I think grief has less to do with whatever is lost and more to do with the change it makes in our lives.
I meet so many people in my job who are truly accepting and realisitic when it comes to the death of someone they love. Especially when that person has dementia, has been due to a long and drawn out illness, death has been otherwise anticipated and even welcomed. People often are ready for their loved one to die and therefore feel their grief will be short.
However I find so many times that even when the loss of someone is expected, the loss of everything associated with that person isn’t. Suddenly the family member is faced with not having to visit the nursing home on Sunday afternoons, like they have for the past 8 years. No more doctor’s appointments. No more visits with the visiting nurse after the bedsheets are changed. These are the unexpected losses, and these are the focus of all the denial, bargaining, anger and depression associated with grief.
Mourners can accept the loss of the person, but they can’t accept the fact that that loss has changed them irrevocably and they can’t accept the feelings that accompany that loss. They don’t deny the death, they deny that things have changed and that they have changed. They don’t bargain with God to get them back, they pretend that if they don’t go by the nursing home or the hospital they won’t be sad. They aren’t guilty that they didn’t do more, they feel guilty because they can do more, and that change bothers them.
When I turn from considering grief to only be about a body in a casket to being about the global change in my world, I can really grieve and grow.