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Does Being Coupled Make Other Losses Easier? May 15, 2010

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought.

My friend Jane and I were discussing our mutual friend Patricia, whose father had just died after a long, nasty bout with cancer. “Well,” said Jane as we hiked along, “At least she has (her boyfriend) Bob”.  Does anyone find this a strange non-sequitor? I was so struck I still remember it seven years later.  Would having a boyfriend mitigate in any way the pain of losing a father? If so, how and why?  Or was Jane’s comment a manifestation of the mythological powers we imbue upon the state of couplehood–that it makes everything better, even the loss of someone else close to you.



1. Alan - May 16, 2010

Offhand, I don’t know of anything that says grief is better if you are in a relationship.

2. Singlutionary - May 16, 2010

You know, I feel like sometimes having a family does make losing a parent easier. Or maybe it makes it harder. I suppose it depends, now that I think about it, on what kind of emotional support network you have all-in-all. If you have a really loving, supportive spouse that you live with . . . it may be easier than being single because there is someone to pick up the slack while you fall apart. And if you have children maybe it is easier because you are too busy caring for them to let yourself fall apart or maybe it is harder because you don’t get to fall apart and you are already exhausted. And maybe you have a not-so-supportive spouse who is annoyed that you are grieving or won’t be patient with grief.

I am not someone who is afraid of dying alone. But I think that it is harder for single people without a very strong community and/or very strong friendships when it comes to major life events like the death of a parent.

In short. I think it is harder when there is nobody to lean on. Or when there are people to lean on but you aren’t sure if you can lean on them as hard as you actually need to.

Of course, I am an only child. So my parent’s death will not be shared by any siblings.

Interesting question. I’ve often thought about this and I’ve often thought things looked greener on the other side of the fence.

3. anony-mouse - May 17, 2010

I think Singlutionary hit the nail on the head… especially with

This is exactly what I was going to type before I read your reply – and I know this because my father passed away 2 years ago.

At a time like this – just BEING WITH SOMEONE is so very important.


4. April - May 17, 2010

There certainly have been times when I feel like I need someone to lean on, and if my very best friend doesn’t pick up his phone, then I don’t know where to turn. All of my other friends, even my sister, have spouses and/or children, and I don’t know if I can handle them not having time for me. But in those times, if I just allow myself to cry and feel, then I find I can get through it by myself. I think the thought of needing someone and no one being there is truly frightening, and with good reason. But I also know we can live without it.

5. Lauri - May 19, 2010

I think it could help to have a boyfriend in this situation, but it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a boyfriend. Unfortunately, that’s the role a boyfriend would traditionally fill, and others like a friend or something might not given cultural norms. For example I think that if I were to lose someone in my family, my friends would be very supportive and try to help in any way they could. But they probably wouldn’t offer that same level of support in the following weeks and months. They probably wouldn’t stay at my house with me at night or offer physical affection. But this I think is just due to the conventional way see the roles of different relationships. The boyfriend is “supposed” to be the one filling that role. If you were friends with the same guy, but he wasn’t your boyfriend, he probably wouldn’t. It is very weird to think of things, and how sexual relationships take on so many other roles without any logical explanation as to why.

Onely - May 19, 2010

“It is very weird to think of things, and how sexual relationships take on so many other roles without any logical explanation as to why.” I don’t really have a comment on this sentence, other than to say that I think it’s very well put and almost sums up the main point of this whole blog.

Sheila - May 25, 2010

Agreed. I am mystified by that.

This past weekend I was on my way to meet a female friend to hit up some parties. I had had a tough day emotionally and as I got off the subway, I pictured myself bursting into tears as I met her on the street. Turns out that that the sight of her was soothing enough that I didn’t need to cry after all, but I did share that I was upset, and she cried, “Me too!” We wrapped an arm around one anothers’ waists and walked for many blocks like that, taking turns venting. It was wonderful, and I feel so lucky to have a friend who will do that with me. What kind of sucks, though, is that I couldn’t help wondering if every single person we passed thought we were a lesbian couple. Now– this is Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so it wouldn’t be a big deal if we were, and I don’t care if someone thinks I’m gay, but… it just bugs me to think that the assumption would be that we were sexually involved. It reminds me that one of the hardest aspects of my 20s was the displacement of intimate female friendships by primary heterosexual relationships. Luckily sometimes I’m able to find people who still want to engage that way.

Singlutionary - May 25, 2010

” It reminds me that one of the hardest aspects of my 20s was the displacement of intimate female friendships by primary heterosexual relationships. ”

Thank you for articulating this!

6. Sheila - May 25, 2010

Christina- I guess my question would be: What was Bob like? I.e., Was Bob wonderful? Did they have an amazing intimate connection? Or were they just were they just warm-blanketing each other? The answer makes all the difference to me. Jane could have meant it in a “Well, at least she has a boyfriend way,” or she could have meant that Bob is an awesome partner.

I love my singlehood and revel in my diversified emotional portfolio, as I like to call it, but a supportive intimate partner can be a great source of strength in a time of crisis. Frankly, any and all of our close relationships should help mitigate the pain of losing someone– even a parent. Loss is a fact of life; the only reason we go on is because there is more living and loving to be done.

Onely - May 26, 2010

“Frankly, any and all of our close relationships should help mitigate the pain of losing someone.” Absolutely; well put. My concern was that my friend attributed supernatural powers to the boyfriend relationship as opposed to all the other supportive relationships that my friend may have had. (Though there’s always the possibility that I’m reading into her statement too much. = ) )

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