What it Means to ‘Change Your Relationship With Grief’

There are things that you get over in life. For example a cold, your first breakup, or an argument with a good friend. More often than not, these things happen, they cause temporary misery, maybe you learn from it, and then you let bygones be bygones. Many experiences follow a similar pattern and with good reason. There are things we can and should leave in the past for the benefit of everyone, just imagine how much pain and negativity we’d all carry around if we could never forget and move on.

That said, it is a mistake to think that all painful experiences can and should be gotten over. There are times when such a shift simply isn’t possible – people can’t always change the way they think, feel, and behave simply because they want to. It’s common to think that, in these instances, one can go to therapy or take medication and be cured of these problems, but many people who’ve experienced things like serious hardship, trauma, addiction, and psychological disorder will tell you that healing isn’t about putting these experiences in the past, rather it’s about changing their relationship to the related thoughts, memories, behaviors, and emotions that exist in the present.

There are also times when ‘getting over’ something or ‘forgetting’ isn’t even desirable, such as getting over or forgetting about a deceased loved one and their ongoing absence. Still, many people mistakenly think that grief is something that can and should end at some point. Those who understand grief in hindsight may think this is a foolish mistake, but I would argue it’s common and understandable considering how little people know about grief before experiencing it. Especially those who live in societies where people are quick to believe that grief runs a linear and finite course and, as a consequence, encourage grieving people to push forward and let the woes of the past disappear like water under the bridge.

The reality of grief is that it often stays with you until the day you, yourself, die. For those who think of grief as being all negative emotion, I can see where this may seem unmanageable, but rest assured the impact of grief changes over time. As you change your relationship with grief – by changing how you respond to, cope with, and conceptualize grief – you will likely also find hope and healing. If you think about it, grief is one instance where there is a strong benefit to accepting its ongoing presence in your life because doing so creates more room for comfort, positive memories, and an ongoing connection with the person who died.

I understand this progression because I’ve experienced it, but I’m sure it can be difficult to believe if you haven’t. Initially, I thought about writing a post titled something like ‘5 Ways Your Relationship With Grief Changes Overtime’, but then I changed my mind. Grief is unique, relationships are unique and so your relationship with grief and with the person who died will evolve in a complex and nuanced way.  So, instead of generalizing and categorizing, I’m going to share how my relationship with grief changed over time.  At the end, please share your own insights about how your relationship with grief has or has not changed in the comment’s section.


How has your relationship with grief changed over time? Share in the comment below. 

Don’t forget to subscribe.

May 1, 2018

28 responses on "What it Means to 'Change Your Relationship With Grief'"

  1. At first I was in shock, terrified, anxious. Friends disappeared, adding to the hurt and confusion. I felt alone, abandoned and didn’t know a roadmap through this. I tried rebuilding my life but was thick in grief fog, no clarity of thought and everything I tried was disastrous. It took much time to process my grief, but I did, through allowing myself to feel the emotions, pain and all, and not trying to cover them up or rush through this.
    I found that grief is not 100% negative, but there’s benefits to having gone through this. I began to look at life and death differently. Rather than hating my loss and grief, I began to see the benefits of having experienced this. I became more empathetic, more able to help someone else going through it (comforting with the same comfort God has comforted us), I began to appreciate each day and value life as a gift and live in the present moment. I found purpose again.
    I’ve discovered that grief isn’t for a set period of time, but is with me for life, although it evolves throughout my journey and changes form. I’m no longer afraid of it, it has become my constant companion as I’ve learned to coexist with grief.
    Little by little I’ve built a life I can live. Finding balance, interaction with others, and solitude, time with my furry family. Activities, not to crowd out the pain, but to experience life even with its changes.
    One of the benefits as I’ve had to tackle life and its decisions on my own is the confidence its built.
    I’ve given myself permission to smile and realized that it is not my grief that binds me to him, but our love, and that continues still.

  2. My fiance passed away over Memorial Day weekend in a plane crash. He was on his way home from a 3 week business trip. He was a meticulous pilot and even better airplane mechanic. It’s now beem 18 weeks and 3 days since he went down. Not knowing what happened is a struggle. It will take approximately another 12 months for the investigation to conclude. I felt as if I was doing ok the last 2 weeks. I began thinking only good thoughts and memories and being grateful for what I had with him the last 8 years. That was short lived as I have been a mess the last few days. I believe I need to give in to the grief process and make myself feel everything thoroughly rather than ignoring it as I did when my parents passed. I dont understand how I can go back and forth with emotions so radically. I miss him and our life so much. I miss my best friend. Thank you for this forum it helps knowing so many others are experiencing what I am.

