What’s Your Most Basic Grief Need?

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Eleanor Haley

I’ve been thinking about what our immediate and most basic needs are in grief. I guess we could call them “basic grief needs” – or BGNs – I love a good acronym.  

My thought is that BGNs are ultimately pretty unique to the individual. For example, after my mother died, I think my most basic grief need was to have a baby. That may seem wildly out of context, but I can explain.

If I had to psychoanalyze myself – which, twist my arm – I’d say that having a baby was my way of trying to reconstruct the family I felt I’d just lost. I knew I couldn’t have my “before family” back because our center of gravity, my mother, was gone. But I guess I thought I could regain some sense of balance by recreating the mother/daughter bond.

[P.S. Please don’t worry about my motivation for having children. I always knew I wanted kids – I just hadn’t planned to take the express route.]

So that’s a long way of saying, I think my most immediate and basic grief need was to recreate my physical bond with my mother and find her special kind of love. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen, but in the early days of grief, our wants don’t always align with what is realistic.

It’s common for people to try, in vain, to restore their physical closeness with the person who died.  And it’s normal for people to want to reestablish their attachments. So I guess my BGN was unique-ish in my expression of it, but also completely common.

Of course, this wasn’t my only need at the time. Grieving people have all kinds of needs. But some needs demand more immediate attention than others. For example, take a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (pictured below thanks to Simply Psychology). Maslow said that our basic needs, at the bottom of the pyramid, must be reasonably satisfied before we can attend to our needs at higher levels.

You can see how the death of a loved one might have an impact at every single level of Maslow’s hierarchy. My need to feel close to my mother would relate to love and belonging. However, loss certainly has the ability to impact a person’s sense of basic safety and the ability to meet basic physiological needs.

Human basic needs matter, but do basic grief needs matter?

Truthfully, I’m not sure. But lately, it seems like the world’s spinning off its axis, and all our individual little worlds are bouncing around and crashing into each other. What felt important yesterday, feels less so today.

There’s so much trauma, loss, and pain, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can say to change that. At least, nothing that feels sufficient. All the theories, concepts, and coping skills we regularly write about have their time and place – but right now, they seem abstract and disconnected from the very real struggles that people are going through.

At the same time, support systems are taxed more than usual. Not only are people more physically distant, but many are experiencing their own “stuff,” which may decrease their bandwidth for supporting other people. So I was thinking, maybe what we need to do is triage and focus on the basics – whatever those may be.

In my mind, many basic grief needs go back to things like normalization and validation. In other words, simply knowing:

But I know that’s not all. And so I’m wondering, what do you think?

When you first experienced loss, whether that was days or years ago, what was your most basic grief need? And if you’re a little further out from the loss, how has that changed over time? If you have a few minutes, close your eyes and think about it.

Some of these needs won’t be able to be met because, like my example above, at the heart of them lies a wish to have your loved one back. However, knowing the need can perhaps help people find alternative comforts in an unfixable situation.

If you’re still with me, and you have thoughts on your BSG 🙂 share them in the comments below.

Let’s be grief friends.

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71 Comments on "What’s Your Most Basic Grief Need?"

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  1. Tamara  October 5, 2020 at 12:55 pm Reply

    Right now I need to rest and NOT think about work, although I know I must. I own my own business. I need people to understand my particular grief: cared for ill MIL for many years. Lived with her all my marriage. Totally exhausted and repulsed with the physical aspects of caregiving that went on for years making it hard for me to relate to my outside fam. Chux, diapers, hospital bed, wash basin, butt cream…etc.
    Never had privacy and husband’s full attention. Sister in laws wanted to play power struggle with me. No place to tell my real story because it is offensive to family. Husband grieving terribly but wont stop working. Shared home makes it hard to live here but must leave things as is because fam wants no change. I want to and NEED to move on physically; paint, new kitchen…..but must respect thier process. I feel angry that I cant deal and move on. Stuck and stuck. And I loved her very much but my relationship with her is second fiddle because I am not “blood”. PS: I did most of the caregiving….

  2. Sky Book  September 24, 2020 at 7:58 am Reply

    My husband dropped dead in our kitchen of V Fib on 5/7/10. They were unable to revive him.
    I live alone with 2 parakeets and need to socialize as I do not drive but due to Covid, I am confined to home. I feel like I am in a Super Max Prison. Help.
    ***Need to Socialize***

    • IsabelleS  September 24, 2020 at 8:47 am Reply

      I am so sorry for your loss and for the pain you are going through. I imagine that being alone is making things very difficult. Can you try reaching out to friends–or maybe even support groups–online? Obviously it won’t be the same as having human interaction in person, but it may help to relieve some of the feelings of complete isolation and loneliness. All the best to you!

  3. Maria  September 21, 2020 at 6:42 pm Reply

    I lost my son in April 2020, and I understand what you mean by everyone has moved into the stream of life. My need now is also to talk about my son, but I feel the same, like no one wants to listen. They just jabber on about their most current life situation. I understand to a point as to why, but it doesn’t make feel any better. My son was 38, he died of covid, circumstances leading to his death tragic and haunt me, as I’m sure you also are haunted. I hope eventually they will listen to you, and to me.

