Blog

Another Day Of Missing You

I can’t pinpoint the moment, but sometime over the years, the day that you died, January 24th, has gone from being the hardest day of my life to just being January 24th again. 
 
It’s not that losing you has grown any less significant with the passage of time, it’s just that the day is no longer unbearable.
 
As the years go by, the anniversaries seem to have softened, but the amount I miss you is still the same. 
 
The thing is, I don’t feel the pain of missing you on January 24th any more than I do on any other day.

A square on the calendar isn’t the hard part, because the hard part is all of the other things, on all of the other days.
 
I still miss having you here with me to do all the things we did together, like walks on the beach, traveling, or just sitting together on the sofa and watching a movie. I miss the hugs, laughs, finishing each others sentences, and even your bad jokes.
 
I’m pretty sure I’ll always miss these things, and so many others, and I don’t need a specific date on the calendar to remind me that you’re missing from my life.  
 
This year I decided to let go of the sorrow that has always hung over January 24th, and I’m not going to be any more or less obligated to feel sad on that day anymore. 
 
I’ll just smile or cry, and do whatever my heart tells me to do, just like I do on every other day of the year.
 
It’s been 10 years now since you’ve been gone, and every day is just another day of missing you.

Who Am I Now? 

It’s common for those of us who have lost a partner or spouse to examine how we’re going to convert the mourning process into a nurturing process, as we seek to rebuild and reorganize a life where we feel like half of us is missing.

I believe that an often overlooked aspect of losing a spouse is the change in identity we as the survivor experience. We tend to define ourselves by our relationships, our work, our activities, and involvements. 

We define ourselves as a ‘couple.’ It’s not ME, it’s WE, and the degree of change is determined by the complexity of our relationship. Every single relationship is unique, with different dynamics, and what’s missing from that relationship is really what we’re grieving. 

So it’s reasonable to say that the more dependency the we had on our partner or spouse, the greater the void.

In other words, we survivors not only grieve the person who died, we also grieve the role that’s lost. We suddenly find ourselves cast into the role of being a ‘widow’ or a ‘widower’. A role we never wanted. 

The question becomes, “Who am I now?” 

You still feel like the same person, but your role changed. 

The W of WE has to become the M of ME, but turning a W to an M means turning everything upside down, and that’s exactly how you probably feel.

So how can you redefine yourself? 

I think it’s linked to interests and experiences. People who get involved, whether in necessary tasks like looking after children, family or work, or by involvements in the community, groups, and activities, have found that these things increase self esteem and energy. They can help us find our new identity.

So, maybe the question we should be asking is, “Who do I want to be now?” 

Appreciating All The Moments


Here I am at the end of another year. Looking back on it it makes me wonder how I survived it. I lost some close friends and family members and I hate that those seem to be the only memories of the year that stand out.

Nine years go I lost my spouse. As this year comes to a close it causes me to pause and reflect back on my first year as a widower. I needed to identify any progress I made in order to figure out how I was going to deal with my next year, but what I learned that first year was survival is possible.

The first days and weeks after losing my spouse I wasn’t sure how I’d survive or if I even wanted to.

Losing my spouse rocked my world and the pain was unbearable at times. I look back now and see that although it was devastating it serves as proof that I can do hard things. I somehow got through it. Mostly because I had no other option, but nevertheless, I survived.

My life changed drastically. I lost a lot of friends and struggled with disappointment from family members. When they fell short I felt abandoned. I’m looking back today with a little more grace. Instead of clinging to hurt, I’m recognizing with gratitude the new people that have come into my life. The people who are genuinely concerned about me and support me. So instead of dwelling in the hurt of relationships lost, I’m focusing on the new people in my life.

Regardless of how much time goes by, the grief never goes away, it’s not gone, just changed.

I know I’ll never be the same person again. I’ve realized the old me is gone. But in his place there’s emerging a new, changed person that begs to be discovered. He’s slightly familiar, but not quite the fully recognizable me from the past.

It’s strange, in many ways I miss my spouse more today than I did early on, because memories fade. I knew this would happen, but it’s still so difficult.

So as another year ends I’m even more conscious of how short my time here is, but I’m determined to make my life matter. I want to love more, laugh more, help more, and hold the hands of the hurting more.

I want to appreciate all the moments.

Heading into this new year I know it will still be a very one-day at a time scenario. I’ll go at my own pace, and sometimes that pace will be slow and painful, and sometimes I’ll push ahead with speed.

But I’ll keep moving forward…one step at a time.

What Is It We’re Grieving?

When we experience a loss there are many challenges we’re faced with as we continue on without our loved one.

We experience the paralyzing emotional pain of the loss. We lose the ability to think straight or even function in the most basic ways. We can’t even begin to imagine our life without our loved one in it.

We have to find ways to adjust to all the changes that take place in our daily lives. These changes are usually forced upon us. We may not have the companion we always socialized with or the parent we went to for advice.

We have to reformulate our identities. What I mean by this is, if we’re married and lose a partner or spouse are we no longer married? Are we single again? If we lose a child are we no longer a parent?

We have to reconstruct our relationships. Its common to withdraw after losing a loved one. We may isolate and avoid other people that are painful reminders of the one we lost. We need to learn to reconnect with these people on a different level as the new person we’ve become because of our loss.

We have to learn to adjust our belief systems. Our loss can make us question everything we thought we knew. We get flooded with doubts and questions. Why did this happen? Why to me?

So all these aspects of grief are actually affecting ‘us’ not our loved one.

So the question isn’t really, “What is it we’re grieving?”, it becomes, “Who is it we’re grieving?”

Are we grieving for our loved one or are we grieving for ourselves?

