My mom has been reading all about ambiguous grief, which is essentially grief over something other than death. This topic came up after I visited my eldest and discussed it with her. It was the first visit in two years.
(For the uninitiated: My oldest daughter is a mentally ill drug addict with a Traumatic Brain Injury, otherwise known as TBI.)
The thing is, every loss is a death in a sense, whether that is the death of an idea, a plan, a personality, a relationship, etc. Grief is grief. The difference, I guess, is that when someone DOESN’T die, we still can physically see them. We can interact with someone who resembles the person we love.
My daughter’s illness and addiction has changed her so much physically that I didn’t recognize her instantly. I would not have known her if I passed her by on the road, though I certainly would if I interacted. She still has her slightly-crossed eyes, her curly hair, her cheekbones. Her voice is harsher and hoarser from several years of smoking and drugs. Her mannerisms are both somehow slow but twitchy.
This may be a blessing, I suppose. It’s a lot easier to acknowledge a loss when the person no longer looks like the one we grieve. My little girl with “princess hair” doesn’t show up in front of me. Instead I get the zombie version: matted hair, bruised and bloody face, senseless muttering. I can mourn that little girl now because she’s not coming back, barring a true Biblical-grade resurrection.
Of course I say that now. I might feel differently tomorrow. Maybe it really is ambiguous.