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The Act of Grieving Someone Who's Still Alive


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: May 25, 2017

The Act of Grieving Someone Who's Still Alive

Did you know that it's possible to grieve someone who's still alive? That seems illogical or mutually exclusive. How can you mourn someone who isn't dead, after all? There are actually many cases where you're forced to grieve someone who hasn't passed on physically but who is nevertheless lost to you. It's a painful feeling, in part because there's no chance for closure. In fact, there's no opportunity even to say goodbye—and no reason to, technically speaking. People who have never lost someone who's still physically in the world can't understand, but your feelings are valid. You're experiencing what's known as ambiguous grief.

Don't Let the Present Smear the Past

Ambiguous grief occurs under a variety of circumstances, such as drug addiction, mental illness, or dementia. In other words, you feel it when a loved one goes through something that changes her or his entire personality. You still have the person you knew, but she or he is different now. It's like having someone new in your life. The thing to remember is that no matter what you're going through here and now, you can't let it affect your memories of the past. Remember your loved one the way she or he was before.

Remember that the Person and the Problem Are Separate

Addiction or illness, it's not your loved one's fault. You can hate the problem or health issue that your loved one is suffering through without taking it out on the patient. It's all too easy to take out your anger and sadness because you want the person to behave the way she or he did before, but that's just not possible.

Allow Yourself to Grieve the Loss

It doesn't matter that the person you've lost is still living and breathing. Feel grateful for that, certainly, but you can still mourn the loss of the individual you knew and loved. That person is gone. She or he is still with you, but for whatever reason, the personality is different now. Of course, you're sad about that. Allow yourself to feel your anguish.

Consider Changing the Relationship

It's not always possible, but you might be able to salvage some kind of relationship with your loved one. It might change from day to day, depending on the state of the patient's mind, but you can still make it work. Sometimes, it will hurt, and at other times, it will seem impossible, but in time you'll be thankful for the opportunity to spend additional time together.

Find Connections with People in Similar Circumstances

A support group can help you deal with your ambiguous grief. Whatever the specific situation with your loved one, the odds are good that you can find a group of people who are going through the same thing. Support each other as you deal with a loss that isn't really a loss.

Ambiguous grief doesn't even sound like a real thing to those who haven't experienced it, for which they should feel lucky. Your feelings are completely valid. You're mourning the loss of someone's spirit, which is hard to lose. Have you ever felt this type of grief?