On Grief


I’ve been thinking about grief lately. After two deaths in our family this year, people have asked me about my loved ones: “How are they doing?” “Are they feeling better?” And of course that makes sense. You hope that people heal, and you want to do anything you can to help speed along the process for those you care about.

But I read something really illuminating.

My brother-in-law Paul, who died this spring, had sent us the memoir Lament for a Son last year. In the book, a professor writes about the loss of his 25-year-old son, who died in a mountain climbing accident. Paul said it was the truest description of grief he had ever read.

This line, I loved:

Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over.

Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it… Every lament is a love-song.

The paragraph made me realize: You’re allowed to be sad. For as long as you want. The person is worth grieving. It was surprisingly reassuring.

Also, from modern-day sage Anne Lamott:

Death; wow. So f-ing hard to bear, when the few people you cannot live without die. You will never get over these losses, and are not supposed to. We Christians like to think death is a major change of address, but in any case, the person will live fully again in your heart, at some point, and make you smile at the MOST inappropriate times. But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you. All truth is a paradox. Grief, friends, time and tears will heal you. Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate you and the ground on which you walk.

Also, my sister sent me this video, which is so heartbreakingly beautiful and worth watching (the part with the hands at 2:11!)…

Lots of love. xoxo

P.S. How to help a grieving friend, and the beautiful, beautiful article, Getting Grief Right.

(Illustration by Vanessa Jimin. Video is Moving On from Ainslie Henderson, via This is Colossal.)

  1. Katherine says...

    This remains my favorite post on COJ.

  2. Bernadette says...

    My fiance passed away on March 7, and it has been a very difficult time for me. It helps me greatly to read about how there is no ‘proper time frame’ to grieve, and how it is all right to not be okay, even when some people think I shouldn’t be grieving anymore…

    • Nora says...

      It’s been 5 years for me. The intensity of grief is a testament to the depth of the love. That helps to accept the grief. Cry on, darlin.

  3. Elli Anne says...


    I lost my Dad unexpectedly three years ago today and I come back to this post often. It has given me comfort during some of my darkest days and I’ve offered words from these excerpts to others in their grief.

    With sincere thanks,
    Elli Anne

  4. Letty says...

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to watch the incredible and unique yarn people film. The song stays in my mind and the video is so heartfelt. IT took me by surprise the entire idea of life beginning to end. It can fit into so many people suffering grief of someone they loved very much.
    I see myself, I see my recently departed husband, I see my parents and realize I can relate to the video. Its tearful but watch it over and over again because you almost need it.

  5. keri says...

    A dear friend lost his fiancé in the London Bridge terror attacks on June 3. I came and searched your blog for grief because I knew you would have curated some of the most helpful and beautiful articles, songs, and words about grief.
    Thank you. I love the bit about being a builder in the post about how to help a grieving friend.

  6. Michelle says...

    Such a beautiful post and omg, that video had me in tears.

    PS, I love finding these old posts linked through new posts. :)

  7. kimiko says...

    Thank you Joanna – grief has been the strangest, most confusing and complicated path I’ve walked. Every time I think I’ve figured out the rhythm, the ground shifts again. This post has offered much comfort – I have come back to this time and time again. Thank you thank you thank you.

  8. Thank you, thank you for sharing this! I very recently just lost my grandmother and to be honest I am still struggling with the loss but I found a tremendous amount of comfort from this post. Thank you again for these beautiful words.

  9. Thank you for this post. it really blessed me. some times i feel so weak when i feel sad about my mum, but then this post is so true. its perfectly fine to grieve for as long as we want and need.

    “Every lament is a love song” I love that!

    Rachel x

  10. Our bookclub just read a beautiful memoir where the author is grieving for her father – H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. In this podcast she talks about the aftermath of his death and when she realised that she would never ‘get over it’ but absorb it into who she was –

  11. “Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate you and the ground on which you walk.”

    Wow to Anne Lamott. It’s so true.

  12. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over. – I couldn’t agree more.


  13. I really appreciate how you take hard topics like your depression and tragedy and bring them to the table in a such an honest and gentle way. I think the internet is a place where these things can often be glossed over. I too have struggled with how to help a friend talks bout grief or how to allow myself to feel real pain. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Wow, Joanna. Thank you for sharing this. We’re the family that was supposed to stay in your apartment in July of 2013 and had to cancel because my brother-in-law was killed in a biking accident. This video is so beautiful and incredibly moving. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience such loss. You were so kind to me/us when we had to cancel our plans at the very last second and I’ve never forgotten that. Sending love & warm thoughts.

    • Sorry, that was supposed to be 2012.

  15. Sarah says...

    “You’re allowed to be sad. For as long as you want. ”

    This is exactly right. You’re allowed to grieve them for the rest of your life. Our first born daughter died at 6 months old from sudden infant death or cot death. There was no warning, no signs. We woke to her lovely plump soft milky warm skin lying cold and lifeless in her cot. We were devastated in every sense of the word. That was 12 years ago. We still carry it with us. We can be happy now, we can laugh, we can hope, we can dream but it never leaves you. There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think about her and miss her. The grief lies quietly in the background sometimes but every now and then I cry and cry and cry. But then I continue on. Once I apologised for my sister for not being ok with it after all this time and she hugged me and said “sometimes you’re ok and sometimes you’re not. None of us are. And that’s ok.” It was so wonderful to hear and allowed me the freedom to feel the grief til the end of my days.

    Thank you for this post Jo. xx

  16. Thank you for writing about grief. It is such a difficult thing to deal with and everyone griefs in a different way, it is such a personal thing. I read your post and got emotional, it touched me and reminded me of the passing of my uncle. We were close in age, more like cousins. He passed last year in his early 40’s, very unexpected and sudden. It has been very hard on our family. I say, we now have one more angel in heaven. I will never really “get over” the grieving or pain, I feel we eventually get used to living without our loved one’s physical presence, but never really get over it. It has been very hard for me, I finally wrote about it on Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead in Mexico/Latin American countries). My uncle’s son (14) wrote to me thanking me for writing about it and honoring his father, as well as sharing how important his father was in my life. Here’s a link to the post, if your interested, includes pictures from our childhood growing up together
    Thank you for such a touching post. Grief is a challenging thing .

  17. Thanks for this post, Joanna. My sister recently had a miscarriage, and at first I felt selfish to be grieving so much, but I realized that it is okay. I, too, can grief over her loss. I’ll be sharing this post with her wisely.


  18. Jenn says...

    Thanks for this beautiful post. Sheryl Sandberg recently posted on Facebook about what she’s learned about grief since her husband passed away suddenly. I found her words incredibly moving and relevant to this conversation. This article provides a recap and a link to the post:

    Joanna, my thoughts are with your family as you continue to grieve.

  19. Isabela says...

    Such a beautiful and important post! I am sorry for your losses!

  20. Ellie says...

    Have you read “On Loss and Living Onward” by Melissa Dalton-Bradford? She’s compiled this anthology of grief writings into chapters, each one beginning with a powerful, moving, essay about her 18 year old son’s sudden death. It’s a beautiful book and guide.

  21. it’s a journey. <3

  22. The video, while beautiful, is itself heartbreaking. I almost wish I hadn’t watched.

  23. Chiara says...

    Have you read the wonderful Transcending Loss: Understanding the Lifelong Impact of Grief and How To Make It Meaningful? I came across it one day when I was searching for comforting words, and this one had all the right ones. The author is warm, and comforting, and skilled, and attuned to what it is we go through when we grieve. More importantly, she gently explains why the so-famous 5 stages of grief are inaccurate and how awakening to the fact that grief is life-long can help us understand how it changes as we change, too. Can’t recommend it enough.

