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The Grief Post

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We don’t know exactly what day it was that my father died. It’s a long, sad story that I won’t get into here, but the point is that as a result, the entire month of February feels terribly melancholy.

We will resume our regularly scheduled programming next week, but as I prepare for the 11th anniversary of my father’s passing, I wanted to share some small bits of wisdom I’ve gathered along the way. If you’re experiencing any form of grief or loss, I hope these words will provide even a little bit of relief – if only just to know that you’re not alone.


Make Space for Grief

I used to push away my grief so I wouldn’t have to feel it. I’m good (maybe too good) at staying busy and keeping myself occupied. I’ve learned that the grief is going to find you no matter what, so it’s best to make some space for it. Sometimes that means carving out time to write or walk or listen to music. For me, it usually means looking through my father’s old hand written letters, or his photos, or driving by his house (which is now occupied by a new family that painted it a truly shocking shade of turquoise). Sometimes it means having a good cry (or scream) in my car. Figure out what works for you and claim the space you need.

Create a Ritual

Once a year, in February, my brother and I spend the entire day together. We visit the cemetery and stare at our father’s headstone that reads, “Beloved father and friend.” Sometimes it’s raining, and sometimes it’s bright and clear out. It feels brave and hard to visit him, so afterwards we always go for a hike, and treat ourselves to a really nice lunch. As part of our annual ritual, we started buying ourselves nice ceramics, one piece each year. Now we both have what we need, our stacks of plates and bowls marking the passage of time.

On my Dad’s birthday I like to cook his favorite meal for the kids (Swedish meatballs and fancy mac and cheese) and then toast his memory with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream cones (another of his great loves). These annual rituals provide a safe container, and some structure, for the grief that bubbles up each year. Make sure to create something customized and special for yourself. You might actually end up looking forward to these traditions as I do.

Receive Kindness

I used to shoo away any form of empathy related to my grief. I’m an “I’m fine!” kind of person, but slowly over the years I’ve learned to allow gestures of kindness in – in little bits. When I was tasked with rushing to coordinate my father’s funeral, Jordan lovingly offered to pick out the suit he would be buried in. I let him. I had no choice really, as that kind of decision felt not just unbearable, but paralyzing. His small gesture felt like a warm rescue blanket.

Recently my friend Naomi offered to find a beautiful stone for me to leave on my father’s headstone. “We’re sisters,” she said, when I told her through tears how touched I was. Grieving the loss of someone you love can make you feel like you’re drowning, and it can be hard to let other people in. Even if they don’t understand, or can’t begin to comprehend what you’re feeling, I’ve found that if you’re open to receiving it, people will surprise you by showing up in the most generous ways you can imagine. Do your best to let them.

Find Resources That Resonate

Over a decade ago, the only resources I could find were terribly sad local support groups and a handful of very heavy books. Since then I’ve discovered a collection of new, disruptive voices in the grief space that resonate for me much more. Among my favorites are Modern Loss, All There Is with Anderson Cooper, and the Ghost Stories podcast, all of which feature candid and refreshing conversations about loss.

March to Your Own Beat

When I lost my father, all the people had all of the advice: Keep busy. Slow down. Wait to clean out his house. Go through his things immediately. Read this bestselling book about depression. Join a suicide loss support group. Stay away from groups. Ultimately, I ignored all of the advice and did what I needed to do: A mix of staying busy, weekly therapy sessions, crying alone in the car, eating all the Ben and Jerry’s, hiking my father’s favorite trail, and confiding in a few very dear friends who commiserated and cried alongside me.

When it comes to grief the only 100% can’t fail advice I have is this: You do you. Your grief, and your grieving process, are going to be unique, so do your best to honor what you need when you need it. Here’s to being kind and patient with yourself throughout the process, however long it may take.

Sending love to any of you who are navigating through grief or loss of any kind.

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31 comments on “The Grief Post

  1. thank you so much for the post Shira. I lost my husband of 52 years last March. Everyone said Christmas will be awful for you, it wasn’t as my family made sure I was cared for and I had fun. With March approaching I am feeling quite different and reliving the time he was in hospital, so your words have come at a very apt time.

    1. Thank you for your lovely suggestions addressing grief. I love that you cook your Dad’s favorite meal to celebrate him. I do the same to celebrate my Dad. His special meal is St. Patrick’s day corned beef dinner and a toast to his love. When love has been that deep so will be the loss. Hugs to you.💚

    2. What a tremendous loss. I’m so happy that your family has rallied around you and you feel supported. Sending lots of love your way. xoxo

  2. Thank you for this. I’ve lost both my mother (11 years) and father (2 years) with a divorce thrown in the middle. Although much time has passed, I needed this gentle reminder to slow down and give grief the attention it needs. Perhaps one day too I’ll be able to do my parents favorite things without tears. I’m sorry for your loss.

  3. Thank you for sharing this I’m sure it was painful to write but at the same time cathartic. I love the ways you honour the memory of your father, I’m going to take some of those and make them to my own to commemorate his death, his birthday + Fathers Day.
    I am sorry for your loss.

