• Sarah M. Neal

Grief and Loss in Polyamorous Relationships


There are many, many, many assumptions made about the aspects and challenges of polyamorous relationships by those who are monogamous or by those just starting on their non-monogamous journey. Grief is no different.

Kelly Sikkema Photo on Unsplash


I woke up on Father’s Day to the news that a Beloved of mine passed the night before. A week later, I was at Tyler’s when John called to tell me my brother, William, passed away unexpectedly. He finally lost his battle to a decades-long battle with drug addiction.


2020 can officially kiss my ass.


William and Troy’s deaths added two more, deep and complicated layers of grief to the mounting dung-pile of grief that 2020 has been shaping for many of us. From the way the pandemic has changed how we live and function, the fear of surviving potentially devastating financial losses, being quarantined with kids, being quarantined alone, being quarantined with abusers, the fear of loved ones or ourselves getting sick, being separated from Beloveds and not being able to hug them, the appalling protests of people demanding for the right to have their hair done or go to a bar, to the heartbreaking protests and riots of people demanding justice for centuries old aggressions and oppressions and the fear and anger they have conjured in the willfully ignorant and blind, not to mention everyone’s own, personal challenges and heartbreaks, 2020 has been a year full of grief.


Grief is a tricky thing that shows up in a myriad of ways in a variety of times. We all handle grief differently. By definition: grief is mourning the loss of something or someone. And we all go through it one way or another whether we want to admit it or not.


However, because I am a polyamorous coach, I will focus this piece on grief in polyamory. I first wrote this piece on June 25th , but my brother passed before I could publish it. So, I am releasing it for you now.


There are many, many, many assumptions made about the aspects and challenges of polyamorous relationships by those who are monogamous or by those just starting on their non-monogamous journey. Grief is no different.


I remember a former friend telling me about a dream she had that centered around me, Tyler, and John. She said that in her dream, something happened to my and Tyler’s relationship and it ended, and I was beside myself. In her dream, she and John had a conversation and neither of them could understand why I was so devastated when I still had John…


When a polyamorous person loses a partner whether through a breakup, a worldwide quarantine, or death, there seems to be this common misconception that as long as that person has other partners, they should be mostly fine and get over their “lessened” grief quickly, because after all, they have their other partners…


What people don’t seem to understand is that in the polyamorous community, where emotional connections are created and nurtured with multiple partners, our partners are not interchangeable.


Our partners aren’t batteries to be tossed out once they are drained only to be replaced with new ones.


We grieve too.


Our grief over losing a partner can be just as devastating as anyone else’s.


Just because we have other partners doesn’t mean there isn’t a sense of loss we have to process in our own way and own time.


Yes, we may be blessed to have other partners who are there to support and comfort us in our grief, but it doesn’t necessarily lessen the grief or shorten the time of grieving.


If something were to happen to my and Tyler’s relationship, I would be devastated. It doesn’t mean John would be able to swoop in and take all my pain away though he may try. If something were to happen to my and John’s relationship, I would be devastated. It doesn’t mean Tyler would be able to swoop in and take all of my pain away though he may try. Tyler cannot replace John in my heart, or my life anymore than John could replace Tyler. It just doesn’t work that way.


Just as if a parent were to lose one child, it doesn’t mean that the other children could replace the child lost.


Just as if we lost a friend, it doesn’t mean that all of our other friends could replace that

friend.


Grief over the loss of someone we love and care about doesn’t work that way for anyone, including polyamorous individuals.


When romantic relationships shift and change or are unhealthy and the healthiest thing for all involved is to split up, there is still loss. There is still grief – even when we KNOW it is the BEST thing for us to end the relationship.


Our remaining partners can play a significant role in our healing. They can aid in the healing by loving, comforting, and supporting us and being patient while we go through our processes. They can also cause more harm with impatience and a lack of understanding.


If you are a Beloved outside of the relationship, whether you are monogamous, new to polyamory, or still lack the understanding of how each individual relationship is unique and special, please don’t tell your polyamorous Beloved “You’ll be okay. At least you still have so-and-so.” or something to that effect. Try something like, “I’m sorry you’re hurting. I am glad so-and-so is there to help support you. How can I help support you too?”


If your polyamorous partner loses another partner, don’t assume that they shouldn’t be allowed to grieve how they need to because they still have you. Don’t assume they don’t love and care for you just because they are grieving the loss of another partner.


If you are the one grieving the loss of a partner, know that it is okay to grieve that loss. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should be grieving or not grieving and the duration your grieving process should be. Grief is different for everyone. Leaning on your other partners for love, support, and comfort is okay and it doesn’t lessen the significance or impact of the lost relationship. Reach out for support from your community, a coach or a therapist, a trusted Beloved, and spiritual guide like a Priest, Priestess, or Guru. Do what you need to do to process your way through your grief in your own time. Be patient with yourself.



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