  24. bisbee says...

    Such an important post. That video is so moving and is such a unique way to show loss.

    My parents have been gone for many years – my mother over 22 years and my father 18. I am 64. My daughter-in-law lost both of her parents before she was 35. It is never easy, and it is never over…many mornings I wake up and realize I’ve been dreaming, and my parents were quite alive in the dream – SO real! It doesn’t end…it does change.

    However, I am always puzzled when I see or hear people say they can’t imagine losing a parent…or they don’t know how they will survive if a parent passes. We are supposed to live on after our parents die…it is really tragic if it happens the other way around. We need to learn about life and death in order to handle what is inevitable…and to somehow survive the unimaginable if it comes to pass…

  25. Megan says...

    Thank you, Jo. Thank you.

  26. Hailey says...

    I actually feel quite distressed after watching that

  27. My husband, the man I married when I was 21 .. died a little over a year ago. Suddenly, with no time for goodbyes or last I love you’s .. He was there and then he wasn’t.
    I was married to him for longer than I was not.
    He was my lover, my best friend, my protector , my everything.
    I fumble along and feed my cats and get new kittens and try to pretend life is normal … but it will never be normal again.

  28. Nina says...

    Agh, that video. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s and it really does feel like he is unraveling as we watch, helpless. x

  29. AB says...

    What lovely words you’ve chosen to explain the inexplicable. My best friend was killed in the VA Teach massacre 8 years ago, and grief over her is still something that catches me at the oddest moments. People always seem surprised about this–“do you think you’ll ever get over it?” Well, no. She was a bright, beautiful, essential part of my life and her loss shifted everything. So of course there is no “getting over” this. Of course not. As you quote in your post, it’s a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for a time that cannot be recovered or experienced again. But my grief is also a testimony to her and what she meant. Sadness and beauty are so often intertwined in our lives–acknowledging that truth is a kind of freedom that allows us to experience both fully and without reserve. Thank you for these wise words of comfort.

  30. Thank you for this! The video had me in tears. I lost my little brother in December and by far the easiest way to handle the pain is by pretending to have “gotten over it”. But I don’t think I ever will, and in some respects I don’t want to. Thank you for your words and understanding. Just what I needed. I’m so so sorry for your losses. If I have learned anything through my own grief I think it is to be more compassionate toward others. You never know what someone is going through!

  31. A says...

    A thank you that comes from across an ocean and a continent, your words and the comments that followed have really made a difference to this grieving heart, who has been trying to ‘move on’ too hard, for far too long.

  32. This was just what I needed today. My father died really suddenly and unexpectedly 10 months ago. I’m about to get married, and he’s not going to be able to walk me down the isle or share in any of the experience with me. Never in a million years did I ever think that wasn’t going to happen. I’ve also fielded the same questions you have; people being concerned for my mother and brothers (and me). I put on the same ‘strong’ facade that the lady in the article does. I still have surges of emotions that are so intense I can’t do anything but lie on the floor sobbing and making inhuman sounds. These have increased in frequency again, as my wedding draws near. And this blog post….it just feels so comforting, somehow, when someone gets grief right. So thank you.

  33. Grace says...

    My dad passed away in December from heart disease. Even though I saw him take his last breath, was holding his hand at that very moment, it still doesn’t feel real most of the time…until it does. I’m twenty-four and I can’t help but feel cheated, followed by a wave of guilt about my self-pity. My dad was an older father, had me on his fiftieth birthday. He was a smoker, had had kidney cancer and defeated it, had had two strokes and got through them with flying colors. The heart disease slowly crept up on us; it didn’t seem serious until my dad couldn’t go anywhere without oxygen tanks. My dad was given so much more time, especially considering his lifelong habit of smoking. Yet when I think about getting married, holding my first child in my arms–I know on those most joyous of occasions I’ll also feel loss. I’m just now beginning to understand that grief is lifelong. My family and I are all Christians and that has been my only hope and comfort. I’ve tried to live these past few months trying to find joy wherever I can–because the one word that best described my dad after “faithful” was “joyful.” I read books upon books on grief the first month my dad died. I read as many passages from the Bible that mentioned it that I could. “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis was the one book I felt a connection to. It’s scattered notes on losing his wife to cancer, and it gave me perspective on what my mom might be going through. It is not an “easy” read nor is it necessarily “comforting.” It’s raw. It’s written in the direct aftermath of death. But it’s the realest account on grief I’ve read thus far. My dad and I’s birthday is this month along with Father’s Day. More than all holidays that have passed since his passing, this one will be the hardest. I truly find comfort in these excerpts as the day is fast approaching.

  34. Emmy says...

    I love that quote from the second passage about our loved ones living on inside of us. It’s so true. Sometimes when I find myself saying or doing something just like my dear grandma (who passed away last fall, and whom I was very close to) would have done, I realize she’s still here with me, in my heart, just present in a different way.

  35. Heather says...

    My friend sent me this post and it couldn’t hit any closer to home. I lost my mom less than two months ago at the age of 59. Two weeks after, her younger brother who also lived my parents, unexpectedly passed as well. The quotes you site are exactly how I feel everyday. It’s a constant nightmare that I’m waiting to be over, waiting for her to call, waiting to find her in her garden.

  36. Oh wow. That video had me bawling. I haven’t lost many people, just two who meant a lot to me and they were both my Grandparents. They played major roles in my childhood and now being a mother I see the world differently. What a lovely video… so sad and beautiful.

  37. weeks away from the one year anniversary of my mother’s rest from cancer, this was such a comforting read to take some time and enjoy today. thank you for the encouragement to work WITH our grieving process. so much is truly worked ‘through’, and then just when you’ve thought you’ve gotten through some major hurdles, it feels like someone’s come through and reset the course. now, I think I will envision the trials and difficulties more in that manner: a track or course with hurdles that, even if I successfully make it through a lap and up and over all of them, they will still be there to get up and over and again.

    truly, thank you so much for this today.

  38. Christina says...

    What a beautiful post. The fear of losing people I love has gotten so much stronger recently, as I move cross country from my family and start one of my own. Reading this and the comments makes me feel less alone in that feeling. And, as a veterinarian, it’s so helpful to be ever expanding my understanding of grief. We’re often in the position of helping clients with loss and, I’ve come to realize, it’s a skill on which I will be forever working.

  39. Sandy says...

    I just returned tonight to my home in the pinky of MI from my 6th chemo treatment for stage IV breast cancer. I have some time my doctors and the researchers tell me, not as much as I want. My young (53) husband and 3 boys (25, 23, 20) all have these moments where they are terrified of the truth that is before us all…losing me. I will tuck these precious gifts from your blog today and share them when the time feels right. If you haven’t read about or seen the Instagram, Sunsets for Shalin, it will warm your heart. Peace to your family, one day and one sunset at a time.

    • Becky says...

      This breaks my heart for your family but you seem to be handling your undoubted grief (and that of your family) with grace and dignity. You are a stranger to me but my thoughts, prayers, and best wishes are with you tonight.

    • Sandy, this is so hard to read. I’m so very sad for you and your husband and sons. You are far too young and life sucks, but death sucks more. I will think of you today xx

  40. Marinna says...

    You are a remarkable person to be able to write so thoughtfully on such a difficult topic. I am so terrified of losing the people closest to me, and becoming a mother made that fear cut even deeper. I just cannot imagine ever being separated from the people who are truly what I live for. This video absolutely gutted me! Thank you for sharing such a moving piece and sharing your life with us.