  4. Cynthia W  September 18, 2020 at 11:27 pm Reply

    I lost my dad When I was 19 to a herion overdose. 8 months later my 1st born a girl was my new hope. I still miss my dad after almost 23 yrs. It hurt and was hard when when he left.
    In November 2020 my world changed. My beautiful 21 yr old didnt get up that morning. My husband discovered her blue lifeless foamed up face deadi n her bedroom right next to her 3 yr old son herion overdose. Devisated us all Myself, my husband, 2 sons, daughter and grandson.
    Than 6 months to the day almost May 2020 both Saturday mornings. My husband in a motel room Meth overdose with a needle ruled undetermined. I was notified by police at my work that morning. I had been trying all morning to call him.I told him to leave the night before. We hadnt been grieving the same and fighting more since the death my daughter. He got real mad a few weeks before my daughter passed, and out of anger he said ” I hope she overdoses and dies” I still cant get that statement out of my forever branded mind. After she passed I was mean. I forever messed up. Im mad, sad, angry, lost, broken, hate life, jealous they got off so easy. I regret a lot I cant undo. Not sure if I’ll ever be ok. Its best ignoring it all. I hate my new nornal. I just work, ignore all hurt and get upset I wake each morning. It not fair. I dont do drugs
    My husband was a recovering adict 20 yrs sober. He had backslides yrs ago. Never even thought. I have 3 kids and a grandson to take care of. It pisses me off giving up would be easier than this. Make me question everything and every part of my past 23 yrs.😌😞

  5. MK  September 16, 2020 at 3:53 am Reply

    I lost my boyfriend July 5 2020
    We where together almost 5 years . He passed away very unexpectedly it was a complete shock I didn’t see this coming and neither did he. I feel like I just pull the string and took him.I can’t stop crying I just wish she would come home but I know that’s never gonna happen. But I still say come home please come home please while I am crying I don’t think I would ever get over the shock of him passing away

    • MK  September 16, 2020 at 3:58 am Reply

      My basic need would be ? To grieve with somebody from my boyfriend family.

  6. RoseMary  August 27, 2020 at 4:17 pm Reply

    I’m not sure what my most basic grief need is…I lost my boyfriend 3 weeks ago. I feel sad, alone and unsure about each day. I wish I had someone to cook for us, physical presence of someone who understood.

  7. April  August 27, 2020 at 1:55 pm Reply

    I’m so thankful to have found this site. It’s been only 3 months today that my husband of 46+ years passed. It was not unexpected so I thought I was prepared, I was NOT! I have friends that are very supportive but my children think I need “tough love” because I would rather die in my bed than to try to make a new life. My life as I knew it died with my husband. Depression, sadness is debilitating. Thank you all for sharing.

    • Nancy  October 18, 2020 at 10:11 am Reply

      I am with you 100%. My husband died of pancreatic cancer in August.

  8. Jackie O  August 14, 2020 at 10:18 pm Reply

    I am at 3 months since losing my 27 year old son to suicide. At first my BGNs were water, small amounts of prepared food, help with tasks & decisions. There were lots of people to help. Now, my only BGN is to have people sit and listen and let me talk about my son. But they have moved back into the stream of life, and I think it’s too painful for them, so my need is not being met at all, except by a therapist, who is paid to listen.

    • Denise  August 20, 2020 at 7:17 am Reply

      I’ve had a similar experience with my friends. They seem to be clueless how to help and simply stay away thinking others are helping me. Other than phone connections I’ve been left alone. I remind myself the times we are in and that this is not about me but about their choices. A good friend who will just listen is golden. My heart goes out to you.

      • Lost_Forever  August 24, 2020 at 11:30 am

        That’s the same way that I’ve been treated except when I go out and help another person they just don’t understand or put simply don’t care. I can understand not being there but it’s one thing to not act on the behavior of oneself then to act at all. Life gets better.

      • Sophie B  August 30, 2020 at 3:08 am

        Thank you for the reminder – this is not about me…more so their choices. I needed that.

    • Stephen  August 22, 2020 at 12:38 am Reply

      First off, I am so sorry that you lost your son in such a tragic way. No parent should have to go through that. I hope you can find a support group that will give you what you need, and that’s honest caring about you, and the time to let you speak about your son.

      It is sad that in this day and age, people are so stressed out that they need to pay someone just to listen to them. And, therapists only care for 50 minutes a week, and it falls on a certain day and time.
      Good luck getting a therapist to give you their time if you don’t pay them.
      IMO, if you are going to see a therapist, you need to make sure that they have experience working with trauma clients.

