Obviously jealousy appears in many different settings and relationships, but here we are going to be talking about jealously and how it pertains to grief. We’ve talked about this before, but here’s a quick reminder. The definition of grief is, “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.”
Grief can be a range of losses from an individual to the life you thought you’d have to the loss of your health to the loss of a marriage, you name it.
The definition of jealous(y) is, “feeling resentment against someone because of that person’s rivalry, success, or advantages.” Now that we’re up to speed on definitions, let’s begin.
I’m going to split this up into two main categories. I’m sure I will miss some things because as you know, jealousy creeps into many different parts of our grief journey.
1. Jealousy over people who have the relationship/life that you lost.
I would argue that this is the most common form of jealousy in grief. We see people day in and day out with the relationship/life we lost. We see it physically, we see it on the TV, we hear it on podcasts, we see it walking outside in our neighborhood, we see it while driving, we see it everywhere and, it hurts.
Not only does jealousy appear in our daily lives, but it also makes an appearance in numerous life milestones. It creeps in at weddings, births, graduations, homeownership, you name it. It’s there.
It’s an overwhelming feeling like much of grief. It creates an empty pit in your stomach. It feels like you just got socked in the stomach and are struggling to find your breath again. It makes you feel physically ill. It makes your head feel hot and your pupils dilate. It creates anger, hostility, and resentment. All of which are normal.
2. Jealously over “carefree” people.
I would argue that this is the second most common form of jealousy in grief. Again, we see this day in and day out. We see people with (what seems like to us) such “minimal problems” simply worrying about what is for dinner or what to wear to the football game on Sunday.
Grievers have a different perspective. We tend to see the “bigger picture.” And especially in the beginning days of grief (which can last years), this stuff is really annoying and infuriating to us. We are jealous of the carefree life these people are living. We are jealous that our biggest concern isn’t our meal plans or outfit ideas.
We feel like these people don’t appreciate anything in life and we’d give anything to have that simplicity back.
How I deal with Jealousy:
In the “beginning” of grief, it was almost impossible for me to deal with jealousy in a “productive” way. Again, normal. It was just too much. Everything was coming at me and the last thing I felt like I could “work on” was jealousy when I was simply having a hard time even eating or showering. So if you’re in those beginning days/weeks/years (yes, it can be years), it’s okay to not address this just yet. Focus on your survival needs and you can address jealousy when you’re “ready.” And if you don’t ever want to address it then you don’t have to.
Now here I am today, almost 10 years into my grief journey and I’ve learned how I can handle jealousy in the most productive way for me. How do I do it? I’ll give you an example:
Say I’m in the grocery store and I look up and see twins walking together shopping (what seems to be) care-freely. They check out and my stomach is in knots as I see them walk out of the store. Pure jealousy, resentment, and anger. Now they walk to their car. Where are they going? They are going home where one of them will lay down for a nap since she recently miscarried. Her twin is there to help because they lost their mother and father early in life and only have each other as family.
This is a made up story. So why did I make this up as an example and tell it to you? Because this is, without a doubt, someone’s reality.
I’ll give you a real example too:
Say someone sees me at the store with my kids and mom. They may be jealous if they haven’t been able to have children of their own and/or if they lost their mother. What they might not know is that I tragically lost my identical twin sister, my mom lost her daughter, my children lost their aunt (that they never got to meet), I’ve miscarried before, and the list goes on and on.
This is therapeutic reframing. We’re not just looking at the cover of a book, we’re reading the whole story. Granted, we probably won’t be able to read the whole story if we’re talking about a stranger, but let’s acknowledge this and not just judge the cover.
*Note: I want to add that no relationship will ever compare to the one you lost even if it was the same type of relationship. I’m not telling you to be “okay” with your loss because other people have losses too. We can’t compare grief. This is about empathy.
The sad and tough reality is that there will always be jealousy present. I think it’s part of our human nature even if we aren’t grieving and as grievers, well, it’s definitely present. It’s normal and it’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
People without lemons, can’t judge how you handle your lemons. It would be near impossible for them not to experience jealousy if they were in your shoes too. I repeat, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s normal.
The other reality of this is that people without lemons now, might very likely have them in the future. Of course I, never in a million years, would wish lemons upon someone, but again, speaking realistically, everyone is going to experience grief at some point in their life. So although you may be jealous of that person now, we can never know what tomorrow holds. I try to remind myself of this whenever jealousy creeps in.
To the Loved Ones of a Griever:
I’m not shaming you for discussing the simple things in life and I’m not telling you to not talk about the relationships that you have in your life. I, however, am suggesting that you try to filter yourself around a “new” griever. Read my post It’s All About Me to get a better understanding of what the griever needs in the “beginning.”
I hope this helps.
I asked my Instagram community (@lemonadeinstead) to share some of their examples regarding jealousy and here are some of the ones that I received:
Awesome post, Amy! So relatable and true!