Grief Makes You Crazy

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you…grief makes you crazy.

I suppose that may be a bit of an exaggeration. In reality, it only makes you feel crazy.

In the beginning, you feel totally out of sorts – like lash out at everyone, cry over everything, wear the same sweatpants for a week insane. Then over time you only feel a bit odd every now and then – like I’m a 5’2 woman totally unwilling to let go of the 6’1 man’s tweed suit from circa 1950 that’s hanging in my closet.

Stop looking at me like that.

Fortunately, I also have good news…when it comes to grief, crazy is the new normal.

It looks different on everyone because we all experience grief in our own way, but on some level, we all struggle to understand ourselves and the world around us in the face of profound loss.

Think about it – it makes total sense. Whether the loss was sudden or you were able to anticipate it, as soon as you understood and accepted that someone you love was dead or dying you began the grueling work of grieving. If ever a rationale for temporary insanity was needed, one could certainly be found among the range of reactions and emotions associated with grief and loss – shock, numbness, sadness, despair, loneliness, isolation, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, irritability, anger, increased or decreased appetite, fatigue or sleeplessness, guilt, regret, depression, anxiety, crying, headaches, weakness, aches, pains, yearning, worry, frustration, detachment, isolation, questioning faith – to name a few.

Understandably, many will find it hard to acclimate to these emotions. One day you’re walking along like normal and the next day you feel like an alien has invaded your body; your actions and reactions have become totally unpredictable and confusing. In search of something familiar you look to your primary support system, your family and friends, but they seem changed as well; some avoid you, some dote on you, some are grieving in ways you don’t understand, and some are critical of the way you are handling things. Everyone is searching for the new normal.

The first few weeks are foggy. You wake up each morning thinking maybe it was all a bad dream and you muddle through the day trying to make sense of life without your loved one. Just when you start to get a grip (or not) you are forced to step back into your pre-grief life. It seems absurd that the world would keep moving in the face of your tragedy, but it has. Sadly most grievers can’t abandon their duties for long – parent, employee, bill payer, pants wearer – you now have to figure out how to continue to exist in the roles that have been yours since before the death.

Alas, that is not all. You must also incorporate new roles and duties, the ones you inherited when your loved one died – mowing the lawn, balancing the household budget, single parenting, closing old bank accounts, dealing with insurance, taking in grandchildren. God never gives you more than you can bear? We’re seriously testing that theory.

Sometimes even more disorienting is the emptiness felt by those who have fewer responsibilities as a result of the loss. Perhaps you have spent the past year dealing with treatments and prescriptions, appointments, prayers, and hospice. Now that’s no longer necessary and a life put on hold to be a caregiver must be restarted. Or perhaps you’re a parent whose life was previously made colorful by a child and fast paced by the duties of parenting. Now you find yourself waking up in the morning to rush through the before school routine, only to realize there’s no one to hurry out of bed or call to breakfast.

Life is forever changed and things feel meaningless, gray, and empty.

This is when you really start to feel crazy (you’re not). Friends don’t know what to say to you anymore. You are supposed to be back to work, school, the PTA, but you don’t feel the same. You’re worried you are alienating people by talking about your loved one and the death. You’re confused about your purpose. Everything you knew about life has changed. You’re questioning your faith and life’s meaning. You’re wondering if you are supposed to be getting better and you can no longer see the world in color.

We here at ‘What’s Your Grief’ like to talk about a condition we call ‘Temporarily unable to see rainbows’. Have you ever noticed that many of the resources, articles, books, and materials created to help people who are grieving use images of people staring off at sunsets, standing on a beach, or gazing at the clouds? These images inevitably lead Litsa and me to a conversation that goes something like this…

Eleanor: You know, my grief never looked anything like that.

Litsa: Yeah my grief didn’t look like that either.

Eleanor: As a matter of fact, my grief would not have been impressed with that sunset at all.

Litsa: Mine either. My grief would probably have wanted to punch that sunset in the face.

No thrilled about sunsetThe irony is, when you are in the throws of grief you may really struggle to find the beauty and the joy in life and it may be quite unlikely that you would stop and admire the beauty of a rainbow or the vastness of an ocean. Those who cannot relate to these images begin to worry, what’s wrong with me that I don’t have such a zen perspective? The inability to derive joy from things that were once pleasurable can feel a lot like depression and it can be frightening.

