Grieving Someone You Didn’t Know (or Hardly Knew)

Loss takes many shapes.

Sometimes loss takes the shape of someone we knew well. It’s tangible and detailed and reflects many of the specific things we miss about that person, like the smell of their favorite detergent, the way they always sang slightly off key, and the corny jokes they couldn’t help but tell. These are the intimate details we grieve when a familiar loved one who occupied a particular space in our life dies.

Other times, when a person mourns someone they didn’t know as well, loss takes the shape of something a little more abstract and theoretical. They grieve for how the relationship could have been, should have been, or would have been had things been different. In these instances, the loss is very much real, though it may feel hard to define.

Grief over the loss of someone you didn’t know, or hardly knew, can occur in a hundred different ways, but for our purposes, I think we can split it up into two main categories.

The first category is when someone grieves a person who they were aware of, but who they were not connected to in any way – such as when a celebrity dies. If this is the type of loss that brought you here, head over to this article for a more in-depth discussion.

9 Reasons It Is Not Crazy To Grieve A Celebrity Death

For the purposes of this article, we want to focus on grief experienced over someone connected to you, usually by relation, who has been absent or who died before you had the chance to get to know them. Examples include individuals who died when you were very young, relatives who have always been out of the picture, and people who you have lost touch with for long periods.

 

Disenfranchised Grief:

One of the most important things to note about these types of losses is that they are at a higher risk of being disenfranchised. Disenfranchised grief happens when someone experiences a loss that those in their family, friend groups, community, or broader society are reluctant to validate or support.

Unfortunately, unless you’ve experienced grief over someone you hardly knew yourself, it can be challenging to understand because it’s not immediately obvious what, specifically, there is to grieve. So people may make comments like, “Your mother left you, so why do you care about her?” or, “You didn’t even know your uncle, why are you so sad he died?” Even those who are at least aware enough not to say hurtful things may still meet your loss with silence or indifference.

Heck, you may even experience self-stigma by saying similar things to yourself, denying yourself the right to grieve or the right to ask for support, or wondering, “Why am I struggling with grief over someone I didn’t know?” or “Do I even have a right to grieve this loss?”

If you are grieving someone you hardly knew, or who you didn’t know at all, you need to know that this is indeed a type of loss that can cause grief.  Now, this doesn’t mean that a person is abnormal if they don’t grieve a relation they never knew. It merely means that your response – grief or no grief – is normal either way.

 

Complicated Emotions:

Most people negotiate the ups and downs of interpersonal relationships daily. So we grow used to the idea of working through conflict with those we interact with. What we aren’t used to is navigating complicated emotion felt towards people who are gone or who were, perhaps, never really present.

Generally speaking, grieving people feel things – good and bad – towards their deceased relatives all the time. When a person dies, the relationship doesn’t all of a sudden become one-dimensionally good. Nuanced thoughts and feelings remain, and the grieving person is left trying to figure out how to work through things like regret, anger, guilt, blame, and resentment even though the other person is physically gone.

The same goes for grieving someone who you didn’t really know. You may feel abandoned or unloved by the person, regret over not taking the time to get to know a distant relative, cheated and resentful that death stole your opportunity to have a relationship with the person, and so on.

Coulda’s, Woulda’s, Shoulda’s:

When someone you hardly knew dies, your grief may manifest around different types of thoughts, emotions, and secondary losses than it would if you had known the person well.  For instance, your grief may focus more on abstract losses, like what could have been or should have been, than tangible losses.

For example, instead of mourning a specific part the person played in your life, you may grieve the role they should have played. Instead of mourning particular memories of the past, you may regret the fact that you never had the chance to make these memories. Perhaps you had held out hope of one day having a relationship with the person and now that they have died you’re grieving the loss of that dream. 

 

Ongoing Grief:

Contrary to popular belief, grief does not follow a trajectory in which a person grapples with the pain, resolves their grief, and moves on. Can this happen? In certain instances, but more often, we find that bereaved individuals will continue to revisit their grief and their feelings about the absent or deceased person throughout their lifetime. Yes, this is true even if they didn’t know the person at all or well.

Consider a son whose father died before he was born. It would not be at all surprising if the boy felt loss over and over again, each time his father wasn’t there but should have been if only life were only fair.  Soccer games, learning to drive, graduation, getting married, becoming a father himself – according to the concept of regrief – he may feel his loss anew at each of these milestones and, over time, come to understand his father, his grief, and the role it plays in his life in new and different ways.


