I’ve been compiling advice from the comments on my 15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief post that went viral last week. There was a lot of good advice, and so I’m sharing it in a condensed place here. Some things were repeated multiple times, so I tried to pick comments that summed up everyone’s advice nicely. I also edited the comments for punctuation, grammar, and clarification, but I’ve tried to keep it true to the original as much as I can. I also shared some resources that others mentioned at the end of this post.
If you feel I’ve missed something important, please comment below. And thanks again for everyone’s support. I’ve been so touched and comforted by each and every word people have shared on this blog.
Advice & Thoughts on Grief
I learned I couldn’t tense up in those moments [of grief]. I couldn’t resist. I had to surrender, relax and let it wash over me. It wasn’t going to cripple me. I wasn’t going to go back to that paralyzing place when the grief was so fresh. It would pass easier now, I didn’t need to be scared. ~Michelle
Someone once told me that you learn to live with “the hole.” You acknowledge it, know that it’s there, but you learn to maneuver around it and work with it so you don’t fall in. ~FYL
[Grief is] like something you trip over. You hurry into the next room to share a thought or a feeling, and there is nobody there. Or, you think to yourself, “I have to remember to tell him about this.” And you can’t. ~Donna
Even years, decades down the road, you will have moments. A smell, a food, a dream, returning to an area you once live in, pictures, music, etc., etc., will sometimes make you laugh or make you cry. Usually the crying is as brief as whatever exposure you experienced and oftentimes you can even smile through the tears, thinking yourself foolish, but not admonishing yourself. The smiles and laughs far ourweigh the tears. It doesn’t go away. It just gets easier to live with. ~Teena
My final lesson on life from my Mom was that even when you know there is nothing you can do in a certain situation, you are still doing something by just being there. Meaning acts of kindness such as moral support, a touch, sharing a tear, a listening ear, an open mind, a kind word said, a hug, a positive look…Giving is our greatest gift. And that is what she did her whole life. She gave. ~Gwen
A grief counselor told me that the second year is the hardest, because the shock and numbness are wearing off and reality is becoming more solid. I find myself more in contact with the earth and living less with the “one foot in each realm.” ~Julie
[Grief] is like learning to walk after your leg is amputated. You can do it, but you always know it’s missing. God gets us through the worst, then we have to hold onto his hand to make it the rest of the way. We have to live and laugh again. ~Carole
I have learned to discontinue having expectations from others. So many of my friends have—what I thought—let me down. But I now know that they need prayers and understanding as much as I, because they are lacking in knowing how to reach out. They don’t have a clue what to do or say. ~Linda
It took me a while to realize that NOT talking about him was most hurtful. I realized that telling MY stories brought smiles (sometimes through tears) and that the realization that others missed him and grieved too was healing and in a strange indescribable way, rewarding for all of us. Now, I know. But in the beginning, I didn’t. ~Angela
If you are to say something to comfort a friend’s grief, I found that my mother’s tactic was quite effective. When they are focusing on all they’ve lost, refocus them on all they’ve gained, even if it is something they’ve gained from their loss, such as appreciation for their lost loved one. Don’t completely change the subject, as the point is to help them get through it, but steer the subject in a more positive light. I’ve always enjoyed those moments in times of heavy grief where a memory comes back that pulls me from tears to laughter. I love to laugh and it truly is the best medicine. Try reminding a grieving friend of humorous memories of their loved one or steer something serious into something funny. ~Mozart
Nothing has ever made me feel more comforted than a hug. But sometimes you can’t always be there in person to give a grieving friend a hug, so words are needed to soothe the grief. And sometimes no words are needed, just an ear to listen as they talk through their feelings. ~Mozart
I wish I had known how exhausting the grief journey is. ~Kim
My son taught me it is not how long we live, but what we do with our lives. ~Becky
Don’t shut yourself off from those who are still living and would love to spend time with you because you are so consumed with those you DON’T still have. We are never promised a tomorrow. Those still living would like to be in your life and thoughts while they’re still alive–not just after they die. ~TheOtherDaughter
People who don’t understand grief tend to put a time constraint on it. Even though they may not say it out loud, they give the impression that they’re thinking, “Well, it’s been ____ amount of years, so it should be over by now.” But we who are grieving know that it’s impossible to put a time frame on grief. Grieving is a process unique to each individual, even within a family. I know from my experience that grief is something that has become a part of me. Grief altered who I was, but God has used it in my life in more ways than I can describe…it’s bittersweet! ~Carrie
You and your spouse are never on the same page in your grief. You have to let each other grieve the way you need to grieve, not the same as everyone else. ~Becky H.