Don’t worry you’re still not crazy. These are normal feelings. I know because I’ve experienced my own grief and I know because I’ve heard hundreds of other grievers talk about the same types of experiences.  (If you’re worried that you are actually experiencing a psychological disorder like depression, anxiety, or PTSD – read this and this and this)

You’ve probably heard people say, ‘the first year is the hardest’, this is sometimes true.  Quite often, the second year is no picnic either, but at some point, things should get easier. The intense and unrelenting distress of acute grief will be replaced by less frequent moments of sadness, anger, and frustration. You will still have bad days, but you will know things are getting better when those days are outnumbered by ‘okay’ days.

This does not mean you are ‘getting over it’, moving on, or forgetting. An important part of healing is discovering the role your loved one will play in your life after their death. Of course at first, you hold on very tight, afraid if you let go your loved one will disappear completely. You hold on to items (not crazy), you leave rooms untouched (not crazy), you pay their cell phone bill so you can continue to hear their voice on their voicemail (not crazy). These things are not crazy and you may continue to do some of them forever, but some you will eventually let go of as your grip slowly loosens and you realize that nothing short of amnesia could make you really let go.

And slowly…slowly…the faded colors of life become more vibrant. The world unthaws and you start to find beauty peaking through in places you would never have expected it. Your season of grief has left you weary but stronger. You know you will never be the same and you begin to accept that you must integrate your loved one and your experiences and continue to live…a little bit wary, a little bit wise, and a little bit crazy

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Prefer to listen to your grief support?  Check out our podcast on 12 ways that grief makes you crazy.

April 29, 2017

41 responses on "Grief Makes You Crazy"

  1. My dear Mom passed away 3 months ago, after a 1 and 1/2 year battle with cancer. I lived with her and my Dad over the last decade; my Father died from cancer 6 years ago. Living alone with Mom was at first strained, but with time we got on better and better. then she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I was petrified of loosing her and i took me a while to learn how to hide and deal with my fear and my wish to hang on to her. The last 6 weeks everything that could go wrong happened. among other events, she broke her femur 3 times and was not managed properly by the orthopedic surgeons. She experienced excruciating pain whenever moved in bed and morphine and morphine derivatives did little to prevent the pain upon moving. After experiencing a spontaneous fracture (possibly a consequence of the delay in surgery for the previous fracture) she underwent further surgery. She awoke from the anesthetic tapped in a nightmarish existence in which anyone entering her room might be there to inflict pain. She would nod off to sleep and only to startle again and again, sitting up with terror in her eyes, her arms flailing. Her speech became incoherent. And the staff still had to change her position in bed (to prevent bed sores) frequently. She was going through hell and could not be consoled. at times she physically “defended” herself from those who wished to move her. Spending hours with her, seeing her suffer such physical pain and mental anguish, without a way to comfort her and all the time fighting back my tears (and sometimes, a wish to scream) was probably the most difficult thing I have done in my life. Eventually the suffering ended and she drew her last breath. Thus began part 2 of our saga. I identify with “feeling crazy”. I experience anxiety and panic to the extent of not being able to function or think about anything else for 2-3 hours. Other times, at the same time I feel deep sadness and want to fall on my knees and cry,; i feel anxiety and the need to escape (where to?); and I hear emotional music playing in my head and feel bitter-sweet/ sad-happy. WHO IS RUNNING THE SHOW?

  2. My husband died 7-21-2017 and I feel like I’m stuck, I can’t cry! It’s like I’m stuck! We were together since we were 15 he died at 40 and I have no idea why! Still have a pending death certificate! I lost my best friend ! My love but it’s like why am I not trying! I was at his funeral I saw everything! I just don’t think this is healthy it’s like my mind shut down! I need to find a way out to start grieving

    • Sha, often this early after a death you are still in shock. It is not uncommon not to feel the way you expected. If you feel shut down, it can be helpful to go see a therapist or join a support group. To locate one, start by contacting a local hospice or hospital and ask if they have any running or can recommend something. We hope you find some support here on our site as well!

  3. Thanks for this.

    I needed to hear that my wife threatening to leave me and our 4 children after the loss of her father was a little bit normal, she is lashing out at everyone, questioning every decision, including marrying me!

    I wish I knew what to say when her statements are contradictory, inflammatory and designed to hurt.