      • Jackie  August 24, 2020 at 12:55 pm

        Thank you Stephen. Looking back at my comment last week I see I was having a very bad day. My therapist is excellent, he lost a child himself so understands. And im in a suicide loss survivors group on line so they can relate.
        I also have an incredible husband and other son, as well as a few steadfast friends. It’s only 3 months for us losing our son so I’m in the process of seeing who will be there for the ling haul. That day I was let down by someone and I’m,starting to see- don’t waste energy on those who don’t show up. I need my energy for myself. And learning that to an extent you go through grief alone. No one can bring him back, the loss is personal and I have to do this work myself ultimately.
        Thank you for replying, that alone made me feel better.

    • Sophie B  August 30, 2020 at 3:07 am Reply

      Jackie, I am so saddened to hear of your devastating loss and am sending the hugest hugs.

      I lost my cousin who was like my baby brother (he was 34) to suicide 7 weeks ago. I am finding the same thing with some friends and even some family. There is avoidance in contact, there are conversations had where we don’t speak of the death at all, there are the misguided comments, the attitude of “soldiering on”, and then the people who didn’t know, messaged randomly and when I shared what has happened haven’t responded at all. I feel both hurt and angry at the lack of acknowledgement, and it feels like a huge elephant in the room. I understand how confronting death can be, then suicide is a whole added layer. And then there’s massive covid restrictions where I am so the grieving process is additionally disconnected. It can feel extremely lonely and isolating. My BGN’s have been and are very similar. To have someone simply listen if worth it’s weight in gold.

      Sending you strength and lightness and love on your journey. Thank you for sharing a piece of yours that makes me feel a little bit less alone.

  9. Rachel  August 11, 2020 at 8:13 am Reply

    My journey with grief started in 2017 and seems to never end.

    November of 2017 my father was diagnosed with non- Hodgkin lymphoma. He battled it for a few months and ended up in the ER after every treatment. His last round left him fully blind overnight. The suffering was intense. We brought him home and my mother (who was a 70 year old retired nurse) cared for him at home with the help of hospice.

    Jan. 2019. My sister passed away suddenly in a car accident. She was my best friend. She was my biggest support and someone I knew I’d have around when we were older. I loved her so much.

    Nov. 2019. I lost a job that I loved and one that I dedicated so much of my time. I loved the team I’d created and we were all let go because our jobs were outsourced to overseas.

    Dec. 2019. My father passed away on New Year’s Eve. I was with my mother helping to make sure she was ok and that my father could pass peacefully at home. I miss him dearly.

    March 2020. I was offered a great opportunity For work and was looking forward to an exciting future. That was put on hold and eventually canceled because of the pandemic.

    June 2020. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I went to her immediately and never left her side.

    July 17, 2020. She passed away. She was my everything. The love of my life. My best friend. My mentor.

    I lost my pillars of support and the loves of my life in a year and a half. I love them with every fiber in my being and wake up everyday wishing it were a bad dream.

    • Sue  August 15, 2020 at 11:27 pm Reply

      I completely understand this devastating succession, in Dec 2019 I lost a beloved pet , in Jan 2020 my husband passed away , I was very sick with my lupus for three straight months then in early March I took a new position my dream job only to be furloughed after a week, because of my compromised immune system this pandemic can easily kill me. Suffering grief during a health crisis is so taxing on your emotions. My heart goes out to you sincerely, I understand and empathize ♡♡ Sue

    • mari  August 18, 2020 at 1:26 am Reply

      I feel you. I lost my dad, who was the light of my life in so many ways and always has been, in january 2017. I was devastated. Six months later, my deeply grieving mother was diagnosed with cancer. She survived a lengthy battle, but my entire family dynamic, the only family I’ve ever known, has changed drastically and forever. She grieves too deeply to comfort any of us (6 children). I am unmarried, no children, and my dearest companion/best friend of 16 years, my dog, died in august 2019 from a long battle with kidney failure. We went everywhere together, and never spent a night apart. I tried hard for him, because I knew he didnt want to go and didnt want to leave me. He fought. I gave him sub-q fluids every night, carried him when he couldnt walk, cooked for him, whispered stories and songs in his sweet, failing ears. I was holding his face in my hands when he died without the help of euthanasia.
      I’ve been so alone, and the ONLY thing that has gotten me through is rediscovering Yahusha HaMaschiach, Yeshua, Jesus Christ, the Word. He is my only never-failing constant, and its been a journey, but I know that He will never let me fall so deeply into despair ever again. ❤️

    • Nath  September 6, 2020 at 2:43 am Reply

      I lost my boyfriend 6 months ago, we were very close and was moving towards the future we were building together. The event tore me apart and I found it extremely difficult to function, I plunged into a dark place. He was my best friend.

      I am a single parent in a foreign country and maybe the best thing for me at the time was to have someone around to take care of my daily needs and take care of my son. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t want to go to work, I did not want to wake another day to live without him.

      The emotional support from family and friends were and continue to be fantastic, but for weeks after his death I had no desire to go on. I do find though, that it is mainly those who have suffered a similar personal loss that were able to relate to mine, they are the ones that provided the kind of support one needs at such at time. I accept that the rest, though they cared, simply could not relate or just do not know what to say or do and I therefore do not hold it against them.

