What I Thought Grief Would Look Like

*Disclaimer- If I had even a little bit of computer knowledge I would have made these graphs on the computer, but I’m terrible at that kind of stuff, so I had to make them by hand. My photography skills are no better- so I apologize ahead of time. I’ll blame the poor quality of these pictures on the two half-naked (really cute) little people who were crowding around me the whole time I was working on this post.

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This is what I thought grief would look like:

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 This is what grief really looks like:

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I was shocked when, only weeks after losing Lucy, people started to ask me, “So, are you feeling better yet?” I never knew what to say. Some days were bearable, most were horrific. And even when I had a day or two where I felt almost ok, I knew the dark days of deep sadness would hit again, and they did. I was very frustrated the first few months because I had this idea in my mind that grief SHOULD look like this:

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And most people want grief to look like that. They want you to heal quickly and cleanly. Unfortunately, grief is messy and it has its own timetable. I always think it’s kind of funny when people are frustrated that my grieving is taking so long. They seem almost mad at me because I’m still sad months later. Don’t they think that if I had ANY control over my grief, I would be done with it already? It is the worst pain I have ever felt and I don’t enjoy it. I am healing as fast as I can, but unfortunately, it can’t be hurried. Here I am, 14 months later, and I am just now starting to feel a little better. But every day I carry a weight of grief that goes unnoticed and unfelt by most of the people around me. I am getting used to the weight, but it has not left, and I don’t think it will until I’m in heaven.

This past winter has seemed colder than usual, and spring has been long in coming. The temperature from day to day has been wildly unpredictable. One day I have the heat on, the other day I have the air conditioner on. It is the perfect metaphor for my grief. I know that spring is coming, but it doesn’t come on the perfect timetable, every day growing a little warmer than the day before. It’s up and down and up and down and slowly, slowly, the ups get higher and the lows aren’t as low and one day, there are beautiful flowers blooming and the grass is turning green. My healing has been the same, except my spring is going to be YEARS in the making.

I think most people, including my old self before my tragedy, believe healing means you get better and better on a continuos trajectory upwards. So if you feel like this (red arrow) one day, they expect you to feel like this (green arrow) the next time they run into you.

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But in reality you might feel like this the next time you run into them.

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Do you know someone who has lost a loved one? They are still grieving. They are still feeling the loss. Be patient, be loving and remember that grief looks like this:

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and it doesn’t look like this:

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18 thoughts on “What I Thought Grief Would Look Like

  1. Exactly. My grandma kept telling me that she wished I would hurry up and get over it. I just want to scream at people and be like, SERIOUSLY! If we had any choice in the matter, we never would have lost our children and would be able to smile at least once a day. It just doesn’t happen everyday anymore and that’s hard for me. As a teacher, I have to smile often to make my students do the same. I’m numb at work so people assume I’m getting ‘better’. Some days I might be getting used to the idea he’s not here and will never be and I’m accepting, but other days I can not. Like you said, when our time comes there will only be smiles at that point. I can’t be afraid to die anymore because I know he’ll be there with wide open arms and it will only be joy. Hopefully we both can have some joy each day though while we are here on Earth. Big Hugs for sharing.

  2. Well put, friend! I feel like grief is also full of unseen potholes. You can be going along, doing okay mostly and then boom! you fall in a hole. Maybe because some milestone or unforseen reminder pops up, or just without explanation. You are doing great though. And those boys sure are cute:)

    • Thanks Tasha. Your grief journey has actually been an encouragement to me while I go through mine. I remember how long you mourned Dusty (and I’m sure you still are.) It has helped me not feel so “weird” and to know my grief is normal

  3. So true! Until you have experienced deep loss personally, it is almost impossible to understand. It’s so crazy that people expect you to “feel better”…and soon. I was shocked by this myself. Losing a child is something you don’t just get over and you grieve the rest of your life. Thanks for sharing this…

  4. Lost my wife of 27 years two months ago to cancer. We have 3 children, the youngest 10. I want to print out these graphs and wear them like a shirt. The most straightforward explanation of the grief process I’ve ever seen. Thank you.

    • I am so sorry that you lost your wife. I hate cancer so much. I hate it with every fiber of my being. It must be so hard to grieve and take care of your three children at the same time. Have you read “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser? I read it about two months after losing my Lucy and it was so encouraging and comforting. The author also lost his wife (as well as his daughter and mother) and has been raising his three children by himself ever since. I am praying for you.

  5. My friend posted this on FB and I wanted you to know that I read it and really appreciate you putting it in such concrete and visual way. I am am so sorry for your losses.

  6. Thank you. What would you say is the best way to care and be open to the friend’s grieving, (ups and downs)? Did you want people to seek you out or give you space?

    I pray for my friend, we talk about her two children she lost, but it does seem hard to enter in and mourn on the right level. I know there will always be 2 big holes in her family and heart, but I want to help her draw to the Lord and continue to grieve in any way I can. Would love your suggestions.

    • It sounds like you are doing a good job already trying to understand her grief. I think there is no way to really enter into her grief and mourn on the same level as her because you aren’t mourning your own children. That’s normal and she will probably understand that. I don’t think she will expect you to mourn the same way as she is. I have always understood that no one else will grieve over my lost babies like I am, not even my husband. But, you can be there for her by respecting her deep losses and being ok with her grief. Try to show that you are comfortable with her ups and downs. Invite her to do things with you, but always let her know that she has no obligation to come. Even if she turns you down over and over again, don’t stop inviting her. You can give her good encouraging books like A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. You could encourage her to listen to good podcasts like the series by Rick Warren right after he lost his son. If you want, I can give you several of the podcasts that have helped me the most- most are about suffering and why God let’s bad things happen. Do sweet things for her like bring her coffee or take her to get a pedicure. All of these things show that you are there for her in her suffering and you are comfortable with her mourning- wherever she is in the grief process. And whatever you do, don’t try to rush her healing.

  7. I just wanted to thank you for this post. I found it at the perfect time for me, and it’s been very helpful. I hope you don’t mind that I included your graphics on one of my own blog posts as well since it captures ‘real grief’ so perfectly. Hugs to you and to Lucy while you continue to heal.

    • I’m so glad it was helpful. I do wish I had known this when I first lost my Lucy. I think it would have taken a lot of the frustration out of the mourning. And of course you can share it with anyone you want! I just wish I had made better quality graphs. Sorry!

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