  3. It’s been 7 months since my dad passed. I cried and experienced all the stages of grief within a few months. Then the crying stopped and so did most of the pain. I felt a twinge of sadness here and there. A few days ago I got wrapped up in positive thoughts of my dad. My dad had close ties to the place he grew up, and was fiercely close to his extended family. I thought about his favorite spots, his family he left behind, and my mother. It made me cry, and I’ve been a mess for 3 straight days. It feels like my pain will never subside, like my heart was ripped out of my chest. My mentor and my biggest supporter is gone. He cannot be replaced. I’m having trouble moving on.

  4. For past 2years my life has.been taken over by a tsunami of guilt, shameand grief. My emotko s are layered and complicated. My mother died age 93 after, 5 years of kidney cancdr. She had lived with me for most of last 2years. I still can.t make sense of the events leading to her final death. Our family dynamics were always negative and tbis only deepened and widened the chasms between our fsmily(Iam eldest of 5)I recognise the roots of this was sibling rivalry spurred by personal insecurities).
    Anyhow after living with her diagnosis for a couple of years my mother decided to stay with me. My siblings offered little support and visited her infrequently despite living locally. I don.t drve and lived some distance away I am divorced, lived in a large house and ran my own business (based at home). My mother always told me how she admired me for overcoming obstacles and getting my life together,) I was completely focused.
    The next years have turned into the perfect storm. Our relationship was fine at first. I took care of apointments, medication etc. I felt things were ok if not challenging. Family members visited spasmodic ally though offered no support. However it became clear that my mother was complaining gbehind my back. I couldn, t believe it. After all I had tried to do. To make matters worse my sisterOD. D twicw. She has been diagnosed BorderlinP. D. amd came to stay as well. This time became a blur of hysterical arguments.. My sister undermined me and caused so many upsets. My mother always sided with her. She was still her baby and had never lived an independent life. My aunt died and another aunt( also not independent) OD. D Also at this time business took a downturn after many successful years.
    I am ashamed to say that I suggested to my mother that she could help me out. MYy p arents had given my sister and brother a house each when younger although they had made no real effort to achieve or live independently.

    Rightly or wrongly I felt I had helped her and hoped she would understand my predicament. I was POA at her requestand was always her go to in time of need. I think I had replaced my FatherTimes were fifficult emotionally and financially and I decided to sell a nd find a home for us both. (business difficulties and she did not like living in home with business). Her solicitor discussed terms of will. She did not agree to helpng me out however it was discussed that a bridging loan may be neccessary while I sold u,p closed the business and found a new home.. Many other difficulties have occurred since then and family difficulties continued..
    To cut a long story short i managed to sell my usiness(at cut price due to fifgicult circumstances ances… bear in mind this was also my pension potand I could ill afford this) i told my mother that I had taken the bridging loan as discussed with knowledge of solicito. She nodded and said if that is what I thought it was ok.
    Things spiralled further. She would igmore when I visited… By this time she was in hosital. My sister was constantly there and began to make trouble with my daughter. Unknown to me she told all family members that I had taken her money. Desite meetings with the family solicitor she did not air her concerns. He would have cleared any of her concernes immediately This is how we left each other. I am bereft. ashamed and full of guiltI that after a. lifetime of love
    we could part like this.and fee in comlete shock. Sometimes I feel physically paralyzedI did not see the consequences of what was unfolding and so wish I could talk to her for just a minute.

  5. My beautiful partner died suddenly five weeks ago. My life has been a blur of tears, anxiety and hopelessness. Thankfully I have a good support network but I know what you all say about getting home and just crying and shaking. You miss their texts, the cuddles, their voice, their footsteps, their smile and walking in the front door. Everywhere you go you see everything you did together and just start crying uncontrollable. I find it hard to even go to the shops at the moment. He was only 39. I am a lot older than him and he always said he would look after me. I remember he would always want to kiss me at the traffic lights just to make me embarrassed. As you say time heals but we never forget . I am reading all your posts and I feel your pain but I do not feel alone. I am glad I found this page. We all must find happiness within us until we meet them again! Good luck!

  6. Antonieta CastellanosJune 1, 2018 at 11:11 pmReply

    My husband of 47 years died last October. Every morning my first thought is “another day without you”. Will I live in pain forever? Weekends are the worst part of the week. I try to keep busy; I “visit his ashes” almost everyday at church. But it still hurts too much. I miss him terribly. I want our life back, yes I know, this is impossible.

  7. I lost my Husband of 32 years suddenly 10 months ago. Everyday is a challenge. The emotions sometimes come out of nowhere. Sometimes they are so intense and deep, I have a hard time even breathing.