      I think I am at the stage where I am slowly emerging from my shock and beginning to accept that my life as I have known it and as planned, will never be. My need now is to consciously develop a new routine and find ways to further accept that he is really gone.

  10. Evelyn Young  August 9, 2020 at 8:21 pm Reply

    I lost my oldest daughter 5 years ago at age 40 to cancer. I have two other children, a son 43 & a daughter 41. This has been the most horrific journey of grief. My younger children call me crazy and say I need help, that is the most painful way they can talk to me. I also care for my 73 yr old husband while I grieve. The two adult children do not go out of their way to do anything for me or their father. To make matters worse my daughter left behind a husband and two little girls who are now 11 & 12, before my daughter passed away they promised her they wd help her husband with the children. Well watching the children struggling and need for attention prompted me to ask them to occasionally let them go along with whatever they may be doing with their children. Well low and behold they was not happy that I pointed that out to them, and it was said in a very caring way. In my opinion my daughter has been gone 5 yrs and the girls were adopted as an infant and a toddler, I don’t think the recognize those two little girls as part of the family. Another words to avoid the promise they made they brought up ugly things towards me that was untrue, but they were avoiding the whole subject of giving time to their nieces. My son n law does the best he can at working and providing, but he’s a man, they need attention from a female as they are preteens dealing with hormones. At the end of the day you might have thought I asked them to raise them full time. I just can’t understand what they are thinking. But I am. Racy and I need help,

    So Sad in New Jersey 😭

  11. Stephanie johnson  August 9, 2020 at 4:17 am Reply

    Help do anybody have any answers to a boyfriend overdose please help my depression spiraled out of control I lost my boyfriend from a drug overdose on January 3rd 2020 he kept the secret from me I been with this guy 9 years the pain is unbearable I will forever be haunted of the last words he spoke to me on NEW YEARS DAY IM GOING TO DIE BEFORE YOU I WILL FOREVER HEAR THEM HAUNTING WORDS IN MY HEAD FOREVER

    • Litsa  August 9, 2020 at 11:13 pm Reply

      Stephanie, there are no easy answers in grief. But with time, you can learn to better carry the weight of the pain and loss. The best suggestion when you feel you aren’t moving forward is to reach out to a therapist. You may also want to see if there is a GRASP or other overdose loss support group in your area.

  12. Pauletta Handy  August 3, 2020 at 1:19 pm Reply

    I am grieving the loss of my mother and sister who are still alive. I have been grieving them for years. Mostly I am grieving the loss of my mother. My Mother never acknowledged that my sisters addictions caused a lot of chaos in our home. I feel like I have had to pay for moving away and just not having a life full of drama. However, when I look back my mother was emotionally detached most likely due to her own stuff. We laugh a lot, but I cant go deep or ever talk about what’s bothering me outside of work. Every time I speak with my mother on the phone, I don’t feel good about myself. I need to grieve her and heal. I need to connect with other women who have a mother wound. I don’t have friends who understand this kind of hurt.

    • Stephanie johnson  August 9, 2020 at 4:21 am Reply


      • Stephen  August 22, 2020 at 1:04 am

        Pauletta, I don’t know if I’m going to tell you something you already know, but just by reading your comment it sounds like your mom has narcissistic traits.

        I’m not going to throw any personally disorders out there because I don’t know. What I do know is what it’s like to be raised by a NPD malignant narcissistic mother.

        If your mom does have NPD, then you will never get what you need from her because she lacks empathy. She has no idea how you might be feeling because she cannot put herself in your shoes.

        I suggest that you read about narcissistic personality disorder, and see if that sounds like your mother. If so, then you will understand why you will never get what you need from her. It can also save you from wasting your time hoping that your mother will change.

        For your sake, I hope I’m totally wrong.

  13. Kath  August 2, 2020 at 4:29 pm Reply

    My most basic need was simply for comfort. I needed the physical presence of another loved one. I am grieving the loss of my little dog Chloe, more than 2 years ago. She suffered with dementia, so when we did the at-home euthanasia, it felt like we were releasing her, a relief for her and for us. But when I woke up crying at 4 am the next morning, all I wanted was for my husband to hold me. I needed to viscerally know that my other loved ones were still with me.

  14. Anne  July 25, 2020 at 6:24 pm Reply

    My husband died almost 3 years ago from complications following heart surgery – a full week after the surgery, one day after returning home. We were married 43 years. My immediate, anxious need was to tell our family as quickly as possible. My husband was an extravert’s extravert. And I knew that as soon as one friend found out, it would be all over social media. I did not want any family member to find out about my husband’s death on Facebook. My daughter did a massive amount of phone calling for me, having to tell each of the out of town family members (my siblings; his sibling, my mother’s siblings, etc.). Sure enough, barely 6 hours after he died, it was on Facebook. But, all the phone calls had been made by then. I’ve told many people since, please, don’t share this type of information (no matter how close your friendship may be) on social media, if you haven’t seen anything posted by a family member. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, this anxiety added to the numbness and shock of the day to the extent that I hardly processed that first day as him being gone.