  4. I Lost my husband over a Month Ago,, He was dying of a Heart Attack ,,He complained of Having a” Stomach Ache”,, then he said he couldn’t breathe,,we were on our way to take him to the hospital,,but he insisted on going to the bathroom,, Giving us the Impression he was Okay,, we called 911 and waiting for what seemed to be Forever for them to come,, he kept saying he was Okay,,”I’m Coming” I’m Coming” through the Door,,”Don’t call no Ambulance”!,, we did anyway,,there was,, He kept insisting he was Fine,, and then it got “Quiet”,,I opened the door,, and I knew he was Dying ,and I knew I had to wait for the Paramedics,, and they still hadn’t arrived,, and I couldn’t do “Anything” to stop it,,,,40 (plus) Years My high School Sweetheart Father of Our Children (Now Adults),,My Best Friend,,I couldn’t watch him Suffer,,I couldn’t,,I knew he was about to leave Me and I couldn’t handle it I just couldn’t,,Help Him,, and I feel so “Much Guilt”,, because I stood outside the door,, My God!,,I was afraid to watch him Go,,I was afraid he was going to Die in front of Me and I did not know what to do,, when the Paramedics Came I rode to the Hospital with him ,,his heart stopped on the way there they revived him when we got there,, but he still Passed,,I wasn’t there,, I was Emotionnless, Shocked,,Afraid,,Numb,,I couldn’t even Cry,, it took A week after,, the Day of the Funeral,, for it to Hit Me that he was actually gone,, and since then all I’ve been doing id feeling guilt,, for not Forcing him out that door ,, and not allowing him to go the Bathroom,, for not being in there when he was Leaving Me,, I’ve been told when people are leaving this Life, some like to be Alone,, and that’s why,, he went in there,, and Insisted he was fine,,to Make his peace with God,, I don’t know,, all I know is,,I feel I should have been in there with him ,,I should have Been with him going through that,, instead of not wanting to see him Suffer,, not wanting to see him Leave,, Not believing the Inevitable,, and Now I can’t Stop Grieving,,,, I love Him Completely,,,,I don’t know who I am anymore,, what to do with Myself,,,, I don’t know how to Act,,No desire to Socialize,,They always have a Dinner for the Family After the Funeral,, I couldn’t even go to that,, Wasn’t Hungry,,I’m Lost,,God help Me

  5. I buried my brother today and the sunset line in here made me laugh out loud in the middle of a panic attack over him being cold and alone. Thank you for reminding me that all of this darkness is normal. He isn’t alone. I’m in the darkness right beside him. No rainbows for a whole but they’ll come back.

  6. I don’t understand why I’ll be doing fine (and sometimes even well) in my grief, then one little thing like a Travel Ban (pretending to be the answer for preventing what caused his death in Tower 1) will upset and distress me in ways I can’t even control. Then I feel like I’ve been shunted to the bottom of the hill by an avalanche of agony.
    Everyone online who talks about this stuff like it means nothing, as if NObody lost loved ones on September 11, are completely insensitive to how we feel about using his death and our pain in some gd political GAME.
    Did it ever occur to anyone in this world outside of his family and friends that he was a person w/ some of the same ambitions, hopes and dreams the people in question take for granted every day?
    I just don’t understand why almost everyone treats what happened as if it never happened to a human being and his/her living relatives who have to live w/ what happened, but instead use the terrible thing that happened to him as an opportunity to bash one side of the other in the political arena.
    Right after it happened everyone was united against a common enemy. Now they use our pain and his demise as opportunities to appear hateful of one side or the other. I don’t understand it and it makes me crazy that most people will never see him as a person or at least stop using his death as an excuse to practice hate. Being hateful is one thing he NEVER did. He was exactly the opposite of that, he was happy almost all the time and always wanted to include people in his life. One time he invited some people to come up to his company’s holiday party even though the people in question had quit working at the company bc of bad feelings between the old VP and the ones who quit working there.
    That’s not a sign of a hateful person so why would people want to appear hateful and then say it’s bc of avenging Eric’s death. He wouldn’t want them to do it. He’s want them to do acts of kindness. That’s part of who he was and why I’m so insistent about saying the travel ban is #notinhisname.
    One of his favorite verses:

    ‘He drew a circle and shut me out
    rebel, heretic, a thing to flout
    but love and I had the wit to win
    We drew a circle & shut love in.”

  7. I lost my mum to cancer two months ago, I’m a complete mess, I’m constantly crying, I’ve been to my doctor for help but I’m not getting any help at all, I’m really at a loss as to what to do , I would appreciate some advise.

