My mom died on April 7th, 2019 but the grief process began the day she was diagnosed with a lethal form of brain cancer called glioblastoma on January 26th 2014. The grief I experienced at diagnosis and through our cancer journey is vastly different than the grief I am walking out now after her death. I’m learning new lessons every day and my heart is realizing some gut wrenching truths. The thing about grieving is that you CAN’T NOT GRIEVE. The process will ebb and flow day to day, minute by minute. One thing I know is that this is by far the HARDEST thing I have ever had to do in my life but I know it is a necessary, holy and sacred process.
Grief is a Process not a Problem.
When you experience a loss, grief doesn’t always begin with the occurrence of the loss. You might begin grieving before the loss actually occurs and I guarantee, you will continue to experience and feel the effects of the loss long after it happens. Grief is not a problem with an easy solution or something that is broken that needs to be fixed.
It is a complex, painful process that you need to walk out over time.
We live in a culture that is very uncomfortable with grief or with people who are grieving. Therefore, we try to slap band aids on the loss or brush it aside and pretend it never happened or didn’t have a lasting effect on us.
Grief is something that everyone will likely experience at some point in time in their lives. There is not a quick fix or even a long- term solution. It is something that will continue to change and evolve over time.
Grief Requires Lots of Grace (to Yourself and Others)
No one is born knowing how to grieve well. There will be days where you might feel like you can conquer the world and there will be other days that you want to just stay in the bed with the covers pulled over your head!
Repeat after me…It is ok!
Grief is a dynamic, yet unpredictable process. It will sneak up out of no where and hijack you in the moment. Other days it creeps slowly into your routine and lingers in the background.
Extend yourself copious amounts of GRACE! It’s likely that you will not feel like the same version of yourself for quite some time, if exactly the same, ever again.
Grief is Different for Every Person
There is no cookie cutter way to go through the grieving process or a one size fits all approach. No right or wrong. Every grief experience is as unique as the person going through it and the love that they experienced.
What is comforting to you may be disturbing to someone else and what might bring someone else joy, may intensify your sadness. Find what works best for you.
Grieving can be a trial and error experiment of sorts. We must continue to try things out and see what kind of results it produces. When you are grieving, there are a lot of opinions about what you “should” do. Remember, you need to do what is best for you in the moment.
Grief Requires Patience
I used to think I was a patient person. Then, I had kids of my own and my mom died.
Patience is definitely not my strength! (Lots of room for growth up in the patience department…just ask my husband!)
Grief can be very frustrating, even down right infuriating. It can interfere when you least expect it. Grief can derail a moment or an entire day in the blink of an eye!
Simple tasks that used to be completed in just a few minutes, now seem to drag on.
TRY to be patient. Don’t rush through these moments even though they are bone crushingly painful. There is no expiration date for grief (fortunately or unfortunately…not quite sure). There will be times when you are sick of being sad and then there are other moments where you can’t imagine not experiencing sadness and pain.
Try to take each moment, each day as it comes. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself or try to fast forward through the process. I know it’s tempting. But, take your time. In the long run, extending yourself patience will support your delicate soul best moving forward. Give yourself and your heart the time that you deserve to heal.
Grief Can Feel Isolating
When you lose someone you love, your world can become very small and feel lonely. Making and maintaining connections with those you love or those around you can be exhausting.
However, I feel isolation works both ways. I think we unintentionally distance ourselves from others because sometimes it is all we can do to get through the day on our own, much less worry about reaching out to others and trying to honor commitments or schedule activities.
On the flipside, our support system tries to honor our grief by giving us space because they feel that we need it or want it. But then, over time, that “space,” becomes a wedge and overtime it grows into distance and before we know it, we feel left behind or completely left out.
Grief Can Feel Like You are Losing Your Mind
One thing that threw me for a loop when my mom died was the fact that I swore, I too, had a brain tumor like my Mom or early onset Alzheimers Disease.
My mind was shot!
I couldn’t remember anything! Even when I wrote things down, I would forget where I wrote it or I forgot where to even look altogether! For someone who loves words, I found myself not being able to finish a coherent sentence. I was constantly tongue tied.