  15. Lois Reborne  July 23, 2020 at 6:44 pm Reply

    My beloved wife died in September 2019. When her breast cancer went metastatic to bone, her oncologist said we might have as long as 6 years and we were just a few weeks short. Much of that time she felt almost good; we adapted to each new normal. We decided to grow more flowers instead of trying to grow enough food to put up for winter. We spent more time with our grandchildren and with our friends.
    What I need most now is help with taking care of things – mowing! Moving heavy stuff! Keeping up with brush and weeds and equipment! She did it all until last spring – I was only her helper. Then her long lost brother came to help. He’s only called once since the memorial service.
    Pat was a working artist. She didn’t want to change anything before she died, so I have a whole studio of pottery and printmaking and welding equipment to distribute.
    It all makes me very sad, and sometimes angry. And sometimes I just cry because she’s not here to talk to, as many of you have said.
    Thank you all for sharing your stories and listening to mine.

    • Grace  July 24, 2020 at 9:22 am Reply

      Lois – 2+ yrs. ago my husband of 52.5 yrs. died. He & I did everything around home together. He died after a short illness. I understand those needs perfectly. My answer is to move to a lower maintenance home with just a tiny yard. It took this long to decide. I hope you find the right answer for you. Be gentle with yourself … take your time. The anger & all the feelings are typical. Just try to roll with them till they pass. 💞

  16. Elyse  July 23, 2020 at 4:09 am Reply

    My most basic and important need is validation that I’m not crazy for grieving and validation the my loss is significant. I and deeply grieving a pet who dies unexpectedly and I feel isolated because I am embarrassed to talk to people about it because I fear they won’t take me or my loss seriously. Another need is some sort of distraction even just for a little bit to give my heart a break between waves of grief.

    • Lois Reborne  July 23, 2020 at 6:20 pm Reply

      Dear Elyse, All grief is welcome here. If you read these stories, you will find many of us are depending on our pets for affection and a reason to keep going. It is much more true of me than I ever would have thought. My little terrier spends some time outside on his own, but he mostly is by my side all the time. I talk to him now. And he follows me everywhere.
      I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you get that bit of distraction you are looking for soon.

      • Grace  July 24, 2020 at 9:26 am

        Absolutely! In my loss my dog 🐕 has become my best friend. He knows my moods and also gets me moving. I hope you start feeling better. Your grief is valid. 💞

  17. Cushla  July 22, 2020 at 4:15 pm Reply

    My greater need is for company. It is a year since mr husband died and I am living on my own and I am lonely. I have no family in town. My family ring my but it’s not the same I cry a lot and try to walk a lot. . I am so tired

  18. Melissa  July 21, 2020 at 2:12 pm Reply

    My most basic need in the immediate aftermath of my partner’s death was to have other people there. I spent a few days feeling like I needed two people constantly in physical contact. I couldn’t so much as go to the bathroom without having someone talk to me through the door. Over time, the intensity of that need has relaxed, but I would still say having people- to touch, to talk to, to listen, to connect with- is probably the biggest grief support/need for me.

  19. Kathie Kreutz  July 21, 2020 at 12:27 pm Reply

    My basic need has been and continues to be after almost a year after losing my husband the need I have to have a male friend. It’s not the physical closeness that I crave, although sometimes those thoughts are there, it is the companionship of someone that has a common interest as well as someone to go out and be with. Yes, I know in this time of COVID that is not a good idea unless you already know the person. I have also, after triple checking the guy, taken to texting a Pastor who lost his wife three years ago. He is not in the immediate area so no “dates” but good conversations which I also love.

  20. Marilyn Peterlin  July 21, 2020 at 9:20 am Reply

    All of these stories break my heart, and my heart has already been ripped in two since my beloved died over five years ago.
    I too feel like a ghost. A cartoon character. Totally inauthentic at all times. I still work and am preparing for a retirement without my beloved. If it weren’t for my cats, who have only me to depend upon, there would be no pressing reason to carry on. Yet I choose life because yes life is for the living, even though I am only half alive, sometimes less than that. I am not suicidal but have lost my joie de vivre, I have lost the light in my eyes.
    Yes, I am lonely because I am ALONE. Without my soulmate, my soul is incomplete as well as my daily life.
    When he first died, my sister and my best friend were great supports. Now when I bring up his name, they’re like, Oh yeah, and then they move on to another subject. I realize life goes on and they can’t possibly know what it’s like because they both have their spouses alive with them every day and night.
    I find so much solace reading your stories. Only those who are walking this path of tears can understand.
    Thank you for this website and the opportunity to share my deep grief.
    My heartfelt sympathy to all of you. And to myself.

    • Grace  July 22, 2020 at 2:34 pm Reply

      Marilyn – i do feel inauthentic & like part of me went with my love..who was my best friend and understood even my craziness. People want you to grieve a few days &get over it. I didn’t realize the long lasting ache and real pain. God willing they won’t experience this pain. I can assure you if they do they will then seek you out to help them! Stay strong, I too am retiring alone after we raised a 2nd family in our last years together. Not looking forward to it. I have my cat & dog who seem to know how much I need them.