  8. My Mum died when I was pregnant, and my grief has been ‘complicated’ to say the least. Every time (even 5 years on) I get triggered or revisited by grief….every single time…I think I have gone crazy, and have clinical depression. The grief feels more like fear for me, fear and depression – I just stop seeing and feeling the good, and then I panic about not feeling good – the feelings don’t seem ‘appropriate’ to the amount of time that has passed. I have to trust that I will come out of it, like I always have – it’s exhausting though. Especially in a culture that is so quick to pathologize any and all kinds of depression and anxiety….it just makes it all that more lonely and frightening, and much harder to trust the process – which in itself causes anxiety!! lol ;( I have a great psychologist to help me with this…still it’s a crazy crazy ride..and I want off it.

    • Katy, I feel exactly the same. I lost my dear mum 2 years ago but feel worse now than I did then. I miss her so much. I have got angry with everyone and my work has been affected. In the past I have suffered anxiety and depression after a death in the family and was terrible after losing my dad. I’m scared of feeling like this in a tunnel and not being able to get out of the other side. It’s been a battle each time. I have just come off anti depressants as I was on them for years and I am trying to get through this bereavement . Mum was my bestest friend and she was always there to say I would be alright an d she can’t say it to me this time! I feel as though I hav’nt grown up.. Like you I can’t see or feel good, I just feel flat. I’m so pleased I have found this site as its a tiny bit comforting that you are not on your own and hits on a lot of the same fears. I have sent it to my sister who feels the same as me.

  9. I had an ambiguous loss (children abducted) which was never recognised by others and my grief has been disenfranchised for many years by my family and by the nhs, the circle of grief is a vicious circle from which there has been no relief.
    My children despise me, thanks to years of grooming, my family hate me too, thanks to years of manipulation by a sadistic narcissist who was my mother.
    She died being loved by my children, I will die being hated. No one has listened or heard my pleas for help. Now tell me what im supposed to do???

  10. I lost my daughter two years ago,she was 22 and mentally challenged there are days that I cry alot and feel like all I want to do is die,I know I shouldn’t feel like that but sometimes the pain is just so unbearable. I have my three children that I have to take car of so I just try and get through another day.

    • Tirhas GebremedhinMay 1, 2017 at 1:29 pmReply

      I lost my 22yers.old son.hes my evry thank lm lost i cant go on any more i dont no what to do my hart is brok emty al i want is to die no pont any mor

  11. Lost my son two months ago in an accident
    Despise this new world of pain
    Want to die but gave another son
    In hell
    All I hope for is reunion after death
    But lost my faith that there is anything after so much agony
    Don’t want to carry on
    Don’t want to be a poor example
    Impaled and on fire every single second in every atom of my being and eternity grinning at me like a skull
    Sucking me in to a life with no joy or hope of joy
    Looking for proof of life after death all day on YouTube
    PTSD from the terrible loss
    Help

    • Pam,

      You are clearly in a lot of pain. First of all I understand that you expressed that your other son is your reason to live, but I have to say f you are having any thoughts of hurting yourself please seek help immediately. You can walk into your local emergency room or call the suicide hotline 1 (800) 273-8255 (if you are in the US) and +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (if you are in the UK). If you are elsewhere just google suicide hotline and your country name. It is so common to feel as if there is no way out other and suicide but please know there are ALWAYS other ways.

      Second, please know two things.

      (1) The pain of acute grief should get better. You are in the darkest days right now, but as you learn to live with this loss one day at a time it will get easier to tolerate getting out of bed in the morning.

      (2) If your grief remains intense for longer than you are comfortable with. If you truly feel that you are experiencing PTSD or if you are experiencing thoughts and reactions that cause daily distress and which get in the way of daily functioning, then the best help we can give you is the recommendation and encouragement to reach out to a therapist in your area. You may want to look for someone who specializes in grief and/or trauma.

      I’m sorry for your pain. Hang in there.
      Eleanor

    • Pam, I am so sad for you. I too lost my younger son in an accident on 4th June 2016. I too have another son, John’s older brother and his best buddy – he is the only reason I stay. I fantasise about dying from an illness that I couldn’t help having – but that would also destroy my James, so I try and stay healthy. I have PTSD and a kind helpful trauma therapist – do you have this? If not, try and get it. It can help a bit. The other thing is you say you have lost faith,but it may be that the focus of your faith may be changing, not totally lost. I know it isn’t for everyone, but I have been able to hear messages from John, through music, through signs, and through a medium. It was such a relief to know he is okayand I cling to that on my real bad days. Most of them! If you would like a name to contact, I would be happy to tell you about a very helpful person. If not, maybe find a spiritualist Church? I know I sound batshit crazy but I know their spirits carry on and are with us; I’ve had proof. It doesn’t stop the grief,the loss, the yearning, the fear, the fury, the every bastard thing that goes with this thing that we have to bear, but it can help. Hang on in there, Mum.