I like to think that my loved one is in a place much nicer than where I am. A place where there’s no more pain and sorrow. A place that I’ll for sure someday also go.

So I have to ask myself the original question, “What is it we’re grieving?” The answer for me would be the loss of the one I love. But if I honestly ask myself the question, “Who is it we’re grieving?” my answer would have to be, myself.

I believe it’s us, the survivors, the ones left behind, that grieve not for the one we lost but for ourselves.

We grieve the loss of their physical presence and their touch. The loss of security, companionship and our hopes and dreams we had for the future. We grieve so many things that we ourselves are mourning the loss of and facing without them. So in reality we’re grieving not for them but for ourselves.

I realized I was grieving for myself. What I lost and how I was suffering. As I began to think about all this, I realized that part of the reason I survived my loss was because I shifted my grief and the way I related to it. Instead of spending all my time wishing my loved one would come back to me (which on a cognitive level I knew could never happen) I began to appreciate the love, memories and time together we shared. I believe that one day we’ll be together again. Maybe not in a physical sense but more of a spiritual sense. 

We all live a life. If that life is one year or a hundred, it matters. We live, love and touch other people’s lives, like orbs colliding.

So instead of grieving the one I lost or even grieving for myself, I now just celebrate the time we had, the love we shared, and the wonderful gift that was to me.

The Chapters Of Life

If you’ve lost a partner or spouse this may be difficult to read. You just may not be ready to hear what I have to say, and that’s okay. Just stop reading.

I understand.

But if you’re a few years out in your grief journey, you may want to keep reading.

I’ve been facilitating grief support groups for people that have lost a partner or spouse for over 9 years now. The most frequent comments I hear are, “I will never love anyone again.” “I could never get married again.” “Nobody will ever replace my spouse.” I can understand these feelings because I felt the same way at the time. It was unimaginable to even think of ever loving anyone again or as much as I loved my spouse that died.

I would never do it!

If you also can’t imagine it, I’m here to tell you I was wrong.

I’m always so filled with joy when members of my support groups contact me months and years later to tell me about their new love for someone special that has entered their life. They tell me about how they’ve created a life after loss.

The way I see it, we have two choices after losing a partner or spouse, we can get to work on living, or we can get to work on dying. I think our loved ones would want us to live until it’s our time to join them again. They loved us, and I think they would want us to be happy.

Loving someone else doesn’t mean you’re forgetting the person you love and lost. If you think about the time before the person you lost was in your life, I’m sure you can remember other people that you loved. The chapters of life are full of love and loss. People come into our life and leave over the years. It’s like orbs that collide. Some for a brief moment in time and others for a lifetime.

Creating a life after loss isn’t easy; it requires courage, strength, and the willingness to keep moving forward with an open mind and heart. Although you may not believe it now, you will come to a place where you’re able to open your heart again to the possibility of love and happiness.

This doesn’t mean you’re letting go of your loved one or that you’ll ever forget that chapter of your life. You will just find the courage to turn the page and enter the next chapter of your life, knowing that doing this is not a way of disrespecting your loved one.

It’s my hope that you’ll have the strength to find a way to hold onto the love you have for the person you lost, while moving into the future with hope.

If you’re at a place where this doesn’t seem possible, at least keep it in your back pocket for when the day comes that you’re ready to turn the page.

An ‘Empty’ Weekend

“I hate weekends” isn’t something you hear too often. Most people look forward to, and live for, the weekends. But it’s not always the case for those that are grieving.

If you’re grieving, you may feel this has become the story of your life.

Every weekend.

There are aspects of grief that make loneliness seem inevitable and unsolvable. Primarily, the fact that what you desire is your loved one, and what you have is an emptiness molded so precisely to your loved one’s likeness that no one else could ever fill it.

Add to this an ‘empty’ weekend. Sometimes the fun things you did were on the weekend, or maybe the weekends were when you spent the most time together.

I was working all week, so my mind was at least semi-focused on something else for 8 hours a day. The weekends felt like a giant black hole I would tumble into on Friday night.

I’ve come to understand that loneliness after the death of a loved one is many things. Above all else, it’s the ache of having loved someone so much that pieces of you became them, and pieces of them became you. Weekends are for fun. Without them, weekends are just extra time to cry.

When the person you love left, they took pieces of your shared life with them, and now you have to live a life that feels incomplete. You lost one of the few people in this world who really truly ‘got’ you.

Once your brain starts thinking in an “I’m on my own, so I have to look out for myself” kind of way, it may start to guard against others by pushing them away. This includes doing things with them on the weekend. So as much as you may not want to do it, try to do something on the weekend, even if it’s something small, like a walk or going shopping.

You can’t easily solve loneliness caused by grief. It takes time and effort. You will never fill your loved one’s void, that simply won’t happen. Instead, you have to find other ways to connect and fill in the empty spaces, like the weekends.

How do you do this?

I sadly can’t answer that for you. I guess I would say that when you’re ready, open yourself up to the love of other people in your life.

You can hold on to your loved one while at the same time accepting the company and support of others. And maybe, if necessary, seeking out new people in the process.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be perfect, but perhaps in time, you can partially fill the hole left by your loved one with the love of many. Then, maybe your weekends will be something you look forward to again.

Things Only A Widow Or Widower Understands

Everything changes after the loss of a partner or spouse. For many of us, this was the person we spent most of our time with. This is who we made our plans with and who shared our worries. Every part of our past, present, and future revolved around this person, and to be without them is harder, sadder, and lonelier than we ever could have guessed.

Not only is it harder than we could have thought; the people we spend time with don’t always seem to recognize the depth and duration of this loss. This can be felt any time someone tries to cheer us up, smooth it over, or make it better. Our loved ones mean well, there’s no doubt, but for us widows and widowers, everything has changed.