I am constantly losing or misplacing things. I tried to brush my teeth with a hair brush and I ran the coffee pot without any coffee in it! I have to reread the same sentence in a book like 4+ times and you will often find me asking you to repeat yourself!
Yup…that is my reality these days! Some days I just have to laugh because the things I find myself doing are downright RIDICULOUS!
Grief Can Feel Like You Have the Flu
Grieving truly is a full body experience. Grief affects you physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally.
It was just a few weeks after my Mom died and I woke up feeling like I seriously had the flu! I think it was the beginning of May (which is not usually flu season) and I felt like every fiber of my being ached down to the core. I was exhausted, sore, nauseous and my head felt like someone was running a jack hammer in the center of my brain! Talk about feeling rough! I was convinced I had a serious case of the flu.
But, when I took my temperature, it was “normal.” No coughs, sneezes, or runny nose…what a weird kind of flu. I mean, even my eyeballs hurt! Every muscle in my body felt like I had just completed the iron man competition instead of just getting out of the bed. Come to find out, grief can definitely feel like the flu!
Your Grief Can Change by the Minute or by the Day
Grief is HARD, no matter how you slice it.
I remember trying to put my grief into words a few months after my mom died and it felt near impossible to slap a label on it or package it up with a tidy little bow. For someone who is a word geek, the only word I could come up with was “weird.”
Nothing felt normal. Everything was different; to the point that I felt I was living someone else’s life, in someone else’s body.
Grief is unpredictable. I would say every day is a different experience; however, I’m finding out in early grief that life can swing drastically, moment to moment.
Expect the unexpected, it’s safer that way!
You Might Truly Cry Over Spilled Milk (or Noodles)
It was September 7th. My Mom died exactly 5 months ago. I forced myself to get out of the bed that morning and from the way I felt, I knew I was in for quite a day. Those “anniversary” or “milestone” days are always a challenge.
My husband suggested having a family day so we took the kids to the movies. When we returned, kids decided they wanted noodles for dinner. So, I threw some elbow macaroni on the stove. After that, things went downhill in a hurry!
One minute the noodles were IN the pot, the next minute, the tiny elbow macaroni were scattered all over the kitchen floor. As the noodles slipped out of my hand, the tears began to fall…FAST and uncontrollably. You would’ve thought I was seriously hurt or someone had literally just died. My over the top reaction was totally disproportionate to the event, but in reality, the tears had nothing to do with the macaroni and had everything to do with me missing my Mom.
If you find yourself crying over spilled milk, or in my case, noodles, extend yourself some grace. It happens and it probably won’t be the last time it does.
Grieving Needs Community
The Lord created us to live in community. That doesn’t change when we grieve.
As we walk through grief, we are going to need others to support us mentally, physically, logistically and spiritually. We must recognize our need for one another and not be hesitant or afraid to admit that we need help.
My hope is that you have people in your tribe that fulfill different needs. We all need a combination of support people that are able to serve in their unique gifting.
As we walk through grief, we need all hands on deck!
We need our prayer warriors, our babysitters, the cooks, the cleaners, our encouragers, our listeners, and of course, our jokesters and FUN friends!
Do you have people in your corner that you can turn to?
If you are lacking, please promise me you will seek out additional support.
When My Mom Died, I was Forever Changed.
If you feel like a stranger in your own body, it’s ok. You aren’t alone or weird. It happens.
Ever since my mom died, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
My body feels different. My mind doesn’t seem to work right (if at all.) The things that used to bring me joy have become more of a chore and things that used to come easily to me now seem to take forever!
Be gentle with yourself.
Just because you were one way before loss does not mean you are that same person post loss. Don’t look at it as being better or worse; you are just different.
There is no Preset Time Limit to Your Grief
The grief process does not follow a linear sequence or predetermined time limits.
Grief is not a time clock you can punch in and punch out of. Sorry to burst your bubble!
No one can tell you how long you should feel this way or when the time will come where you smile more than you cry.
No one can tell you the “right” time to clean out a closet or the “right” amount of time to talk about your lost loved one.
You grieve on your time, no one else’s. Just do me a favor…do not let anyone rush you through. Take your time.