  41. Olivia says...

    My losses have so far been of pets and foetuses; I consider myself very lucky; although losing the babies was pretty rough, I haven’t had to lose any ex-uterine humans who I’ve been close too. My experience is that after all the grief and anger and frustration and misery fades, the love remains. That’s where I’m at with the (much-loved) animal losses. 4 years and a baby (I already had a child) after the baby losses, love is beginning to live alongside sadness, regret and missing someone as the main emotions. The animals have taught me that in time, with time, the love remains. I’m so sorry for your losses; I’m a doctor and a friend posted, separately,a link to Paul’s musings. The world is a poorer place without him, much love to you all.

  42. Anya says...

    My dad died a little less than 4 years ago. Some days the loss feels further away than others, and sometimes it punches me in the gut as hard as the day we lost him. The grief is always there though, and about two years ago I decided that it was okay, because grieving is the last way we get to love people. And I’ll always love my dad.

    • Emily says...

      “Grieving is the last way we get to love people” – how absolutely beautiful. Thank you for those words. XX

  43. Alisa says...

    This was a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  44. ceciel says...

    wow, thanks Jo. so beautiful and real and how I love that you give us “light” reading on many days but also don’t stray from the tough stuff too.

  45. The Anne Lamott line about your loved one’s absence being a lifelong nightmare of homesickness really got me. The video made me cry. Really beautiful and heartbreaking as you said. I think about your family all the time. Sending you lots of love!

  46. Lael says...

    Thank you for this, I just had a miscarriage and it has been hard. xo

  47. marisa says...

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Those words are beautiful as is the video. It has been a month since my miscarriage and I still am not sure how to process to loss of someone I barely knew – I do feel the experience has provided me with greater empathy for the sadness, the hurt and the grief that people carry but which those on the outside don’t see.

  48. Amanda says...

    My heart hurts after watching that video, but in a good way. Still crying.

    I think of your sister often and send her and her daughter peace. Thanks for sharing this post. I’m sure that I’ll come back to it in the future.

  49. My Dad died unexpectedly in 1976 when I was nine, and since then I have moments of feeling loss and mourning the absence of a father. It will be 40 years this August and I still a take sniff of the aftershave he wore if I see it in a store and I feel the need to connect.
    Three months ago our dog, Paulie, of 14 years died and my daughter (12) and I have had many beautiful, raw conversations since. Most of her friends haven’t experienced a loss of any kind and had a hard time relating. Two weeks ago my longtime General Practitioner Doctor told me to grieve the dog like a spouse. Fourteen years of loyal companionship, sleeping by my side, waking my daughter every morning for school, being overjoyed when we walked in the door, whether it had been days or just a quick trip to the mailbox, is a precious thing and grieving honors the love we had for him and still have for him.

  50. Rebecca Janssen says...

    I so appreciate this post. My sweet, little sister died unexpectedly last August, and the grieving is just such a process. So many people don’t understand, or perhaps, chose to avoid understanding grief. Honestly, I hope I never stop grieving my sister. To do so seems to somehow lessen the importance of her life. Yes, we emerge, with time, from the deepest
    sorrow–mostly (watching that video took me right back there), but grief can be good. We should allow ourselves to experience it fully . . .

  51. Beth Nesbit says...

    I loved that video. I’ve been reading your blog for years and have been thinking how your sister and husband have been coping along with the rest of your family. Your brother-in-law Paul’s essays struck such a cord in me. I send prayers and love to your family.

  52. Joanna, I hope you and your family are taking gentle care of yourselves.

  53. Liz says...

    Buzzfeed posted about grief last week, and I really appreciated their list –

    Also I noticed a few people in the comments have mentioned wanting to help children of loved ones who have died, so I just wanted to share a few resources for anyone looking for support for children/teens. The website has a locator with programs for grieving children across the country, and Camp Kesem ( puts on free camps across the country specifically for kids whose parents have or had cancer. Hope this is helpful for some people looking for resources for kids!

  54. I really, really appreciate this post and completely agree. I lost my father to cancer when I was only 12 years old and though the intensity of the grief wanes with time, I still feel an empty space in my heart for him. He was a great man, worthy of grieving! I remember my mom grieving his loss so intensely that people stepped in and basically told her it was time to move on and stop grieving. But I think it’s really important to give someone permission to feel the grief for as long as they need to. She is okay, but she still says that she thinks of him every day. He was the love of her life, and I can relate. If my husband dies before I do, I will feel it too. Thank you for this beautiful post!

  55. Thanks for this. The part from Lament for a Son knocked the breath out of me.

  56. J in London says...

    ‘How terrible it is to love something that death can touch’

    Thank-you for this. We also suffered a loss around the same time and that quote has just stayed with me.

    This poem helped a lot –

    “Life is unpredictable,
    It changes with the seasons,
    Even your coldest winter,
    Happens for better reasons,
    And though it feels eternal,
    Like all you’ll ever do is freeze,
    I promise spring is coming,
    And with it, brand new leaves.”
    – e.h

    with love, J x

  57. Liz says...

    that video! It was so amazing! I lost my mother to cancer a couple years ago, sometimes I think I’m not still grieving until I see something like that. I have a 4 month old little girl, I would love to think part of my mother is living on in her.

  58. I have no idea what this kind of grief must feel like. You’d think that I’d be comforted by that, but as I get older and more attached to my loved ones, the fact that it will happen sooner or later is enough to make me teary eyed when I think about it. Thanks for sharing!

  59. Sam says...

    That video totally made me ball :( but in a good way, thanks for sharing.

  60. I enjoyed reading this. I have yet to experience this kind of grief as I have not lost anyone so dear to me. I know it is going to happen at some point and I really don’t know how I will handle it. This was insightful for me and encouraging to know that grieving will happen and that is good.

  61. This post came at the most perfect time, as most of your posts do. My sister was murdered five months ago and today has been really hard for me for some strange reason. I recently went to a local Grief Group and they would always say “Grief isn’t something you get over, or get under… it’s something you get through.” and I think that’s so true. I read this post several times and it was very comforting. Thank you.

  62. Judy says...

    Lamott, Wolterstorff and CS Lewis are all keen Christ followers. I’ve always appreciated your honesty about your own spiritual journey. And I find it interesting that their writings have been the most meaningful to you, since they clearly believe in an afterlife and the teachings of Jesus. Would love your thoughts about that. I’m so sorry for your losses. They are indeed worthy of your grief. When one of my best friends lost her husband (and had two small children to raise), someone told her that her tears were worth his loss. She always loved that and I never forgot it. I’ve learned to say it when someone begins to cry and is embarrassed by their tears. So beautiful.

  63. Clare says...

    Can I ask how your eldest boy is coping with these losses? Only because I have a nearly 5 year old daughter and I lost my Dad very suddenly at Christmas. She seemed pretty much unaffected by it up until the last few weeks when she had to go away to visit family without me for a few days and had an unbelievable anxiety attack all about death, dying, separation, the lot. She has settled a bit but I was shocked she had been harbouring all these thoughts and had obviously been trying to straighten it all out in her head by herself. Have you had anything similar?