The reality is that it’s a couples world. Socializing after the loss of a spouse is never the same. This comes up just about every time I facilitate a group for widows and widowers. We don’t even notice how much of a couples world it is until we’re no longer part of it. Going out to dinner, going to the movies, taking a vacation. Sure, some people will do these things on their own, but for most of us these activities were reserved for our partner or spouse. Unfortunately, being part of a bigger group or going to a party isn’t necessarily any easier.

The problem isn’t just that we now feel awkward in a setting that’s mostly couples. Our friends sometimes hesitate, or all out avoid, inviting us along for fear that we might feel out of place, and I think I speak for all widows and widowers when I say, nothing feels worse than that.

Even a very caring network of support can’t replace the one thing we had: a shared and equally vested interest in the outcome of each other’s lives.

Following the loss of a partner or spouse, we feel like only half of a whole. A lot of us considered our spouse or significant other as our ‘better half’. Most of us operated and functioned as two people joining their lives together as one.

Our relationship became such a part of our identity that without it, we don’t feel like a complete or whole person anymore. So we’re not only missing them, we’re missing ourselves too.

Every part of our day and routine is changed, especially when it’s time to go to sleep. It feels strange to go to bed without having someone to say goodnight to, ending the day without a goodnight feels like leaving a period off a sentence.

When you lose a partner of spouse, you don’t just lose one person. We lost our friend, lover, peer, co-parent, confidant, business partner, travel companion, and the only person that really knew us. 

This loss creates a vacancy in many roles that one very important person previously filled. No one person is going to be able to take the place of all the roles that a partner or spouse filled.

A list like this can be hard to create, but for those of us left behind it can be even harder to read. So what’s the point, really, in illustrating or highlighting all that a widow or widower has lost?

When we think about our shared investments after the loss of a partner or spouse we realize that it’s actually a turning point. 

Because when we start to take a look at all the reasons that we’re struggling, and all the reasons we miss our ‘other half’ it reveals something even more important: all the things we shared together. 

But, lying underneath the sadness and yearning for what we had, is the realization of the blessings that our time together created.

Grief In The Produce Aisle

Yesterday I stopped into the local grocery store. I was just going to quickly grab a couple of tomatoes and head back home.

As I was picking out my tomatoes, I heard a sound behind me, a kind of choking and sobbing sound. There was a woman crying over the lettuce. I know the look, the feeling, and the emotions of grief when I see it. Been there, done that!

The grocery store is one of the worst places for grieving people. Every shelf holds evidence of how our life has changed. It’s been a long time since a day seemed far more impossible than I could handle. Every single interaction no longer drains me, as it did in the first few years after my loss. I need less time to recover from being “out in the world” than I did when my grief was fresh.

I approached the woman and just gently asked, “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help you?”

To which she responded, “Can you bring my husband back? He died.”

I told her, “No, I can’t do that, although I wish that I could, but I would like to hear about him.”

My quick trip to the grocery store became an hour long conversation with a ‘fellow survivor.’

I remember those early days of grief, when just managing to get out of bed was a huge accomplishment. When each and every action came wrapped in a haze of sadness and tears. When even the tiniest interaction with anyone or anything made me tired.

In those early days of grief, every moment comes with a kind of heaviness. Things that would have been no more than a tiny thing on your to-do list, ends up taking a lot of effort. A “simple” trip to the grocery store is anything but simple and you could run in to any number of people who want to know how you’re doing.

This woman was just trying to hold it together long enough to get her lettuce and get out, but she had just been asked by a neighbor how she was doing. She told me she gets so tired of faking it. Pretending she’s okay when she’s falling apart.

I explained to her how the rest of the world sees the grocery store as a prime moment to catch up with you on your deepest, innermost thoughts. As though you’d spill them there, in the produce section, to your neighbor’s friend’s sister, when you haven’t shared them with anyone else.

Grief makes even a trip to the grocery store anything but simple. There are grief landmines everywhere. It’s funny, whenever I talk about the specific difficulties of grocery shopping, almost everyone has their own story to share. Some people tell me they only shop late at night to avoid any people they might know, others drive an hour out of their way just to be able to shop anonymously. Abandoned shopping carts are quite common in the world of grieving hearts.

These well-meaning, yet intrusive, questions into your inner emotional state can come at any time, no matter how much you may not want to talk about it.

I stopped shopping at a certain store because a friend-of-a-friend worked there; if she saw me, a long drawn out series of inquiries would begin. I realize I could have told her to stop, but that took energy, interest, and skills I didn’t have in me at that time.

It didn’t matter that getting groceries took double or triple the time, with that added drive to another town. Shopping somewhere else made more sense. Grocery shopping itself was painful. Reaching for his favorite foods, stopping mid-air, remembering he’ll never eat them again, putting them back, repeating this in every new aisle. The only way to make that pain tolerable was to mitigate any other potential stress or pain.

No wonder grief is so exhausting. It’s not just the intense actual pain of loss. It’s the sheer number of tiny things that need to be avoided, endured and planned.

But back to my new friend…

Before we said our “goodbyes”, she said, “Thank you for listening to me, I didn’t mean to dump all my sadness on you about my husband dying.”

I didn’t tell her what I do, I just told her I also lost a spouse. You see, it’s impossible to tell from the outside, but those of us in grief absolutely understand. We all have our stories of exhaustion, avoidance, and the need to just tell our story, or NOT tell it.

My wish for you is the space to tell your story when and where you see fit, and a vast, invisible shield of protection for you, as you move in the world without wanting to talk to anyone at all.

Unanswered Questions

When we’re grieving, it’s tempting to think that our grief will lessen if we can get the answers to all the questions we have floating around in our head. Questions like, “Why me?” “Why now?” “Why did this happen?”

