Picture your life like a big pie or a wheel with all the people and activities being a slice or spoke representing pieces or your life. All these pieces contribute to making you who you are… your identity. When one of the small pieces that represent a special part of your life is removed, the wound goes deep into the center of your being, and you hurt. But because that person or activity isn’t a main source of your identity, the wheel still rolls, and the wound heals fairly quickly because your life and identity are still intact.
Some of the bigger pieces that represent your major investments of time and love and are a large part of your identity, such as your spouse, a child, your career, or even functions that health issues have compromised leave such a gaping wound that the wheel that is your life does NOT go on smoothly. The wound takes a long time to heal, and much rehabilitation needs to happen.
Some of the rehabilitation work is defining just what that person or activity meant in your life. What did that relationship create for you? Who are you because of that person or activity? Another way to discern those answers is to ask yourself what you’re missing –beyond the special person themselves.
A friend who lives several states away called recently to tell me a very good friend of hers had died that day. That relationship might have represented a small wound that hurt deeply. But is wasn’t a small wound. That relationship with someone whom she had known for decades had helped her grow in self-confidence, in her work skills, and in her ability to trust her joys and sorrows, questions and concerns with another person. It meant freedom to be herself. It meant unconditional love through all the changes in her life. It meant someone with whom she could laugh when life was stressful It meant encouragement and shared meaning and work. She will miss her friend. And she will need to remember she has learned to love and accept herself partly because of her friend. She will also need to reach out to other relationships to share with them the wonderful, complex person she has become.
So if your loss is a small piece of your life and identity, talking about your loss and hurt helps. If your wheel of life doesn't roll and you feel the bereft and lost, the grieving will take time and work, and usually the help of others to support your journey into a new life.