    My Sister-in-law told me this: ” I believe, at that moment, when the emotion takes your breath away, especially out nowhere, it is my Husband thinking of me, sending me his love and strength, and telling me I can do this.

    So, now, in some sort of different way, when they come, I have a slight piece . I think “here he is again, still trying to encourage and take care of me”.

    I think for now, I would kind of miss those emotions if I suddenly stopped having them.

  8. Hello Luisa
    I lost my husband on 25th March 2018, I seem to be like you – leaving my grief cooped up at home, and when I get to the office I
    seem to live “another life”, then as soon as it hits 5 o’clock i feel “heavyness”. then when i get home i go crazy , but not everyday.This is sooooo weird, and I am soooo frightened for when the reality “hits”, and maybe i won’t be able to get up or drive to work. I HAVE to
    work , as my finances are not so wonderful. I also enjoy my work . Just writing this is showing me that I have sooo much to be thankful for., but am still on the “look-out” for the real “grief” that must surely come, or is it buried so deep ?

  9. I lost my husband in a car accident 10 months ago. I almost instantly concentrated how we (our two children and I) will go on living without him leaving no space at all in thoughts like what really has happened. I thought that if the first period of time passes we would be more able to deal with the fact that he is not with us anymore… I joined a grief group, I do yoga, qi gong and I work to hard not to leave any time during the day to rest. Maybe I’m running away from the tsunami of grief because I am scared what it might happen if I let it pass through me. I am passing by the spot the accident happened at least two times daily but I cannot watch any movies with relevant scenes, I stopped listening to the news, I cannot deal with anything painful. I just don’t want to know. And I just cannot believe that I haven’t seen him for almost a year…

  10. My 30 year old son died in a fall 17 months ago. I have been in bi-monthly grief counseling since then. I have regressed so much lately my appointment was today and made another for a week from now. My homework today is to write a letter to my misery. I will try anything to avoid suicide.

  11. My 30 year old son died in a fall 17 months ago. I have been in bi-monthly grief counseling since then. I have regressed so much lately my appointment was today and made another for a week from now. My homework today is to write a letter to my misery. I will try anything to avoid suicide.

  12. I suffered my first major loss at the end of 2013 when my (adopted) mom died. It took me a few years to get through the dark part of grief and start to see some light again. Unfortunately between August 2016 and June 2017, I lost 5 more family members. I tried to ignore this second/third/billionth wave of grief and stuffed it down. I worked as much as I could until a couple of months ago when I was forced by my health to take time off work. I feel that the last couple of months have left me in a fog again but it comes and goes. I tried to fool myself that I knew what grief was about and how to corral it when I finally realized that we are all individual in how we react to it, how long the dark parts take over life and what will help bring us out. I feel like I am starting to reach a new stage with grief for my mom and everyone else in that I realize that it’s not going anywhere, only changing. It has brought amazing things to me like patience, tolerance and I have been drawing. I won’t say that I have mastered it but I am definitely learning to ride the waves like a pro. Love to all, it’s a difficult road.

  13. I lost my husband unexpectedly November 2013…. the grief described is very real. During the beginning, I had to continue on, for my son… trying to find s new normal, for both of us. I still have days where I can’t get out of bed & face the world.. but they are less.. I had a dr. Appt yesterday & describing my difficulty with sleep. I told the doc, listen, I struggle going to sleep, because I’m afraid I’ll dream. …and while the dreams can be wonderful, it’s so heartbreaking to wake up and forget for even a minute that Ken isn’t still alive…

    I guess I’d say I’m still in the purple phase… doing my best to live. Breathe.. just trying to love joyfully. Love and hugs to you all & your loss. Remember you are not alone on this path, none of us chose to be on. Try to smile, enjoy the birds singing, or plants coming up with spring. Love, Kelly

  14. I lost my darling boyfriend in September of 2016. I can really relate to the darkness that descends as grief makes its way through the numbness. It did change for me, and has thinned. I miss him terribly and still can resist the reality of it, but less and less. Time is a friend here.

  15. It’s been almost 3 years since my precious daughter died from brain cancer at age 22, and just 3 months since her best friend (who was like another daughter to me) died at age 24 from heart failure 2 1/2 years after a heart transplant. At times I’m still overwrought with the most profound sadness and despair of grief over my daughter, although the worst of it no longer hits me hourly or even daily, and the more recent loss of her friend sometimes renews the freshness of it as well as being its own tragic loss. The two of them were so inseparable and bonded on such a deep level, and believing that they are together in the next world is one of the few comforts I have.