  64. Kathryn says...

    After a loss last year I delved into hiking and reading to help me cope. One of my favorite books that dealt with grief was The Things They Carried by Tim O’brien. In it, he talks about writing stories about people who have passed (whether the stories were true or less than) as a way to keep that person alive. He says, “And as a writer now, I want to save Linda’s life. Not her body–her life.”

    Just last week I had my husband read Paul’s essay, “Before I Go”. Paul’s life, though too short on this earth, continues as his words bless, guide, and strengthen those who read them.

    I am so sorry for your loss. Grief is one of the most painful things to carry.

  65. J says...

    Here are a few excerpts that I found great comfort in when my husband suddenly died – from A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser (who lost his wife, daughter and mother in one shot in a car accident). Hope it encourages anyone dealing with loss. -XO

    “I did not go through the pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within the pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it. I learned gradually that the deeper we plunge into suffering, the deeper we can enter into a new, and different life—a life no worse than before and sometimes better. A willingness to face the loss and enter into the darkness is the first step we must take. Like all first steps, it is probably the most difficult and takes the most time.”

    “The soul is elastic, like a balloon. It can grow larger through suffering. Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss. Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love.”

    “Initially, my loss was so overwhelming to me that it was the dominant emotion—sometimes the only emotion—I had. I felt like I was staring at the stump of a huge tree that had just been cut down in my backyard. That stump, which sat all alone, kept reminding me of the beloved tree that I had lost. I could think of nothing but that tree. Every time I looked out the window, all I could see was that stump. Eventually, however, I decided to do something about it. I landscaped my backyard, reclaiming it once again as my own. I decided to keep the stump there, since it was both too big and too precious to remove. Instead of getting rid of the it, I worked around it. I planted shrubs, trees, flowers and grass. I laid out a brick pathway and built two benches. Then I watched everything grow. Now, three years later, the stump remains, still reminding me of the beloved tree I lost. But the stump is surrounded by a beautiful garden of blooming flowers and growing trees and lush grass. Likewise, the sorrow I feel remains, but I tried to create a landscape around the loss so that what was once ugly is now integral part of a larger, lovely whole.”

    • J in London says...

      The first quote is lovely. Thank-you for sharing – I have copied it down

    • Mary says...

      Love this. Thanks for sharing (and typing!) x

  66. Heather says...

    Thank you for this post, Joanna.

    I once saw an Annie Leibowitz exhibit where she had hung photos of her dying love Susan Sontag, and then her dying father, and her grieving family, alongside these gorgeous vibrant photos of her babies with spaghetti all over their faces and splashing in wading pools… That’s how grief works. It takes over your whole field of vision for a while, and then it doesn’t go away, it becomes a part of the whole exhibit. And I feel like your blog has been an honest testimonial to moving forward, not on. I sincerely appreciate that you have done periodic posts on this part of your life, acknowledging that it persists alongside all of the sweetness and the light. And you are always so respectful of your family’s privacy, which I so admire.

    Also: That video.

  67. Joanna,

    My family experienced great loss and tragedy last year and this post really touched me. Thank you dearly.


  68. Katie says...

    Two of my favorite writers are Anne Lamott and Mary Oliver, and I feel a special twinge of connection every time you share their words on the blog. Thank you for always being so honest with sharing your stories. Sending love and hugs to you Joanna.

  69. Louise says...

    Your post struck a chord with me, 11 months on from losing my mum-in-law suddenly, my husband and I are still trying to swim through the murky waters of grief. I was pregnant when she died and it has been so bittersweet. Some days feel so hard. Thanks for talking so openly, being young ourselves means that a lot of our friends can’t relate and it can make you feel so alone and misunderstood at times. The video made me cry. Thanks for the wonderful blog, it’s always a joy to read.

  70. Shirley says...

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post and video. It’s exactly what I needed to see after visiting my sister-in-law who is in hospice for cancer. I am preparing myself for the pain and grief that my brother and their children will go through very soon and trying to find ways to make their pain more bearable. She has had a very difficult struggle and I only wish for her peace and no more pain. It is such a juxtaposition to visit her and then come home to finish working, and carrying on “normal” life. In this social media saturated world where all you seem to see are happy shots of life, I really appreciated seeing this very real and very authentic post. I hope that your grief and your family’s grief over your lost loved ones gets more bearable as time goes on, and thank you for allowing me to feel my own grief for my family member.

  71. I cannot believe how hard that video made me sob! That last little bit, holding the end of the yarn, kissing it…..I’m undone.
    I am so grateful to not yet have the same stories all these other commenters do, but I AM scared of those days. So I guess I cry because sometimes being human is a scary thing, and sometimes it feels so unfair that we have such a beautiful, wonderful thing and then we have to give it back. (Maybe for something better….maybe not?)
    I have to commend you on this post–I’ve noticed since Caroline and Erin have come on board you’re posting really thoughtful, personal posts. And I love that entirely more than the product posts, because I’m not really into reading advertisements. I love that we can have a conversation about things that don’t really matter….or we can read all the funny things Toby says ;)
    My most heartfelt wishes go out for peace for you & your boys.

  72. Michela says...

    Thank you. Only this.

  73. Elizabeth Johnson says...

    Thank you for sharing. My Grandfather, affectionately known by me as Opa, passed away last Friday. He lived a heartbreaking and wonderfully full ninety years. In the forties he spent four years in Auschwitz under the torturous hands of Dr. Mengele, or Dr. Death, and other Nazis. Weighing only 68 pounds when liberated by the American troops he got well over a two year period. After moving to Atlanta he joined Martin Luther King and saw the cruelty still residing here in the states. Anyhow, the world is diminished by his passing and I’m happy to share his story of courage and victory. The grief is precise and sticking around and I’m grateful for that.

  74. margaux says...

    i lost my mom more than 27 years ago when i was 12. it still feels as if she’s going to walk through the back door, arms full of groceries, at any moment.

    it’s true. it never goes away, but it does get easier.

  75. f says...

    thanks for sharing your thoughts and emotions… grieving is such a confusing, painful process and it helps so much to see different perspectives on it. my brother-in-law also died a year ago and the wound some days is still so fresh. i imagine as we age, we’ll get more used to the idea of people leaving us… as hard as it is to let go.

  76. Have you read Claire Bidwell Smith’s memoir yet–The Rules of Inheritence? She looses both her parents within a few years. Following her in her grief process is so compelling. One of the things she said that I always think of now is (& I’m paraphrasing! ) ” grief is a final act of love” . I am now reading her follow up called “After This” about what comes after we die. So very thought provoking and intense. There are times that though I was to keep reading I literally have to put the book down.

  77. Courtney says...

    There’s a quote I love that has really helped in dealing with grief that goes something like “You will be together far, far longer than you will ever be apart” I’m not sure who it is by, but it is a beautiful, hopeful thought.

  78. this is so wonderful and a perfect description. one of my best friends passed away a few years and i am still not “over” it. sometimes i forgot he is gone and in that moment i realize that he is, it is this weird grip of fear and sadness that fills me. sending warm thoughts your way.

  79. That video made me break into audible sobs. My mother is losing her memory. Profoundly.

  80. melisa says...

    That video gutted me. So heartbreaking. Sending love to you, Jo.

  81. Nat says...

    while many other blogs fall by the wayside, your little corner of the internet just keeps getting better and better. so engaging, so open and real and such a wonderful place to have a meaningful conversation. thank you for sharing and keeping on. beautiful original and thought-provoking post, as always.

    • Amanda says...

      Yes, yes, yes – I echo these exact same sentiments. The thought and conversation here is truly lovely.

    • J in London says...

