Sunday, November 7, 2010

26 Months: What I Have Learned About Grieving

I have encountered several people who have had stunning losses in the last few weeks and days.  I don't have much to offer, but here are ten things:

1.  That crushing weight you feel, the one pressing down on your chest and suffocating you, will gradually get lighter and you will be able to breathe normally again.  It will take awhile.  Let it take however long "awhile" turns out to be.

2.  You will be exhausted for a very long time.  (I don't know how long.  Long.)  Plan accordingly.

3.  Try not to make big decisions.  They are likely to be bad ones. 

4.  Most people will drift away or disappear pretty much entirely.  They have their own lives to live.  So be it.

5.  Accept that your brain will not work well for awhile.  Memorization  and complex tasks are better left until . . . I don't know when. Not soon.  Maybe a couple of decades.  If you forget something kind of obvious ~ what you did yesterday, for instance ~ that's usually ok.  Not always,  but whatever.

6.  On the flip side, pursue the work that presents itself to you.   It will be harder and take longer and make little or no sense, but there will come a time when you you will look back and be satisfied with what you have accomplished, and you will be grateful that you were able to do something of significance even when all of life's meaning seemed to have evaporated.

7.  Recognize that being around large groups of people (meaning more than about one person besides yourself) is draining.  Whenever possible, avoid parties, big dinners, and demonstrations on the Mall.  If you simply must go, always know where the exit is located and where your car is parked. 

8.  Know that the burden is on you to understand that your friends and colleagues cannot understand your life.  You care about them, so you wouldn't want them to, anyway.

9.  Cultivate an attitude of forgiveness.  Or, if that is too hard, as it will be on some days, cultivate the practice of silence.  

10.  Believe that it is all right to try to be a decent human being, to find small things to enjoy, and to plan for the future ~ even though your loved one is no longer with you.  You are here, and the world is still beautiful, and people are still interesting, and Micah 6:8 still applies.

It's been so hard; it seems like I should know more.  But I don't.


  1. I couldn't have sat down and begun to create a list as insightful as this. Yet, I read each point nodding my head in complete agreement and at the same time a little astonished to be able to read those feelings put in words. It's all things we learn as we stumble (or drag ourselves) through the experience.

    But we both know, when a loss is dropped on someone, there's really nothing to offer, except to be there.

  2. I'm going to keep this list close at hand. It's full of hard wisdom, which could only have come from one who has lived this hard truth. Love to you, and thank you.

  3. I think you know so much from a such a hard place....

  4. You know more than you acknowledge. And you teach more than you can ever imagine. Thank you.

  5. Beautiful. I'm going to link it up. It is so helpful to those who have been there, and those who haven't yet.

  6. Robin, thank you so much for this.

    (I went to a workshop with Paula D'Arcy last week, and see said many of the same things. I held you in prayer though a good bit of my listening.)

  7. Hrrrmmmmppphhh.

    Maybe I should be offering workshops instead of giving it all away?

    Thank you for the prayer, Di.

  8. You know, Robin, there may be something to that!

    It really was extraordinarily good. She wasn't ever clinical, just talked about her experience, told some of her story, and shared about other people's experience. Seemed so much more relevant than a clinical perspective.