for fun. I can only aspire to have the determination and dedication it takes to run like that. He was the biggest cheerleader to every person he came across. He was a man that I had never heard a negative word about. This morning as I was looking through Facebook, I saw dozens of posts about him with pictures of his smiling face; the love and joy are palpable in those posts. His loss is felt so deeply by so many.

Today I went to the funeral of a friend’s husband, Rich, who was in and out of the hospital over the last few years. Every time he went into the hospital, he came home to his wife, daughters, and grandbaby. His family truly believed that this time would be the same; he would fight his illness and return home. The loss for them is also profound, but perhaps not as unexpected as Atlee’s, which does not make the loss and heartache any less. Rich’s daughters are about the same age I was when my father died, so I deeply feel that grief.

Just over 23 years ago, my father died after a long battle with cancer. That’s what he did; he fought to stay alive and be there for his family and friends. We were told my Papa had less than six months to live after his diagnosis, and he was determined to prove them all wrong, dying more than seven years later. Most days, I don’t feel the loss, and some days the grief is real and at the forefront of my thoughts. I still think about all the things he missed out on in my life; my college graduation, my wedding, the birth of my children, and so much more. I like to think he’s watching me from heaven, sometimes showing up for me in cardinals, butterflies, and rain. But that’s a story for another day.

Many loved each of these men, and the loss felt is extraordinary and profound. I know every one of us dies. My mother would say to me, “You know what the leading cause of death is? Birth.” That is 100% true. We will all die one day and leave people who love us behind.

There are so many platitudes that people say when someone dies. “They are in a better place.” “They are always with you.” “At least they didn’t suffer.” “I know how you feel; my dog died.” “God never gives you more than you can handle.” And so many more. These statements are not helpful in those dark moments after someone dies. It doesn’t lessen the grief or heal the heartache, but it can make the grieving feel like they should get over it. I’m not sure there is a “right” thing to say when someone experiences a loss; what I choose to say most times is, “This sucks; it is so hard to lose someone so special.” No, it’s not poetic or profound, but it is, at its core, the truth.

When someone dies, feelings of profound loss are normal and will come and go for the rest of our lives. Not a single one of us does not experience a significant loss at some point in our lives. The loss comes early in life and others later, but there is still a loss for some. Each loss, even when expected, can be devastating. Many of us, myself included, feel abandoned by this special person even when we know it’s coming.

I don’t feel like I have some profound insights to share here. I intended to write about abandonment today. All the different ways abandonment shows up from the death of a loved one, the end of a meaningful relationship, or even when our basic needs are not met, causing us to question if we can depend on those around us; I planned on sharing about abandonment before these losses. I have a lot to say and share on those things, but today is not that day. Today is a day that I am feeling deep and immense grief. I have cried a lot over the last 24 hours, and that’s ok. So instead of saying things about how much abandonment shows up in our lives, I want to share the following. Grief and loss are real. Grief shows up in different ways for each of us, and it never ends. It just changes.

If you are grieving a loss, honor those feelings if you have felt abandoned by someone, you are allowed to be angry, sad, or both. Today is a grief-filled day, and I have given myself permission to cry and feel the pain of losing people who were so special. Yes, in many ways, I feel abandoned and alone today despite those posts on Facebook about Atlee and the shared grief we are feeling, all the people who showed up to celebrate and grieve Rich, and knowing that my Papa is still a presence in my life. I am not alone in my grief and the deep feeling of loss, yet I feel that right now. I feel abandoned by these amazing men in some ways, and that’s ok. Soon I will talk about what abandonment is and how we experience it with people who are still alive. Today I am going to grieve. Today I am going to feel sad. Today I am going to miss Atlee, Rich, and my Papa.

If you feel abandoned by someone, alive or dead, I would love to chat. I would love to show you how you can find joy, overcome the feelings of being left alone, and create healthy relationships and boundaries moving away from the fear of loss and towards healing, grace, and love.

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