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Bereavement Envy: A Grief Relief Column

The myriad of feelings that we experience after losing a loved one is vast, and yet one feeling that several people discuss but is rarely thought about by those not grieving is the feeling of envy.  “To covet or want what others have or are experiencing” really comes to the forefront during bereavement as we are constantly bombarded by seeing friends, family and sometimes complete strangers engage in life with their loved ones, something that instantly tears open our hearts and makes us wish, momentarily, that we were living their lives.

Of course, in the long run, no one truly wants to exchange lives with another, but it is a natural response to watch someone holding hands on the sidewalk and feel that instant brutal stabbing of envy, the overwhelming emotion of all the times you used to do the exact same things and want those moments back, right then, right now.  It is certainly not unnatural to experience envy even if it brings guilt and shame right along behind it, reprimanding us for feeling that way, and yet, it is a natural part of grieving. 

Chaos.  The way that we feel when everything we envisioned about our future seems to collapse and sometimes we are uncertain as to which way is up or down, our lives filled with sudden disorder and confusion.  Envy digs deep as we watch those around us seemingly unaffected and filled with happiness, not a care in the world- a place that we used to be- and we find ourselves longing for normalcy and simple answers to questions that now invade our inner peace.  Grief scrambles our minds and creates a “blurry vision”, something that is described as a fog or haze that prevents us from seeing the possibility of a future because our present appears to be so foreign and uncomfortable.  Again, we long for the time when we can see clearly again and listen with broken hearts to those around us who seem to “have everything together”, a savage but honest reminder that our lives have changed.

Envy is also the cruel emotion that makes us feel things that are unpleasant, the negative sides of grief and loss.  It hurts to feel envy and it can often lead to unexpected and uncontrolled anger and anxiety.  Many share that this is a period during their grief journey in which they feel ashamed and wonder, later on in their healing, how they ever experienced some of these feelings and how on earth they managed to survive them.  Truthfully, we all understand and know that death changes us and brings us face to face with the reality of life, that it is not forever and that our envisioned “forever” can come to a screeching halt at any moment.  It is both common and normal to experience loss both negatively and positively, often described as the chaos within- and it most certainly evolves and changes as we note the passage of time. 

So, keep this in mind when envy makes an unexpected visit at your door- though unpleasant and unwelcomed, it is a natural part of grieving.  Allow it to work its way through your journey and know with a full heart that healing is taking place.  There is no shame in longing for what we once had because it was beautiful and filled with meaning and love.  Find comfort in knowing that your life has been enriched for having shared it together.