What do you do with grief at five (or more) years out?

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What do you do with grief at five, ten, twenty (or more) years out?

Short answer?

There is no answer.

The thing about grief is that it’s ongoing.

Grief has no end point. Sure, it generally starts to lessen in intensity with time, but then one rainy Saturday, there it is. As intense as ever. So, maybe that lessening in intensity thing isn’t even true. At least not for everybody. And not all the time.

No matter how you feel politically about our current president, he’s a good grief role model, if there is such a thing. Which there probably isn’t. Nonetheless, I appreciate President Biden’s willingness to talk about grief. Being Grief Counselor in Chief, is a big deal. The man knows grief.

Biden often says things like, I promise, the day will come when thinking about your loved one brings a smile first, rather than a tear.

Again, even if you don’t like the man’s politics, that’s a pretty comforting thing to hear when you’re grieving. It offers hope that a heart can heal even when the hurt remains. And hurt and grief do remain.

That’s where I’m at now when I think about my dad. A smile first, rather than tears. Most of the time anyway.

We learn to live without the person we miss. I’ve been doing that for five years now. This doesn’t mean it’s easier. Just different.

Grief is always lonely.

After all, no one other than you had the exact relationship with your person that you did. So, some grief is yours alone to shoulder. Luckily, some can be shared as well.

People often say things like, I know how you feel.

They mean well, of course, but they don’t know because grief is personal.

Even if they’ve lost a dear one, too, their relationship with their dear one was different from the one you had with yours. This is true even among siblings (and others) grieving for the same person. My relationship with my dad was not the same as the one he had with each of my sisters and my brother. Mine wasn’t better, or worse, or stronger, just different. As daughter number three, uniquely mine.

In the early stage of grief, there’s usually an outpouring of some sort. Calls. Texts. Cards. Messages of sympathy on social media. Visits. Casseroles. Hugs. Get togethers. Time off from work. Memorials.

Pretty fast, that outpouring ends.

Then, grief gets even lonelier.

This is just a fact. We get better at grieving quietly because we have to. For the most part, we keep it to ourselves, tending to it privately. Or at least that’s my experience.

People expect you to move on and pretty quickly too. They get busy with their own lives, which is as it should be. They assume you’re back to your old self. Back to normal.

The thing is, normal had your person in it. So, there’s no going back to normal.

It’s now been five years since my dad was living. For some reason, I like framing it that way rather than stating it’s been five years since my dad died. Go figure.

You might want to read, I feel lost.

Five years. In a way, five years is a long time. In other ways, it’s hardly any time at all.

Grief confuses time. Time confuses grief.

What do you do with grief at five (or more) years out?

Feel it. Talk about it. Write about it.

Talking about grief isn’t easy. Writing about grief is hard too. But maybe we make both harder than they need to be.

If grief is so universal, why is it so hard to talk (and write) about dying, death, loss and grief?

We assume people don’t want to talk or read about such things. Too sad, too depressing.

But maybe we’ve been wrong about that all along.

Maybe talking, writing and reading about grief is exactly what we need to do more of.

I think it is.

What do you think?

I’d love to know.

Finally, if you are grieving, you are not alone. I hope knowing that helps just a little.

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Tell me about someone you grieve for.

Have you ever felt reluctant to talk about your grief?

Do you think grief gets easier over time?

Do you have a grief tip?

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