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June 20, 2019

30 responses on "Grieving Someone You Didn't Know (or Hardly Knew)"

  1. This makes so much more sense to me. 8 years ago, September 2nd 2011 I lost a girl who I was sorta friends with for about a week or two. I had just met her, made friends with her sister as well (we were all in band together in high school). I have one vivid memory with her the first day I met her, it was my junior year of high school so I was 16 and she was 15 at that time. That night on the 2nd she was brutally murdered, 100 yards from her neighborhood gate and literally a 10 minute walk from where I was living at that time. When it all first happened I remember I was devastated. It happened SO CLOSE to my home, it could’ve been myself. Then I put the name to the face and realized I knew her. I was told my “friends” that I wasn’t close to her, I wasn’t her sister and I needed to move on. From that moment on I never let myself grieve her. I always thought I didn’t deserve too. It wasn’t until last year I finally told myself my feelings and emotions are valid, and it was okay for me to feel how I felt. I finally allowed myself to grieve her and the pain was unimaginable. Since last year I have gotten better with moving forward, but when I find myself missing her or having feelings that I miss her, I try and talk myself out of it because I feel in a way I don’t have a right to miss her, because I only knew her for 2 weeks. My boyfriend tells me that it doesn’t matter the amount of time known, that at some point there was a connection made with her.
    Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, I got summoned for jury duty. The case I have been assigned is a first degree murder – death penalty case, and the victims name is the SAME as my friends. My friends killer also had a first degree murder – death penalty case as well. Lately I’ve been feeling all kinds of different emotions. Anger, sadness, major anxiety etc. My mom thinks if I do have to be on the jury for this case it will help bring some closure in the sense I am able to help another girl who so happens to have the same name get justice since I was unable to help get justice for my friend. Thank you for this post, it has helped me understand I’m not crazy and that it’s okay to grieve her even if the friendship was short with only one vivid memory.

  2. This is something I’ve really been struggling with for the past few months. I was on somewhat bad terms with my stepbrother, who only knew I existed for a month before he killed himself. My stepmom gave him up for adoption at birth, and he had reunited with her and come to visit my family for a couple weeks, but unfortunate circumstances led to the two of us not talking for a majority of that time. He went home the week before my 22nd birthday, and a week after it, we got the news he killed himself.

    I didn’t really know him, but as an on-off only child, I couldn’t help but be so excited to have a sibling again, only for me to lose that chance before it ever really happened. I was on a trip when he died, with the intent of making things up with him when I got home. Obviously I can’t do that now. And because I barely knew him, and we weren’t really talking in the time we DID know each other, it feels like I don’t even really have the right to grieve him. His own family didn’t even take me seriously, if I’m being honest. It’s just tough. I miss him and I miss what we could’ve been.

  3. Thank you for writing this article. My oldest daughter’s father passed 2 years ago when she was 4yo. It’s been such a struggle as they were not as close as both of them would have liked. I separated from her father when I was still pregnant with her as he had a drug and alcohol problem and was quite abusive. Our last encounter almost caused me to miscarry and I knew I had to get out of there. He was unable to meet her till she was 3yo for many reasons but would call and read to her over the phone and would video chat as often as his work schedule would allow.
    From all his drug abuse over the years and his lack of personal care, lack of diet and exercise, etc; he developed heart disease and passed in his sleep at the age of 35. My daughter was only able to meet him twice.
    I have tried my hardest to talk to her about things and about him although I have never told her about the abuse I sustained. I haven’t wanted to taint the image she has of him. Regardless of what he had done to me; I still loved him and he tried to be a good father to my daughter in the best way he could. I struggle a lot with my emotions surrounding his passing. Part of me loved him because there were a lot of good moments, but part of me hated him for what he had done to me.
    What really breaks my heart is seeing my daughter struggle with holding on to the memory of him. She will sometimes make up memories of him. I know she struggles with filling the empty spaces. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing her because I’m not sure how to understand her. She can be very moody and almost depressed at times. She says things like she hates her life and why does this have to happen to me or why is my life so hard, just to get her way. She fights me so hard about going to school every day, she cries incessantly to get her way, she gets extremely frustrated with her self when she can’t do something or when I tell her to do something. She grabs her head sometimes and squeals or cries when she feels I’m not listening to her…
    I just don’t know what else to do or how to help her. I am currently seeking professional help.

