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64 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief

(from the website

A quick and dirty list of the things we wish we had known about grief, before we knew anything about grief. If it’s in quotes, it is something one of our fabulous readers shared with us on Twitter or Facebook.

I wish someone had told me…

  • No matter how prepared you think you are for a death, you can never be fully prepared for the loss and the grief.
  • You can plan for death, but death does not always comply with our wishes or plans.
  • “Stop avoiding and be present”.
  • “Dying is not like you see on TV or in the movies. It is not always peaceful or prepared. You may not have a spiritual or meaningful moment . . . It’s too real”.
  • A hospital death is not always a bad death.
  • A home death/hospice death is not always a good death.
  • “There will be pressure from others to move on, even minutes or hours after a death, and this can lead to regrets”.
  • “Death is not an emergency – there is always time to step back and take a moment to say goodbye”
  • Death and grief make people uncomfortable, so be prepared for awkward encounters.
  • You will plan the funeral while in a haze. If you aren’t happy with the funeral you had, have another memorial service later.
  • When people offer support, take them up on it.
  • People will bring you food because they don’t know what else to do. Don’t feel bad throwing it away.
  • People will say stupid, hurtful things without even realizing it.
  • People will tell you things that aren’t true about your grief.
  • Death brings out the best and the worst in families, so be prepared.
  • There is no such thing as closure.
  • There is no timeline for grieving. You can’t rush it. You will grieve, in some form, forever.
  • “There will always be regrets. No matter how much time you had, you’ll always want more”.
  • Guilt is a normal part of grief.
  • Anger is normal part of grief.
  • “The pain of a loss is a reflection of love, but you never regret loving as hard as you can”.
  • Grief can make you question your faith.
  • “Grief doesn’t come in 5 neat stages. Grief is messy and confusing”.
  • Grief makes you feel like you are going crazy.
  • Grief can make you question your life, your purpose, and your goals. And that isn’t always a bad thing.
  • We all grieve differently, which can create strain and confusion between family members and friends.
  • “However badly you think it is going to hurt, it is going to be a million times worse”.
  • You may find comfort in very unexpected places.
  • “You should go somewhere to debrief after care giving”.
  • “The last 24 hours of their lives will replay in your mind”.
  • Trying to protect children from death and the emotions of grief isn’t helpful.
  • “It’s sometimes necessary to seek out new ways to grieve on your own, find new guidance, if the people who are supposed to be supportive simply haven’t learned how”.
  • “You grieve your past, present, and future with that person”.
  • Big life events and milestones will forever be bittersweet.
  • Grief triggers are everywhere – you will see things that remind you of your loved one all over the place, and it may lead to sudden outbursts of emotion.
  • “You lose yourself, your identity, meaning, purpose, values, your trust”.
  • Holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays will be hard forever.
  • People will tell you what you should and shouldn’t feel and how you should and shouldn’t grieve. Ignore them.
    “The grief process is about not only mourning the loss, but getting to know yourself as a different person”.
  • There is no normal when it comes to grieving.
  • Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.
  • “It is normal to feel numb after it happens. The tears will come. They come in waves”.
  • Grief can make you feel selfish and entitled, and that’s okay (at least for a while).
  • Meeting new people, who never knew the person who died, can be hard and sad. But eventually it can be nice to “introduce” them through stories and photographs.
  • The practice of sending thank you notes after a funeral is a cruel and unusual tradition.
  • “People love to judge how you are doing. Watch out for those people”.
  • You can’t compare grief or compare losses, though people will try.
  • Any loss you grieve is a valid loss, though people will sometimes make you feel otherwise.
  • “Just because you feel pretty good one day it doesn’t mean you are cured of your grief”.
  • There are many days when you will feel totally and completely alone, whether you are or not.
  • Grief can make you do stupid, crazy things. They may be what you need at the time, but you may regret them later. Cut yourself some slack.
  • Grief can make you a stronger person than you were before.
  • Grief counseling doesn’t mean you’re crazy or weak.
  • It is okay to cry sometimes.
  • It is okay NOT to cry sometimes.
  • “Time does NOT heal all wounds”.
  • “Grief re-writes your address book”. Sometimes the people you think will be there for you are not. People you never expect become your biggest supporters.
  • “You don’t get over it, you just get used to it”.
  • It is okay to tell people when they are not being helpful.
  • Watch your drinking– alcohol can quickly become an unhealthy friend.
  • You will have to face your emotions eventually – you can avoid them for a while, but they will catch up with you in the end.
  • Talking isn’t the only way to express and process emotions.
  • You will never go back to being your “old self”. Grief changes you and you are never the same.
  • Nothing you do in the future will change your love for the person who died. Eventually you will begin to enjoy life again, date again, have another child, seek new experiences, or whatever. None of these things will diminish your love for the person you lost.

