Confused Grief: The death of an ex or casual friend

JC and CC

Carolyn and JC – 1980s

We all understand grief when a parent, aunt, uncle or sibling dies. But what about when an ex dies? Ex-husband or wife, ex-boy or girlfriend or even someone you knew but not close to you yet you still mourn their death?

I knew I had this issue when my ex-husband died but didn’t consider that others had the same experience until I mentioned it during a training recently. I started attending a grief group after my son died by suicide – that one makes sense. That led me to starting a group in my town and ultimately a nonprofit that offers all types of grief groups.

I no longer attend groups, but rather I facilitate groups. I am the leader so my grief comes second to others in a group. At the training I was attending, I was a participant in a grief support group and thought I’d try out the unresolved grief I felt for my ex-husband.

J.C., my ex, died when he was 44 years old. He had melanoma which he lived with for many years but finally it manifested into a brain tumor. We were not married during his cancer ordeal.

When J.C. died, I attended his funeral as well as my husband, my sisters, mom and many of his friends that he had drifted away from over the years. Yet at the funeral there was no mention of life before his marriage to his current wife. That was extremely hurtful to his many friends and me.

I knew this man for 27 years. We may have been divorced for 14 of those years but we were still friends and in touch since we had a child to raise – even if it was a in two different states at times and with two different spouses.

Last year I experienced the death of a boyfriend from my high school era. I tried to re-ignite our relationship three times over 41 years but the flame never took over for him as it did for me. Fortunately via social media, we did communicate but did not get to see each other (in person) before his untimely death.

His death was hard on me. I even warned my husband about grief surrounding the death of an old boyfriend. He didn’t question me.

There are also deaths that affect us even though we didn’t know the person well or at all. The best example of this is when Robin Williams died (on my son’s death day – 8/11). The world loved Robin and most were strongly affected when hearing of his suicide.

It seems we’re almost embarrassed by the grief we feel for someone we didn’t know intimately or even casually. No worries – it just means you’re human and capable of feeling empathy for these special people on the edge of your life.

While some die and we don’t mourn that loss. That’s normal, too. I seem to feel this way when someone older dies. I know they lived a long life while here and when they die, they go onto a more peaceful place.

But of course when it’s a parent or grandparent who is older, there is the missing that goes along with the mourning.

So know that you’re “normal” to mourn those deaths that maybe you feel you don’t have a right to. People touch us in different ways – some very deeply. Just ride out your grief and start to remember the good times.


The Shore Grief Center



1 thought on “Confused Grief: The death of an ex or casual friend

  1. Pingback: Confused Grief: The death of an ex or casual friend | Save the teens Blog

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