  12. Thank you so much, I don’t feel nearly as mad as I did!!! So true, all of it, such a shame noone around me gets it…. All I can say is thank you… K x x

  13. My only child died it will be 2 years ago next month. She was a beautiful 15 year old girl…she was killed in an accident. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I feel like im going nuts all the time. I feel like some days I’m handling it too well…then other days I’m a mess. The days I feel “too good” I think what an ass I am because I’m actually looking forward to doing something or enjoying a day. I feel crazy all the time and I don’t know who to talk to about it.

    • Jayme, have you connected to a counselor at all or gone to a support group? Those can be good places to start, though of course not the solution for everyone! If in person isn’t for you there are places online to connect with others with shared experiences as well. If you are looking for resources let me know and we may be able to point you in the right direction!

  14. My husband of 40 years was sick only 4 weeks when he died. I have three grown children and four grandchildren. I was fine at first, but as time goes on, it is the little things that make me weepy. I can’t sleep, am lashing out at loved ones and at times, think craziness has set in. My husband spoiled me, he did everything, by that, he took care of the outside of the house and yard, would not let me handle a tool or paintbrush. Soon it will be 10 months since he died and miss him. Is this normal to feel this way?

  15. I found this blog today while searching the internet for answers on why I have the intense desire to break up with my fiance since my mom died on September 8th. I feel so crazy and out of sorts just like this blog describes. I am so confused right now and wonder if my feelings and desires to leave him are real or whether it is just me shutting everyone out.

  16. I think grief has quite literally turned me crazy. Life is so naff now my best friend died 18 months ago at the age of 22. Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to kill myself so we can have our ashes mixed and be together for eternity. I feel like I literally want to melt my skin off with a blow torch because life hurts so much without her. They say a loved one who has died is now at peace, yet suicide is frowned upon… why aren’t I allowed to be at peace?! I am expected to ‘carry on’ and suffer here for the next 60 years miserable in a life that is not worth living without her.

  17. I feel like I am crazy. I keep looking up DSM criteria for disorders, but I just don’t quite match any, but I still feel like something is wrong with me.
    I am 30, my husband died 16 months ago. We were only together 3 months before he was diagnosed with cancer, and died a year later. It was very atypical, we had very little support, I was his sole caregiver, on top of living in a foreign country, and not having a single doctor to take responsibility for his care.
    We were constantly moving cities and countries to different hospitals, so I wasn’t working. Now I am in our house, in a foreign country, cannot legally get a job or even residency, but I just don’t want to leave our home. I feel like this is reasonable, but people act like, why don’t you just go back to America where your family is?
    The house is a mess, I struggle to throw out things I know I don’t want. Bad days I can stay in bed for 6 hours after waking, only to leave bed to buy fries and coca cola as a meal. I’ve put on 10 pounds.
    The first 6-9 months I felt a lot of grief of course, but also a lot of optimism and support from new and old friends. I felt strong and resilient, and often even euphoric. I traveled, socialized, went out partying, and was more sociable than I’d ever been. The world felt warm and loving. I had a string of very brief romantic encounters with several men, and felt buoyed by them.
    Now friends have less time to give, and my attempts to stabilize my life (getting a job here or a meaningful job elsewhere) have totally failed. Even my husband’s estate is still unresolved, so I don’t even have the control of paying my own bills.
    I cry randomly and become incredibly depressed over little things, like a friend or my (very casual) boyfriend canceling plans. I struggle to stick to plans to clean up, eat healthy, exercise or pursue some goal. I feel guilty for not using this time to develop skills like my writing or art which I always wanted more time for. I also feel guilty when my sadness/depression isn’t directly related to my husband. I wonder if I am just lazy and using his death as a crutch. I have no responsibilities and enough money not to worry about working yet, so I also feel like I should be more grateful.
    Is this normal? Can grief manifest as sudden sadness/depression for no reason or a very minor one? I miss him, and feel he is irreplaceable, but I know it is not complicated grief. I feel my life is in a total shambles. I believed I had learned some great lesson in his death, and it would make my life better, giving it purpose, but now I feel like a failure, and especially a failure to live up to the sort of person he was. I struggle day to day, often waking up anxious about how to get through the day and have no more than a few good days at best before a relapse. I guess I want someone to either tell me that my overwhelmed feeling is justified, or if I need to get over myself and pull it together.