One thing I learned when my mother-in-law passed away in 1988 was to vent in a journal. I just started writing and putting all the pain and anger into it. When I was done it was a feeling of relief, and over the following year, I would add to it. Then after a year, I put the journal away and have never taken it out to look at. ~Dawn
Don’t expect too much of yourself too soon. ~Nancy
What I find fascinating, and sad as well, is that men seem to self-exclude themselves from these discussions. All the grief blogs I saw were written by women (except the one I started). Looking at the comments on those blogs (and this post), they were pretty much all by women. Most men are so bad about dealing with feelings, and they (we) really need to come to grips with the fact that we feel emotional pain, and that we have to find healthy ways of dealing with it. ~Pat (read a blog post of his here: http://www.missingaimee.blogspot.com/2013/02/grief-for-guys-toughest-stretch.html)
This got me thinking about how beautiful grief is. That isn’t the angle most can see, not for years. Imagine death with no grieving. What a loss. Death and loss with no pain, no memories, no wonders, no hard. My special lovely is right inside all of the hard. I honestly believe that there is happy in my tears, joy in my hard. It is all a reflection of how deeply Madeline was in my life, heart and soul. I am thankful for this journey. I want to run away often, but I need this. ~ClimbingThePolkaDotTree
It’s okay to be angry. Anger is part of the grieving process – it’s expected. People will understand if you are angry, God understands if you are angry. Just don’t stay there. Anger is a stepping stone to healing – it’s not the end result of grieving. ~Michelle
Although family is usually there for you, I have seen more times than not how selfish and more hurtful they can be when you least expect it. Sometimes a completely new “dark” side you would NEVER have thought existed comes out. ~Lori
I have learned that there is a lot of beautiful in this world. Sometimes it takes horrible tragedy for us to see the good in life, but it’s there. ~RossKruger12
I have learned that sometimes taking care of your health is more important than fulfilling all of your obligations. I’m a junior in high school and I lost my dad at the end of July, one month before the school year started. My days are always packed with homework, projects, church events, practices, extra curriculars, etc. There have been times where the stress was so great that I’ve had to skip a night of homework or miss out on a meeting, and I think that’s okay. I guess it’s a matter of priorities. ~Jess
DO NOT make any big decisions in the 1st year of your grief. If one has to be made, get help from someone you trust that will help you make the right one. I’m talking about things like selling your home, selling or getting rid of all your deceased love one’s belongings, moving to another state, or paying off all your debt with the life insurance money that’s left after the funeral to clear your deceased love one’s name, etc. When you are grieving, your state of mind is troubled, and you may do something you will really regret later. Give yourself time to mourn and allow time for your mind to come to a clearer state. ~Susan
No matter how many people tell you cheer up, move on, or life goes on, you don’t need to put on a false smile or brave face for anyone and their mindless clichés. You have the right to grieve. Be sad or angry for as long as it takes. The healing and more positive feelings will come in their own time. You can’t rush it or force it to please people who want you to move on. Happiness is not always a choice, but it comes at the right time. ~Justime
Grief never, never, never ends. And who would want it to? When you stop grieving, you stop thinking about your loved one. I don’t want that! My wife died 13 years ago. I’ve moved on and created a great family, but she (and my current wife’s deceased husband) are still a huge part of our blended family. Birthdays, death anniversaries, kids’ school activities, they are still with us and it’s healthy. I never want our grief to end. ~Mike
To be there in someone’s time of sorrow is the greatest gift you can give. ~Verna
The why’s…well, I certainly do not have the answers, but I trust the One who does. I pray with people in all kinds of situations and over issues of life and death, but I never tell anyone the why’s, because I don’t have the answers. ~Jerry
Time alone does NOT heal all wounds, regardless of what people tell you. That, my friend, is just another silly platitude. It is what you do with the time that matters. After all, if your vehicle has a flat tire, will it repair itself if you just pull up a chair and wait? No. You have to put a little work into it. Same goes for grief. Call it grief work. It’s your grief, and it’s your work that must be done. Do it. Don’t rely on time or other people to fix you. And unless you have extended, inappropriate grieving, don’t rely on drugs or booze to numb the pain. You have to work with the pain. We all survive it. It’s up to you to decide how well you’re going to survive it. You must live each day as though your life depends on it, for indeed it does. ~Moda