  4. My husband just found out that someone he knew in Highschool, had classes with, and did plays with, but didn’t hang out with outside of school just died. He hasn’t spoken to this guy or seen him in over 8 years. He is really upset about it – crying here and there, has really effected his mood all day, and I don’t understand the severity of his reaction or why it is impacting him so much. I too, have had several deaths of folks that I knew in high school but weren’t my close friends, and it is of course very sad, but I have never had such a severe reaction to it. Death is a part of life, and it is always tragic when someone dies much earlier in life than they were supposed to, but as the article mentions above, I don’t feel that I have the right to grieve someone as if I was their family member if I haven’t talked to them in a decade. Any tips on what I could be saying to him, asking him to either help or understand his reaction better?

  5. I been grieving over a child 3 years old that I didn’t physically know . His mom runs a bracelet boutique and it’s where I been getting all my daughters bracelets since she’s been born . It hits me super hard I have a 2 year old son . And every time I see her post a picture or post about her son I instantly cry and think of the what if’s and how it’s not fair her son passed away 😩 he was so sweet and innocent and it’s not fair . I think about the little boy everyday wishing it was a dream life’s not fair he didn’t deserve to die 💔😭 I wish I could of saved the little boy from whatever happened . The mother is so beat up over the situation and still trying to run her business . I couldn’t do it I would deffinitely lose myself if it ever happened to me . And I pray everyday for her I wish he could of survived he was such a sweetie and loving big brother to his little sister . I can barely take this loss it’s not even my child nor did I ever meet him in person but saw her post all time her children and videos and it’s so damn sad ! 😭 someone help

    • I completely understand. I have been having a really rough time dealing with the death of the little girl in Alabama “Cupcake” who was abducted from a birthday party and murdered and dumped the same day. She was only 3. She was just playing with other kids, being a beautiful 3-year-old child. Her mom went inside for 3 minutes, and came back to her gone….other kids saw, but it was too late. I strongly believe she is in Heaven now and enjoying God’s protection and peace, but trying to understand how such evil can exist is difficult and sobering. She looked so much like my own 3-year-old son, and so I think seeing her face (from pictures) has been especially difficult for me. I have been praying for her family and for her dear mother who feels like she has done something wrong and has to live without her sweet baby (who hasn’t gone inside for a minute to answer the phone, or turn off a pot,…she did nothing wrong or out of the ordinary!) Letting her rest in God’s hands is best for my heart, but so very difficult.

  6. I have a friend who planned out her sister’s entire baby shower. From having the cakes ready to the balloons blown up, but they soon received news that the baby died two days before the celebration. I have no idea what shes going through, and I wish to comfort her and say its okay. Although I don’t know where to began, she never talks, hardly eats, and has just began to give up on simple task now. What should I say?

  7. I dated someone briefly a few years back. It didn’t last long and we both moved on and lost contact. Fast forward to this year and I read in the news about the murder of a young man. He just got married, with a newborn daughter. I recognized the victim, it was the guy I dated. I was sad over it and thought I got over the feeling, but I felt sad again after a month, thinking of his wife and daughter, and what a nice guy he was.

  8. I found out my father died today im 37 and only seen my dad 3 times but I feel a huge loss. My mother who was my world died 2 half years ago now I am left an only child and an orphan 🙁
    I feel numb and lost my husband doesn’t understand and said he can’t hurt u now as I have always tried to have a relationship with my father but each time it was always me putting in effort my mother moved me back to UK with her and father was in US now I don’t know how to feel and no one to talk to 🙁

    • I am sorry for your loss. Even though you were not close, you’re likely playing out scenarios in your head about your father, what could have been and what if’s. When I miscarried, I grieved for a baby that I never met, but I still knew. The young boy I wrote about below, I am grieving for him, but I never knew him. I know there are no words that can soften this blow. It is a process. Little by little, the pain will not be our focus. But for now it is so allow yourself to grieve as we all are doing right now.

