Recently, a very close friend lost her battle with cancer and died; she was 76. Everyone probably knew she would likely lose that battle at her age, but it still comes as a shock when it happens. We console ourselves by saying things like, "Her pain is over" or "She's in a better place" if you subscribe to religious philosophy, but no amount of consoling statements will shorten or ease the sense of loss for any of us and some experts caution against those kinds of remarks.
My wife, Gale, and I have discussed death many times over the years. With 80 years of age squarely in our sites, we know people will be making these comments about us one day. There can be no life without death. We neither fear death nor encourage it to come any sooner than necessary, programmed, or ordained depending on your point of view. Neither of us is "religious." Gale does embrace much of the Buddhist philosophy but is not a practicing Buddhist, whatever that might mean.
Regardless of what you believe about life and death, when there is a loss, it hurts. Losses can come in many ways. Death is the most obvious, but as a child, your best friend might move to another town, or your family is the one that moves, leaving all your friends behind. Your parents get divorced. You can have a breakup with a friend or partner that results in the sense of loss. Friends at work leave or you change jobs and leave friends behind. You can lose a dog, cat, bird, horse, or any number of non-human friends that you loved, and that leaves you miserable with a profound sense of loss. There are no shortages of losses in a person's life.
While talking about loss and grieving, and trying to understand what is happening, it occurred to me that we are not grieving for the person or animal that is gone - they may or may not be aware of anything - but rather we are grieving for ourselves. The pain we are feeling is that we have lost them in our lives.
The grief we feel when there is a loss is relative to the role the person or animal played in our lives. Significant impact, major pain. When they are lost to us, it leaves a larger or smaller void in our hearts, in our minds, and in our so-called souls. Something is missing from our lives, something that was important to us on an emotional level is gone.
I think and write and talk and then do it all over again.