    • Samantha, I am so incredibly sorry that you have been through such a devastating loss at such a young age. Though there is a common belief that they first year of grief is the hardest, they reality is that sometimes we get the through the first year and it isn’t until the second that we realize we have to adapt to a long term life after loss. Based on what you describe about your life and struggles currently I would strongly suggest you see a counselor. It sounds like there is a lot going on and a counselor would best be able to help you sort through those things and determine steps for moving forward.

  18. I am still going through a bit of “crazy,” two years after losing my mom (expected) and my husband (sudden), three days apart. I have good family support, counseling, etc, but most of the time I still feel like a kid with ADD. It is such a struggle to finish tasks. My husband’s office is still basically untouched. I have friends & family who say they will help me tackle this when I’m ready. It just feels like I’m never going to be ready.
    With the new year I do want to bring some order to my life but the thought is exhausting. I know everyone’s grief journey is different, but in your experience, is there some point when I should be concerned that I’ve become “stuck?”

    • MJ,

      I think it’s normal to have times when you still feel crazy two years later, although after two years I would say you should be able to expect it will happen less often than not. Do your grief related feelings seem just as extreme on a regular basis or is it just a certain time of year, when thinking about a specific task, or is there anything else that pops out that you think might be complicating things for you?

      Unfortunately it’s really tough for any of us to say from the other side of a computer screen but I would say stuck or not, if you want to bring order to your life and you feel unable to do it then it’s time to figure out what’s standing in your way. Perhaps it’s something that needs to be resolved or overcome or maybe there are tools and coping skills you have yet to learn that will help you find your way. You don’t have to answer this here, but is your counselor helping you address this “stuck” feeling? Have you discussed going through your husband’s office with him or her? If not you should consider breaching these topics.

      I’m sorry to not be more helpful. Grief is complicated, relationships are complicated, people are really complicated, so all we can really do is guess and ask questions.

      Good luck and let us know how you’re doing,

      Eleanor

  19. My husband passed away 14years ago and ppl tell me to get over it but I never will. Am I wrong? He was my world and when he left this world he took my soul with him.I guess what I’m asking is there really a certain time that you have to stop grieving?… Forever lost

    • Jamie,

      I’m so sorry. To answer your question, no there isn’t a time frame when you have to stop grieving. The conventional wisdom is that one should start to feel better, but not fully ‘get over it’. We keep our loved ones with us always – we’ll always love them and this means we will always grieve them on some level. That being said, fourteen years later do you feel like you’re able to find peace and feel happiness or satisfaction with your life? Is grief impacting your ability to find happiness? Part of healthy grieving is finding a way to live a healthy life after the loss even though we know you will never let your late husband go or stop loving him.

      Eleanor

  20. I am grieving over the loss of my pet. That may seem pointless to some but she was my baby for 17 years. She has been gone for nearly 3 months and the mere thought of her still makes me fight back tears. My children are grown and out of the house for awhile now. My little dog gave her life to me as she sat nearby while I wrote page after page of my life. She comforted me when I was laughing, angry or crying as I wrote the depth of my journey. She struggled down the stairs and eventually couldn’t bend to eat of her bowl. (Oh geez, tears now…arghhh) I can’t imagine the ache of losing a child, I came so close so many times. Anyway I pull up my big girl pants and smile at the memories but I still miss her so much. My book was the bravest work I have ever shared. I look forward to all your stories, that helps us get through our losses.

  21. I’m glad to know I’m not the only 5’2 woman with a man’s tweed suit from circa 1950 hanging in my wardrobe. I have 2! Thank you for ‘normalising’ the crazy feelings. I always find the sunny days the hardest – they made me feel the most sad. These are the days I most want to hide in my bedroom and stay in bed. I think your article sums up why for me.

  22. Hello,

    Everything you wrote is how I feel.

    I lost my Mom in september she was 81 years young and looked 65, She was beautiful, She was my best friend and in the last year she got sick from cancer and I spent my days taking her to doctors and making sure she had everything she needed and wanted. My Mom was doing well with the cancer ( even though their is no cure) we had just went to the doctor 2 days before she passed. She passed from a blood clot that went to her heart. My sister called me said my Mom was having shortness of breath and I was on the highway to get to her and the ambulance was there as I heard my sister screaming my Mom had passed.
    Im so lost. I have been to depression therapy I cant take anti depressants. I thought I was doing good had it together on my way to healing and since Christmas I cant get a grip on reality. I feel like IM LOOSING MY MIND. I just want her here to tell me how to get better as she always knew what I needed.
    I feel like a little girl scared to death but NO one can make me feel better
    Nothing feels right. I feel like im on a different planet and I just want to go home.
    Please help!