So many people think the pain should be numbed, but I want to feel it now, so I can grieve NOW. I am learning to take the day in chunks, live for the moment, and pray through the dark thoughts. ~Courtney
Trust that you will not die of the pain, but go through it and feel it. That’s what I wish I had known then. ~Shannon
The thing I wished I had known was people that mean to be helpful can be so hurtful when they have not experienced what you are going through, but tell you what you need to be doing and feeling. Grief takes as long as it takes, and it’s okay. You learn to take one breath at a time until you can move on and it’s OKAY. The people that don’t have time for your grief aren’t the people that you need to be around. ~Johnnie
Grief has been transformational for me. There is no hiding, no dying, no way out, no escape. It is the ultimate exposure of intimacy. It leaves you more naked than you could ever imagine. It brings to light your own mortality…
I remembered the words of my Father, “Just put one foot in front of the other, this is all you have to do.” I held on one hour at a time for a year or two.
I am no longer the person I once was – and sometimes I grieve for her (me). And yes, even after eight years I will cry… and it is OK, it puts me in touch with my feelings. Grief has brought to my door what is most important in life. It has taken away the blinders and pulled back the curtains. It has made me an honest woman. I live three days at a time now, because it keeps me focused in the present, and the present moment is the only reality there truly is.
I am ready to embrace death any time now; so, I will spend my today being who I really am, loving all my beautiful friends and family and/or doing what I most enjoy.
No one can fill your shoes or live your life but you!
You have not truly experienced life, until you have experienced death. ~Deborah
I learned to not be afraid! Afraid for myself and those closest to me! I learned to try new things and face all my fears. I once was afraid to fly, and now I am a Flight Attendant!! The possibilities to continue to live in happiness are endless! ~Sherry
Anger is a part of grief. When my stepfather died, I was shocked at myself for my primary emotion toward him, which was anger! There were things to be angry about, but one of the things I learned is that every grief we have is connected to all the other things we’ve grieved (or should have). His death opened up wounds never properly worked through. ~Sue
The best advice I received as a young girl is this: It isn’t necessary to stress over what to say to a person who is grieving. Years ago one of my Mom’s best friends lost her only son and child to a horrible murder. When my Mom visited her, all she did was cry with her. She didn’t offer opinions, advice, etc. Later my Mom’s friend said that ministered to her more than anything else. ~Lonnie
God has been my staple. But He hasn’t been my magic wand to take the great pain away. I’m learning to walk with Him in a whole new way that I never thought I would know. Trust, trust, trust even when I felt like I was trusting with my eyes closed because I was afraid to walk forward. ~KayAnn
It helps very much to focus hard on anything you can find to be grateful for about the person lost and life in general. Expect that sometimes others will be uncomfortable around you. …Realize that nothing will ever be the same. There is life before the loss, then time sort of stops there, and quickly slips away at the same time. Life after the loss is different for you and for others. The best you can do is take one day, and sometimes one moment at a time. Try to be okay with what you experience in that moment. Fighting it or denying it will not make it go away. During the tough parts try to remember that this is one present moment, there will be a tomorrow, a little more healing, a little more strength. ~Julie
Grief never ends, and that is okay. ~Jessica
One thing I have learned is that life is too short to worry about the small stuff. Not everyone will feel your pain or understand your loss, since our relationships are at different levels of the heart and soul. What seems impossible is possible with God, and He will get you through. I have cried, screamed, and all of the emotions I possess were thrown at God, and He has filled me with His peace and help as I needed it. Help comes in many ways through friends, family and in ways you least expect. Hang on to the memories, it is hard at first, but they will eventually give way to smiles and joys, and it is important to hold on to them in a way that honors your relationship and the loved one you lost. ~Linda
I learned that no matter how much you loved them, and how well they knew it, you will always have doubts about whether or not they really knew how deeply you loved them. 13 years later, I still wonder if my husband understood the depth of my love for him. How blessed I was to have him for a husband. And what a great father and husband he was. ~Tammy