    1. Yes, it took me over a decade to get to this point and it’s different each year that passes. Thank you for the kind words. xoxo

  4. What a beautiful written post, Shira. As a holistic life coach and counselor, I see too many people carrying old, unexpressed grief which holds them back. Our culture is afraid of grief, and unfortunately, people who don’t show grief are called “strong.” I applaud your compassionate, pragmatic, gentle approach. I’ve saved this post to my dedicated Pinterest board “Death, dying, grief, and grace.” Thank you, Shira, and my heartfelt, caring thoughts to you in this time of remembrance for your dad.

  5. Thanks for this post, Shira. It really helps to see that there’s no one-size fits all approach, and I like the idea of building traditions around a loss anniversary. As an aside, I lost my mom in the last year, and her old house was also painted a shocking turquoise color, so I can commiserate!

  6. I think sharing our grief journeys helps us to understand, respect and care for ourselves and confirm each us process and live our these journeys differently. There isn’t this moment where it all rushes away for good – as grief is like ocean; fluid in motion – with both calm and rough waves pulling us in and out. 💛 to all.

  7. Thank you. Grief comes in many packages. In the last two years I lost my mother and mother in-law, both pretty unexpectedly. I’ve also been diagnosed with two devastating illnesses that are extremely painful and most likely sticking around for the rest of my life. Grieving my old life and health are a completely different kind. I basically let myself cry it out in the mornings and then get on with my day right now. I hope that looks different in the future, but for now It’s what is getting me through. I also call my sisters a lot and they can make me laugh….so it helps.

  8. Hello, I don’t know if you’re posting this for me or my husband whose dad passed on some decades ago or less than that; my dad died in the eighties and so it’s been a long while for me than my husband. I have never grief for him since his passing I had already left home and learned of it later but the family sees it as my fault; always everything is my fault…I carry the burden as the oldest child to do or not make something of myself. Well, some take longer to grieve than others. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I have lost a beloved husband to divorce, my first child to stillbirth, my cherished father and mother to death, my peace of mind (temporarily) through close family members’ addiction and mental health challenges, and my assurance of my own health through cancer. Through all these losses, God has not failed and will not fail me. God is love, and “what is grief but love persevering?” I think the focus on “getting back to normal” after grieving is somewhat misguided; we will never be the same, which can be good if we become wiser, more compassionate and less self centered through our losses. You are so right to counsel honesty about our feelings and humility in allowing ourselves to be helped by others; God can and will use all things—all—for our good and His glory, if we let Him. “My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

  10. Thank you for this. I’m so sorry you lost your dad to suicide. I did, too – 26 years ago. Some years the anniversary is sharp and painful and other times is peaceful and bittersweet. I appreciate your ideas to incorporate with my own coping mechanisms. Sending so big love your way. I’m sorry you have had to endure this pain. It’s awful! Hugs!

  11. Thank you Shira. I lost my mom last month and it has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I miss her everyday. I love the ideas of creating a tradition to remember all the things your father loved. I’d like to do that for my mom. I also love the reminder of “you do you” because we all grieve differently and what may work for me might not work for others. I am like you and like to stay busy but also recognize the subtle memories that come to my mind during the day and allow the tears to flow.

  12. My mum and dad both died last year, 4 months apart. I moved in with them to care for my mother through her terminal cancer and then my father became sick with worsening heart failure immediately after her passing and died in October. Being able to care for them in their last few months was a gift. I miss them terribly. I agree – grief is personal, do what feels right to you xx

  13. Thank you, Shira. My mom died at the end of January, 2020 so February has the same feel for me. She was 86, which is a good long life, but it seems it’s always too soon to lose a parent. I’ve found that it’s actually gotten harder to have her gone, the more time that passes. I think it’s because there are just more and more special occasions when she’s not here to be with us and longer and longer since I heard her chuckle or saw her lovely face or got to sit beside her and hold her hand. I just miss her ❤️

  14. Sending love to you during this tender month. My dad died in August of 2019. I still talk to him daily. I feel him with me often… and I never stop missing him. Grief seems a strange journey that continues to evolve as time passes. Hugs. 💕

  15. Sitting in a chair watching your Uncle Rob walk to the aqua water here on Bandos Maldives. I will let him read your post when he returns.
    Thanks you for sharing your heart, head, process, wisdom and beauty. I wish I knew your dad. Privileged to know your Uncle and you.

  16. My husband/life partner/best friend/amazing stay at home father of my two little ladies (8,11) died suddenly this past September. In the midst of the grief (mine & my daughters), a demanding job and all of the extra administrative responsibilities of death I am forced to completely makeover my entire life to figure out how to survive as a single working mom. I need your help! I started your book before he passed and was making progress but now I not only cannot walk in my basement but I haven’t even had time to watch a tv show or put my own clean laundry away in months. This could be a great makeover case to include in your next book as examples for every single category (since you can’t really use your own life anymore … it is too organized already!)…

    1. Oh, my heart breaks for your loss. I hope that you’re going easy on yourself. Send me an email – I’d love to see how I can help. xoxo

  17. So spot on, a beautiful reminder to take whatever space I need….even after loosing my mom at 17 almost 30 years ago. Thanks, Shira! <3

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