Watching someone else going through a grieving process is hard.
They may just want to howl and cry – and this is painful to watch.
They may hide their grief from you – and this can feel like a barrier between you.
They may just want you to share their grief, and not try to make it better.
You may assume they are blaming you, or asking you for something, when all they want is you to know how they feel.
They may not be able to tell you how they feel if you always apologise or defend yourself from an imagined accusation.
They may turn to someone else who doesn’t feel so personally responsible, and this feels doubly hard. It can also feel like a relief, even if it is a threat to your relationship.
They may blame you unreasonably – perhaps instead of blaming themselves.
They may blame themselves – and this is hard to watch too.
They may turn against someone else you care about – parents, doctors, children.
They may turn against someone you don’t like either, but this still doesn’t seem fair, even if you want to join in the blame.
You may find yourself trying to ‘do it for them’ in some way, and struggling with the fact that it doesn’t work.
Loving someone may mean that your own grief and theirs becomes muddled up; it is hard to know where yours begins and theirs ends. You can be grieving for both of you.
People can become competitive in their grief – ‘I’m suffering more than you are’.
They can also be very selfless – ‘it’s your grief which matters, mine is nothing by comparison’.
Forgetting your own grief too much can mean you don’t think it through enough, and are left more frightened and anxious about unnamed and shadowy fears.
Naming what is lost can help, but this process cannot be rushed. You may need a friendly person with you while you sort out what has to be lost, what can be salvaged, and whether you can bear the difference.
You may be able to get to the point where you both know that you are both suffering from an illness or loss which has happened to one of you.
One of you may not be able to get to this point – because of the illness, or because of their personality, or because of their past. Or all three.