    I keep reading articles about having a continuing relationship with someone who’s died, and I still don’t understand how that works…to me, a relationship is a two-way communication and I can’t make a “connection” to the next world, nor do I think it would be healthy to try. I feel my relationship with them is on hold, so to speak, until I cross over. So for now I am still figuring out what I need to do to cope, and to possibly learn from this grief and from what these priceless lives brought into mine, and how to find meaning in any of it. I always thought my life’s work would be to pass my love and traditions and knowledge and spirit to my grandchildren, but now there will be no grandchildren. Life isn’t hopeless or pointless, but it does seem largely hollow.

  16. My husband passed in Aug of2017,I feel so lost in this world.sometimes I look at his picture and it doesn’t seem real.I hear stories he told or laught at things he said I muss the talk we had sitting on the swingbut I find comfort knowing he is not in pain.he was so active I would not want him back if he had to live a different way.somedaysit is good someday not so much.I thank God for the time we had together it gets easier but the memories will always be their that is good.death can’t take that away

  17. I lost my Husband 10 months ago He fell ill suddenly after the ascetitis tapping , the first weeks I felt like dying because He promised He is not going to die anytime soon, we were supposed to be celebrating our wedding on the 18th November 2018 as we celebrated the traditional one in December 2014. it felt like my heart was ripped into pieces I could not wash myself, I was fed, bathe dressed. it hit me so hard that I could no longer drive for about 2 moths I had someone who drove form home to work. it was not easy but I realized there is life after death we must learn to dance in the storm and celebrate the moments we had with them, as those moments will live forever with me and my Husband will always want to see me happy. those grief moment do come and go but I should say i’m better then the previous months God is taking good are of me. I’m a survivor not a victim

  18. My husband died suddenly and unexpectedly while we were holidaying overseas . I remained composed until after the funeral then made my decent into intense grief in which my heart ached. At one point I thought Maybe it’s a heart attack and then remembered “I have a broken heart”. As you all know we spend more time talking to ourselves to process and reflect on our situation. Over previous years I listened to many comments regarding “a broken heart”, now I truly know what it means to have had a broken heart.
    The depths I reached were scary but I knew there was no way to avoid the grief and decided to go with it. It was the price I had to pay for having such a wonderful loving relationship. In time I could socialize and my mantra was”fake it till you make it”. This strategy worked well for me. It gave me respite from the grief and made me feel well. It was like dipping my toe into new future waters. Almost human again if only for a short space of time, yes! I can do it.
    In time I stepped in and out of grief. I poured over the past and revisited the music, movies, held photos of our lives together. All the things we enjoyed together. Somehow I was able to compartmentalise my grief by putting it aside while working then come home and continue it.
    Here I am 3 years later doing well with the support of friends and family. I had faith it would become easier and it did.

  19. I started the grief journey seven years ago when my husband of 38 years had a heart attack and died. I immediately went into denial, anger, disbelief. It was as if I no longer wanted to go on. I too, dived into the grief in a survival mode. I had to prove to myself, and my adult children, that I could manage my horrible new life. The roller coaster of emotions went on for years. The valley’s of dispair were deep, and the peaks of hope were few. But over time, the swings were less extreme. I cried many tears in private, but projected a strong front. I also mourned the loss of our future. This was huge for me, as we were looking so forward to retirement. But, I finally figured out I had to live and enjoy life for both of us. I went away for three months this winter for the first time ever. It was just ME. I had time to reflect, find my own groove, and live a new adventure. I did so much by myself, made new friends, and proved to myself that I am worthy of joy. Do I have moments of sadness and “what if’s “? I certainly do. But I gained a new found sense of peace. It is, what it is! But I feel as I have been to hell and back. And I’m pretty proud of myself. I am surviving my way!

  20. Thank you for this article.
    My 27 year old son was killed in a deliberately lit fire nearly 4 years ago. Initially all I wanted was to be dead, and I felt as if I was experiencing life through a perspex window.
    I no longer feel like that, but I know that I will always grieve and miss my boy and what he could and should be experiencing in this world.
    Your article has reinforced my feeling that I will and should always be ‘allowed’ to grieve my boy, whilst also continuing to live a life that would make him proud.
    I recently came across a few lines in a novel that I was reading, “grief is unending, but not life ending”, very appropriate I think.
    I would also like to add that reading the articles in WYG has made such a positive difference to the way that I have coped and faced up to grief. Thank you!

  21. My husband passed unexpectedly and fairly suddenly on March 15. I am still in the mire. I had s couple pretty decent weeks, but the grief has hit me hard again, almost back to square one.
    I’m trying to trust this article, the comments above, and trusted friends who assure me grief becomes manageable.

