Dealing with grief: a personal perspective


Dealing with grief: a personal perspective

I wanted to write this before I lose courage to do so. This is not a post that is even going to attempt to be scholarly or give helpful links; there are plenty to do that.

I was blind sided this morning by grief. Doing some tidying up, I wanted to put a box of beer away in the cupboard and realised that the cans of dog food were still there, taking up room. No one has got round to moving them. I suspect no one had the time to do it but today I did. There was a couple of weeks supply of cans, a bag of mixed dog food unopened and the teeth cleaning chewies Holly used to love so much at bed time. I’ve piled them all up in a bag to take over to the vet’s later where there is a box for donations for local shelters. I can’t bring myself to do it now until I get my emotions back into order. I found myself crying, you see.

I didn’t expect to feel quite such acute emotion now, nearly five weeks later. I’ve slowly begun to get used to her not being here, and I felt I was recovering. But this makes me realise the feelings are still quite raw. Not enough time has passed. The normal every day things I have begun to accept, like not having a walking companion trotting along with me, or letting her out first thing in the morning. But seeing her food, that she’ll never eat now, well, it set me off again.

Grief is a strange thing. It’s both complex and simple. And it has no official time scale. You can’t say, it’s been a year, I ought to be OK now. Every journey through it is different. The basic stages as I have seen are: shock/denial, anger/guilt, emotional storm, acceptance, regaining of perspective, the beginning of healing and finally a deepening of our capacity for love. In my experience, the passage through these stages is not linear nor is it easy. It depends to some degree on the nature of the loss, the closeness of the bond and personality. When a death is expected, the shock is usually less, but not always. Human beings “cannot bear much reality” and even when you know death is coming, you continue to hope beyond hope that it won’t come. Anger and guilt also depend on the relationship. When a relationship is flawed or fractured, then it’s logical that the time spend in the anger/guilt stage may be proportionately longer; for this reason, it’s better to try and heal relationships in life, if possible.

I’m not a weepy person. I don’t cry very easily when I am in a stable state, but when I am low, I shed tears easily, but hold it back. Tears are as healing a thing as any I can think of. Weeping produces certain chemicals in the brain that are closely related to opiates; if you’ve ever cried enough, you may have experienced a sense of calm and even peace after a long crying fit. I hate crying. I hate anyone seeing me cry. And yet, I know it’s probably the best thing to do to help heal emotional pain.

I should tell myself: let yourself feel and let yourself weep. I should tell myself: give yourself time. But then I never listen to me, so here I am telling you.

Give yourself time. Be gentle to yourself in grief. Let the journey unfold as it needs to. Let tears flow if they need to. Talk to someone who cares. Don’t be alone if you don’t want to be.

And finally, it will pass. Every day it becomes a little less painful. The first anniversaries can be hard, but even then, with time, they become bearable. The deepening of our capacity for love is usually a sign that the journey through grief has been a successful one and yet so often people who have endured a lot of grief in life are often bitter.

I aim not to be one of them.

24 thoughts on “Dealing with grief: a personal perspective

  1. Forget helpful links. You’re words are as helpful as they are beautiful and wise.
    Crying is so healthy and cathartic. You are miles ahead of me here, as I am not good at crying. (ever heard anyone say that before?)
    Thank you for sharing.


    • Thank you. I am not good at crying, either, won’t let myself have a good blub when I need to, so when it does finally force its way out I become a temporary salt water fountain and cry myself into a stupour.


  2. I am not sure you will listen to me either but I am going to give it a go anyway;

    Let yourself feel and let yourself weep
    Give yourself time
    Be gentle to yourself in grief
    Let the journey unfold as it needs to
    Let tears flow if they need to
    Talk to someone who cares (I care and I am here)
    Don’t be alone if you don’t want to be

    It will pass in time

    My thoughts are with you


  3. Almost five years after I lost my cat, I still come across things that remind me of him and hurl me into that terribly painful realization that I will never see him again.
    It’s true that with time one thinks about the loss less and less often, but there are these moments of grief that can’t be avoided. An old photograph, a toy hidden in the furthest corner of the drawer or simply someone else’s pet, someone’s words just like yours… I could never forget and I could never stop hurting. There’s no more anger or guilt, only the emptiness of the absence of the little creature that brought me so much joy.
    I’m sorry I can offer no words of comfort. But I don’t find any comfort myself. I guess I went too far, I just wanted to say I understand.

    Hope beyond hope… I couldn’t put it in a better way.


  4. Shafali is right.
    The scars remain though and are sometimes punctured.
    I walked into my dads shop one day this week with my mother
    to look at something and almost lost it.
    He died in March and I still have not had a big ole boo hoo session.
    My brother died over 25 years ago and I have a great big hole where he was in my heart.
    I will never get over it. (whoops that probably doesn’t help you )
    Wars are never over.
    I am not bitter about it but if I was dark chocolate I would be about 75% 🙂

    The good news is I am horrible about dates so I never get bummed out on anniversaries of death.
    I dont visit graves sites either but I would if my mom asked me to .

    I am sorry about your loss Viv . I think all this rambling helped me, so, thanks.


