If you have ever known anyone who has suffered a long and painful terminal illness you may have experienced some relief after they have died. Finally their tortured body is at rest, their suffering has finally ceased.
If you have born witness to all the pain and suffering you may be struggling with a sense of relief with your grief. It can feel disloyal to feel anything but sorrow and yet, having watched the agony, especially if it was a long illness it can feel like a weight has been lifted. How do you reconcile the feelings of grief with feelings of relief?
First, know its totally normal to feel that way. You have also been suffering and with the end of their suffering yours, too, has been abated. Grief is messy and can come with a myriad of feelings including relief. You will likely be told platitudes that are meant to soothe like "At least they are no longer suffering", these can sting when you are thinking of how your own suffering has been lessened with the end of the life of someone you love. You may be experiencing something like survivor guilt, where you feel guilt to be the one who survived. Don't feel like you don't deserve to feel these things and if you need to talk to a professional counselor there is no shame.
If you were the caretaker of the dying individual than most of your days were taken up with the care of your loved one and being a caretaker is hard, really really hard. As a massage therapist, in my previous career, everyone wanted to one up my other clients as to who had the biggest knots or was the most stressed. The person who hands down was the tightest most stressed person I ever gave a massage to, was an elderly woman who had been the sole care giver to her husband who was in end stage Parkinson's disease. Her daughter had forced her out of the house for a massage, I couldn't make a dent. She was so worried that someone else wouldn't care for him right, she wouldn't leave his side. I only saw her once and I wondered how she was going to carry on after her husband died. Her whole life revolved around his care.
When death is sudden or illness is short, this experience of relief and therefore guilt isn't present, but when its so painful for such a long time, the end is welcomed by all to a degree. There is a difference, of course, when someone has had an illness for a long time and suddenly their condition worsens and they succumb. A long battle with constant debilitating pain and continuous loss of function is difficult for the caretaker. There is guilt for feeling like you, too, are suffering while watching your loved one suffer.
Relief within the context of grief can feel like a betrayal, to yourself and to your loved one. Grief is frequently referred to as a rollercoaster in the dark, this feeling is the same, some terrible turn you were not prepared for. You are allowed to feel whatever you feel, its okay to feel relief and sorrow.
Have you ever felt relief after loss?
My name is Abby, my life has been touched many times by loss and grief. This life has led me to helping others navigate their own grief. I have become a INELDA trained End Of Life Doula and a hospice volunteer. I am not a professional counselor or psychologist and all advice given should be treated as advice from a friend.