  9. I definitely related to Courtney’s message on the top of this website about Diego, the 13 year old boy. My name is Selena from California and I feel as words can not describe how I been feeling about this tragic of this young boy who lost his life so very young to some mean and nasty bullies who took his life away instantly in a blink of an eye. You took those words out of me because it’s truly sad, more depressing watching the videos and I catch my self wondering why do I feel like I’ve lost apart of something when it’s his family n mother who grieved for his lost. I asked myself that and I’ve talked to God and ask him why? I’ve prayed constantly for Diego’s death that he is resting in heaven. I pray every time I feel sad..I have been praying for his family. They r going through hard times that I can’t imagine. I too keep picturing his smile and the video how brutal it is and sad that he took that n no one decided to help or butt in to save him before it got worst. They could of said okay enough is enough he is not wanting to fight back, stop! My son who is 13 was sad, he cried. I cried. It bothered us so much. Why? I feel like there’s puzzle pieces to gather up and put together because he shouldn’t have passed. He didn’t deserve that treatment and life ending. He should still be here. No one did anything other than his mom. My heart goes to her n family for Diego. It made my son and I both feel ease to go to the memorial at the school and we left a candle and wrote on the poster. Took a minute to figure out where and why it happened. I too felt as if I lost a son too, but life isn’t fair at all. Since this tragic situation I been keeping my kids super close to me especially my 13 year old son. I am scared of losing. I am saddened for Diego losing his life. Someone my son and I did not even know personally, but yet we still feel heavy hearted and we cry once in while. Something just ain’t right. So I decide to Google ” what does it mean to grieve over somebody u didn’t know”. And Courtney, i came upon your message and you basicly described how u felt the same way I felt just couldn’t described it better than u did. It’s so sad. I pray that there is an end to bullying. I can hardly sleep thinking if the way the videos ended. For the mother how she could be feeling. My son says he had known Deigo he’d back him up and gotten him away from the bully. That he felt they could of been bests friends, him and Diego. But God takes his best Angel’s. I just wanna say Diego rest in heavenly Peace. To the family I give my condolences. Truely saddend and sorry for your lost. It shouldn’t happened.

    • Oh my gosh, I am so grateful for your response! I find myself crying and saying his name to myself. I feel as though if I work to get my mind off of Diego, his memory and what happened to him will be lost. This past weekend was so difficult, I simply wanted to be left alone to grieve. The way he stood in the video when confronted, how he was nervous and scared, I keep replaying it. I simply cannot say to myself that life is rough or he’s in a better place and move on. Right now, it’s too soon for me to accept it. I keep saying, why did that second boy have to hit him? Why couldn’t they have seen he was scared and walked away? Why would anyone want to hit someone who is clearly afraid of them? I think of his last summer with his family, all the holidays his family will not have him there, all the firsts he will never experience. With all that I have been through, all I have seen in my life, Diego’s death has left me broken.

    • Your son sounds like an amazing young man, by the way. No doubt in my mind he will always stand up for the next kid being bullied. We need more brave souls like him.

  10. A 13 year old boy named Diego was punched by his bullies and ultimately died as a result. I was saddened when hearing he was hospitalized but when I saw some of the video, seeing him nervously standing when confronted, then being hit, I have been crying daily over his death, asking God “why”?. I am grieving. I don’t want to eat, laugh, smile or be happy. It seems unfair to feel anything but sadness because a life was tragically taken and two 13 year old boys are going into the system. I hear stories how diego had no friends, he hid at lunch from his bullies. It haunts me. His smiling pictures are burned in my brain. I almost feel as though I lost my own son.

  11. I was reading Instagram post when I ran across a story about a two year old that was struck in the stomach by his mothers boyfriend. Jamil Baskerfield Jr. was upset that this man was yelling at his mother and started crying. The boyfriend punched him in the stomach so hard he went flying into the wall but managed to get back up and the boyfriend told him to put up his fist and fight like a man. The little boy was punched in the stomach again knocking him unconscious and he died from the internal injuries. I grieved for almost a week afterwards..really crying all the time and not wanting to eat. I didn’t feel as if it mattered that I didn’t know the little boy but it felt like a great loss to me. I couldn’t replace the image of that boy getting up from the first blow and then punched again. I grieve for the pain that he must of felt..I grieved for loving God and wondering why this was allowed to happen. I grieved knowing that we have to forgive the people and the terrible acts of violence that children experience at the hands of adults. I grieved that this little boy probably saved his brother and sister as they were removed from the home afterwards and possibly saved from the same kind of tragedy. I grieved for the innocent and trusting child. All the scriptures and words of wisdom can’t explain this

    • I also am grieving over a child who was killed by his bullies. I didn’t know him, but I keep replaying his last moments in his head. One day, I will see the positive that will come from this situation but I am not ready for that yet.