    • Trish  September 18, 2020 at 12:12 pm Reply

      Marilyn, My husband Paul died a couple days after the election in November. 2016. I relate too well to many of your comments and experiences since your husband died. It felt and still feels like one of my lungs was ripped out of my chest; I couldn’t breathe for a very long time. I still find myself holding my breath to ease the tightness in my chest. I ache for him and mourn for him losing his life to cancer as much as my own grief. Paul died sleeping next to me sitting up on the couch, I woke up to his last outbreath. He was so brave and optimistic and healthy; he didn’t deserve to go through that. It should have been me. He was so kind and loved and I’m just lost without him. I think the family would have been better off with him here and me gone. I’m stuck and have found that grieving in the midst of all the other turmoil of the past four years, and now this pandemic with all of us isolating and so many people dying, has become impossibly difficult. Almost like I don’t know all the things I’m grieving for right now on top of losing and missing him. In two months it will be four years he’s been gone: it feels like he was just here. I don’t know what the answer is and I too feel like a ghost.

  21. Carol  July 20, 2020 at 6:32 pm Reply

    It’s been 7 years. I married at 19 and loved my husband until he died 31 years later. I cared for him for several years prior to his passing and that defined my role . Now 7 years later I still can’t seem to find the me without him. I’m at peace with how my life is without him but it’s because I wait until the day we meet again is my goal. Until then I’ll keep him in my ❤️ I understand your pain.

  22. Brenda  July 20, 2020 at 3:39 pm Reply

    I lost my youngest son at 22 almost 4 years ago… I’m frozen, paralyzed, and it’s debilitating… All of my basic needs went right out the window! I still to this day don’t even recognize myself, I have lost me 😥💔 My total focus is on my son constantly… It seems like nothing else matters in this life anymore!!!

    • Grace  July 22, 2020 at 2:27 pm Reply

      Haven’t lost a child through death so I can’t imagine your pain. Lose is similar in many ways regardless of who we lose. I do relate to your not recognizing yourself and pretty much I live each day but don’t feel like it’s really living. That I can relate to. Try to stay above water each day – one day we may realize we are finally floating with less effort.💞

    • Maria  August 3, 2020 at 8:49 pm Reply

      Brenda I feel your pain. My son 38 died April 2020 of covid19 in London after his flat burnt down. He had an underlying heart condition. I’m at the beginning of these uncharted waters, what my basic need is to feel very connected to my other 4 children. Unfortunately there was an incident that has created a bit of a rift, and this has caused me more grief. I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m confused, I think about him all the time, I don’t want to hear trivial chatter about anything.

  23. Cherie  July 20, 2020 at 1:24 pm Reply

    Colin, my BGN is exactly the same as yours, except with the addition of laughter. My husband of 35 years was smart, funny, argumentative, loving, silly, and the most wonderful human being to all who knew him and loved him. He was my strength and courage, as well as everyone else’s “go to guy” when they needed a helping hand. It’s been 5 years since he passed away and I am so lost, especially in this pandemic.

    I have been blessed with three daughters who miss him so very much. Consequently, because of their grief, they are unable to support me, and I no longer have the inner strength to support them in the way the I could with my husband by my side. In essence, they have lost both parents and I feel I have lost my family.

    Two of my daughters cannot support my efforts to move forward consequently I am left at the bottom of the pyramid. I am grateful that my husband provided so that I have all the physiological and safety needs necessary to maintain life. A luxury I know many widows don’t have. I’m also grateful for the friends that I have who encourage me each and everyday. All that being said, the most important in my life has always been family, and that’s just not there.

    • Colin  July 20, 2020 at 8:24 pm Reply

      I have a married daughter and 2 sons. The daughter does what she can but she has 2 kids and (now) and work at home husband. The boys are busy – still working – and don’t contact that often. Its not their burden and I think (think) I am progressing. Progressing to what I’m not sure. I’m sorry you are at the bottom……..

  24. Jamie  July 20, 2020 at 12:57 pm Reply

    My most basic and immediate grief needs were grounding and companionship. I was lost in a world I don’t understand and my only anchors were gone. After a year, with additional and losses following immediately and at intervals, I realize those needs will never be met. It’s just me and my cats and delivery service til the end of the world.

    • Tina  July 21, 2020 at 12:00 pm Reply

      My most basic grief need is forgiveness, of myself for my shortcomings while my parents were alive, and for the multiple ways in which I missed being supported by them as a child. Luckily, this is an inside job, and being independent-minded, I love those. I’ve used A Course in Miracles for tremendous help in forgiveness, which has freed my mind from regrets and loneliness, and allowed love to take their place.

  25. Litsa  July 20, 2020 at 10:58 am Reply

    Hi Cushla, comments are currently set to be moderated before they show up because we have been getting A LOT of spam lately! We are working on a better filter. So you might not have seen it right away because we needed to approve it.

