Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What I've Learned About Grief

As the holidays approach, I'm thinking a lot about this time last year.  Almost nine months out from losing my mother, here is what I have learned so far:

1)  Grief is nebulous.  It comes and goes at its own speed and in its own time

2)  The more demonstrative others are about their grief, the more reserved I am about my own

3)  Just because one does not show grief does not mean one doesn't feel it

4)  It's okay to be happy

5)  Feeling relief and freedom is normal

6)  Family dynamics change completely when a loved one dies

7)  Regret for all that was - and was not - lingers

8)  Crying about loss is easier with those who don't expect it

9)  Relationships shift

10)  Rituals are important 

On Thanksgiving last year, I knew my mother was dying.  Working in a hospital, one comes to know the language that physicians use when there is nothing more to be done.

'Now we are going to work on managing the condition.'

'Perhaps we should start looking at alternative treatment.' 

While everyone else was holding onto hope, certain that with the right amount of exercise and monitoring, things would be okay, I knew that we were nearing the end of our journey.

That was the loneliest time.

B-man and I spent Thanksgiving night in the Emergency Department with Mom and Dad.  Mom couldn't breathe, so we went to have her lungs drained, assuming they were again holding fluid. 

But there was no fluid to drain that night, just lungs, and a heart, that were failing.

The sadness of that day - and the moment when I heard the ER physician say, 'we're just managing the condition now' - clouds the path to Thanksgiving this year.

11)  Learning more about grief does not diminish its impact. 

Picture from worldphoto360.com


  1. Sorry to hear about your pain. You must miss your Mother a huge amount.

    Your post really touched me. I've just lost a friend, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.I can identify with everything you say.

    Best wishes and big hugs.

  2. Everything you wrote is so true. I can totally relate to all of the above, I just hope that changed relationships don't mean the end of some of them.
    And I am very reserved about my grief, it is my private thing and I don't want to burden other people with it.

  3. I am thinking of you today.

  4. Josephine I too can identify with most of your points, in particular the family dynamic changing. My mum died in 2005 and our family has never been the same again, either homogoneously or in individual relations between me, my two sisters and my dad, who has since remarried. Complex emotions!

  5. I lost my dad a week before his Thanksgiving Birthday in 2006
    I am sorry for your loss. All that you stated is so true.
    Number 11 is where I am now

  6. I have no experience with grief. I guess it's a combination of luck and a personality that prefers to keep close connections to a minimum. But my parents are getting older now, and I feel like the journey you have written about since your mother's death has helped me to understand and maybe prepare a little. Thank you.

  7. Hi Josephine,

    I can relate to everything you are going through and you have summed up this painful process exactly. The first year is the hardest, and all the anniversaries are at their most raw.

  8. I'm sorry for your loss. I have to agree with everything "you've" learned so far. As the holidays are very near, I find myself missing my dad immensely. We moved to this location to be nearer to him. He died, suddenly, 2 weeks before we moved. We are here now, in his town. It is a sad and lonely place for me to be. It will be 3 years in January and the grief is just now coming along. I miss him so. I find myself taking care of others before tending to me ... maybe it's my way ... I don't know. I will be thinking of you and praying that you find peace and acceptance this holiday. <3 Angela

  9. Your list of lessons comes at a time of need. A cherished friend is mourning the death of her father and I want to support her, but I feel inadequate to do so. Reading this post has been enlightening.

    Lesson no.8 "Crying about loss is easier with those who don't expect it" is an absolute truth. (Also, anyone supporting a person who suffers with depression should take this lesson to heart.)

    Thank you for sharing these very personal and very valuable observations.

  10. Thank you all for your kind support and for sharing your experiences with me. In the face of loss, it is good to know that none of us are alone. I am touched and strengthened by your comments.

  11. The first anniversaries are so very hard. After I read this I realized this site is about perfume. So interesting because it's not at all uncommon for grieving family members to see, hear...and, yes, smell the person who died.

    Take good care

  12. A red-haired young man I cared for very much died in January, in a freak accident.

    Someone else I know experienced a loss recently too, and I told him that "coming to terms with it" and "getting over it" are two entirely different things.

    The first one is happening right around now. Not so sure the second one will.

  13. Hi Joan - thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to hear about your loss. For all of us, grief is an unavoidable part of life, I suppose.

    You're right - grief is never over, really, but we do learn how to live with it in time.



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