    • I remember your dad passing well, Mark. I think(and something Ian says reminds me) that we do get through but never entirely get over.
      And I am a big fan of dark chocolate; far better than the sweet milky sort.
      Scar tissue is stronger than the tissue it replaced; it’s at the seams the join is weakest.


  5. Viv, I ‘caught’ you on Michael J’s blog. Thank you for writing to him about keepin’ on keepin’ on! Isn’t it something how we can allow one person to crush us? It doesn’t matter how many people love us, we only FEEL the one that put us down.

    I am so sorry you had to say goodbye to your furry friend. When I trained to be a Hospice Companion, we had to look at how we handled losses in our lives. I was never a parent and the deepest grief I had experienced was the loss of my pets. I asked the psychologist if that was valid? Did that count as much as other people’s grief. He said, “Your grief over your pets is no different that the grief over the death of a child.”

    I was amazed and relieved to hear that. And now that I’ve worked with people in grief recovery, I see this to be true. Thank God that Psychologist said that. It freed me and I was able to let people know that it’s okay to bawl our eyes out over our beloved pet. And the rogue waves of grief blindside us just like any other people with any other type of loss.

    I’m currently going through bouts over the loss of my youth. Yuk. That’s shitty.

    Thank you, Viv, for caring about our mutual friend at a time when your heart is so heavy.

    Special thoughts and blessings.


    • Grief is valid whatever it is for. I grieved once for a spider that lived in a corner of our kitchen and responded when you talked to it, and for wild birds that have died in my hands from road injuries. I grieved hard for houses I left behind and even for my old Landrover who was sold on when the time was right. I grieve too for my own vanishing youth(I know, I ought to lock him up!!!!)
      But caring for others brings healing when none was expected, so thank you for caring for me.


  6. I can’t really say much constructive, Viv, though I want to – why I don’t know. It seems to me that, normally (in the proper sense of the word!) we get over the grief, but we don’t get over the loss. Alhough I have lost many animals, friends and both parents, there is no doubt that I can get caught unawares, even years later, – just a watering of the eyes and move on. That, I think, is the difference, grief seems all pervasive and though the “stages of grief” is too simplistic, the emotions and other effects in that “list”, once activated, hang around for a long time, days even. The ability of these emotions to spill over into unrelated activities and interactions is so high initially that we seem irrational. Later those emotions are harder to evoke in the same depth and don’t hang around as long – the “switching it off” deliberately and getting on with life gets easier. My work experience has only been with those who are labelled “stuck” and I had trouble sometimes seeing that. I gether it is used about anyone whose everyday functioning is still poor after 6 months because the loss/grief intrudes too much. But that is irrelevant I think, as I ramble, and I ramble because my train of thought has been interrupted by mini flashbacks to incidents in my life! No you learn to live with it, you “recover”, but you are not the same.


    • Ian, you want to say something constructive because you’re a kind man with a lot of wisdom and knowledge to share; indeed, you are wise enough to know there isn’t a lot you can say.
      I’ve lost a lot of people in my life, both human and non human. In the six months between Christmas and June the year I turned 17 I lost three close friends the same age as myself through unrelated things. Family, friends, pets, a whole way of life, I have lost. Somethings a new loss links with older ones that are still in the stages of healing and opens old wounds and probes them. But Holly’s loss is a clean grief and will heal. I was shocked how raw it still felt through.
      You are right, we get through grief, get over it in fact but loss becomes a part of us, like the creation of a beautiful lace.


  7. It helps to just talk about it. You already have an understanding that it will take time, as long as it takes, without any limit on it… And Time does heal, even when it leaves scars. I have watched it work its magic on others around me.

    That fifth para from the end, pretty much describes me. I dont weep easy, especially for myself. Its like I am very possessive of my grief, I am hopeless at sharing it with anyone. I can count the times I have wept in my entire life(and I am as old as J)in single digits…. Yes, pretty stone hearted I am, according to some who told me so. I tend to tear up at movies or when I read certain stories or for others(like it happened as I was reading this). Which makes me, the weird one. And like you, I never listen to good advice from myself.

    Take care of yourself…I think Holly would want that too.


    • Thank you Debbie. Every soul grieves in their way; it may not be our way but is valid nonetheless. I envy those who can be open about it and cry their fill and not censor their expression. The steps are not sequential and nor are they set in stone.


  8. Viv,

    You can’t really have grief without love as a foundation. And how can one get over the love that was unconditional on both sides, like the one between you and your dog.

    When I want to recall that special feeling of love — the one that had no strings attached whatesover — I think of Willie, and get choked up some 25 years after his passing. But, I’m able to tap into that feeling, that swelling up of pure unadulterated goodness that envelops my whole psyche and calm myself.

    Holly will live forever inside of you. With a treasury of the greatest memories of all time.

    michael j.


  9. Hi Viv
    I hadn`t realised you had lost Holly, I am so very sorry to hear that..also, so glad you had the courage to share your feelings as they are so raw. I remember little Holly with great affection, especially the first time I met her when she calmly walked in and settled on Pips bean bag..

    I too cried reading your words & feelings, yes of course I felt emotional for your loss, but also it stirred up bottled un resolved grief at the loss of Ruby at around this time last year. She was that special dog, all knowing etc…

    I miss her madly.
    Love to you as always v xxx


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