64 MORE Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief

  • Death doesn’t just happen to other people.
  • The world goes on. Even when you are half insane from grief, bills still need to be paid; even when you feel like you swallowed a hand grenade, you still have to balance a checkbook.
  • Grief does not only happen when a person dies, but accompanies any loss. It is felt when you are estranged from family members or friends, lose a job, lose a pet, lose your independence, get divorced, and countless other things.
  • It is okay to laugh.
  • You are the only one who can say how you should feel.
  • Grief can make it terrifying to get close to people, for fear of losing them.
  • It is especially devastating when you lose the person who supported you through other losses.
  • You still grieve the loss of people you didn’t like or had a strained relationship with.
  • If you are grieving the loss of someone who has hurt you deeply, the process of grieving may take longer and may be more difficult. It may bring up old wounds, regrets, and ‘unfinished business’.
  • It is normal and acceptable at times to feel relieved after someone has died.
  • Remember that the brain is wired to be biased toward negative thoughts and memory recall. If possible, take the time to reflect upon and remember the positive.
  • It is okay to be angry that people say stupid things, but remember they showed up to show their support for you and their respect for the deceased. Remember that, not the stupid comments if you can.
  • Grief – You can’t go around it. You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You have to go THROUGH it or you have to go WITH it.
  • When it comes to grief, there are no rules.
  • Process guilt, but don’t keep processing it over and over to the point that it is harmful or unproductive.
  • “Why?” and “What if…?” are unanswerable. The trick is to figure out how to live without the answers.
  • You may find the person you lost was the glue that held your family/friends together. You might drift apart temporarily or permanently, or you might find new glue.
  • Others may act like the person you lost was perfect. You’ll feel like the only one who saw imperfections and this will make you feel guilty.
  • It’s okay to be mad at the person for leaving you.
  • You will forget – things about them, or them altogether for a moment – and this will bring a new style of guilt. You will remember them in unexpected ways.
  • It’s okay to live, laugh, and love. Let there be no guilt about it!
  • Sometimes we do most of our grieving before our loved one dies.
  • Crying is necessary, but it never really helps. It never makes me feel any better. It’s not a “satisfying” cry like crying when you’re stressed.
  • Not all the people who said,” If you need anything, anything at all” are able to back that up with action. It hurts but it doesn’t mean they don’t care.
  • Death can be emergent. Sometimes you only get that one moment to say goodbye, or hear goodbye.
  • Not only should you “debrief” after care-giving but also during care-giving.
  • Some people don’t know what to say, or will say the wrong things, but this doesn’t mean they don’t care. Consider whether you would have understood this grief before it happened to you.
  • Sometimes grief will become a habit, it feels safe because you’ve been grieving so long that it starts to feel like part of you, like you don’t know how to be happy, or content, or calm.
  • Grieving will feel like you are keeping that person in your life, but you can be happy without ‘letting them go’
  • Losing someone you love is like an amputation, no matter how well you learn to get around, you will never be the same. You don’t ‘get over’ it, you just adjust.
  • ’Cut yourself some slack’ and take solace where you find it.
  • Have someone take a picture of your loved one in the casket. You can always throw it away but you can never get another.
  • The person grieving may have never had such a loss before, and they themselves may say ignorant things.
  • Every death is sudden.
  • Religious faith can also be strengthened by loss.
  • Grief makes you lose focus and makes it difficult to complete tasks.
  • When someone dies from suicide, sometimes people do not express sympathies. Sometimes they don’t say anything at all. All grief should be acknowledged, regardless of how the death occurred.
  • Sometimes you can’t physically say goodbye to a person before they die and that can be devastating.
  • Suicide loss can be extremely traumatic. The shock and denial makes it difficult to begin truly grieving.
  • Grief can make you push people away.
  • The term closure is not helpful. Bank accounts are closed, windows are closed, but the love we carry for those closest to us never closes.
  • Grief is a good time to be careful of people who, even if you think they are friends, may try to take advantage of your financial situation.
  • Too many people will try to impose time limits on your grief.
  • Don’t make big decisions simply because you feel really good or really bad on a particular day.
  • Don’t throw away the deceased’s personal possessions too soon or too quickly. Later you may find that you actually wanted to save more than you thought.
  • Let somebody else do the driving, at least for a few days.
  • It DOES get better. Slower than we wish, but it does.
  • For many people grief is cumulative. Each subsequent death of a person important to us is amplified by the grief we experienced over those who predeceased them.
  • People of great faith, profound belief, trust in the Divine, and anticipation of an afterlife are not immune to grief. Those who say if you grieve you don’t truly believe are woefully wrong.
  • Do not allow anyone to tell you how to grieve.
  • Do not gauge your grief by the way others grieve as everyone is different.
  • You grieve what you never had, for example children never born because of cancer.
  • It is a tragic reality that sometimes you measure life in the deaths that have occurred, or think of life as what happened before the death and what happened after the death.
  • Grief puts you in a club you wish you were not in…but the connection is so strong and so emotional with others who grieve, that you’re thankful for the club at the same time as wanting to escape it!
  • You may feel like ending your life. If this is you, do what I did and find a support system. If you need suicide support, please contact a suicide helpline.
  • Beware of counselors who are not grief related. If your therapist is good he/she will not treat you like you’re crazy.
  • Be on your own terms. If you do have to attend potentially uncomfortable family functions beware of triggers. Go in your own vehicle so you are not stuck being dependent on someone else’s terms and always map out an escape route. You may need one.
  • Be kind to yourself and find a really good pillow to sleep with!
  • The death of a loved one does not prepare you for the death of the next loved one.
  • Grief can bring physical pain.
  • People may play a strange little game called “I hurt the most.” It will consume them, and they may simply fail to see the grief in others.
  • Nothing will prepare you for seeing a loved one on a respirator for the first time.
  • Years later, you may have a moment when you forget that person is dead, and you will lose them all over again.
  • Grief lasts a lot longer than sympathy.

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