      I concur.

  82. karina says...

    Thank you so much for this post. My mum died last year – far too soon – and having watched her die I find it so hard to deal with the grief.
    I have to read the ‘memoir of a son’. What wonderful words and so true. Made me cry but in a good way. Lots of love to you and your loved ones. Keep them close. X

  83. In your post about talking to kids about death, you asked if anyone explains death differently because of their religious beliefs. I’m a Christian, and there are lots of things we believe about death and resurrection, but today’s post reminded me of a story of Jesus. In Scripture (John 11), there’s a story in which Jesus’ close friend Lazarus dies. Jesus arrives at Lazarus’ home three days too late only to find Lazarus’ two sisters profoundly sad and confused. Jesus asks to be taken to the tomb. When he gets there and sees the sisters (also close friends of his) and Lazarus’ friends weeping, Jesus himself begins to weep. But then the next thing that Jesus does is bring Lazarus back from the dead. Lazarus comes out of the tomb, fully himself, and lives on for many years.

    I find this so moving and comforting because even though Jesus is God (another Christian belief) and has power over death, he still grieves the death of his friend. He knows he will see Lazarus in a matter of minutes, but he does not discount the pain and loss of death. He is deeply moved by the pain of his friends and even by the brief loss of Lazarus. It’s so validating to know that even God goes through the process of grief.

    Later, actually, Jesus himself died. He never shied away from any human experience. He took every burden of humanity, death and sickness and the wrongness that permeates us, died, and then he came back to life in order to break the power of that evil. He says the point is for him to take the burden of the pain in order to extend to us healing and life and peace.

    Like I said before, Christians believe in resurrection, in a new place where, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

    Anyways, that was what was going through my head when I read this post. I’m so very sorry for your losses. Even though I don’t know you, through your beautiful blog I’ve grown to feel a personal connection, and it’s hard not to hurt along with you and your family. I just prayed that God would give you and your family comfort and peace as you walk through this valley.

    Love, Aanna

    • I remember hearing a wonderful sermon about that very thing–Jesus, who knew what had awaited Lazarus! Who knew what it would mean to call him back! To grieve as thoroughly as the rest. I think He was really devoted to experiencing every aspect of humanity, grief amongst those things. I really enjoyed reading your comment :)

  84. Cynthia says...

    My father passed away over 40 years ago, and while I have adjusted, I still miss him, especially during holidays. I really missed him when I graduated from college, married, had my girls, my girls’ baptisms, confirmations, and graduations. I know he would be proud of me and I know he would have liked my husband because they have several things in common. My baby brother, my only sibling, passed away almost five years ago from cancer. I’ve adjusted, but I really miss him. My husband and I will be watching a TV show and say, “Jimmy would have loved this show!” As my brother was always full of fun and foolishness, he passed away on my half birthday, probably to get even with me. He still comes back to visit by creating a leak under the sink that can’t be explained any other way, as someone would have to loosen the connection. We’ve also had plumbing problems that can’t be explained any other way. He was a plumber, welder, and mechanic, and I learned a lot from him. It does get better, but the empty spot will always be there. We joke that he wants to make sure I passed Plumbing 101!

  85. Joanna- thank you for bringing awareness to the concepts of loss and grief and how present they are in everyone’s daily life at one point or another. When I was 25, my father was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers and I have spent much of the last 5 years since processing my grief and watching it subside with time, but never go away. The biggest issue I ran into was not having anyone socially to really discuss my grief with, since none of my friends had gone through anything similar with a fatal disease or a parent, and sort of cringed when I would bring up my reality. I think this is due to the fact that while there is so much joy and positivity in our social media dense society these days, the downside is that the online environment tends to sort of lend itself to a ‘spotless’ existence of staged photos and mostly happy emotions. In turn people are becoming less and less likely to discuss these raw and difficult experiences that trigger real tangible grief and pain- experiences that feel better when shared and commiserated about and are healed only by time. I applaud you for having such an honest blog and for opening up your genuine emotions and sharing that it is possible to be a successful, strong entrepreneur and still stay connected to the humanity of loss, grief and pain. Your blog, as always, is a delight to read!

  86. Claire Jennings says...

    We also had two major family losses recently (my partner’s brother and dad). I like to remember them where I knew them best, in the greenhouse and in the chair in front of the TV :) Each place always raises a smile and a fond memory. Grief is so personal, lots of hugs and love and time and talking when the time has right has worked best for us, but to each their own. Sending warm wishes to you and your family across the ocean x

  87. Fiona says...

    I absolutely love this post and I think it’s really important to remember. I have always liked a quote that I saw as attributed to the owner of Secretariat: “Grief is the price we all pay for love.” To me, it’s a reminder that, though painful, grieving over someone or something means you got to experience something wonderful.

  88. Marianne says...

    Grief is the prize you pay for love. So sad to hear about your loss. Warm thoughts to all of you!

  89. Katie says...

    Does anyone have any recommendations for non-religious grief books/essays/words/poems? My boyfriend, who is in his mid-twenties, lost his mom suddenly less than two months ago, and his father died when he was three. Most of the books I find are heavily Christian, which doesn’t comfort him as it does others. xo

    • Laura says...

      Hi Katie,
      Many years ago a therapist recommended “Surviving the Loss of a Love” to me. I was going through a rough breakup, a different kind of grief, but found it helpful. I gave a copy to my grandma when my grandpa died and she said it brought her a lot of comfort. i think it can apply to a lot of different kinds of grief, and isn’t religious.
      Hope that helps. xo

    • Sarah says...

      Hi Katie,

      I’ m sorry for your loss.

      I just finished reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir reflecting on the year after the author’s husband died unexpectedly. Its some of the most beautiful and honest reflections on grief that I’ve ever encountered; your boyfriend may it find helpful. Her writing really highlights that whatever you’re feeling while you grieve and mourn is valid, no matter how illogical or “strange” it may seem.

      All best to you both.

    • J says...

      There is actually a lot of material out there that is not religious. Here are a few.
      I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye by Pamela Blair and Brooke Noel
      What’s Your Grief (blog) – authors I believe both lost moms but they discuss all aspects of grief.
      The Grief Recovery Handbook by John James and Russell Friedman

    • Katie says...

      Thank you, these recommendations look wonderful!

  90. Ashleigh Blatt says...

    I am so sorry for your loss. Remember when you had kids, then suddenly you needed to know about others – how old are your kids? how far apart are they? are they (are you?) sleeping through the night? 3 years ago I lost my mother and then just this past Halloween I suddenly lost my father. I was mom’s best friend and “Daddy’s Little Girl.” The grief is and can be all consuming. But life continues and I take them with me each day. Again, I am so sorry for your loss. Time heals wounds and cements the love you shared in your hearts.

  91. I loved this. My paternal grandmother is my person. She’s pretty much responsible for everything good about me. The hard thing is that at 86, she’s slipping away from me and I feel like I lose her a little bit each time I see her. I grieve for us, our relationship, and our bond. While sudden loss can be devastating- I’ve been there, I’m learning about the slow, gradual loss of someone you love. Each visit is bittersweet and leaves me wistful, remembering times when she was more “there.” Every loss teaches us something and I guess I’m learning how to appreciate what’s before us instead of what’s behind us.

    • J says...