  22. I think for me, grief began in the loss of my dad mentally (he experienced a deep depression with his illness and also with some difficulties with relationships in his life). I felt myself ‘losing him’ more than a year before he actually died. I could lie awake at night and say ‘his is still breathing it is ok’. Then he did get very ill and he died at the end of January. Shock, the pain, like someone was sawing me in half. I will often say ‘I miss you like air’. That is not quite right. But he was my rock, my dependable person the one I could trust. He is now in a place of peace. My briefish journey with grief has indeed been a crazy amusement ride so far. The shock, the all body hammering and then this strange spiritual connection. A sense that my relationship with my dad has indeed changed. He is less physically present (naturally) but I can feel him and he still finds a way to make himself heard. People told me that this would happen – and naturally I did not believe him. But it’s like – in time things shift whether we are on board and will them to or not. So he is gone (not of my choosing) but if I have the courage to stay just a tiny smidgeon open (in between lying on the floor in paralysed pain and the agony of acute grief) I make space for a new way of being with him. I can feel him – deep within. He will still guide me if I am open and trust that a new relationship is possible. I am still aching and very much living -one day at a time – one moment at a time. But I think maybe a tiny tiny little ray of light might be making a home in my soul. There just may be a way to breathe a new air….

  23. It’s been 15 months since my daughter took her life (I believe she was seriously suicidal due to medications and then alcohol with the medications. I found great comfort seeing a medium and intuitive counselor. It’s been hard since I stopped seeing them yet I can tell the constant sad feeling has gotten better and I can now think of her without that horrible feeling. I’m trying to be a better person so she’ll be proud of me. I know she doesn’t want me to be depressed. She is very much part of my life and will be until I die.

  24. It’s only been six months since my grief began, but it’s already evolved so much. In the beginning I used anything and everything a distraction without even realizing it. I knew about the death, but didn’t think about in too much depth.

    Almost a day to the month after it hit me what had happened and I began to experience intense grief. This went on for about three months after that where I would go to bed each night and pretty much cry myself to sleep. The. About two months ago it got better. I still have those moments but they come more in waves now. I like to call them “grief moments” when they come on extremely strong and at random times. I’m a junior in high school and during my chem class one day, we were watching some movie and I was having a bad day and something in that movie set me off, so I just cried silently in the dark.

    I’ve begun to look at grief as a somewhat positive thing. My life has changed so much for the better since my mother’s death, though I would obviously rather have my mom. Grief is just something I feel everyday and changing my perspective on it has helped me immensely.

    I hope that my grief continues to have ups and downs because I’ve realized that grief is one of the only ways I’ll grow and the only way that my loved one can stay alive in me.

  25. Elizabeth HilliardMay 1, 2018 at 7:50 pmReply

    Oh Tina, I’m so sorry. Yup, you’re in the worst of it. I remember it well – literally curled up on the kitchen floor crying so much I thought I’d run dry. A year and a half later after the loss of my husband, that pain has softened. It comes back to visit in waves, but the waves are less frequent now. Sending you much love and support. You’ve found a great resource in “What’s Your Grief.”

  26. I have always found comfort in the fact that even though a loved one dies, the memories remain alive.

  27. I just lost my husband on 4/3/18. My grief is raw and painful, fearful and grim. I wonder how much a person can cry. In between, wonderful friends and family come to my rescue and I find a reprieve from the pain. But when I wake up in the morning, I am brought to the realization that it is not a dream. My husband is gone and my life is in a puddle on the floor. I miss him so much I can’t breathe. This is the most awful experience ever!

  28. In the 4 years since my husband died, I learned that L8ve transforms everything it touches…including grief. Like you, I struggled big time with the ripped apart at the heart….but death actually completed pur marriage. The finishing of the masterpiece we had created. The martiage is complete. Love never is…it is active forever…and our live transformed the grief into this new relationship that is part of me…part of our family…but more in a stewardship role than a wife …carrying out care and going forward of family, traditions, values, dreams, assets. Still very much living and lived but definitely not the same as married. Grief is no linger a scary storm at all …mire like a beautiful part that we can be peaceful and proud and even happy within. Things make more sense, questions have found answers, new ways of dealing with each other have emerged. Grief no longer defines us.

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer

WYG provides general educational information from mental health professionals, but you should not substitute information on the What’s Your Grief website for professional advice. Please check out terms and conditions here

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255

PhotoGrief

Share Your Snapshot

Grief In 6 Words

Submit a Story to Us

What's Your Grief Podcast

Listen to our podcast

top