128 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief

Andrea Davis

9 min read

With many suggestions from my fabulous readers, friends and social media, when it comes to understanding grief, this list barely scratches the surface of what I wish people would have told me about grief. I am constantly thinking about grief from the educational side of it, practical ideas, and how to manage and cope with it. This list takes us back to the basics of grief, the things that people never tell you. I would love to hear some of your feedback and suggestions to add to the list, send me a comment.

1. People will bring you food because they don’t know what else to do. Don’t feel bad throwing it away.

2. Nothing will prepare you for seeing a loved one on a respirator for the first time.

3. There is no such thing as closure.

4. You will plan the funeral while in a fog. If you aren’t happy with the funeral you had, have another memorial service later.

5. It’s okay to live, laugh, and love—yes, guilt-free.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. It is okay to laugh.

9. Religious faith can also be strengthened by loss.

10. Death brings out the best and the worst in families, so be prepared.

11. A home death/hospice death is not always a good death.

12. Death doesn’t just happen to other people.

13. You still grieve the loss of people you didn’t like or had a strained relationship with.

14. Beware of counselors who are not grief related. If your doctor is a good doctor, he will not treat you like you’re crazy.

15. The person grieving may have never had such a loss before, and they themselves may say ignorant things.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. People will tell you things that aren’t true about your grief.

19. Process guilt, but don’t keep processing it over and over to the point that it is harmful or unproductive.

20. 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. It’s ok to get up and leave without explanation.

21. 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.

22. Years later, you may have a moment when you forget that person is dead—and you will lose them all over again.

23. Grief can make you push people away.

24. 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.

25. 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!

26. You grieve what you never had, for example, children never born.

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. It’s okay to be mad at the person for leaving you.

30. A hospital death is not always a bad death.

31. Too many people will try to impose time limits on your grief. Do not listen to them.

32. Dying is not like you see on TV or in the movies. It is not peaceful or prepared. You may not have a spiritual or meaningful moment. It’s too real.

33. 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.

34. Stop avoiding and be present.

35. 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 the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255.

36. Have someone take a picture of your loved one in the casket. You can always throw it away but you can never get another.

37. 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.

38. You will forget – things about them, or them all together for a moment – and this will bring a new style of guilt. You will remember them in unexpected ways.

39. It is especially devastating when you lose the person who supported you through other losses.

40. Taking a Greif Recovery Method course is 100% beneficial to moving beyond loss and living a joyful life.

41. There is no timeline for grieving. You can't rush it. You will grieve, in some form, forever.

42. Do not gauge your grief by the way others grieve, as everyone is unique.

43. The death of a loved one does not prepare you for the death of the next loved one.

44. You are the only one who can say how you should feel.

45. Not only should you “debrief” after caregiving but also during caregiving.

46. Don’t make big decisions simply because you feel really good or really bad on a particular day.

47. 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.

48. Let somebody else do the driving, at least for a few days.

49. No matter how prepared you think you are for a death, you can never be fully prepared for the loss and the grief.

50. Grief lasts a lot longer than sympathy.

51. Death and grief make people uncomfortable, so be prepared for awkward encounters.

52. Sometimes you can’t physically say goodbye to a person before they die and that can be devastating.

53. 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.

54. 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.

55. Death can be emergent. Sometimes you only get that one moment to say goodbye or hear goodbye.

56. It is normal and acceptable at times to feel relieved after someone has died.

57. Grieving will feel like you are keeping that person in your life, but you can be happy without ‘letting them go'.

58. You can plan for death, but death does not always comply with our wishes or plans.

59. Every death is sudden.

60. 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.

61. Suicide loss can be extremely traumatic. The shock and denial make it difficult to begin truly grieving.

62. Be kind to yourself and find a really good pillow to sleep with!

63. 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.

64. Cut yourself some slack and take solace where you find it.

65. When people offer support, take them up on it.

66. When it comes to grief, there are no rules.

67. 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.

68. 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.

69. Grief makes you lose focus and makes it difficult to complete tasks.

70. Grief can make it terrifying to get close to people, for fear of losing them.

71. 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’.

72. 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.

73. “Why?” and “What if…?” are unanswerable. The trick is to figure out how to live without the answers.

74. People will say stupid, hurtful things without even realizing it.

75. There will be pressure from others to move on, even minutes or hours after a death, and this can lead to regrets.

76. Sometimes we do most of our grieving before our loved one dies.

77. 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.

78. Grief can bring physical pain.

79. Do not allow anyone to tell you how to grieve. Ever.

80. It DOES get better. Slower than we wish, but it does.

81. 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.

82. However badly you think it is going to hurt, it's going to be a million times worse.

83. People will tell you what you should and shouldn’t feel, and how you should and shouldn't grieve. Ignore them.

84. Time does NOT heal all wounds.

85. You don’t get over it, you just get used to it.

86. The pain of a loss is a reflection of love, but you never regret loving as hard as you can.

87. 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.

88. You will carry your children’s grief more than your own.

89. Grief re-writes your address book.” Sometimes the people you thought would be there for you aren't, and the people you last expected become your biggest supporters.

90. You may find comfort in very unexpected places.

91. 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.

92. Holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays will be hard forever.

93. Grief can make you feel selfish and entitled, and that’s okay (at least for a while).

94. People love to judge how you are doing. Watch out for those people.

95. 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.

96. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

97. Just because you feel pretty good one day it doesn’t mean you are cured of your grief.

98. Talking isn’t the only way to express and process emotions.

99. Grief can make you question your faith.

100. Grief makes you feel like you are going crazy.

101. You should go somewhere to debrief after caregiving.

102. You grieve your past, present, and future with that person.

103. Grief can make you question your life, your purpose, and your goals. And that isn't always a bad thing.

104. It is okay to tell people when they are not being helpful.

105. You can’t compare grief or compare losses, though people will try.

106. The last 24 hours of their lives will replay in your mind.

107. Seeking grief counseling doesn’t mean you’re crazy or weak.

108. You will never go back to being your "old self." Grief changes you and you are never the same.

109. Trying to protect children from death and the emotions of grief isn’t helpful.

110. It's okay NOT to cry sometimes.

111. Watch your drinking. Alcohol can quickly become an unhealthy friend.

112. Grief doesn’t come in five stages. It's messy and confusing.

113. The grief process is about not only mourning the loss, but getting to know yourself as a different person.

114. You lose yourself, your identity, meaning, purpose, values, your trust.

115. There will always be regrets. No matter how much time you had, you’ll always want more.

116. 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.

117. It's okay to cry sometimes.

118. There is no normal when it comes to grieving.

119. Grief can make you a stronger person than you were before.

120. 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.

121. The practice of sending thank you notes after a funeral is a cruel and unusual tradition.

122. There are many days when you will feel totally and completely alone, whether you are or not.

123. 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.

124. We all grieve differently, which can create strain and confusion between family members and friends.

125. Big life events and milestones will forever be bittersweet.

126. Anger is normal part of grief.

127. Any loss you grieve is a valid loss, though people will sometimes make you feel otherwise.

128. It's normal to feel numb after it happens. The tears will come. They come in waves.