Odds and ends on grief

I forgot how much grief hurts. Sounds stupid but it’s one of those pains I try not to remember. It’s both physically and emotionally exhausting, sucking out joy wherever it goes. It’s not always about death. We grieve many things but the commonality is that it is permanent. We don’t grieve the temporary.

There are different levels and intensities. The information runs through personal filters defining the emotion. It may be relief if someone is ill or devastation if it is unexpected. Unconsciously we assign code to the event that drives this. This doesn’t make it hurt less but in some cases, like illness, the grieving may start before the event so it appears outwardly to be shorter.

There is a guilt. You wonder if you could have changed the outcome. “What ifs” are the worst. Regrets can take you down. The best you can do is get a lesson going forward. There is no point in dwelling on what you can’t change.

There is a “litany” of grief. I relive every grief ever suffered. I grieve over the loss of my parents so many years ago, relationships that blew up and friends/pets that passed.

It comes in waves like nausea. You can feel a barf coming up and you have seconds to get yourself to someplace private. It’s the same with grief. You are perfectly fine, focusing on something else when the throat tightens up, the vocals cords paralyze and your eyes well up. There are seconds before big sobs take over and there is no control. You hope your friends understand and they do.

I get claustrophobic. I want to get out for distraction and then I can’t stand being there. I have no idea when this is going to happen. I do activities alone so I can leave immediately without being noticed.

Routine is soothing. Favorite shows and activities are like rubbing smooth stones. The worst losses happen during holidays when routines are interrupted.

A weight sits on your shoulders. You become immune to it because it’s always there except for that one second after you wake up and before you remember. It lifts so slowly that you don’t notice until one day it’s not there, at least not as much.

You can’t shortcut the feelings no matter what big pharma says. It’s best to work through it or it will recur.

There are things you can do that will help  – deep breaths (lots of them); exercise,  walking is good although physically exhausting yourself is better; get out despite not wanting to; talk even if you are repeating the same thing; allow it to wear you out so you can recover. Join a grief group. There you can talk without making your friends crazy. 

People either eat when stressed or don’t eat when stressed. Trying to maintain normal works best but make yourself feel good even if it’s too many carbs. There is never too much chocolate.

If anyone has anything that worked for you, please share. It maybe something that the rest of us didn’t think of.

Author’s note: These are personal reflections. Your reaction may be very different. Also this is grief and not clinical depression which it can kick off but is very different.

90 thoughts on “Odds and ends on grief

  1. The thing that helped me with both my mother and father when they died was the fact that I was the one who had to organise things and sort out the funeral, will and probate etc. Being busy takes your mind off things. I sometimes think a death is easier than a relationship break up for when they are dead you know they can’t come back but with a relationship you know they could come back.

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  2. Hi Kate, I’m not sure I have ever been so grief-stricken as when I lost my cat in 2017…which I’m very surprised to admit to. I’m totally surprised how deeply the loss of an animal can affect us.
    I began to recover after I read a book on grief, and then assembled all the photos I had of Troy and made a chronological photobook…which I love looking through even now.

    I know it’s been said before – grief is the price of love. Heart and gut-wrenching, but it’s worth paying. jx

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is worth the price. Some people don’t get another pet but the good time spent with them far outweigh the heartache. Losing a pet is hard because it’s part of the household and the routines change. Many years ago I lost a beloved aunt. I did not mourn anywhere near as much as I did with my pets. When I thought about it, she had dementia for many years and I hadn’t seen her in a long time so for me her death was almost a non-event. I grieved the loss years earlier but in a different way because it the loss was more gradual.

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  3. Wish there was something I could do to help you feel better! I really do know how you feel. These losses are so painful. But you had her lifetime together, and you know she was loved and happy and had a wonderful life with you. And you had her love and affection and funny little ways too. Hugs!

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  4. You and the comments here have provided more help and understanding in coping with grief than I had before. I still grieve over the what ifs and the “shouldas” (shoulda done this, shoulda done that), especially with all the cats we’ve had to let go. They depended on us to do the right thing at the right time, but timing is really hard, neither of us wanting to be the one to say it’s time. I hope writing your post gave you some release and relief.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Writing and all the support I received here went a long way to healing. My mom always called it the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” syndrome. I have a few regrets here too. One is that I didn’t pursue her GI issues more aggressively but to be honest, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. I hope I don’t have to make “pull the plug” decisions for a person I love. Or any person. Thanks for commenting.

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  5. I think you described grief perfectly. It’s a kick in the gut at times; at other times, it lingers like a warm flow down the entire body, hurting and yet embracing the hurt. If I didn’t hurt like this, I’d not have loved like that.

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  6. Pingback: Odds and ends on grief — Views and Mews by Coffee Kat | The Memories Project

  7. I finally understood how actors can cry on demand. All I have to do is think about my last moments with Rozie the dog and I too can open up the floodgates. There is for me, no cure for grief, even years later, but having a new critter in the house helps.

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  8. No, dear Kate. I have nothing to offer. I wish I did. I think your observation that grief hurts is so spot on. It physically really does hurt! I think we all know that it just takes time, but time moves slowly. I’m just so sorry for what you’re going through and I hope it helps a little bit to know we, your friends, really do care.