  12. This article helped me understand the feelings I’m feeling about the sudden death of a client who paid me some wonderful compliments and who I got to know over the past several months. It has been a week since his death and I have been affected by it, I have noticed some changes in myself…grumpy and mopey, crying, snapping at my dogs, etc.
    Thank you. I can put things into perspective now.

  13. This really helped.

    I found out today my Grandfather passed.

    We weren’t close, I have a few blurry childhood memories of him and one that is quite clear.

    When I was young my parents decided to move across the world so I was separated from my entire extended family on both sides. My parents divorced soon after so I have found myself without anything I could ever really call family despite having a large amount of direct relatives. I didn’t expect news of his passing to hit so hard, but it has. I think that I am grieving the loss of how things could or should have been – the relationship I was deprived of not just with him but with my entire extended family because of a decision I had no say in.

    I’ve reached out to family on my mothers side in the last year and have slowly been learning more about my culture, and family history that I was never told by my mother. Realizing that I’ll never have the chance to meet my Grandfather as an adult is kinda crushing as I had hoped to at least once before he died.

    I feel like I don’t have the right to be sad or to grieve, because we weren’t close. I feel almost like an impostor but then again why would I make myself be sad for no reason?

  14. Thank you for this article. Three weeks ago I lost my second cousin (I was raised with). He was found dead in a pool and I was planning to send him a message that following week to meet for Christmas, but that time never came and even though I helped with the funeral, I felt I didn’t have the right to grieve since their family was the one who lost a son, a brother due to drowining, I was just a vage memory. I still question myself, if my grief is right or not since most of my memories with him are very blurry, and we didn’t in fact had a legit relationship, even though my mom said I was a lot like him which makes me even more furious of what could have been. I always said to myself that when the time came I would tell me how much he inspired me and how eager I was to spend the holidays with him.

    Thanks for taking time for those of us

    I don’t sometimes I feel i’m being dramatic, but another times, I really hate myself for taking time for granted.

  15. I lost my daughter before she was born. She was very sick and the chances of her having any quality of life was slim to none. We had to make the hardest decision of our lives and not continue on with the pregnancy. Which lead to our hardest day of our lives when we went to the hospital. I never got to know my daughter Finley or even get to hear her cry. Life seems impossible now and all of my memories of my girl are the sad and filled with unbearable pain.

  16. Thank you for this article… I’m experiencing this right now. A guy that I graduated high school with, and partied with a few times, just passed away from an overdose. I hardly knew him… But I knew him for about 10 years, my community is quite small, and the news of him passing hit me harder than I would have expected. I just spoke to him a few months ago. He had reached out to me on Facebook and we got the chance to chat and catch up a little bit. We talked about how we both had gotten clean and were living a healthy life now. We both said we were proud of each other and talked about how life being clean was so much better and happier. We didn’t ever talk too much, but we had mutual friends and I knew enough about him to know that him getting his life together was a huge step forward, and I was so proud of him. He was a really sweet guy. Always made people laugh. He lit up a room when he walked in. I honestly can’t remember the sound of his laugh, it had been so long since I’d seen him, but I do remember that it was a contagious one. He had asked me to go for coffee with him some time, when we were chatting that day. I said no because I was kind of talking to/had a thing with someone, and I didn’t think I should hang out with another guy. People talk in a small community, and I just didn’t want to put myself in a situation that I might have to explain later on. So I didn’t go. I never even got into a relationship with that other guy I kind of had a thing with. And looking back now.. I wish I had gone for coffee and spent some time with him, when he asked. But I didn’t know it would be the last time we ever spoke. There’s no way I even could have known… We weren’t close, but there were so many things we could have caught up on and related on.. Stories we could have compared, and shared laughs and even tears over. We could have been really good friends, had I given him some of my time. That was the last time I’d talked to him or heard from him.