      This is such a nice comment – enjoyed reading it :)

  92. CC says...

    Thank you for this post. I agree how it’s okay to just be sad. It’s good to hear you say that (or read it, whatever)

    I really like the zine, “The Worst” when it comes to going through the grieving process. I picked up 2 issues at Bluestockings (the book store in the LES) when I first moved to NYC right after my grandmother passed. It’s a compilation of others’ writings about their losses and it’s nice to see how differently and yet the same ways people go through grief. And it was really nice to read it and allow myself to just cry and feel sad.

    (I promise I’m not affiliated with this zine other than being a fan)

  93. CHRIS says...

    Thank you for this. My husband passed away from cancer almost two years ago. I don’t have words to describe the kind of heaviness there is to life when you’ve lost someone who is as integral to your life as you yourself are. It becomes a part of who you are. You will still laugh and have moments of delight and, perhaps, even fall in love again. But it’s different world-weary and weathered kind of way.
    I’ve enjoyed all the pieces you’ve posted on grief. I’d also recommend Helen MacDonald’s book H is for Hawk. She writes:
    Here’s a word. Bereavement. Or, Bereaved. Bereft. It’s from the Old English bereafian, meaning ‘to deprive of, take away, seize, rob.’ Robbed. Seized. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone. Shocking loss isn’t to be shared, no matter how hard you try.

    • Frances says...

      World weary and weathered is right. We lost our daughter as an infant two years ago. With a young family there is laughter and a kind of joy, but all requires more effort than it should.

  94. Kate says...

    I recently read this quote: “Grief is love with nowhere to go.” I thought that was so beautiful and rang so true for me.
    Just as you will not stop loving them, you will not stop grieving them. It also helped me see my grief as an expression of love, rather than something that I need to “get over.”

    • really, really beautiful. thanks for sharing that.

    • That quote is so wonderful and true! And grief never actually ends.

  95. Jessica says...

    Three writers mentioned in this post and comments – Wolterstorf, Lamott and C.S. Lewis – are Christians. Seems there is room in the faith not just for hope but true grief as well.

  96. Joanna says...

    Thank you for posting this. My husband lost his mother last month. We are grieving .

  97. “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion is the best book on grief I have ever read, written after her husband suddenly died. Best read when in a rather cheerful mood – but it drives home the point that grief is not something to be gotten over. Yes, the pain eases somewhat but the fundamental love and loss accompany us for the rest of our lives. We just learn to live with the void, never fill it.

  98. Nicole says...

    “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” Rose Kennedy
    (Over the years this quote has often helped me through the grieving process (Dad passed in ’03 to suicide). Hope others can take something from it as well, xxxo

  99. Rachel says...

    My mom taught me to never be afraid to mention someone that has passed away. The family has not forgotten who has gone, and it is not harmful to remember with them. When my mom comes home from a funeral she will often make a note in her calendar for six months from that date as a reminder to call or write a note to her friend that has lost someone because this is when the rest of the world tends to move on and a grieving person feels most alone in her grief.

    • Mary says...

      Such a thoughtful thing to do. What a lady x

    • Ana Simoes says...

      That is really thoughtful. Being from a roman catholic family, we always have the monthly and later yearly remembrance church services, but it is so nice to have close friends remembering your loss and letting you know just that.

      It is ok to be sad and you can be sad your whole life. Sadness just becomes a part of who you are and there is nothing wrong with that.

  100. Liza H says...

    That is the saddest and most beautiful video, thank you for sharing it Joanna!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, this sounds wonderful.

    • Linda says...

      Oooh this is one of my favorite TAL episodes. I loved that story.

    • The whole episode was fantastic.

  101. Mary says...

    I’m still crying reading this. I lost everyone in my whole family with the exception of a wonderful second cousin of mine. They’re not dead but they don’t want to be in my life. There’s a history of abuse you see and in my recovering and saying how things made me feel I lost them. Even my only sibling, my brother. Of course it’s good to start anew and be on the road to becoming healthy in mind and body, to hopefully go on to create a family of my own without dysfunction but the devastation I felt in owning my truth and learning how little I was cared for when I cared so much and for so long for these people who I am related to by blood was truly awful. Grief for an illusion. Grief for people who still live but are for all intensive purposes dead in a way for me… Grief for the living i suppose. grief- It comes in many guises. It hurts so much even to lose some people who didn’t love you. However unbelievable that may seem. Still it leaves in it’s wake new opportunities for a life that is so much better lived. Sending love your way xxx

    • Laura says...

      Oh Mary, my heart goes out to you. I don’t pretend to know how you feel but in my own small way I have been there and know you must be a courageous, strong woman and that you deserve to be loved in the way you need it.
      I’m sorry for your loss and just want to say, you are on your way to finding beauty and real love for yourself in your life. Take care and keep going. It’s worth it :) xo, Laura

    • Mary says...

      Thank you, thank you Laura. Your kind words mean so much. Sending love and blessings your way x

  102. Georgina says...

    I lost my father very suddenly just before Christmas when I was 18. and it’s so true. Obviously 7 years later I’ve got to a point where Ive got used to it. But it’s always there. I think about him every day, but if I really, really think about the fact that he isn’t here any more it still brings me to tears. But when I was discussing this with a friend I realised that I want that. He was my father. His death should always mean something. So whilst in some ways we move on, I don’t want to leave him behind, if that makes sense. X

  103. Thank you for sharing this. Someone dear to us recently suffered a tragic loss and everything I think to do seems so grossly insufficient (because it is compared to the darkness they are facing) but this reminds me to just keep showing up and show them that I am thinking of them. Sending hugs to you and your family as well.

  104. Rachel Anderson says...

    A beloved person told me: “Your grief will never get any smaller, but your life will grow larger.”

    This has been true for me and for many that I have spoken with in my work as a minister and chaplain. It poignantly captures both the profound need to honor the love that is the source of the grief and also promises that we will not dwell forever in this particular kind of pain.

    Sending wishes for courage and peace to all who grieve.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That is so beautiful.

    • Rachel, thank you for sharing this. I found it on Joanna’s post and have used it for myself and my community this year. I live in Parkland and have shared this with my son and his friends who are wrestling with the confusion, grief, and loss that comes from school shootings. It has helped us very much.

  105. Regarding the death of my father and grief, when asked, I often tell people that losing him does not get easier, it just gets more familiar. That seems to sum it up for me.

    Thanks for sharing this and I am so sorry about your family’s loss this year.

  106. Erin says...

    Thanks so much for your honest posts reflecting on grief and loss in recent months, Joanna. In addition to the suggestions by other commenters, I can’t recommend Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” (about the sudden loss of her husband and the sickness of her daughter) enough. After one of my best friends passed away in his 20s after only a 7-month battle with cancer, her book–which captures her raw struggle with grief with so much honesty and vivid description–was more therapeutic and comforting than anything I’d heard from friends/family who knew me well and had tried their best to offer support and counsel. I’ve honestly considered writing to her so many times over the years to let her know what a powerful therapist she was to me, unknowingly!

  107. Jo says...

    Oh jeez. So touching. Made me think of Michael Rosen’s Sad Book.

  108. Thank you, Joanna!

  109. Maureen says...

    On a morning six years ago I was nagging my husband about leaving toast crumbs on the kitchen counter. He was killed in an accident at work that day. We had been married for 22 years. To me it seemed the world changed to a different color the minute I got the news. I guess processing my grief was having to get used to that different hue as I realized my “new normal”. The grief doesn’t go away, it just seems to quiet down a bit as you get more at ease in new surroundings. xo

  110. What a beautiful and touching post! I am not dealing with any loss at the present time, but I still grieve for those I’ve lost in the past. What a beautiful tribute to their memory. <3

    Her Heartland Soul

  111. Michelle says...

    Thank you, Joanna. My little brother passed away in April; he was 26 and he’s my best friend. Countless times every day I see something or recall a funny memory and think, “I should text Brian about this,” but I can’t. Each time it hurts so bad I can’t imagine making it through another minute without talking to him.