    • Oh Brenda, I am so sorry about your mom’s death and that the holidays have been so hard. It is totally normal for the holidays to be a trigger for really intense emotions and grief. Though it is hard to believe, it is normal to feel like you are going crazy, especially when it has only been a few months since your mom died. CS Lewis wrote an amazing book after his wife died call A Grief Observed. The book starts with the quote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”. I have always thought he was so right – no one ever warns us that grief does make us feel so scared and alone. I know you said you have been to therapy for depression, but you may want to consider going to someone specifically for grief and possible a grief support group. Grief and depression are two different things. Though of course someone suffering from depression may be grieving, grief itself is not the same as depression and it should be treated differently. A counselor who specializes in grief should be able to help you understand and process your grief. Calling your local hospice is a good place to start with finding a counselor or a group.

      Along with seeing a grief counselor, journaling can be very helpful. If you look at our categories (over to the right) at the bottom of the list you will see “words, writing, and journaling” (or just click this link https://whatsyourgrief.com/words-writing-and-journaling/) and you will see a list of different grief journaling prompts that we have posted. One journaling technique we have not posted, but that may be helpful, is writing down a problem or question you have (perhaps about your own grief) and then spend some time thinking about your mom and write what you think she would say and tell you. It sounds like you and your mom were very close, so though she isn’t here to tell you how to get better or help you see what you need, you may find that with some time and reflection you can imagine what she would say to you.

      As you work through the next days and weeks, try to take things one day at a time. When grief overwhelms us it can feel totally debilitating. Try to focus on getting through just this one day – set some small goals: find a counselor or group, spend some time journaling, do something to memorialize your mom, or whatever else works for you for that day. Consider some self-care techniques as well — we have a self-care post here with some tips you may want to check out: https://whatsyourgrief.com/self-care-for-the-rest-of-us/.

      Hope you spend some time poking around on the blog – you may find some other helpful ideas. Wishing you strength to get through the weeks and months to come.

  23. Dear Litsa and Eleanor,
    I really appreciate your post on this issue. In 2007 my only brother passed away in a car accident. I was 26 at the time and had just started my career and was trying to maintain “normal” when I was feeling anything but normal. It was a difficult time and I remember several people telling me things that were not comforting. I think that there is a balance between grieving and living and I am still trying to figure it out. If I were honest with myself, I believe that I grieved for almost 3-4 years before I sought out someone to talk to about my situation. Death of a loved one is difficult and sometimes family situations make it so much more difficult after the fact. People seem to argue about money, material goods, etc. It was such a stressful time. Also, if you are married at the time and your spouse has never experienced a significant loss…that can be difficult as well. I was married shortly after my brother died. As supportive as my husband was and is…he just could not understand my grief and I needed to be ok with that. He never pretended to understand. Looking back, that was really upsetting but there was nothing that I could do to force anyone (including him) to understand what I was dealing with inside. I guess that would be the same for each of us experiencing a loss. We all experience this as our own journey. Now, 6 years later my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given months to live. If I could say it anywhere…this community would probably understand that my Dad is dying from a broken heart. The cancer took over because of his grief and somewhere he lost his will to live when Rudy passed away. That is just my opinion but it makes sense to me. We certainly can “feel” grief and the feelings can become illness. It is sad for me but I find myself not wanting to deal with anything that is coming up right now. Unlike when Rudy died, I do have time to say goodbye to my Dad. It is a different loss this time. I imagine that when my Dad does pass away, I will have another time period of grief. I find comfort in friends and family that can help. I am beginning to appreciate that saying good bye is a blessing. also, I recognized that grief hurts. Not only is a feeling but can manifest itself as physical pain or illness. Back to why I originally began to type….I so appreciate your post. It is encouraging to know that I am not crazy in dealing with some of my feelings. I really appreciate your facebook page as well.

  24. I find myself talking to the stars more. And, actually, finding the beauty. My love died Oct. 4, and we spent a couple gorgeous vacation days on the shores of Lake Michigan. When he died, I found myself at my sister’s, on the shores of Lake Erie, so I went for a walk, and I took picture after picture of the beauty that was there that day. And, now, a little more than six months out, I notice myself stopping to watch a hawk soar through the sky, or a bunny run across the field. The crazy I experienced was in the first few weeks when I SWORE he was sending me signs, a song, finding something I forgot he’d given me, the seagull that wouldn’t fly away from me the week of the funeral.