    I found out this morning that he passed away from an overdose. I didn’t even know he had started using again. I spent a couple months in treatment, I had my own struggles and things going on in my life. So how could I have known? I shed a few tears today, hearing the news. And my heart has just been so heavy all day. But I also feel really guilty for feeling so sad for someone I really didn’t know that well. I guess grief is different for everyone. And there are different kinds of grief. I’m grieving the loss of what could have been. The loss of someone young, and good, who was taken away by the evils of addiction. I’m grieving for the loss that our mutual friends, who knew him well, are feeling right now. My heart hurts for them.. And his poor family. I’m also grieving, once again, the loss of loved ones who death always reminds me of. Death is a strange and confusing thing. And so is grief. I appreciate this article.. It makes me feel less guilty for the mix of feelings I have today. I wish I could have known him better… And I’m sad that I will never get to now. His funeral is next week, and I think I’m going to go. Pay my respects for a good man, who died far too young, and to support our mutual friends who are going through this difficult time. And to say goodbye to a friendship that will now never be. It’s a strange feeling… grieving the loss of an acquaintance… But it is grief, nonetheless.

  17. My grandmother who I was not very close to passed away last week. Her funeral was yesterday. We didn’t see much of my grandma growing up, although we would visit for Christmas, occasional birthdays, family BBQ’s. My dad had a rocky relationship with his mom, he told me stories that made me think that she had depression(I suffer from depression and know that some of the things he told me sound a lot like it). Back in the 40s and 50s people didn’t talk about these things and kept it private mostly, and there wasn’t much in the way of medication back then.
    Anyways, I was fine until a couple days ago but then I’ve been feeling like my depression is coming back because I couldn’t possibly be grieving for someone I wasn’t really that close to…could I? It CAN’T be grief..could it?
    After reading this I realize I think this is exactly what it is.

  18. On September 17, 2017 I found a voicemail left a few hours earlier from the sister of my dear friend, Di, I knew since kindergarten. She reported that Di’s youngest son died that very morning of an overdose at the age of 23. I spoke with Di and naturally she was in shock at the time but my heart broke for her and I wept for several minutes after hanging up…to this day I find myself saddened over this loss and the toll it has taken on Di, even though I barely knew the son, Timmy, whom I met only a couple times when he was much younger. In this respect I can relate, but in my case it seems to be more of an empathetic response, knowing how much my friend had already been through and now sharing some of her ongoing pain of losing a child. I have never lost a child myself but I can vaguely imagine how painful this could be. This happened months after a string of 11 people I know, some of whom I was close to (including my mom) passed away over a period of 9 months. I have learned so much about grief over the last two years, four months (since Mom passed…)

  19. This post really hit home. My father died in a car accident when I was 6 years old. Most of my cousins are much older than I am. My father was the favourite uncle and I have always envied my cousins for the years they had with him that I did not. When they would tell me their memories of him, it wasn’t comforting. Instead, it made me angry and sad that I, his only child, barely had any memories of my own and that I didn’t get to really know him. When I’ve told people how I feel, they’re shocked. They assume I will love hearing stories about him. I do, but it’s always bittersweet and a jumble of emotions. I’m relieved to learn that my reaction is not unusual.
    Recently, my daughter in law died of breast cancer leaving behind 3 children, ages 6, 4 and 1. My son and I want to keep her memory alive for them but I’m ambivalent because I know they’ll feel the same way that I do – angry that death robbed them of the chance to create their own memories of her.

  20. I recently read the book “The Wisdom of Our Fathers” by Tim Russert. He wrote in back in 2006 and it is a collection of letters he received about fathers who raised children back in the 1950s and 1960s. The children’s loss was not having a close relationship with their fathers who were somewhat emotionally distant. They showed their love by working long hours and “putting food on the table and a roof over the head.” The children’s loss was that they never felt close to their father, because even when they became adults, the works “I love you” were not heard. Time went by and the fathers passed away. The children’s grief was a combination of losing the parent and the opportunity to make their relationship evolve into more of an adult friendship. One interesting letter that Tim Russert received was a child who became disconnected from the father as a young child through divorce or an early death, I don’t remember. The daughter said this gave her the opportunity to make her father whoever she wanted him to be. It pains me to see comments about those grieving wish they “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” After the death of my wife of 44 years and having to make difficult decisions, I had some blame and guilt I carried around that no one but me could justify. A healing thought someone shared with me was, “If it should have been, it would have been.” I think that simple thought applies to many people who wish there was a different path through life they should have pursued. We all have our limitations of time and resources. You are all wonderful people to feel grief and share the pain of others leaving this earthly life too soon.