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  9. You defined grief perfectly Kate – sometimes odd things will be a trigger and make me sad and soon I feel tears leaking from my eyes. When my good friend and neighbor died last August, my boss was on vacation and called me to check in. I had been crying and not well-composed when I picked up the phone. He asked what was wrong – was I okay. He knew Marge and his response was “well at least I know you are human, I’m sorry and I’ll call back later.” He called back the next day. To this day, I don’t know whether that comment leaves me miffed or not – I know I dwelled on his statement until I went to bed, so maybe it was meant to distract me? The first Christmas after my mom passed away, I heard the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and this line in particular just made me weep:

    Through the years we all will be together
    If the fates allow.

    It does not help that you lost someone near and dear to you in this time of year – gloomy, gray, cold, dismal – a joyless outside and a joyless inside as well. {{{ }}} to you Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This hit me really hard, and I’m so sorry you have to go through it. For me personally, the best thing I can do is talk to someone. In person, not over text or phone call. And not necessarily about what I’m feeling. I just need to have someone there who I care about and who cares about me. And of course, a little chocolate is never amiss. -Ari

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  11. Thank you Kate for sharing your own intimated journey with grief. There is so much wisdom in your personal reflections. I hope naming what is happening helps heal your heart… and help others experiencing such a loss.
    My interpretation of the waves is a bit different. The waves are like the ocean, moving feelings through me. They appear as tears welling up and then subside just like ocean waves. This ocean is love. The waves are a testament to all the love that is within.
    Sending a hug.❤️

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  12. Such a good description of grief. There were two periods of grief in my life that took me down. I was shocked at how much it felt like I was walking in the dark even when the sun was shining brightly. What helped me was writing out my emotions, it may not work for everyone. Some don’t like to write. For the loss of my beloved Piezon, I spent a lot of time at the petloss message boards.

    I know I have more grief ahead of me with an aging dog and a sick parent, so I’m grateful for what I have right now.

    Holding you with warm wishes over Hazel.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I wish there were some words, anything that can heal your pain or minimize the grief. But we all know the things we do to distract or help are only temporary. You’ve expressed these feelings we’ve all come to know too well, in a way we can understand and feel. Our minds tell us to move but our hearts ask us to sit and remember. The motions we have to go through will be there tomorrow. All in time.
    Stay well, Kate.

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  14. I’m reminded of the saying ‘joy shared is doubled, grief shared is halved”. I hope so much that the burden of your grief starts to lighten as you share your sense of loss. We’ve all been there and your words of grief ring so true.

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  15. Time has not healed me. I’ll never be the same without my mom. Just typing these words makes me cry ~ this April will be 11 years. Nothing has changed. Time has not yet healed the anger and I feel over being deceived and dumped by a man I fell for in 2016 ~ it has prevented me from dating again, which may be for the best anyway.

    But everyone is different.

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  16. What always gets me, with the loss of a pet, is not hearing the rapid-fire tap-tap of claws on the wooden floors as they come to greet you. Or not seeing a dog waiting in the doorway, their tail going like a helicopter blade because they are so excited their human is back and was not eaten by a bear.

    Even if you were only gone 30 seconds to take out the trash.

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    • Those are definitely dog things. I miss the accusing look of “you haven’t fed me in at least 20 minutes.” or the soft purr when you touch their soft fur at 3 a.m. as they pounce on you. If I ever laid down on the bed during the day you can be sure there would be at least 3 cats, maybe 4 on the bed keeping an eye on me to make sure nothing happened to my opposable thumbs. They would only greet me at meal times but I always knew their resting spots.

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  17. I know exactly where you’re coming from with this Kate. The What Ifs are the worst. Even after 14 years, losing Barney hurts, but if we hadn’t lost him, we wouldn’t have Maggie.
    Grief is different for all of us, as is our expression of it, but it does catch you at the most unexpected times.
    Thinking of you (and Sci who has lost LM).

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s so curious:
    one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief.
    But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window,
    or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed,
    or a letter slips from a drawer . . .

    and everything collapses.

    ~ Colette

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  19. My heart goes out to you Kate! You described things so well. The waves, the nausea, the gulping sobs,etc. Unfortunately there is no magic cure and as you said, everyone grieves differently. One of the things that work for me is listening to music. Music can be so powerful as to how it touches our heart and it usually brings more tears, but it is healing as I just try to soak it in.
    Holding you in my heart and thoughts as you give yourself time to grieve. The tunnel can look so dark, but thankfully there are friends who hold the light for us as we make our way through!

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  20. Grief can be like a low, dense fog that rolls in quickly and is all consuming. I’ve found getting out and helping someone, especially an elder, will often cause the fog to lift, but usually is only temporary. Take care of yourself, Kate. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I think you hit just about every emotion and feeling I’ve ever felt about loss or grief. It’s physical and emotional, separately and sometimes in tandem. “Waves” sounds about right; one minute you’re focused on a task and the next out of the blue you think of a conversation with a loved one who’s passed on. It sounds like you’re handling it the best you can in finding a private place sometimes to get yourself centered again. Loved ones are always there if you need comfort, which I suppose is the best reassurance possible. Take care… – Marty

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    • Centered is a great word. When I was working a middle-aged (but not old) co-worker died after a very short illness. I remember his (fairly new) wife saying she was going to the beach to “center” herself. I’m at a good spot right now — sad but good.

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