    • Joyce, I think so many people can relate to that experience of seeing signs everywhere!! Though we all have different belief systems and may think different things about “signs”, the afterlife, etc there is something so comforting about the idea that our loved one is somehow trying to help us or communicate with us. Grief often shifts how we look at the world around us, for better or for worse. I think if we are lucky enough to find our grief helping us notice beauty around us it can be its own source of comfort. Thanks for sharing and I am so sorry for the loss of your husband.

  25. Hi,

    I”m not sure if this is the right place but your post was very warm and comforting so I… I’m wondering if maybe you could help me out.

    Without going into some kind of long spiel about the whole thing, about 2 years ago, a guy I’d been with (but not really; I think we were at a loss for what to do) for 2 years by then, found out that his mom was going to die. She was diagnosed with breast cancer right after I met him. It seemed that part of the reason our relationship seemed to exist, but yet not really be fully there, was because of her sickness and the constant flying both of us had to do back to our homes in Taiwan (mine), Hong Kong (his and his mom’s) and Vancouver.

    She passed away a year and a half ago, and I started crying nonstop for about a year. Not knowing the reason, and believing it was about our imperfect relationship, I got angry at him and destroyed his things, causing him to move to Australia. To my intense grief but eventual relief, the days of feeling split between two continents ended there.

    Although I finally feel like I am back to normal now (exactly two years later since she was diagnosed for having not long left to live, and one year after a sensational, mad breakup), I definitely feel that the new normal is different from the old normal. But I feel confused. I have read sooo many articles online and even tried to tell my friends, but I feel like I am missing something. I cannot shake that feeling of being left out of some kind of answer. I don’t really understand why I turned the loss of his mother into some other issue, like long distance. I can’t date because I keep finding problems with people that do not exist. I no longer know if the choices I made were based on a rational reason, or if it was some kind of denial. I can’t imagine why someone else losing their family member would throw me into that kind of madness. I had lost the ability to manage myself and make regular plans for the future. I isolated myself and moved away from people I used to know. I changed my hairstyle and my appearance and tried to hide by pretending I didn’t really exist. Now, I feel like I am crawling back out into the world like a turtle. 1 year, or more, seems like an irrationally long time to be upset over a boyfriend.

    As a grief expert, in your experience, is this… normal? Or is it complicated? I feel that my world is wrong. How can I make it less threatening again?

    • Thank you for reaching out to us, you are welcome to ask us questions any way that suits you.  It’s difficult for me to say whether your reaction is normal or not without knowing more about you and about the situation.  All three factors involved, individuals, grief and relationships, are very complex.  Put everything together and it can be really difficult to sort out; I imagine this is part of the reason why you are struggling to make sense of everything.  

      Bottom line, it sounds like his mother’s death and the subsequent breakup was significant to you, and your feelings and reactions confused and frightened you. Perhaps it has been difficult for you to move forward without being able to make sense of the past.  The only thing I can say with certainty is if you feel this is currently impacting your relationships, happiness, and/or daily functioning, then it may be a good idea to talk to someone like a counselor.  

      Often times all we need are a few sessions with someone who is a blank slate, who will not pass judgement, and who will help us sort out our thoughts and feelings.  More often than not the answer is in there, we just have to sort through many layers to get to it.  

      If your not open to this option, then journaling can be a helpful tool for sorting things out.  Sometimes organizing our thoughts on paper helps us to make sense off all that’s circulating around in our heads.  

      I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a more specific answer, but please let me know what other questions you have.

    • My step-parent sees it to be fit to keep all of my deceased parents money. He never had children of his own, and now that my parent has passed, my stepdad has decided to keep everything because he lost his wife. But, she had children. So, shouldn’t they get something?

      • Hi Vanessa, I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. The question you ask has both legal and then ethical/moral answers and, depending on your perspective, those answers may be different. Legally your mom would have needed a will if she wanted her children (or anyone else) to get a portion of her estate. Otherwise legally my understanding (and I am not a lawyer, so you would need to check with a lawyer to know for sure) is that any money/assets would go to a spouse. Whether it is moral/ethical for a spouse not to share that money with the persons children is another question altogether and one I suspect people would have many different opinions about! I am so sorry this is probably causing strife within your family. Please know there are professional mediators (some of whom are also lawyers) who may be able to assist if this is something your family is hoping to work through. Take care.

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