Jealousy & Envy



Another one of those feelings that I am familiar with… yet it is not often spoken about openly in the grieving community.


It is not a nice word, whether I hear it, see it written, or think about the feeling it creates inside of me. It starts often by a trigger which brings up the memory of what I do not have:

  • seeing my identical twin girls playing in the sand pit together
  • having two daughters building lego houses side by side
  • enjoying cuddles with two snuggly toddlers
  • bringing my girls to my mother for some grandmotherly love and play time

You get the picture. I am sure, if you have experienced loss in some form, you know these kind of memory triggers.

What follows is that I am missing what I do not have, what I cannot experience or what has finished with death. That’s when it turns into jealousy and jealousy’s mind chatter:

  • “Why them and not me?”
  • “If they knew what luck they have!”
  • “She has no idea why bragging about her twins isn’t making me smile…”

Again, you get the picture. I actually think that many more get the picture than are allowing themselves to be honest about their experience of jealousy. Jealousy is a uninvited guest that turn up and leaves a bad taste in our mouth.

So, given that there must be a benefit from all we experience (at least that’s what I believe), what could be the benefit of feeling jealous? Given a conversation I had today, I was reminded that it starts with your current situation and your background. Ok, that makes sense but then I still can’t see ANY BENEFIT?!? (Here I’m getting annoyed at having experiences that are not nice and definitely not socially welcomed.)

Ok, so I have an idea, but it’s still doubted by my ‘oh-so-busy’ mind chatter. I ask google: “benefit of jealousy” curious to see whether there are any articles beyond jealousy in relationships. I get lucky: I click on an article on and here’s what it says:

Envy can be an ugly emotion. A study published in the journal Science showed that it actually activates a region of the brain involved in processing physical pain. No wonder people go to such lengths to ignore or deny the emotion. Yet it’s nearly impossible to dodge, because envy is an inevitable consequence of the comparisons we seem programmed to make.

(Read more here)

Furthermore, Richard Smith, PhD, editor of the anthology Envy: Theory and Research says “We’re all different, and those differences matter.” But—contrary to popular belief—feeling envious isn’t always a bad thing.

This is actually what I thought: It helps us process physical pain.
Most importantly I am also reminded that feeling envy or jealousy is one thing, acting on one’s envy is a totally different thing.

So what about YOU? Are you really aware and honest about your emotional reactions to memory triggers?

PS: Reading this I wonder: “What’s the difference between ‘envy’ and ‘jealousy’?”

Here is what I’ve found:

  • Envy is the emotions when you want a possession someone else has.
  • Jealousy is the emotion when you fear you may be replaced in the affection of someone you love or desire.

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