stephmodo: Thoughts on Grief

Thoughts on Grief

• 28 September 2018

Dear Friends...I've missed you. How are you? Have your lives changed as much as mine has since we last spoke a handful of years ago? I'm not sure if you're still around (outside those who have been kind enough to email me over the last few years...thank you!), but if you are, I've got a few more things to share. I am a pretty private person in many ways, but I've felt compelled to write again and be a part of this community of good people who share with and learn from each other. How blessed I've been by the relationships made here.

Around 5 or 6 years ago, I stopped blogging regularly after feeling inspired to increase my focus on family matters. I'd been mulling over taking a break for some time, but certain events prompted me to bite the bullet and press pause. I am grateful I made that decision for a few reasons; starting with the fact that I loved my family and I also wholeheartedly believed (and still do) in following inspiration. Interestingly enough, I've recently felt that same inspiration to return to blogging. Again, it's been on my mind for a little while, but this time my circumstances are much different.

I've written this post on grief over and over in my head for many months. While I shower. While I run. While I drive. All of my thinking places. I have so much to say...yet don't know how to say it...and I also know many of you have so much to add. And, I hope that you do! Grief is an acute form of suffering, and the more that is shared, the more helpful these words will be to others. I know, from personal experience, that support is one of the ways we rise above sadness and grief. It is my hope that some of the things said here provide that for you too.

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Loss comes in different shapes and sizes.  You can feel it if a good friend passes away, you can feel it when your spouse leaves, you can feel it if your mother doesn't recognize you anymore, you can feel it after you've lost your financial means, you can feel it when a sibling develops an addiction and you don't recognize him/her. There are so many types of LOSS. In the last two years, I've lost a pregnancy, a job, and most recently, my marriage and the family life I cherished. These experiences have brought on deep sadness, worry, pain and of course, grief. All those "what could have beens" and "what should have beens" have run on repeat in my mind. Recently, we've seen some high profile tragedies in the news and I think the obvious message here is that many people are hurting--some of us to the point of suffering--and often, we don't realize to what extent.

The interesting thing about grief is that when you are immersed in it (particularly the early stages), you feel as if you are living a parallel life. The world goes on around you. Nothing is different there. You feel as if you are living, yet not. It's almost as if you are an observer of life, but not actively a part of it. It's super weird. And super sad. At one point, I remember having the distinct thought as I walked down my hallway, "I can't believe a human being can feel like this AND still be alive." (indeed, it is a true manifestation of the human body and spirit that we can go on!) It's a state I'd never experienced so acutely before, despite other challenges in my life over the years (HG, origin family loss, etc.). I know it's said that it's "...better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all", but boy I wonder if Tennyson's heart ever shattered into a million pieces like mine. Or yours. Was he simply waxing poetic or fancying an idealist side? Perhaps attempting to console himself during some type of personal loss? Who knows. But then again, Brené would probably agree with him too. I guess I cannot deny all that darn vulnerability stuff that I've bought into over the years :). She certainly has me convinced! Which I guess is why I am writing all of this to you today. This is hugely vulnerable for me. I love something she said in a recent newsletter:

"The brokenhearted are the bravest among us--they dared to love."

Tell yourself that when you're curled up in a ball and feel sad, weak, scared, alone, downtrodden, and of course, brokenhearted. Remind yourself that you are BRAVE. Take courage knowing you will be more empathetic than you've ever been up to this point. Nothing teaches you that more deeply than experiencing grief yourself. But when you're in the thick of so much pain, it's so hard to do. Once the fog begins to lift, just a little bit, you'll feel better equipped to start practicing this growth-enhancing mindset. I've had to be reminded over and over myself.

When ready, consider thinking to yourself that you are grateful for something a phone call from a friend, a pretty day, clean sheets to sleep in, a hug from your child, a compliment from a stranger, good health, etc. Then, graduate from just thinking of those things to thanking God for those things in prayer and/or meditation. If you're up for it at any point, consider reaching out to those who helped you and thanking them. It could even be a quick text; because let's be honest, on your best day, that's about all you can do.

I found this step almost impossible until the fog began to lift for me, so be easy on yourself if you're still at the stage where putting one foot in front of the other is the most you can do today. I am here to tell you what others told gets better. And certainly be easy on others when they too are grieving for whatever loss they are experiencing. I know that I am grateful for those who stay/stayed with me in my grief--surely it wasn't easy to be my friend or support during this time. If you have good people like that in your life, be grateful they are there. People like this are one-of-a-kind. If you know someone in your life is experiencing grief, loss and suffering, be that person to them. Sure, the relationship will feel one-sided for awhile; but, you may have the opportunity to play a critical role in someone else's healing and they will never forget that. Ever.

They say they are 5 stages of grief...and upon first glance you think you'll just move through them one by one, checking off the boxes as you go like it's your daily to-do list or something. Wrong. It turns out that the 5 stages of grief aren't so simple. You may find yourself moving 1, 2, 3 and then back to 2 for awhile. You may find you can get through step 4 only to be triggered and find yourself back to step 1. Or, you may find that your five stages last two months, but another's lasts two years. Or maybe you'll never get over your loss. I won't judge you if you don't. Life is so much more complicated than we ever knew it would be...don't you think?

I've learned so much more than just what I've shared here today. And perhaps I will continue sharing...we shall see. As I have clearly embraced my vulnerable side, I hope you feel inspired to do the same! I strongly believe that sharing and learning from each other in a safe place is remarkably healing, increases personal growth--growth that we couldn't experience to the same extent on our own. In the meantime, here's a quote by Carl Jung to chew on...

"The word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness." 

Perhaps there is meaning in it all...only time will tell.


  1. Stephanie - I hope you received my email. You remain in my thoughts and in my prayers.

  2. I learned this a few years ago too. The end of my 31 year love affair just about killed me. I thought I'd die from the pain of it all, and I really had to give myself a lot of emotional pep talks. Lots of people have walked a similar path & survived. People with less money, less education, less of a support system. I have 3 girlfriends who pulled me through it. I felt abandoned by my family, but I've since built a new family who I chose & it feels pretty damn good.

    I actually sat down & made a list of the things in my life that made me happy, and then I tried to figure out how to get more of those things in my life. It wasn't always a straightforward path, but I learned & grew & continue to learn & grow as a person. I found some new hobbies & blew the dust off some old ones.

    I've also learned that love comes again. It might look a lot different than it did last time, but try to tell yourself to be open to it. It takes a ton of courage to be vulnerable again.

  3. I'm so glad I happened to have a hankering for a dark chocolate pudding recipe I found on your blog years ago. This post is beautiful and while cathartic to you, will touch all who encounter it. Grief hits in so many different ways. 7 years ago my mom was diagnosed with ALS. She passed away almost 2 years ago. These 7 years have held many different stages of grief. It does change and get better and more manageable but very few will ever understand the grief that still lingers in your heart even years later. I'm so sorry that you've experienced so much loss in the last fews years. My heart goes out to you as you wade through all the many feelings that come with this grief. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope to hear more from you in the future.

  4. I came to look up your southwestern salad dressing (still a favourite!) and was so happy to see you are blogging again! I've missed your thoughtful and authentic writing. Thank you for sharing your experiences and reflections here again.

  5. This is an amazing post. You are courageous. ("Courage is going on", Elizabeth Moon.) Vulnerability is difficult. I will bookmark this post, and return to it again. You describe the sense of suspended reality, of disbelief, so well.
    I can't seem to access the other comments on this post. It's OK.
    I hope you continue to post whenever you are moved to do so. It's not required: it's not owed. But you have a beautiful voice.
    -Carol S-B


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