God Might Feel Far Away but He is Right There With You
In my rational brain, I know that God is always with me, in ALL circumstances. But, when my mom died, life hurt and felt unbearable. It’s easy to question whether or not God sees us in our pain and our suffering.
Does He see all my tears? Does He really understand how awful I feel inside? If He does, WHY is he allowing me to go through all of this?
Just because you ask these questions, does NOT make you a bad Christian!
God LOVES when we bring our questions, cares and concerns to Him. When we question things, the Lord has the opportunity to grow us, change us and transform us. Our curiosity and our questioning can lead to deeper faith and a more intimate relationship with Jesus.
Let me assure you, even when God feels far off, He is right there with you, in the midst of your suffering.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8)
There are Gifts in Grief but it Still Hurts Like Crazy
My mom died 7 months ago and I can honestly say that the last 3 months have been more difficult than the first four-ish months. I guess our new reality is beginning to settle in with no signs of leaving.
The realization that Mom is really gone becomes increasingly more obvious with each passing day. I admit, my Mom’s illness and our family’s journey was full of beautiful gifts and life changing perspective. God used our circumstances to grow me and transform my heart. But, in the midst of it all, the ache is ever present and the void seems to be more painfully obvious and palpable.
Grief hurts like crazy and no learned life lesson can take the sting away.
No One Can Read Your Mind
Say what? Really?
I totally thought that people around me could and should be able to read my mind when my Mom died. Sometimes, I felt like my thoughts were so loud that they could be heard over in the next county. But, that wasn’t reality.
Communication in grief is really important.
You should give yourself permission to feel your emotions and not temper them to appease or appeal to others. However, it is only fair to the people around you to share what is going on in your heart and mind.
If you are feeling ‘off,’ mad, or sad, let your loved ones know that. You are absolutely entitled to your feelings, without having to make excuses for them. But, you are not entitled to take them out on those around you. Don’t assume they know how you are feeling. Keep lines of communication open, honest and non- judgmental.
You Might Want to Punch Someone you Love in the Face.
Our friends and family who love us, want what is best for us but that also means that they don’t want to see us in pain. As we already mentioned, grief is not a problem to solve or situation to be “fixed.” That is usually a problem for the people who love us the most (and I’m including myself in that category!)
We try to do and say things that are going to alleviate the pain or stop it altogether. Unfortunately, that is not the appropriate approach.
The people closest to us will often say things that might make you want to punch them in the face! I don’t know about you but as I walked through cancer with my mom and then her death, people with good intentions said some really STUPID, down right RUDE, INSENSITIVE, UNTRUTHS to me, in an effort to make me feel better. Consequently, the opposite occurred.
Words are powerful! Next time you are tempted to offer an overused, insensitive platitude like “Everything happens for a reason,” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” PLEASE, PLEASE, for the love of all things holy, DON’T SAY IT!
Don’t Put Unrealistic Expectations on Yourself
The world is full of unreasonable, unrealistic expectations. Everyone has a belief system or opinion as to how you should experience your grief.
It is amazing to me how freely people offer their opinions or put their own personal expectations on other people. Your grief is all yours.
Be flexible. Expect the unexpected.
Most of the time, things are going to look and feel so much differently than you dreamed that they would. Some days might feel better and other days it might be much worse. Don’t allow the expectations of others to put unnecessary stress and pressure on you to act or feel a certain way, in a desired period of time.
Grief hurts. The process is hard and unpredictable. No two moments or days are just alike.
Some days I sit in utter amazement that the world continues to turn without my Mom in it. I watch the people that I know and love move through life as if nothing has happened yet my world seems to be standing still. It all seems so cruel and unfair! I will never be the same but I’m learning, that is o.k.
When my mom died, life forever changed. I will never be the same again. I will have to learn how to be a new version of me moving forward.
My grief is still new and fresh in many ways but it is constantly changing. I am learning so many things about myself, about the world we live in and about the God that I serve. I still have way more questions than I do answers. Some days life seems to take a few baby steps forward and then other days, I’m backsliding a mile.
I guess these truths learned in grief cannot really be learned ahead of time. They are brutal, beautiful and necessary lessons you learn along the way.