All of us who grieve ask these questions. The problem is sometimes there really aren’t any answers. But maybe if we had the answers, they wouldn’t make us feel any better anyway. Maybe no answer to the questions we have would ever be satisfying and no rationale will ever take away the pain we feel.

Maybe what we need to do is resist asking questions that can’t be answered.

I believe we shouldn’t spend the rest of our lives being miserable just because the person we love died. They wouldn’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves and be the reason for our pain. I think instead they would want us to move forward in a positive way and live a life that brings us happiness. They would want us to heal.

We can do this by thinking positively and being optimistic about our future. Living in the present can make moving forward much easier, while honoring the past and keeping their memory alive.

 As we walk this grief journey together, we can remind ourselves that even in the darkest moments, we can find the presence of light and love. We can head in the light’s direction and be grateful for the love we receive along the way.

We may not have had the time with our loved ones here on Earth that we wished for, but we were blessed that they chose to spend the rest of their life with us.

If we pay attention to the good we find on our grief journey, we can be grateful for the hope we find in the aftermath.

 

Not Everything Happens For A Reason

While being positive is a wonderful carved out notion about how the human experience should be, this isn’t always the case when you lose someone you love. People say ‘everything happens for a reason,’ but this type of thinking isn’t only unrealistic, it’s also incredibly unhelpful.

When you’re grieving a loss you hear a lot of platitudes that are said with the intention to make you feel better.

Usually they don’t.

Sometimes all the positivity that’s thrown at you can be pretty toxic. What it does is it promotes the idea that if you’re not happy all the time, you must be doing something wrong. It’s the pressure to be positive when you don’t feel like it.

Unhelpful comments used by people with toxic positivity often include, “at least your loved one isn’t in pain anymore,” or ” they’re in a better place,” and of course, “everything happens for a reason.”

Although these comments may be well-meaning, they do nothing to make you feel any better.

Not everything happens for a reason.

You have the right to feel sad, and accessing this type of emotion can actually be cathartic and usually doesn’t do any harm. What does cause harm is when other people try to make you suppress your feelings about your loss.

By releasing your emotions, you’re not indulging in negativity, you’re just expressing the feelings that are normal and natural after a significant loss.

Being human is about feeling a full range of emotions; the good, the bad, and the indifferent. It’s what you do with your feelings and emotions that matters.

Making a space for your feelings is a good thing and leads to recovery and healing.

Emotions are there to get felt and explored, and grieving is just part of that process

The Aftermath Of Loss

The sudden unexpected death of a loved one is shocking. It’s as if the air has been sucked from your lungs and you can’t manage another breath. Numbness dances with disbelief. Pain makes an appearance, but it’s so raw and intense that it can’t be fully acknowledged. The loss leaves a gaping wound with grief flowing out, covering you and splashing onto all of those around you.

Some people back away, because they don’t want you to get your ‘sad’ on them.

You’re not sure how you’ll survive.

At times you hope you won’t.

You wish that you would disappear from life, like your loved one has, and that you would reappear wherever they are now.

But, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

The pain feels fatal…but it’s not. So you keep breathing. One shallow, sobbing breath after another. You try to find some small comfort, wrapping yourself in a blanket, or some piece of clothing that smells like them. You drink beer or wine, or anything that will numb the pain.

But it doesn’t help.

It dulls the pain a little, until it wears off and you’re left with your still broken heart and a hangover. You try to reach out to other people to talk about it, but most don’t understand.

“Aren’t you over that yet ?”, they ask.

So you struggle alone, while being battered by waves of grief washing  over you as you try to adjust to life without the one you love.  The new reality sets in and you try to adjust. You just keep breathing. One breath at a time.

The wound will eventually heal, but it leaves a scar. You’ll never be the same as you were before. Your broken heart will ache when the memories sneak up on you.

Then the day will come when your grief will shift and you’ll learn to live with it. You’ll find new ways to carry it. You can’t rush grief or hurry it along. Be gentle with yourself and move through the process in your own way, in your own time. There’s nothing wrong with you.

You’re not going crazy, you’re just grieving.

Your grief is a reflection of your love, and your deep love is what will help you survive.

An LGBTQ+ Grief Perspective

I have always felt the need to address LGBTQ+ loss and the need for unique support in that area of bereavement.

While the issues faced in grief can be different for everyone, what every griever needs is the feeling of validation, acceptance, and support. Grief is difficult enough but it’s important to get support and finding the RIGHT support. Connecting with others who understand who you are and where you’ve been can help heal the pain of loss.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is horrific enough, but it’s sometimes harder when you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ Community. Gay grief is marginalized. Depending on where a person lives and what kind of network they have, they’re often excluded from experiencing society’s mourning process.

There are thousands of members of the LGBTQ+ community who can’t even tell their employers that the love of their life has died for fear of losing their job and much worse. We’ve made significant inroads in the past decade. But despite legislation on same-sex marriage and a push for tougher anti-hate crime laws, some of the prejudice has not gone away.

Homosexuality is still illegal in many countries. While not criminal in the U.S., there is a menacing climate present that still exists today. We see it on the news, in our schools, and in the workplace.

LGBTQ+ people fear that if a long-term illness is the ultimate cause of death, will the medical staff be considerate and respectful of their relationship. There are difficulties in dealing with family members and people in the workplace who are not accepting of the relationship.

I know this to be true because I was forced to face them myself.

LGBTQ+ grief is often not taken as seriously as the bereavement process for a hetero relationship. Co-workers, neighbors, and friends might not have any gay people in their circle of acquaintances and don’t know what to say. They might not even try to console you. You might be completely ignored.

