By John (Lewis) Clark, Author of upcoming book (Cook Away Your Grief).

When my wife of 18 years died in 2016, I became a single father missing the love of my life, and also had to learn how to raise two girls (13-17 at the time) on my own. I remember a conversation I had with my mother-in-law and oldest daughter that began as reminiscing over a person who became a lost love to all of us. We all talked about different aspects of my wife but shortly, it transformed into a “who meant more to her” fest.

All our points of view were out of love, but each of us had a different angle for different reasons. My mother-in-law saw my wife’s death as the loss of her baby girl, my daughter, as the loss of her mother and me, as the loss of my love. The conversation became elevated because not only was it a sensitive topic, but it became a comparison.

I dubbed this the “Umbrella Effect” because it felt like an umbrella that fit three but caused each of us to become wet on one side. When my mother-in-law made a comment that got me thinking, I had to back off my somewhat defensive position. She talked about how she felt when my wife was born. It soon made me think about how my wife felt when our babies were born, and I realized that I was solely the contributor in each case. The connections that my mother-in-law and my daughter had trumped my 18 years automatically. These two ladies had true connections with my wife. Love based on biology beats loves based on time and experiences, any day.

We all had a relevant case, but mine was getting weaker with every statement made. I had to understand that biological connections give a different justification for reminiscing. As a husband, I was torn between defending my love for my wife and understanding my mother-in-law and my daughter’s points of view. Although it hurt, I had to realize the source of the pain. I no longer wanted to be an unconscious contributor to their hurt. I had to realize that everybody mourns loss differently, and comparing only brought more hurt to an already sensitive situation.

To alleviate the tension, I grabbed three bowls from my mother-in-law’s cupboard, got the scooper, and three spoons. I pulled out the cookie dough ice cream, which prompted a truce. Peace is always achievable over ice cream. I now know that although people can be subjected to the same grief, they all process and see it differently. What is good is that everybody remembers her for the beauty she brought to our family. Although our conversation got contentious at times, it was clear that although we lost her, no one lost the love we have for her.

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