Since I posted my last essay I read a blog about the duration of grief, written by an anguished widow. Grieving depends on many factors, she correctly observed, including age and maturity, the bereaved character, his or her physical and mental health, their religious beliefs, and their support system.
But grief also depends on who we are grieving for. The grief of a parent, for example, is not the same as that of a spouse, or a sibling or a child; the grief of being abandoned by a lover is still different.
At the age of twenty-one, I experienced the grief of losing my unborn girl after twenty weeks of pregnancy. A year later I grieved for my baby boy who was born at twenty-two weeks of my pregnancy. He weighed 800 grams and lived for thirty-six hours. Then, when I was twenty-three, after three years of marriage, my twenty-eight year old husband was suddenly killed in war. I saw him minutes before he died, burnt beyond recognition and suffocating. A month later, once again I lost our unborn child, not only grieving for him or her, but feeling overwhelmed by my own sense of guilt for depriving my in-laws of their future grandchild, the only legacy left of their fallen son.
I did not see or touch my babies, yet I grieved for them. But the grief for my husband was different: After his death I went through the pain and torment, the loneliness, and the stages of numbness, anger and hate—yes, I hated him for leaving me—and normalization.
In 2004 I lost my only sister, who died two weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer, and I grieved differently for her than I grieved for my fallen husband so many years earlier. Both my parents died at a relatively young age, and I could not even be at my father’s funeral because the religious establishment in the country where he lived—the country from where I immigrated to the US—did not wait for me for his burial because I was not his son (who would recite the Kaddish prayer at the grave side). I grieved differently for each of them.
Writing about my losses scares me intensely, for it reminds me of our vulnerability and the randomness of loss. So beyond the pain, grief has other consequences: Deep, dark, lasting fear was mine.
But there is life after grieving: In my second year of mourning I became an activist, demanding certain rights for a group of childless war widows in my country. Additionally and unintentionally I became a mentor to many young widows who sought my help.
Two and a half years into my widowhood I immigrated to the
; and four
and a half years after I became a widow I remarried and rebuilt my life. Today
I am a wife who has been married for forty years; a mother of one daughter and a mother-in-law; a grandmother of two adorable children; an educator and a
writer. Yet that new life that I created for me has always been connected to
and built on my past experiences of both tragedy and triumphs. And in that life
I built I often think of my tremendous losses. But that is OK, for all of my
experiences, the good and the bad, made me who I am. US