If you’re struggling with grief and belong to the LGBTQ+ community, it’s helpful to seek out like-minded people. If your gay community is small or non-existent, reach out to online resources including the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, and Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) to make connections.

Every griever deserves the right to be seen and heard.

We’re all just walking each other home…and that includes everybody.

Aftershocks


Society tells us that grief is a one-time event. That after the funeral, or after the first year, we’ll miraculously be over our grief. We won’t feel pain or heartache anymore. People tells us that “time heals all wounds.”

But grief doesn’t work that way, and living with a loss means living with grief.

Our brains aren’t capable of processing all the emotions and events of grief all at once. We process what we can handle in small increments. We handle what we can at the moment and save the rest for later.

The problem with believing the myth that grief at some point comes to an end doesn’t help to prepare you for what I call the ‘aftershocks.’ This is when you’re moving along and starting to feel better, when all of a sudden a huge wave of grief sneaks up on you and knocks you back down. These aftershocks can keep happening across the whole course of your life. You might experience them as you hit milestones or as you grow older.

You never know when the aftershocks will hit, but when they do it can catapult you all the way back to the day of your loss. You can be totally blindsided. It’s like grief is coming back to remind you about all the stuff you didn’t remember the first time around. It’s that intense, suffocating feeling of everything that happened being so close again.

So what can you do about these aftershocks?

You can get angry and frustrated that you’re not moving forward, or you can accept the fact that grief will always be part of your life now.

It does get easier, but not with time, with practice.

The aftershocks are just a way that grief reminds us of what we lost, and that’s not always a bad thing. If you really think about it, when someone you love dies it leaves a hole in your heart.

They were a vital part of your life, and that’s worth grieving.

Grief Is A Journey

I’ve learned that there’s a lot of negative emotions attached to grief. I’ve traveled this road for a long time now, and still some of the feelings I have in regard to my loss haunt me. I wish I could dump some of them on the side of the road and leave them behind, but they continue to be my traveling companions.

“If only I had done things differently.” “Why didn’t I notice something was wrong sooner?” “Why did this have to happen to me?”

I do, however, have other traveling companions, like gratitude and loving memories. These are things I can handle and carry. Sometimes I’m not really sure where I’m going, but I continue walking because it feels like the right thing to do . The forward movement seems to help. I want to keep looking for any healing that I can pick up along the way.

This whole grief experience can be kind of enlightening. As I move forward, I feel a transformation taking place. I can still feel those nagging questions haunting me, but I can also look at my emotions in a more honest way. I realize that the answers I seek probably won’t change anything. They won’t make the journey any easier. As irrational as they may be, the questions are just a part of the journey.

Grief is a journey that’s taken me to places I didn’t even know where on the map. Some of the places were very dark, but others were full of new and unexpected beauty.

I now see this journey I’m on as a new adventure. It’s full of ever-changing emotions. Each day it’s always just beginning, and I know it will continue to transform and teach me about love and life.

At the end of this journey will be death. I’m pretty sure of that. But I’m not afraid, because maybe that’s the next great adventure. ​

Loss Without Change Is A Waste Of Time

When I lost my spouse, I lost a part of me that I can never get back. I’m not the same person.

I used to be very social and outgoing. I used to enjoy being in a crowd. I used to love my profession.

Now I’m quiet. I don’t always have the energy to be in the company of other people. I reserve my energy for a couple of key people that I want to be around. I quit the job I had for over 30 years.

I did all that because I felt like a stranger in my own body.

I had to figure out what this new person I had become was going to do. How I was going to move forward.

If I didn’t learn something, and change something about myself as a result of my loss, then it would just become a double tragedy. The death of the person I love had to mean something.

Loss without change seemed like a waste of my time.

That would just be another loss, and I couldn’t handle that.

I discovered that by living in a place of grief and pain I was denying myself happiness. But what right did I have to be happy, even for a moment, when someone I love didn’t exist anymore? It seemed disrespectful.

I realize now that way of thinking was ridiculous. That was one change that I was experiencing, that I know now wasn’t healthy to hang on to. Why would someone I love want me to be denied happiness?

I guess in many ways grief can seem stupid and senseless. It doesn’t change anything. It certainly won’t bring back the person I want back.

I’ve come to accept that people die. That’s just a certainty of life. It’s not like some do and some don’t. We all do. We just don’t know when or how.

Yes, grief has changed me, but it has also shaped me into a new person. A better person.

I guess in doing that, grief has given me some meaning for my loss.

Losing A Pet

If you’ve ever loved and lost a pet, you’ll likely understand and agree that losing them is better than the alternative, them having to live without us. Their shorter life spans generally spare them this possibility. But I still don’t see the outpouring of support and understanding around pet loss that accompanies the loss of other family members.

I think that’s a shame.  

I know that when it comes to losing a pet, everyone’s grief will run a different course, but I know that certain aspects of grieving a pet are crucial. 

Surround yourself with people who ‘get it,’ people who love animals, who recognize them as important family members, and who may have experienced pet loss themselves. They might be able to provide useful navigation.  

Focus on what works for you. Some people who lose a pet rush out to adopt a new one. Others take time to grieve before they open their homes and hearts to a new pet. 

Realize the normalcy of pet loss grief. Losing a pet is a significant event. Plus, your animals can be such vital parts of your day-to-day experience. Pet loss involves saying goodbye to a loved one as well as radically altering your routines. Eliminating these routine behaviors can complicate your loss. 

Consider if there are any actions that will help. Sometimes, you can be comforted by ‘doing something’ with your grief and loss. That might mean donating to an animal charity, hosting a memorial service or creating a physical memorial, or having a print made of the pet you’ve lost. 

