This post is for reader Carolyn, who questions the oft-repeated statement that losing a spouse is the worst possible experience. She points to other experiences of loss – a child losing a parent, a sibling losing a sibling – and wonders whether widows and widowers can identify with the depth of sorrow in these experiences.
As I said in the post above, I’d had three profound losses in my life. My sister Barbara died when she was nine months old and I was four. My father died when I was fourteen and he forty nine. And my husband died when I was fifty six and he fifty nine. Reader Carolyn’s question about the legitimacy of calling one kind of loss worse that another struck a chord.
All of my losses were sudden, and each was immensely difficult in its own way. My small sister was here one day, and gone the next. All of her things vanished, and she was rarely spoken of again. That’s very hard for a four year old to grasp. My father was the warmth and stability in our family. As a young adolescent I was just beginning to push the boundaries of independence, to experiment with what it might be like to leave home. Then home left me. My husband was my lover, best friend, the person I wanted to be with more than anyone else. Then I was back to being with myself.
I don’t think the losses in my life can be placed in a hierarchy, in any sort of order of difficulty. Death is difficult, whenever and wherever it occurs.
This is a tough one to grapple with, and I’d be glad to hear other readers thoughts on it.