The Day I’ll Finally Stop Grieving

“How long has it been? When is he going to get over that grief and move on already?”

I get it.

I know you might be thinking that about me or about someone else these days.

I know you may look at someone you know in mourning and wonder when they’ll snap out of it.

I understand because I use to think that way too.

Okay, maybe at the time I was self-aware enough or guilty enough not to think it quite that explicitly, even in my own head. It might have come in the form of a growing impatience toward someone who was grieving or a gradual dismissing of their sadness over time or maybe in my intentionally avoiding them as the days passed. It was subtle to be sure, but I can distinctly remember reaching the place where my compassion for grieving friends had reached its capacity—and it was long before they stopped hurting.

Back then like most people, my mind was operating under the faulty assumption that grief had some predictable expiration date; a reasonable period of time after which recovery and normalcy would come and the person would return to life as it was before, albeit with some minor adjustments.

I thought all these things, until I grieved.

I never think these things anymore.

Four years ago I remember sitting with a dear friend at a coffee shop table in the aftermath of my father’s sudden passing. In response to my quivering voice and my tear-weary eyes and my obvious shell shock, she assured me that this debilitating sadness; this ironic combination of searing pain and complete numbness was going to give me a layer of compassion for hurting people that I’d never had before. It was an understanding, she said, that I simply couldn’t have had without walking through the Grief Valley. She was right, though I would have gladly acquired this empathy in a million other ways.

Since that day I’ve realized that Grief doesn’t just visit you for a horrible, yet temporary holiday. It moves in, puts down roots—and it never leaves. Yes as time passes, eventually the tidal waves subside for longer periods, but they inevitably come crashing in again without notice, when you are least prepared. With no warning they devastate the landscape of your heart all over again, leaving you bruised and breathless and needing to rebuild once more.

Grief brings humility as a housewarming gift and doesn’t care whether you want it or not.

You are forced to face your inability to do anything but feel it all and fall apart. It’s incredibly difficult in those quiet moments, when you realize so long after the loss that you’re still not the same person you used to be; that this chronic soul injury just won’t heal up. This is tough medicine to take, but more difficult still, is coming to feel quite sure that you’ll never be that person again. It’s humbling to know you’ve been internally altered: Death has interrupted your plans, severed your relationships, and rewritten the script for you.

And strangely (or perhaps quite understandably) those acute attacks of despair are the very moments when I feel closest to my father, as if the pain somehow allows me to remove the space and time which separates us and I can press my head against his chest and hear his heartbeat once more. These tragic times are somehow oddly comforting even as they kick you in the gut.

And it is this odd healing sadness which I’ll carry for the remainder of my days; that nexus between total devastation and gradual restoration. It is the way your love outlives your loved one.

I’ve walked enough of this road to realize that it is my road now. This is not just a momentary detour, it’s the permanent state of affairs. I will (and do) have many good days and many moments of gratitude and times of welcome respite, but I’m never fully getting over this loss.

This is the cost of sharing your life with someone worth missing.

Four years into my walk in the Valley I’ve resigned myself to the truth that this a lifetime sentence. At the end of my time here on the planet, I will either be reunited with my father in some glorious mystery, or simply reach my last day of mourning his loss.

Either way I’m beginning to rest in the simple truth:

The day I’ll stop grieving—is the day I stop breathing.

 

 

428 thoughts on “The Day I’ll Finally Stop Grieving

  1. Thanks for reposting this. It’s coming up two years since my husband passed, and it doesn’t get better. Just different.

  2. Now when I have a memory and that arrow goes through my heart I think: “Hi there dear one. I really really loved you. I Still do and I’m so grateful for that.”

  3. I know there’s a good chance that someone has posted this for you before but I go to it regularly for myself and to pass on to others.. Left as a comment on someone’s blog on grief…

    Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.
    I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
    As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
    In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
    Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
    Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

  4. So sad lost my baby sister that left 2 daughters so hard when I see them they look so much like there mom!😭😭😭😭

  5. I feel as if you miss them more each day. It gets harder not easier. The day I stop grieving is the day I am reunited with my family in Heaven. Until then I’ll continue to remember birthdays, anniversaries & I’ll continue to cry over little things that are reminders of what I’m missing in my life.

  6. I lost my mom 3 days ago. She’d been in declining health for years; I thought I was ready. I’m not. Your words give me hope. Thank you

  7. i’ve had this for a few years and just happened to open it tonight. You have touched me deeply I lost my second son to Cancer 3 years ago. My grief is unending ! Your words are comforting and full of hope. Please keep writing as it helps all of us in our healing and reason to go on living.
    Thank you
    Graciela Quintana

  8. Beautifully said. I related because I too, miss my father every day.

    I cringe when people ask if one has “gotten over it.” You never “get over” a loss. You learn to live with it.

  9. January 5, 2019
    It has been 2 months and 6 days since I lost my son. It has always been the two of us since my other children have grown up and left home. He was special needs but he could take care of himself some. I truly miss him and I am crying while writing this article. I just sit at home and thank about him and cry. I know he is in a better place now. No more suffering. I still grieve for my son. His Birthday is March 25 that is really going to be a hard day for me. Grief will always be there.

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