Grief is Human so Let’s Talk About It

Supporting a Griever / Supporting a Griever : Eleanor Haley

Grief is human, but this doesn’t mean you have to like it.

(Note: we recognize that grief is not exclusively to humans.)

In case you’re worried, I will not be giving a sanctimonious lecture about how you should embrace death and grief because they are a part of the human condition. Yes, death is a part of life, but it’s the part that ends it, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

No, you don’t have to like grief, but there may be a benefit in acknowledging that it is a part of us. It is a normal human experience; therefore, allowing it to exist within us is okay. We do not need to rush to cure it, like a virus or to exorcise it, like a demon. Instead, we must find ways to live alongside it, just as humans have been doing since the beginning.

Our loss and grief represent just one spot on a very long and complex timeline full of human loss and suffering of all kinds. I don’t say this to minimize anyone’s grief in the here and now. On the contrary, I have always believed that people should fully recognize the depth and importance of their losses. Knowing the universality of pain and loss can bring comfort and perspective, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Likewise, the fact that tragedy has always existed doesn’t make it any less tragic when it happens.

Grief is human, though it may feel like something totally new

For many people, grief is the single most challenging thing they’ve ever experienced. So it makes sense that some people might feel like they’ve woken up in a new body in a new (way worse) world. Grief is one of those experiences that feels difficult to wrap your head around. It feels different each time it happens to you. And though you may recognize thoughts and emotions, everything is intertwined and more intense. Grief is unmistakable, yet a master of disguise, which is a confusing but appropriate sentence because grief is often two things at once.

But it is only because grief is so elusive that I feel the need to adamantly say–grief is human. Because the experience is unpredictable and scary enough without adding to its mystique. It begins with human love and (or) attachment and reflects how individual people learn to make sense of a life that’s missing significant and irreplaceable pieces. In reality, it’s far more complex than this, but it is undeniably “us”.

grief is human

“Anything that’s human is mentionable…” ~ Mr. Rogers

If grief is an everyday human experience for those who experience loss, can we please start talking about it like everyday ordinary people? 

We should, of course, pay appropriate reverence and respect to the people who’ve died, and we should be sensitive to the impact and importance of people’s losses. But this does not mean that we need to tiptoe around the subject of grief itself.

Grieving people already feel like they’re wearing the scarlet letter ‘G’ (as in griever). Whether or not others know about their loss, they know they’re walking around with a hidden dimension that can only be mentioned in specific ways with certain people. And the sad thing is, many people feel this way, but because we don’t openly talk about loss, everyone thinks they’re the only one. 

People treat grief like a sometimes-subject. As in, only sometimes should one feel free to talk about anything beyond surface-level. Yes, there is a time and place for everything. But why is it that grief has so few times and places? True, grieving people rightfully draw boundaries around when and where they want to discuss their loss experiences. But, I can’t help but think that if our society could stop being so weird about grief, people might be able to draw their boundaries a little wider. 

And I’ve noticed after working in the field for a long time, people with a relationship to grief often feel immense relief when they finally find themselves in a group or setting where they can just have open and regular conversations about their experiences. 

How can we make this more of the norm?

I’m not sure, but I guess one thing we can do is work to remove the expectation that people have to talk about their grief-experiences in any prescribed way; and let them express themselves without fear of defying a social norm, being policed, shut down, or judged. Easier said that done? Yes. But you have to start somewhere.

Keep the candid grief discussion going

Since WYG began, we’ve been committed to talking openly and candidly about life after loss. If you’re with us, here’s how you can keep the conversation going.

Subscribe to our newsletter below (where it says “Let’s be grief friends”). We send one weekly email with a new article and other resources. (this is free)

Pre-order our book that comes out on September 27th, What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help You Through Any Loss. To be honest, we’re going to be mentioning this book over the next few weeks because we put a lot of work into it and we’re proud of it and if we don’t mention it then it will never fulfill its book destiny.

grief book

Let’s be grief friends.

We post a new article to What’s Your Grief about once a week. Subscribe to stay up to date on all our posts.

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12 Comments on "Grief is Human so Let’s Talk About It"

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  1. Angel  September 7, 2022 at 11:35 pm Reply

    Most days I feel alone like this isn’t my life and this is not what was supposed to happen. I lost my mom this year and I never got to say goodbye. The last time I had a conversation with her and seen her was in the hospital in January. She passed suddenly on February 4 2022. My heart breaks every single day I wonder is the pain going to slowly stop. I came across this website and it gives me hope that I will be okay one day just not anytime soon. I try to be strong for my fiance and my kids but inside I’m lost and all I wanna do is cry and scream. The loss is much harder for me because she was married to my father a narcissistic man who watched her die he kept her away from us and we didn’t know how bad her health had become. He completely disowned me after she passed and so did one of my sisters. They both refused to pay for her celebration of life or cremation. And she lived with them. I don’t understand them and I never will. Now I’ve lost my mom father and sister all at the same time..they cut ties changed there numbers haven’t seen or heard from them since she passed. I didn’t even get to have any of her belongings or something to remember her by. I miss you mommy

  2. BL  September 2, 2022 at 7:18 pm Reply

    It has been 5 months since I lost my soulmate. The guilt and remorse is with me every minute. Did I miss something? Could I have done anything different? Why? People around me just don’t get it. I am supposed to move on – it has been 5 months after all.
    Death comes so soon. I miss the life that we had and the life that we had hoped for. I miss “us”.