  21. Thank you for this post. I lost my dad at 4 years old to cancer and all these words ring true for me. I am now 23 and this past year I have grieved more than any other time in my life. His absence hits me harder at each new milestone. We both ran track in high school yet he wasn’t able to ever watch me run. I went to the same college as him and yet he wasn’t at my graduation. Now as I approach adult chapters (first job, first apartment on my own, marriage, kids, etc), I know the grief will resurface with each of these new milestones.

    I can attest that it has been an ongoing struggle to grapple with the Coulda’s, Woulda’s, Shoulda’s . A lot of times I feel robbed of the life I could’ve, would’ve, should’ve had with my dad. Another thing that has been prevalent throughout my grief journey is the envy and resentment I can carry towards mom, my dad’s family, and my dad’s friends who all got the time with my dad that his own two daughters did not. They at least have years of memories with him whereas I was too young to remember anything from my short 4 years with him. Sure, the memories from those people help and I have them share them with me when I really miss my dad, but it’s still defeating that I don’t have my own. I feel as his daughter, I ought to have the most memories, second to my mom, with him.

    Just some thoughts from my own experience- thanks for continuing to create space for all types of grievers on your page!

  22. I’m grieving for my absolute best friend whom I last communicated with in 1984. With his sudden lack of further communication and his parents not knowing where he was 2 years in a row afterwards I automatically assumed the worst. This past March to get closure on what I was almost sure of I contacted his dad who had recently joined Facebook, asked about my bestie, does he have contact info etc. He gave me the news that my bestie died 10 years ago from being hit by a semi and his brother a week later added it was deliberate, that he had a lot of issues which I never saw in our 5 years together in Middle School and High School. I went into a funk that persists 3 months later. My best friend was alive all that time not dead like I assumed in 1986. All those years we could have continued our friendship (I found out he’d joined the military apparently without saying anything to his patents). His Alumni.com profile showed him as a 42 year old apparently enjoying his life. I grieve not only his death but the fact we never reconnected due to my stupidity assuming he died 35 years ago, not that he left home and didn’t inform his family. He was practically a brother to me during our 5 years together as teenagers. My teen years were my happiest ever due to a few really good friends of which he was A Number 1.

  23. Thank you! This kind of loss is so important to highlight. Some examples of other scenarios:
    *grieving a birth mother you weren’t allowed to ever meet (and when you searched for them – found out they were deceased). As a Life-Cycle Celebrant, I helped a someone who was adopted, reflect and create a personal small “ceremony” to do when they were able to visit their birth mother’s grave on a road trip out of province. This person couldn’t understand why the feelings of grief were there since they have never met. But there is still a connection – they were once in their mother’s womb and heard her heartbeat. They grieve not having a chance to know their mother. Having this small time of remembrance really helped.
    *grieving an unborn child lost through miscarriage or stillbirth for example – I’m sure this is covered elsewhere but it’s another scenario where the only memories may be of a positive pregnancy test or the months of pregnancy, or perhaps the stillbirth. The parents and grandparents and others don’t have the huge cache of memories to draw upon that other relationships that are years or decades long have. And yet this loss is huge and profound.

    My cousin and I have always wished we could have known our grandfather. He died before we were born, but in him we knew we would have experienced another father figure (grandfather figure) we both really needed in our lives. We both visit his grave, and talk “to” him there. This is a loss to us. For me it isn’t as intense as my other losses, but it’s still a loss.

    Thanks so much for sharing and validating!

  24. This is something I am dealing with right now. An acquaintance recently lost her beautiful granddaughter very unexpectedly and tragically after a three-week hospitalization. I never met the child or her parents – I only knew her through the blog the parents shared to catalog her final journey. Two years ago my own baby grandson lost his battle with liver disease, so the little girl’s story hit very close to home. I grieve for the lost life of the little girl; I grieve for her parents – I can’t even imagine the depth of their own grief; and I especially grieve for the grandmother’s loss, with whom I can totally identify. It stirs up my own grief once again for my little grandson as well. I’ve struggled with the depth of my grief for a little girl I didn’t know, and for her family, so this article really hits home and lets me know it’s okay, and even “normal”, whatever that is. Thank you for sharing.

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