17 Wonderful Reader Comments on Grief

We’ve shared wise and wonderful reader comments on dating, career and parenting, but today we’d like to talk about something intimate: loss, including a kind thing to do for someone in grief…

On grieving as long as you want:

“Our daughter died at six months old. That was 12 years ago, and we still carry it with us. We can be happy now, we can laugh, we can hope, we can dream, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and miss her. Once I apologized to my sister for not being ok with it after all this time, and she hugged me and said, ‘None of us are. And that’s fine.’ It was so wonderful to hear and allowed me the freedom to feel the grief until the end of my days.” — Sarah

“My dad died four years ago. Some days the loss feels far away, and sometimes it punches me in the gut as hard as the day we lost him. But, 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.” — Anya

Yet it does get easier:

“I once saw an Annie Leibovitz 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. For a while, it takes over your whole field of vision, but then it becomes a part of the whole exhibit.” — Heather

“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 both captures the profound need to honor the lost love and promises that we will not dwell forever in this particular kind of pain.” — Rachel

“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.” — Margaux

On always saying something:

“My mom taught me to never be afraid to mention someone that has passed away. The family has not forgotten, and they want to remember the person they’ve lost. When my mom comes home from a funeral, she’ll make a note in her calendar for six months later, as a reminder to call or write to her friend. This is often when the rest of the world has move on and the grieving person feels most alone.” — Rachel

“I lost my mom eight years ago, just after I turned 20. The other day, someone noticed an expression I made that reminded them of her. I loved that they noticed and said something. I’m cautious not to talk about her ‘too much’ because I worry it will make others uncomfortable. So, people’s stories mean so much, especially years later, when I want to keep the memories alive however I can.” — Heidi

On how it can feel:

“My sister-in-law told me that when her father died and she waited at the airport for her flight home, she felt so set apart and different. She realized why Victorians in mourning wore black arm bands: it alerted society that you aren’t ready to fully engage with the world. And that’s exactly how I felt for the first few months after my mom died — it isn’t just missing my mom, but how do I live the rest of my life without her?” — Elizabeth

On savoring final days with loved ones:

“When my great aunt was sick, we went to visit, and after a long trip to get there I suddenly didn’t know what to do. There were books to read and music to play, but ultimately I sat there and told her all the ways in which she’d enchanted me. How she was a ruthless card player. How I loved her sons, who at 10+ years older were always so kind to me. How at my cousin’s wedding, she and the bride’s father sang a duet of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire and ended with kazoos. My sisters and I sang a bit to her – it was the last and sweetest smile from my aunt to me.” — Sonja

“I read poetry to my grandmother in the hospital. She was drifting in and out, but after one poem, I remember her saying, ‘I don’t know that one. Write down who it’s by so I can find more of theirs.’ We brought her home for her last days the next day so she didn’t, but it was such a lovely moment and made me remember that my darling, curious grandma was still there.” — Rebecca

On talking to children about death:

“Since we aren’t religious, I was struggling with how to explain death to our daughter. Then someone gave me great advice: ask the child what he/she thinks happens when people die. No matter what they say, tell them that might be exactly what happens because no one knows for sure. My daughter is now convinced that my grandfather is in a beautiful place surrounded by pear trees.” — Lana

“I’m a nurse in a pediatric cancer ward, so we’re actually talking to children about the preparation for death, versus reacting to it afterward. Over the years, I’ve been asked everything from, ‘Am I going to die?’ to ‘How will it feel when I do?’ I approach each on an individual basis, depending on the child’s age, whether they’re the patient or a family member, and whether their family is religious or not. I’ve found that children who have grown up with a religious background like the idea of heaven and focus on that: what does it look like, who else is up there, can I take my toys, etc. I encourage parents to follow the child’s lead. When they’re not religious, we tend to focus on the more physical aspects. I think honesty, in a gentle, age- and imagination-appropriate way, is the best direction.” — Joyce

On offering condolence gifts:

“I lost my mom a few months ago, and I now know what I’ll give grieving people in the future:
– A plant. Flowers die and can be a reminder of death, but a plant is a reminder of hope. It also forces you to be aware of something outside yourself and gives you a tiny but manageable project. The little tree a friend gave me at the time is five months strong!
– A gift card for Postmates or Grubhub. Everyone generously sent food early on. But two months later, I was alone and depressed and the thought of cooking was unbearable – and I remembered that Grubhub credit! It was perfect.”

“A dear friend died a couple years ago, and I was devastated. Another friend texted, with no warning: ‘I just dropped some food off on your porch.’ I went downstairs to find a grocery bag of healthy food: a green smoothie, a kale salad, homemade broccoli soup, chocolate covered goji berries. It meant so much to me (and, indeed, was all I ate for the next several days). What I learned is: just do something, anything. I’ve always agonized about doing the ‘right’ thing. But she just did something, right then, from her heart and her adorable kitchen, and I’ve never forgotten it.” — Samantha

“When my dad died two years ago, we were lucky to have many friends and family come to our home. But, that also meant that we started running out of paper towels and toilet paper. Now, when a friend has a death, I always send them tissues, paper towels and toilet paper. It’s not a glamorous gift, but it says nice to not have to run out and buy them yourself when everything is falling apart.” — Cam

On kind things to say:

“Something Sheryl Sandberg said after the loss of her husband really resonates with me — asking, ‘How are you today?’ instead of ‘How are you?’ acknowledges that grief is not linear, and that today feels different from yesterday and it will likely feel different tomorrow.” — Alexa

“I’m a Quaker, and when someone is in need or suffering you ‘hold them in the light.’ As a child, I used to imagine someone wrapped up in a blanket of warmth and light. Now, as an adult, I always reach out to someone who is suffering a loss and tell them I am holding them in the light. Recently, my aunt passed away suddenly, and my uncle went to Meeting for Worship alone two days later. He stood up and shared his loss. Another man then stood up, walked over and sat next to my uncle. Then one by one, each member of the Meeting stood up and sat next to him, surrounding him, in silence, for the rest of the time. It truly is holding someone in the light.” — Nellie

What has your experience been like? Sending so much love to anyone missing a loved one today. xoxo

P.S. How to write a condolence note, talking to kids about death, and one woman’s moving essay about having a stillborn baby.

(Photo by Hilary Horvath.)