    • Carol  September 17, 2022 at 8:00 am Reply

      I feel like that too, my mom died 5/1/22 she was 88, I miss her so much, I second guess things and I feel lost.

  3. BN  August 30, 2022 at 7:17 pm Reply

    WYG has saved my mind from going crazy from grief. I lost my soulmate recently to stroke. I miss the sheer presence every waking minute. Is she around? Can she hear me? The eternal question of why has crossed my mind constantly. My relationship with the world has changed for ever. I find it hard to make small talk or interact with common friends. I have to work constantly not to resent another’s happiness or life.
    Why take someone who loved life and had so much to contribute. Life makes no sense anymore.
    Keep up the good work and keep this blog going. I look forward to it every week.
    Life is painful and sharing with others help.

    • Dian Torphy  September 1, 2022 at 11:32 am Reply

      I appreciated your comments as most of your feelings are mine exactly- how my life has changed completely and I’m not sure where to go. It has been almost 1 year since the sudden death of my husband and joyful companion and I still have a hard time with many relationships and casual interactions. It is good (I suppose!) to know I’m not the only one.

    • Carol  September 17, 2022 at 8:03 am Reply

      Thank you for sharing your story, I feel like that too, my mom died 5/1/22, I miss her, I’m lost and I have depression also. Grief is so hard.

  4. Jackie  August 29, 2022 at 8:15 pm Reply

    This website has helped me so much! Thank you for this gift to read about grief in a real way. Everyone around me avoids the subject & I can see they just don’t want to get involved. I have many losses! My youngest daughter committed suicide at 21 yo. My oldest son was recently killed in a car wreck, leaving wife & 4 kids. My best friend, sister, just died after being real sick for a month & caught Covid at hospital.
    I just started going to a Grief Share group. Hoping I can work through these loses.
    Look forward to reading this blog! Will definitely buy your book! Thank you for your time to write on this website! You are helping me a lot!

  5. Marion  August 29, 2022 at 6:21 pm Reply

    I love your work. You know despite having read practically every book on grief loss death etc since my son died 18 months ago, only within your writings do I find the contents of my insane head. Yes…insane…or it feels like that because every time I tried to talk about the terror and horror I felt and still feel I was shut down by friends and family. I rationally know that my son is dead but …what is dead? Where is he? Is he ok? Am I still his mother? Will he reincarnate? When I would express such concerns people would gently change the subject. Consequently I have shut them out. I see no one. His death and non existence on this planet is a living part of me, horror I am aware of every second of every day. I wake up to it every morning and it walks beside me through the day. It is unlike any other bereavement or loss I have ever experienced. It has sent me into a spiritual crisis and the world will forever feel alien. I know by your writings that you understand the vastness. Sorry for the ramble, I just needed to thank you

  6. Jan Jasper  August 29, 2022 at 5:27 pm Reply

    Thanks again for your wise understanding about grief. I lost the love of my life when his personality completely and suddenly changed, he seemed to have a mental breakdown. That’s not a death. But it’s just as horrible, in a different way. Since then I’ve learned how bad many people are at helping friends deal with any kind of loss – chronic health problems, you name it. Friends just want your suffering to go away because it makes THEM uncomfortable. It’s for their comfort, not for yours, that they make these insensitive comments. They are categorized as “well-meaning friends” but I now dispute that. The aloneness a grieving person feels as a result, just adds to their hurt. Thank you for understanding this, and thank you for your important work.

    • Amy Joyce  August 31, 2022 at 7:13 am Reply

      Your podcast, articles, classes and book in the works have all inspired me to educate myself and others about grief. It’s taken me to a place where I love to explore grief within the end of life community with both patients and families. Thank you.
      PS-being from Pittsburgh, I cannot leave without letting you know that Fred Rogers, our late beloved teacher, did not have a D in his last name ❤️

  7. Kimberly H  August 29, 2022 at 4:34 pm Reply

    My mother was euthanized in a hospice in 2020. She died from terminal sedation,dehydration and malnutrition. She was subjected to substandard care. My grief is overwhelming. My anger at the the physicians who ignored her symptoms of cancer until it was too late for treatment.

  8. Tracy Payne  August 29, 2022 at 2:30 pm Reply

    I’m grieving through the 2nd year of my LH death.


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