  26. Elizabeth  July 20, 2020 at 9:22 am Reply

    My most basic grief need seemed to be a routine, after my husband died in February of 2019 after an eight-month battle with aggressive melanoma. I was always a list-maker. But at that point I had to put things on my list as simple as “wash face”, “brush teeth”, “take garbage out.” I didn’t realize it at the time since I was just trying to survive, but everything I checked off was one little thing I could be successful at while the rest of my life fell apart. I still crave my routine 17 months later, though I now remember to brush my teeth without prompting. Progress.

    • Grace Mathis  July 20, 2020 at 11:49 am Reply

      I was married all of my adult life — 52 1/2 years. With me I wanted to clean out, but still retain my husband’s presence in our home. He’s been gone 26 months and it doesn’t seem like it gets better daily — though if I look back it has gotten a little easier. The easier is kind of odd as I feel like I am 2 people living different lives. 1 of me carries on & goes about my day, some days barely esp. with this pandemic & being retired ….. the other me is immobilized with grief at times. This is not an easy road. And I’m finding that family doesn’t seem to understand. While they talk about their grief (if I’m stupid enough to bring mine up!) they don’t realize we live with this minute to minute. For us, our spouses are not just out of sight for the time being as it is for them…. he is not here where we expect him all the time.
      I’m functioning, “moving on”, but I’m not really – I feel lost too much of the time. Maybe we need to exist (live) on two planes to live with this grief. Hugs to all of you dealing with this heavy load of loss.

    • Morcaiden  July 20, 2020 at 12:34 pm Reply

      Elizabeth – I thought I was the only one doing checklists! With the added weight of the COVID quarantine, keeping track of the passing days became essential. Now I’m fully on autopilot at times.

  27. Morcaiden  July 20, 2020 at 8:47 am Reply

    Lost my wife on March 3, 2020 after a year of cognitive decline brought about by cerebral amyloidosis. Handled the first weeks like a champ, taking care of paperwork, payments, accounts, getting rid of belongings…it’s now that I feel the missing ‘3rd tier’ of the pyramid in Eleanor’s article. Very real, very painful after 32 years of marriage. I feel like a character from the old cartoons, running until they’re out of the frame into a blank space, which goes on forever. God bless you all and bring you comfort!

  28. Colin  July 20, 2020 at 12:43 am Reply

    My BGN? OMG that is hard. My wife died after 37 years of marriage. 2 years after diagnosis and 5 months in hospice. My needs? Family. Connection. Someone to talk to. To disagree and agree with. Too simple yet too complicated to duplicate after 37 years of agreeing and disagreeing. I want discussion. I need someone to tell me I am an idiot when I am. I need someone to sit quietly with me. That is my BGN.

    • Grace Mathis  July 20, 2020 at 12:00 pm Reply

      Very well articulated – who can replace that…. they knew us, we could say & do anything and be understood. Where do we go now?

    • Morcaiden  July 20, 2020 at 12:36 pm Reply

      Colin – I’m with you there. The cut and thrust of everyday spousal conversation, remarking about the weather, the antics of the family pets, or even how lousy television is — all gone.

    • Jane  August 7, 2020 at 5:42 am Reply

      My husband died in march 2020 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Reading your post resonates so much with how i feel right now. I want to sit and talk to another soul who knew him and misses him every minute of every day. However thats not feasible i know. Its so painful to see the world around you moving endlessly on as if he was never here. Thank you though its a comfort knowing my feelings are reflected in others.

  29. Cushla  July 20, 2020 at 12:36 am Reply

    My husband died on 3 May. 1919. Like Roberts wile it was very quick. He was talking to friends on Wednesday and dead on Friday. By the time the hospice rang me he was no n
    Longer speaking though he held my hand and could certainly hear. I wish they had rung sooner so that I could have said goodbye.
    A year later I still cry. I have a list of all the good things we did together and I read often. But I’m going to buy a new bed, I feel as if he is there and it upsets me.

  30. Z’s Mom  July 18, 2020 at 11:57 pm Reply

    When my son died unexpectedly, it was like a bomb going off in my life. My basic needs were those at the bottom of the hierarchy. But in the early days there was one addition, I kept just trying to keep it together up to & through the service celebrating his life. My focus on doing that was so intense that I didn’t even think about what was going to happen afterward. I didn’t even plan on feeding all the family that made it possible. I was lucky that my daughter’s boyfriend’s family actually had dinner delivered at my house that night. After holding myself together for 9 days, I was toast.

  31. Robert Marshall  July 18, 2020 at 11:21 pm Reply

    I lost my wife and soul mate of 32 years on March 24, 2020. Three weeks before is when we found out she had stage 4 cancer. At the end, I was making all the decision because she never woke up. Our goodbye was her squeezing my hand as her heart stopped. Now almost four months later, What do I need, to know I was making the right decision, Should I have done something different? Do I want/need her back, yes. What do I need, I have know idea…. Maybe to know and remember what a good day is will out tears.