    This line of the Anne Lamott quote summed it up perfectly in a way that I haven’t been able to yet: “But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you.”

    I’m very sorry for you and your family’s losses and sadness. Like Alex’s brother, my brother’s death was unexpected and sudden. For some reason, the one thing that gives me a small amount of strength is remembering that even though he’s not here, I’m still Brian’s sister. That’s still a big part of me. I carry that with me every day. I don’t know if that would help Alex to think of, but I hope it does.

    • J says...

      But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you.”

      What a wonderful quote – thank-you for sharing x

  112. Trank you, Joanna, for this post. I lost my mother almost three years ago and she never got to meet my daughters. I still miss her terribly. The intensity of this sadness does not change. The waves are just not hitting as often and I feel a little better prepared for them because I know them now. I feel a similar sadness when thinking about my grandma. But the difference is, that she lived a long life and was tired and ready to go in the end. The only good thing coming out of this still at times almost unbareble loss is my new understanding of our immortality: my mother is present in so many things, every single day. And I hear her voice often inside my heart. I still ask her for advice and still tell her about my days and things she would have loved. And I still hear her giggles and her answers. Because I know her so well. And because I love her so much. And that keeps her with me.
    Lena x

  113. As you know, I experienced the loss of my first husband after just having had our baby six months earlier. It has been almost three years and I still have waves of sadness even after rebuilding my life and finding love again. The grief is profound and doesn’t “die” even after the person has left. You just learn to live with it in a way that becomes a non-distracting part of your life…at least that’s how it’s been for me. Sending you strength and lots of hugs, Joanna. XO

  114. I lost my dad last year. This resonates. Thank you.

  115. Joanna Goddard says...

    My friend also just sent me this beautiful note…


    CS Lewis wrote a wonderful book called ‘A Grief Observed’ after his wife’s death. It’s full of truly touching and beautiful reflections and observations, and the one I think of all the time is this:

    ‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.’

    That clutching feeling – that’s fear. What gets you over it is hope.

  116. Amanda says...

    Jo, Thank you so much for posting this today. I think you’ve found words that support exactly what I’ve been trying to verbalize lately. My mother-in-law passed away about a month ago, not especially suddenly but not expectedly either. She was a wonderful lady and my husband (and all of his family) had an incredibly close relationship with her. My husband has been especially strong through the whole thing and he’s doing OK but I’ve really struggled with what to say to him and other people about the situation. Telling him he’s been strong (which he has been) seems like a bad idea because he doesn’t need to be strong, I want him to be whatever he needs to be in this moment but of course I’m also proud of him for the rock that he’s been able to be for his family. I also struggle with what to say to everyone who asks me how he’s doing….he’s doing ok, life has returned to relative normal-ish. We have very happy everyday moments but there are also sad, lonely moments and I just think that there always will be. I really believe that’s ok. This is a huge, significant loss for our family and it will never really be the same. That doesn’t make it bad, I think it’s just the truth of the situation. Anyways, thank you for these passages and helping to confirm and make sense of my feelings.

  117. Tamara says...

    I’m so very sorry for the losses your family has had this year. I’ve been particularly moved by how honestly and eloquently you have shared about these experiences. Your blog is much more than entertainment for many. Keep up the great work, and thank you for your generosity. Love to you and your family,


  118. Monica says...

    My dad died almost six years ago and I still miss him every single day. Thank you for this.

  119. Thank you for this – I’m sitting on my living room couch right now, tears streaming down my face, because YES to everything you’ve said and those beautiful quotes. I love the idea of lament as a love-song, of grief as a monument to our great love for a lost loved one.

    I lost my second child, my first son, to stillbirth last October. His name was Wendell and he was beautiful and special. A huge part of mourning his death has also meant celebrating his life and realizing my deep gratitude that he existed and that I had the privilege to be his mother and get to know him the seven months he grew in my womb. I’ve been thinking lately about how much grief is a strange, long, weirdly beautiful journey.

    I am pregnant again with another son, got pregnant (to our surprise, I’ll admit!) only three months after Wendell’s birth and burial, and this new pregnancy has been a storm of all kinds of emotions. My husband and I and our seven year old are so overjoyed to be planning to welcome another son to our family, while simultaneously still aching and sad that Wendell is not with us. This baby boy I’m carrying now, Virgil, has a due date that is one day before Wendell’s first birthday anniversary. I can’t pretend to know what I’ll feel when that anniversary day comes but I believe it’ll be a mixture of utter delight to be holding my second son Virgil in my arms and total yearning for my first son Wendell to be with us too.

    It seems that intense grief and intense joy and gratitude are not at all mutually exclusive. Grief is an unpredictable path and I’ve found the most peace in leaning into it, not fighting whatever feelings may come, and knowing it is a normal thing to feel all the things I’ve felt.

    Thank you for sharing these quotes. Sending thoughts of love, peace, and comfort to you and all your family today as you walk your own path of grief, love, and healing. <3

    • Heather says...

      BIG HUG.

      I also lost a baby last year – our little Bruno, who lived just one precious hour. The grieving has been different from when I’ve lost other family members because I never got to know B. I loved him – love him – but don’t have happy memories to comfort me. Like you, I was eventually able to experience intense joy alongside intense joy. There was still so much love and life in my life – my family, my husband, my first son. In some ways, I have learned to love and live better after this loss, to appreciate what’s precious in life more, to be more present.

      Your perspective resonates with me. I also chose to let whatever feelings I had just wash over me, and to experience them, even when it got to the point that friends and family seemed to NEED me to be OVER it. I turned down offers of anti-depressants, knowing that what I was feeling wasn’t a chemical imbalance but an honest reaction to my circumstances.

      We are also pregnant again – with spontaneous twins, which is so crazy – and you nailed it about the range of emotions of a pregnancy after a loss. I decided early on to love them as much as possible for as long as we were together, that I was God’s partner in creation even if it was for 8 weeks, or 8 months, or 80 years. I also do my best to gently deflect comments that suggest that somehow this abundance of life makes up for the loss of our son. These are my third and fourth children – they are not replacement babies. Life isn’t a great big balance sheet of joys and losses that somehow cancel each other out; losing Bruno and having three other children… it’s all in the picture. Thanks for sharing your story. Love to you and your family, and all of your precious sons and cheers to many happy memories to come.

  120. Amanda says...

    Thank you for share this. It is what I needed today.

  121. jill c. says...

    this is so beautiful – thank you for sharing…

    i lost my mom when i was 21 (I am now 39) and I still miss her…
    i also lost my first child when I was 32 weeks pregnant (6 years ago) and I still feel so emotional about him to this day…

    i’m sorry for the losses that you’ve had recently…

  122. Elizabeth says...

    My grandma died ten years ago and I can still find myself being overcome with sadness at her being gone, by her not knowing my children, by not being able to share the ins and outs of my life with her. However, I tell my husband if my future grandchildren miss me half as much as I miss her, I will have succeeded at life.

  123. Glenda says...

    I hope your sister, Alex and the rest of the family are all doing as well as can be. I lost my mom 10 years ago and I miss her every single day. You don’t get over the grief. It becomes your new normal. My mom will forever be with me in my heart. I try to do things that will make her proud and I continue to move forward knowing that that’s what she would want me to do. She wouldn’t want me to “not live” and not be happy.