For a long time after Jason died, my one question to others, including several therapists was, “What is the goal in the grief process?” Someone was finally able to answer that for me when he said that the goal is to accept the fact that your life will never be the same. (The goal wasn’t to accept that he had died, or to get over it, or that it will be resolved in some way.) ~Vicki
An organization that has helped us to work through our grief is The Compassionate Friends, an organization of bereaved parents who support each other. There are chapters in most parts of Canada, The USA, Great Britain, and other countries as well. ~Jim (website: http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx)
I have learned that grief can be packaged in different ways (death, divorce, rebellious children, etc), but it is difficult nonetheless. God’s Word has been my comfort when nothing else could be. I have learned that God does not waste the hard times He allows to come into our lives. He can use us to be a comfort and encouragement to someone else down the road if we let him. ~Becky
Grief is work. I have learned that you can’t go around it, above it, underneath it – you must go through it. I realized that right away. I started out wanting to run—run anywhere just to escape it—but realized there was nowhere to go. I found my peace by knowing where my husband is now, and that we will be together again someday, and I will have my answers as to why then. God has the whole picture—the entire story—beginning to end and He does work all things for good—even when we don’t understand them. Someday we will. ~Carol
Countless people said to me, “Call me if you need to get a glass of wine, cup of coffee, or just want to talk.” I’m sure in their hearts they truly meant it, but even in my darkest of days, I couldn’t make that call. However, when someone called me and asked if I wanted to get together, I would generally be thankful for the company and accept the invitation. So pick up the phone and call that friend and be willing to listen to their pain, their need for laughter or just to vent the angry feelings. I also have gotten pretty tired of people telling me how strong I am and I will get through this. Many days I don’t want to be strong and would love for someone to take care of me for a change. ~Susan
I sat down and read Psalm 23, and the words, “I walk through the Valley of Death” hit me like a hammer: I will walk through. I will not sit and wallow there for the rest of my life. Eventually the Lord will take me to the other side. ~Peggy
As illogical as it sounds, you will be angry and the loved one for dying on you. That is normal. Roll with it and don’t spend time feeling guilty for being mad at them. It is a part of grieving. ~Peggy
This list applies very well to those of us with chronic illness who are grieving. The grieving process is very similar. We grieve for our “old selves” and the person’s we used to be. I can be very traumatic a difficult process to overcome. These steps are very helpful and applicable. Also, many times those with a chronic illness don’t realize they are grieving. When they recognize and accept the grieving process, they can then move forward. These steps would help with that. I understand from personal experience. ~Ron
People will say the darndest things. Don’t take it personal. Give them Grace. ~Trey (Good article on this: http://kindacrunchy.com/2013/05/06/offering-grace-when-people-say-the-wrong-thing/ )
- Completely surrender to God. Let Him love on you like no one can! He is your Father. He always knows how to comfort His children.
- Count blessings, no matter how small! Bitterness can’t grow in a heart full of gratitude.
- Listen to people’s INTENTIONS, not your PERCEPTION. The enemy will feed these words to your sensitive emotions until they become lies…which will become agreements…which will become vows!
- God is faithful in all things! My questions are not “Why?” They are “When?”
Don’t forget to breath. It feels like someone’s taken your breath away, your inability to move forward when you find out, and how could others keep moving after such horrible news. It will never be the same, yes, but life does go on, one breath at a time, one foot in front of another. ~Candice
Grief never ends,
But it changes.
It’s a passage,
Not a place to stay.
The sense of loss
Must give way,
If we are to value
The life that was lived.
Grief is not a sign of weakness,
Nor lack of faith.
It is the price of love.
http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/ (Authors of The Grief Recovery Handbook)
http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx (Parents who have lost children)
http://www.griefshare.org/ (You can find grief groups in your area)
http://www.afsp.org/coping-with-suicide (Coping with suicide)
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
The Grief Recovery Handbook
Disappointment With God or Where Is God When it Hurts? by Phillip Yancey (Not necessarily a grieving book, but it is about the pain of life. Books by Phillip Yancey are really good.)