Experiencing the death of a spouse, child, parent or other loved one can be excruciatingly painful. When a loved one dies, it can feel like a piece of you is missing. You hear people say that losing someone they love is like losing an arm or a leg. In other words, it’s as bad as if they had lost a limb, a part of themselves. I have lost people I loved. It was difficult, and painful.
I have also lost the use of parts of me. That was and is a loss that hugely impacts my life. These body parts of mine are part of my everyday life and have been loved. People and things become more dear to you the longer you’ve had them in your life, and I had had my legs all my life. Since I lost the use of my legs, I miss them and long for them every day. The memories of things we did together are endless. We walked, travelled, hiked, and explored. We climbed castle walls and walked through catacombs. We waded in the waters of the ocean and worked the pedals to fly an airplane. We walked my babies in the middle of the night and ran to catch my toddlers during the day. My legs took me up and down stairs, into any building, and inside of normal vehicles. Without the use of my legs, I mourned the freedom of walking out the door of my home, of driving a car, of being able to do many things I loved. My legs didn’t die suddenly, it was a gradual withering away of use, similar to watching a person slowly die of cancer or old age. The transition to life without them was overwhelming at times.
When a loved one dies, it is life changing and requires adjustment from the way life used to be. It feels you cannot do the same activities that you’ve always enjoyed. Although it’s never the same, in time you do resume your life. It is possible. The loss of my legs prevents me from ever participating in some of the same activities again.
I understand the parallel people refer to when saying that losing a loved one is like losing a limb. For me, losing a limb, or two, was a terrible time of required grieving. I believe that the grief in that loss is as real and as debilitating as the death of another person. The loss cannot be forgotten, not with circumstance or time. Others may not understand.
As a group of us sat around a table, a young man was telling us about a friend who had lost a loved one and the impact that the loss was having on him. I shared that I know and understand the necessary process of grief after any loss and I referred to my own experience with grief after losing others and as I watched pieces of myself die. A set of eyes looked at me, half confused and half angry, and with criticism in his voice he declared ”It’s not the same thing!”, inferring that losing parts of myself was not as devastating a loss as losing a loved one. Then everyone else at the table walked away….WALKED AWAY, because I made a comparison that, in their opinion, did not compare at all. My intention was to help them understand the friend who was going through the process of grief. My experience and opinion were discounted by those at the table. The lack of willingness from others to hear, understand and learn from my experience was a form of rejection, and it compounded the difficult adjustment I was facing.
The young man was right. Losing two legs is not the same as the death of a person who is special to you. The losses are different, but grieving is required for both. Circumstances vary, and it may be different for each individual.
People say that losing a loved one is as difficult as losing an arm or a leg. I say losing an arm or a leg is as difficult as losing a loved one.