The average life expectancy has increased steadily over the decades. Today, if you are having the basic comforts of life, no debilitating illness, access to good medical care, you can expect to live 80-85 years easily. Those who do take care of themselves through diet, physical exercises, attending to mental health can even live beyond that. But on average we expect people to live to 80 and beyond.
But when someone who is a senior in age dies, it does not reduce our grief. We don’t feel less sad at our parent’s death because they lived beyond 80. We still feel the sadness, we still grieve for them if they were emotionally close to us. All of us know death is inevitable but it still surprises us when it occurs. Though people who were not close to the people may not feel the emotional deprivation, they often don’t understand the children or others grieving for them.
“What is there to grieve for someone old who died?” is a question that runs in their mind. We can feel the loss of life no matter how old the person was.
“He lived a full life”
“He completed all his responsibilities”
“She is in a better place”
“It was time for her to go”
These are some of the words that we hear as some sort of consolation. They don’t really console. They hurt even more. My grandmother died at the age of 94. Agreed it was a well-lived life. Agreed, I didn’t expect her to live forever. But I did feel her loss. I did grieve for some time. If someone had asked me, “Why are you grieving for someone that old?”, My answer would have been, “Why not?”
The age at which a person dies does not have any connection with the grief we feel for them. There is no meter or scale which says grief decreases with the increasing age of the person who dies. Grief is not about the age of the person who had died. Grief is about the loss of a relationship. We mourn someone’s absence. It applies to all our losses irrespective of the age of the person who died. If we had loved and cherished the relationship, we would never get over someone’s death. We learn to coexist with grief.