Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thoughts on Grief

When i wrote this post sharing that my dad died when i was 18, i was shocked by all the responses i received.. So many similar stories of loved ones lost. Radiating through the computer screen, i could feel the pain and struggle over what to do with this deep sadness. One woman asked, “I have a friend whose loved one just died, how can i help her??” I realized once again how death is one of the human experiences that binds us all together. Everyone has been affected in SOME way by the death of someone they held dear.

I desire to address this issue of grief though i am certainly not a writer, a psychiatrist, or a pastor. I do not have a ten step program on “how to be awesome at grieving.” I’m simply a person who has held the hand of her dying father and learned. I learned what helped me (or what would have helped me) and so i hope i can shed a little bit of light on what might help you through your grief or how to be a good friend to someone who is grieving.

I know this is a sensitive subject and that each person grieves very differently. so please just take whatever you can from it. I've been trying to write this for what seems like ages, but it has just now come together. I am hoping that this is divine timing since the holidays can be such a rough time for grief to come back in waves.

part one: a few thoughts that helped me.

The idea that grief is like the waves of the ocean. I kept experiencing this weird phenomenon where i would be doing “okay” getting through life, almost feeling “normal” and all of a sudden i would be HIT with this huge sadness over missing my dad. One author explained that grief is like the waves of an ocean sometimes only lapping at your feet, but sometimes crashing over your head so hard that you can hardly get to the surface for gulps of air. It helped me to have an analogy to explain and identify these feelings. I would wake up and think “okay, this is a crashing waves day, how am i going to get through it?”

the idea that losing someone is an amputation, not a wound. wounds heal completely, amputations do not. One’s body cannot grow a new arm once it is cut off. In the same way, my life will NEVER be the same without my dad. never. but i can learn to adapt, just as a person who has no arm can learn to adapt and have a happy and fulfilled life.

Something i wish i would have known is to not feel guilty for having to go through the process of grieving. a friend who lost her dad recently was telling me, “there are some days when all i can do is watch my favorite movie in bed and i just feel so guilty because i’m not getting anything done!”

one of my mom’s friends who is also a widow told her “i’m just not doing as good as you are at this.” this is another form of guilt through comparison. Grief has no quick fix, it cannot be gone around, you MUST go through it. and you simply have days where you DON’T get much done. and you do go back to bed. and you cry a lot. but PLEASE, please, DON’T pile guilt on top of sadness. it makes my heart ache to think of that.

now, please don’t hear me say that grief is a reason to quit at life. or that its okay to give up on yourself or to give up caring for those around you. certainly not! i’m just saying there are really hard days, and those are just a part of getting through it!

The next thing i’d like to say is certainly not a new idea; its simply that time does heal.

my dad died on christmas eve of 2002, and every year when christmas gets close i feel sick to my stomach. Much of the world feels like singing and decorating and drinking eggnog and all sorts of other jolliness and i feel like rolling up in the fetal position and sobbing. But this year, somehow, i found the emotional strength to put up a christmas tree (steve and i haven’t had any kind of tree since my dad died, and this is a real tree, no less) and it was actually really fun! i couldn’t believe it. some little corner of my heart has healed in such a way that it doesn’t hurt to think about celebrating in this way. i just want to encourage you that the heartwrenching feeling of fresh grief will indeed lessen. i promise.

Finally, i would just i encourage you to have a spirit of thankfulness.

its so easy to focus on the absence of your loved one, but what if we tried to focus on those that are still here and to be thankful for them? And also to be thankful for the joy that our loved one brought us when they were here. Even though i didn’t have my dad for as long as i would have wished, i try to be thankful that he was such an awesome man when some people have less than great dads. In every situation, there are things to be thankful for and as hard as it may be, we have to try to find them.

wow. this has gotten long. so check back tomorrow (hopefully its tomorrw, i’m working on it) for ways that you might help your friend through grief. (these things will inherently include things that helped me through).

thank you so much for reading,


feel free to message me with any thoughts you have

p.s. if you didn't gather, these pictures are of my dad and me. :)


  1. Yes, yes, and yes. And the holidays are hard. I remember the 1st Christmas without my dad we accidentally set a place for him and then we just sort of looked at each other like, "Oh, yeah, we don't need that plate anymore." It is bizarre. This is a wonderful, insightful post. Thank you for being so REAL!!

  2. agree with everything you say here, lost my Dad 3 years ago and some days are like it was yesterday. amputation indeed...I hope these holidays you do have some lovely moments with family and friends.

  3. Very beautifully written and very sage advice. I have two small cousins whose daddy is fighting cancer, and this is a very hard Christmas for them. Thanks for posting this. Oh, and you really do look like your dad!

  4. I love you so much. Thank you for letting us in and sharing your wisdom with such grace and vulnerability.

  5. wow - I have tears in my eyes reading this. I can't imagine what it must have been like to loose your dad. My thoughts are with you. xx

  6. What a beautiful article. I want to say I am so very sorry. The holidays are so hard when you have lost someone close. You look for their face, wait for their warm hugs, and hear their laughs when the rest of the family gathers together. You can feel their presence with you, but it does not make them there. With you. This is hard, but to go through the anniversary of your loved ones death during the holidays makes it that much harder. It takes courage to write about something so close to your heart, and so uncomfortable for people to talk about. I admire this, and it is much needed.