Most of all allow yourself to grieve. Avoiding feelings doesn’t make them go away. Acceptance of your loss and of all the feelings (despite how painful) is crucial to your healing. At the same time, taking breaks from mourning and utilizing coping resources can be helpful. 

This is a process. There’s no road map or timeline for grieving the loss of a pet. Allow yourself to recover in your own way and to take the time you need. In time, it’s likely your distress will diminish, and memories of your pet will bring more consistent joy and peace.

One day all the pets we loved and lost will come running to us, and that’s going to be a great day! 

Sudden Grief

Dealing with sudden grief gets easier with time. In the beginning, sudden waves of grief might last for hours or even days. As you process through the stages of grief and cope with your loss, you’ll find the waves of sudden grief that once lasted days or hours now only last hours or minutes.

Here are some of my tips for dealing with the waves of sudden grief after the loss of a loved one:

Take time to yourself: When grief hits you out of nowhere, it’s important to take time to yourself and allow yourself time to process. Whether that’s taking five minutes alone to collect your thoughts and emotions, or or taking a mental health day away from work or school, it’s important that you take time to yourself and give yourself room to process your loss.

Allow yourself to “feel” your emotions: Accepting sudden waves of grief as part of the grieving process is helpful when dealing with the loss of a loved one. There’s healing in embracing your emotions and allowing them to take control for a while. Don’t try to fight or control sudden waves of grief. Simply accepting your emotional state and allowing your emotions to run their course are very powerful tools when dealing with sudden grief.

Realize there’s no quick fix: We all deal with loss in unique ways, and dealing with grief should not be viewed any differently. Allow yourself to grieve and remember that there’s no timetable for dealing with waves of sudden grief. Be patient with yourself and don’t try to rush your way out of the grieving process.

Accept support when it’s offered: After the loss of a close loved one, the other people in your life who are close to you are going to offer their unwavering support. Don’t view these offers of support as mere attempts to humor you during this difficult time, and be open to accepting and embracing the support of your friends and family. During sudden waves of grief, it’s helpful to know you have the support of a trusted friend or family member you can talk to about your feelings and emotions. Keep your support system nearby to help you deal with sudden grief and the emotions you’re experiencing.

These are just a few of the helpful ways to deal with your sudden waves of grief after the loss of a loved one. Again, everyone deals with grief in their own unique ways, so take time to find the ways that best suit you. You may find that engaging in self-care activities including physical activity such as exercise or spending time outdoors enjoying your favorite hobbies is an ideal way to process your emotions when grief suddenly hits out of nowhere.

Remember, the most important part of dealing with sudden grief is to find a healthy way to process it.

Doing The Grief Work

Grief isn’t not commonly perceived as work. You’re probably not prepared for the intensity of your emotional reactions and don’t fully understand the importance of accepting and expressing them. You probably don’t expect to have to work so hard to accommodate yourself to your loved one’s absence or to build a new identity for yourself. Grief can deplete you to such an extent that the slightest tasks become monumental, and what previously was easily achievable now may seem insurmountable.

Since most other people are similarly unaware about grief and how much work it involves, they may not provide you with the social or emotional support you need during your grief. In fact, society’s unrealistic expectations and inappropriate response to your normal grief reactions may make the grief experience much worse than it otherwise would be.

For instance, if people didn’t tell you to “Be brave,” “Put this behind you,” or that “You shouldn’t be feeling that way,” along with other unhealthy suggestions, you probably would have fewer conflicts about expressing your grief. You also would have more realistic expectations about the grief process and in general would have fewer problems in recovering naturally from it. This is why it’s so crucial that society be given realistic and appropriate information about grief. It’s time that other people become a support to you, not a hindrance.

Your work of grieving entails mourning not only the actual person you’ve lost but also the hopes, dreams, wishes, fantasies, unfulfilled expectations, feelings, and needs you had for and with that person. These are significant symbolic secondary losses that you should identify and grieve. They include not only what’s lost in the present but also what’s lost in the future as well.

Sometimes the death of a loved one brings up not only grief for what you lost, but also grief for what you never had and now never will have. For example, if you had a very conflicted relationship with your mother, when she dies you may grieve not only for what you’ve lost, but also for the fact that you never had a better relationship with her, that she never was the kind of mother you wanted her to be, and that now you will never have even the hope that it could change and you could get what you want. In such a case you grieve for the past, present, and future. This may be a time when your other not-so-old but still unresolved losses can come back to haunt you. These can make you feel even more deprived, more vulnerable, and more powerless and out of control.

It’s terribly unfortunate, yet past issues often arise at the precise moment when you’re struggling to confront a current loss. They add to the burden of the grief process. Therefore, when you’re dealing with the death of a loved one, you frequently are contending not only with the present loss but also with old losses and unfinished emotional business as well.

Doing the grief work is important to finding your way to a place of peace. It won’t be easy, but in the end it will be worth the effort. 

Surviving Sunday

Why is it that when you’re grieving, Sunday seems to be the worst day of the week?

It’s because when you’re grieving Sunday seems like this vast expanse of time in front of you with nothing to do but deal with your thoughts and feelings.

That’s far more difficult to deal with than doing all the things that need to be done during the week.

On Sunday, absent are the routines and busy schedules that fill your weekdays and make time march efficiently forward. Weekdays seem to provide less space to think, hurt, and feel the massive absence of your loss.

Sunday leaves you a lot of quiet time to reflect.

The very qualities that you may have cherished about your Sunday together with your loved one now leave you longing for Monday for the first time in memory. Everyone else seems to be doing something on Sunday with the exception of you.

Obligations during the week are healthy distractions and the lack of those on Sunday can leave a void that can’t be filled.

Routines can be comforting, but if it’s your routine on Sunday to sit around and do nothing but be sad, change your routine.