    • Eddies  July 20, 2020 at 5:43 am Reply

      Stay strong brother. It’s hard I know. My husband of 22 years passed 02/2019. I have glimmers of hope and peace but forever carry my Jorge with me everyday. The pain is unbearable at times but I talk to him constantly and stay in Faith. God and Jorge are always with me as your beautiful wife is. Remember you are never alone and this is temporary… 🙏🏻💜

  32. Denise  July 18, 2020 at 6:59 pm Reply

    People say….let me know what you need. I feel that comment leaves some off the hook as they then wait for you to call them. When our daughter took her life October 2019 I did not know what I needed. So people stayed away. I have never felt so very lonely. There is most certainly still a huge stigma around suicide. I tell people to say…..I don’t know what to say. That’s it. Acknowledge our loss. But I know this; I want to talk about her, I want to say her name and tell stories. However you soon learn that few want this. Avoidance at all cost. Please please don’t leave us alone. Please visit or call. Please sit with us and have a cuppa. I’m happy to talk about anything but it means so very much when you touch base. Simple really.

    • Cathy  July 20, 2020 at 9:34 am Reply

      Agree with you
      100% Donna. That phrase is a cop out “let me know if you need anything”. When you lose someone suddenly as I did (my husband was walking into work when he dropped dead of massive blood clot), you’re not able to think clearly about anything. “Grief-brain” ensues. I would leave for the day forgetting to lock the house after being so security conscious my entire life! And yes I wanted more than anything to talk about him but people avoided the subject completely. I’ve vowed to help others in this situation by validating their grief as well as always asking them to tell stories about their loved one. It is so comforting

      • Cathy  July 20, 2020 at 9:36 am

        Sorry DENISE!

    • Grace Mathis  July 20, 2020 at 12:10 pm Reply

      I’m so sorry! It breaks my heart when someone can’t see that maybe tomorrow will be better …. so hard for younger people to understand that. To be so desperate. To feel such pain. My son’s friend ended his life after graduating HS & I still feel so sad for him. Stigma…. even losing a spouse puts you in a different class…. people act like you might be contagious! Remember the good times as much as you can. Know that the pain will ease in small ways.

    • Debbie Campbell  August 26, 2020 at 6:36 pm Reply

      I am new to this website and I love it because I have found that my BGN has been finding people who understand. My husband and I had three children together, 2 girls and a boy. We lost our oldest daughter in 2013, she had a battle with an eating disorder that she eventually lost. I didn’t know how to process, so I didn’t. I was a mess until a friend suggested that I join a grief support group, and there I found others who totally got how I felt. They became such close friends. I hurt for them, they hurt for me. This was 2018. I decided after to train to help facilitate in that group. I did this and now I help. I can pour my heart into hearing the others, that’s what we really need, to be heard and validated. On June 21, 2020, our youngest daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident. I’m back in my group, but clearly I can’t help for a while. What I had learned in that group has helped me this time through, although I think I hurt more. I would sincerely encourage all of you to find a group. You will find others who understand and just being with them will help you get through your loss. Just Google search, most are online because of the pandemic. XOXOXO

      • Heidi  October 12, 2020 at 5:46 pm

        Debbie, I just felt compelled to say that I’m so sorry for your losses. I cannot imagine bearing up under that kind of grief. I’m glad you have your group.

  33. Toni Cicillini-Repoza  July 17, 2020 at 8:16 pm Reply

    My husband passed away evidently it was a drug overdose it was March13,2020 4 days after my 42nd Birthday I will never want to celebrate another Birthday again every Friday I get knots in my stomach. I don’t take responsibility for his passing I take responsibility for the enabling and not being stern. I loved my husband my partner my best friend. He’s gone I try hard to keep him alive but,it’s not easy. I know he’s gone I am mourning,grieving& a combination of mixed feelings I can’t replace him. I hope he understands what he’s done was wrong and I am hurt but I am doing all things I shouldn’t have too. The Blame,Shame,All the above.

    I apologize God Bless

    • Lois Reborne  July 20, 2020 at 2:09 am Reply

      dear Toni, No need to apologize here for any of your feelings. What’s happened to you is sad and horrible and tragic. Be gentle with your self – I know, one more thing you have to do by your self. Sending you comfort and light at the end of this tunnel.

      • Heidi  October 12, 2020 at 5:43 pm

        Lois, I appreciate your remark: “Be gentle with yourself — I know, one more thing you have to do by yourself.” Thank you for putting into words part of what’s so exhausting and frustrating about that aspect of the grief process. Great, one more thing I have to do by myself! Thank you. The words help.

    • Grace Mathis  July 20, 2020 at 12:15 pm Reply

      Stand strong – we all have regrets …. so many unreasonable. Some times we can’t help those around us. Those we love the most. My husband was sick for 6 months without symptoms except being more tired. Not unusual as we were in our 70’s – doing all our own maintenance AND raising 2 teens. I know I couldn’t know but I sometimes get angry at myself for not knowing he was sick. And his worse day in the hospital was Mother’s Day & my 70th birthday …. so I understand that too.
      Be gentle to your self.


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