  124. Grief does linger, way longer than I imagined before I experienced it firsthand. And once it visits, I think it reignites when you learn of someone else beginning the journey. I was heartbroken at the news of the passing of Joe Biden’s son. I’m am more deeply affected by the untimely passing of children – even when they are adults.

    I dont’ know if it ever subsides, but I do we get better at residing with it.

  125. Thank you for this. Time may heal all physical wounds, but we carry the emotional wounds with us. I’m almost 30 years old, and I don’t think I will ever get over the loss of my childhood friend 15 years ago. Some things have changed, though. I smile rather than cry when I think about her, and I feel grateful for the time we had together rather than resentful for the time cut short. To get to this place, find ways to celebrate the person you’ve lost. My son bears my friend’s name, and seeing his sweet face associated with her memory gives me nothing but joy.

  126. I’m sure other people will say this, too, but C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed is just so good, and so raw. It’s awesome for someone to read as they are going through grief. Also, A Severe Mercy is wonderful.

    • Judy says...

      Yes, a Severe Mercy.

  127. ashley says...

    Oh girl, I’m happy to see you reflecting publicly on this. My father died three years ago (I was 29 and woke up one morning to the sudden news). Grief is so strange, and it’s so different for everyone. For me, it became so hard to appreciate kind words because all too often people try to relate to the pain, but in your heart you feel like it’s beyond what anyone could possibly comprehend.

    The biggest lesson for me from the whole ordeal is that when I see others grieving, instead of trying to understand, I let them know that I (and so many others) would happily bear some of their pain if it were possible.

    On a lighter note, rest assured the chokingly raw feeling and overall cloudiness over time gives way to a much sweeter way of remembering who you lost.


  128. Meg says...

    So true.
    When my father died I collapsed into the grief. I remember sitting on the floor of a local bookstore reading about mourning and loss and crying. It felt so good to just dive as deep into it as I could. (I’m pretty sure the clerk in that store was not so stoked on the wet lump of me back there in the self-help aisle.)
    As the pain lessened I felt panicky – if I wasn’t in pain anymore it meant I was really losing him. The grief became a stand in for what I’d lost. It felt like a betrayal to feel better. Thankfully I moved past that guilt. My father is more than grief, of course.
    I still think about him everyday, 10 years later.
    I still cry and mourn his loss, but it’s OK now.
    Thanks for sharing Joanna, your blog is truly awesome.

  129. Beautiful words – sending lots of love to your family. That video WAS worth watching. Loved it.

  130. Jessica says...

    I’m saving the video to watch later…I lost my maternal grandfather at the end of April and an uncle on my father’s side less than a month later. Both deaths were not completely unexpected and it was said of both that they were on “borrowed time” because of this and because I’m 32 and a nursing student I thought it would be easier…but death is death and losing a loved one is still incredibly sad. I have spent many a night crying myself to sleep as my husband held me. My uncle’s funeral while hard helped me make some peace with both of their deaths…something about the choir and the songs they sung. There will be days ahead that are hard…Christmas especially because my grandfather and uncle were regular fixtures in the home…everyone is brainstorming of ways to shake this Christmas up so that we’re not all in the doldrums.

  131. Abby says...

    Thank you for this post. I, too, lost my brother-in-law this spring, due to addiction. He was a true ray of sunshine in so many lives. I’ve had to deal with my own grief, while at the same time, comforting my Husband, which has been the hardest task of my life. I’m sure you can relate.

  132. So beautiful, Joanna. Thank you for sharing.

  133. Florence says...

    I am 27 years old and I lost my mom last summer. The first months <ere terrible but then life happened and I though I felt better for a few months, but I've been struggling a lot the past weeks. It is so good to read that I am allowed to be sad. There are days I miss her so much, doing trivial things such has working or seeing a friend seem impossible and I always feel guilty.
    I remember reading an interview of Mindy Kaling (I believe it was on this blog!) saying that she missed her mom a lot but because she was so close to her, her mom will always be with her.

    • Glenda says...

      Florence, I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my mom 10 years ago. The first year was torture. I miss my mom every single day. I hope I can just pick up the phone and call her. It’s ok to be sad…it’s ok to cry… I believe everywhere I go she is right there with me… forever in my heart.

  134. laura says...

    This makes a lot of sense. I think most people who (luckily) have never experienced grief just think of it as the initial stage of overwhelming, all encompassing feeling but don’t understand it as a continuation. You can pick your life back up, and fit the pieces back together and still be grieving; it is not stationary. It becomes a part of you, another scar, another piece.

  135. The thing I’ve learned about grief is that you never get over the loss, you merely become used to it.

  136. Love this–it really resonates. My mom passed away when I was 11, and I’m 24 now. It’s been interesting to see how the grief has changed. At first, it was about immediate loss; now it’s knowing I missed out on a big part of the human experience (in some ways). I never knew her as an adult, so I feel like I missed out on truly knowing her, which is an ache I’ll never lose.

    And though I’ve been incredibly blessed with many mothers over the years, I still longed for her on my wedding day this past year, and you’re right–she deserved that.

  137. Thanks for sharing. I totally agree with that quote. “You will never get over these losses, and are not supposed to.” I try to find beauty in mourning by doing little things that keep their spirit alive.

  138. Oh Joanna, this is remarkably accurate. And that video… holy cow. I am having a morning cry fest fueled by caffeine; which is an oddly cathartic experience. My mother passed away when I was six and now, decades later, I think I’m just becoming aware of how that grief has been in process throughout my life. But one of the most wonderful things to have come of it is how little I take life for granted. Losing my mother at such a young age could have destroyed me but somehow I managed to go toward anything that would offer hope. The last words that I remember my mother saying to me were, “Always look for the rainbow.” And I do. Having her for such a short time has been a beautiful gift because I appreciate life in ways I don’t think I would have had I not experienced such loss. The grief doesn’t really end but it does offer so many chances to love the life you are in. So for that I am thankful.
    You are a wonderful presence in this community, Joanna. Thank you so much for always sharing such authenticity. You make a difference.

  139. Peggy says...

    Jo – I really loved this. My mom died when I was 5, and 20 years later, I am still grieving. I live with it everyday, and I think especially since it was something that happened so early in my life, I don’t hate the grief. I see it just as you’ve mentioned in this post – it’s okay to be sad and she is worth grieving over.

    I’ve never seen it as something to “get over”. It comes and goes, sometimes I feel much more sad about it than most days, but overall I simply see it as a reminder of how much I loved my mom and how much she loved me in a short 5 years.

    Lots of love to you and your grieving family. <3

  140. jbhat says...

    The song and video have me undone. Thank you for sharing that and your thoughts about grieving.

    One of my favorite people, Anna, from the blog An Inch of Gray, lost her son a bit more than two years ago now, and, as a writer, shared her grieving process through her blog (and her beautiful book, Rare Bird), basically in real time. It was both heartrending and uplifting to go through it “with” her, and it was sort of my first experience with grief. I am not religious, as she is, but I hope to possess at least some of strength and grace she exhibited when the bell tolls for my loved ones. It’s hard to think about, but I think it’s good to think about.


  141. Betsy says...

    Thank you for these words especially today. My seven year old son classmate passed away this past month and today is the memorial. This passed month has been about gasping for breath and holding our children close. I am so sorry for your families loss this passed year.