Plan a “break-the-blues” activity every Sunday, whether it’s getting out of the house or building in a couple of hours to do something fun. It can be a family event, taking a walk, trying a new cooking recipe, spending time on a computer game, or listening to good music and just losing yourself in the sound.

Whatever it is that works for you, take a mental health break from your grief and just lose yourself in something fun.

Good Mourning

When we’re mourning, we’re faced with acknowledging the reality of the death. This involves confronting the reality that someone we love will never physically be in our life again.

That’s hard to do!

If the death was sudden or anticipated, it still may take weeks or even months for this to happen. To survive, we sometimes don’t want to deal with the reality of what happened, so we continue to tell the story of the death repeatedly. This replaying of the death is an especially important part of the mourning process.

The more we talk about it, the more real it becomes in our mind. This process can take time, and we need to be patient. It’s my experience that sometimes our heart just needs time to catch up with our mind.

For me, the mourning process required me to embrace my loss which is something we naturally don’t want to do. Sometimes it’s just easier to avoid or deny the pain of grief than it is to confront it. But if we confront our pain, we can learn to reconcile it. By experiencing our grief, we become more familiar with our pain and experiencing that pain can help us to heal.

Although it has been eight years now since my spouse died, some days it feels like a lifetime ago and other days it feels like only yesterday. The one thing grief and life have in common is they are both so fluid and ever changing.

My life now is so different, just as my grief has changed over the years.

Sometimes I feel like if I went back in time to when it happened, I wouldn’t even recognize myself. I’ve changed. My loss changed me forever. The sadness and sorrow are no longer as intense as they once were, but the grief remains. It’s just changed form and taken a back seat to everything else in my life.

     I have some incredibly happy times in my life now and some incredibly sad times too. That’s just the way life works. Although grief will always be a part of us, the pain won’t sting this bad forever. One day, you’ll wake up and realize you haven’t cried in two days, and for you, that will be a triumph.

Although your loved one is physically gone, the pain will subside, and you’ll keep going. You’ll survive this pain and this mess. You may not believe it now, but I can tell you that you’ll come out stronger than you ever were before.

Good mourning leads to hope…so never give up.

A Place of Grief

Grief.

It’s not something you’re ever prepared for or a place you ever wanted to find yourself in.

If you lost someone you love you know it’s a long and hard road to travel. You can take some comfort in the fact that you’re not alone on the road. There are many others traveling it with you.

The emotions you’re feeling right now are familiar to many others and there are some that are far ahead of you that have found their way forward. When you first enter a place of grief it can feel all-encompassing and overwhelming. It can be extremely difficult to see through it to the other side.

There’s no one universal secret to getting through what you’re going through, but if you continue to keep moving forward you’ll find a way through this unique and winding road of emotional obstacles.

You may have some expectations about how and what you’re supposed to feel in your place of grief. Part of the challenge is coming to accept that your emotions never quite manifest how you think they should.

There’s no way to prepare for the thoughts and feelings that are going to come up in your grieving process, but it does help to make space for them.

In moments like these, remember that the person you’re grieving for loved you as you were when they were still here with you. They would want you to keep being that self and living a version of that life, one where you honor their memory with joy. Even in these deeply difficult moments, try to remind yourself that joy will return. 


As you explore your new place place of grief, look back on the person you were before and the memories you shared with your loved one. Honor those memories by living a life your loved one would want for you.

Then try to imagine your future life through the eyes of the person you’re grieving.

Chances are, they’ll be proud

Let Go of the Pain, Not the Love

 I struggled to live in a world that no longer included the person I loved so dearly. People told me the only way I could “move on” was to “let go.” How could I do that? How could I move on and let go of the person who I loved? Was that even possible?

 I began to focus on the memories that brought me joy. I knew in my heart I would always have those memories. I had lost so much, but nothing could take those away from me. They lived locked forever in my heart. I never had to let go of those good things, but I did need to let go of the pain.

 Sometimes when we’re grieving, we have to let go of the things that hold us down. It’s hard to move forward from any kind of loss when we’re holding on to so much sadness and pain. Our loved ones would not want us to live that way.

 Let go of the negative thoughts that cause you pain. It’s those thoughts that will hold you back from healing your grief.

 Let go of the fear, guilt, bitterness, regrets, anger, shame, and all the “what-ifs.” It’s these negative aspects of grief that need to be released. Holding onto them only causes us pain. It changes nothing and hinders the emotional healing of grief.

 It’s hard to let go of “what was” and learn to adjust to “what is”, a world that no longer includes your loved one. Once you begin to accept your loss and the changes it has brought to your life, you begin healing. Think of the negatives you want to leave behind and the positive memories you want to take with you as you move forward.

 A good place to start is by writing down your thoughts and feelings. Make a list of the things you would like to let go of and those you want to take forward. Try writing your loved one a letter explaining how you’re feeling. You turned to them in life for advice so why not continue to do that? You could tell them the negative things you plan to leave behind and the positive things you plan to take with you on your journey into the future.

 The letter never has to be read by anyone but you; however, there is incredible power in releasing your thoughts and emotions onto paper and out of your heart and your mind.

 Search your heart to honestly discover what you must let go of. Just remember that “letting go” doesn’t mean you give up the love, joy, and happy memories; you’re only releasing the negative thoughts, destructive feelings, and painful memories.

 Letting go of the pain is important in grief recovery. It doesn’t mean that you let go of your past or your loved one.

I’ve never drowned, but I can imagine the panic.  

The fear. The fight as your body merely wants to do what is natural, just breathe. The burn in the chest. The enveloping darkness. The pound of every pulse reminding you that you’re surrounded on all sides by what you can’t escape.  

I’ve never drowned, but I do know that’s exactly how grief feels. Every single reality check is your heart trying to comprehend what your brain is telling you is true. The finality of loss and the love of a life you can no longer grasp. Just gravity, pulling you down and stealing your breath.  

Grief is being numb to everything but the pain. The fog of indifference envelopes you. The bills weren’t paid. The plants didn’t get watered.

Who cares?

Not you. You’re just trying to breathe, and the pain in your soul drowns out all other cares.    

I’ve never drowned, but if I did it would be dealing with a ‘first,” and grief is dealing with firsts. Not just the big ones like anniversaries and birthdays, but the little ones. The first piece of mail addressed to the person who died. The first trip to the grocery store where your shopping list doesn’t include their things.

Then the worst of all, when some time has gone by and you’re actually feeling a bit better, and you bump into that person that doesn’t know they died. They ask how they are, and you’re right back to square one.    

I’ve never drowned, but I know a lot about ‘never,’ and grief is the word ‘never’.

It taunts you with what will never be again. They’ll never walk in the door again. They’ll never hug me again. They’ll never tell me they love me again.   

I’ve never drowned, but I can tread water and grief is like treading water. In time, the waves lessen, and you start drifting to the top again. Though the water surrounds you, it’s no longer pulling you down. Your head can now stay above water with the push and pull of grief’s influence.    

Your breath, instead of coming in gasps, becomes deeper and steadier.    

I’ve never drowned, but grief sure feels like drowning.    

Mending a Broken Heart


Have you ever wondered what it is about grief and loss that upsets us so much? Is it the roller-coaster of emotions that we have to experience to get through our suffering? Is it the fear we have about opening ourselves up to all this pain? 

Because let’s face it, it stinks here in the land of grieving, where all those emotions toss us like a rowboat on a stormy sea.


We understand that this is necessary, on a surface level, but how we’re feeling is what really counts. In that place we call grief and loss, is where pain dominates our life, and where suffering is a daily occurrence. 

This is really difficult, and we know it only too well. We go there because we have to, but we try hard to escape, as soon as possible.


So what do we have to do to get through to the end of this process? Is it simply a matter of toughing it out, or, do we have to beat ourselves up all along the way? It’s sometimes really hard to be sure what it is we’re supposed to do to mend a broken heart. 

All those people that say “do it this way or that way,” are they capable of handling it themselves? As a survivor, going through grief, I would want to know that…wouldn’t you? If someone has never been there themselves do they have the right to tell me what I should be doing…I don’t think so! 

So what do we need to get through all this pain that comes along with grief and loss? How do we mend a broken heart, and stop our rowboat from tossing around? 

I know we have to feel it. We can’t avoid it. That just doesn’t work. We seem to know this at some level, don’t we? It’s an ugly fact, but true nevertheless. We have to feel the pain in order to let the healing begin. Yes, we have to feel it, so we can learn that this too is survivable. Isn’t that the most important thing, to know where you are at in your own heart when you finally get to that place of healing?


Here’s the thing….all your emotions and feelings are your own. They are your truth and nobody else can know how you feel. Not really. Nobody else can feel the pain for you. No such luck! You have to do it all yourself. But what a fantastic opportunity to get to know yourself better, to live deep inside your own heart and soul while this grieving process goes on around you.


I can promise you this, you will survive! You will someday overcome this tragic event. In some ways, there will be things that happen to you and you will be benefited from the effects they will have on you.

 
So, how do you get to that place of healing? You just do it! Allow yourself to descend to where it hurts, and find out for yourself what this experience of grief and loss is all about. It can teach you to correct and change your misperceptions about life, love, and purpose. This is how you will someday learn to mend your broken heart. 

Yes, you can do this, just as I did, just as so many before you did. As the changes begin to happen, you’ll learn to accept them and embrace them. Yes, the suffering will eventually pass, but the healing will continue. 

Your rowboat may still not be resting on the water perfectly still, but you’ll be able to feel the water settling, your heart healing…..and the love……well, that’s forever!

No Easy Way Out

I wish I could tell you there’s five easy steps to get through grief. Unfortunately, there are no easy steps and no predictable timetable. Pure and simple, grief is just a difficult and painful experience.

The focus of grief always seems to be on the desire to find hope and healing in the aftermath. The problem with finding hope and healing is these things can’t be found until the hurting happens. 

First, you hurt, then you heal. 

People are always debating what’s the worst loss. My answer is, “the worst loss is your loss”. 

There’s no such thing as more or less difficult, it’s just different. No matter what the situation or circumstances, to each grieving person it feels like the worst thing that could have happened to them. For you, this probably feels like the worst thing that could have happened, in the worst possible way and at the worst time.

Each loss is unique, just as each relationship is unique. When you lose a significant person from your life, whatever the relationship, it hurts, and nothing takes away from your right to feel the loss and grieve the absence of that person.

Every individual is unique. Everyone takes their grief journey at their own personal pace. Some fast. Some slow. Some cry. Some don’t cry. Some do it this way. Some do it that way. 

There’s no set rules. Everyone goes through it in the way that’s right for them, and there’s a reason for every behavior. While some reactions may seem strange to other people, there’s a reason why they’re reacting that way, even though they may not be able to explain it.

So how can you find hope and healing? 

First, feel the hurt. 

There’s no easy way out. Grief is the cost of caring. The best thing you can do is allow yourself to grieve.

Seek out caring people and express your feelings. Take care of yourself and accept that life is for the living. Be patient with yourself. Finding hope and healing after a major loss takes time. If your grief seems like it’s too much to handle, seek professional assistance. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.

With support, patience, and some effort, you will survive your grief, and someday the pain will lessen, leaving you with cherished memories of the one you love.