Grief Never Ends, and That’s Okay.

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Eleanor Haley

For a decade, I’ve been saying to any griever who would listen – “When someone you love dies, you grieve the loss forever. Grief never ends.” And I tell them they have a right to this grief (they do) and that they should acknowledge their pain and openly embrace their ongoing connection with the person who died. 

Though this suggestion is reasonable for some, I’m sure it seems aspirational for just as many others. Plenty of people have reservations about sharing their grief years after their loss. Our society usually doesn’t validate grief that lasts longer than a year or two, and it may seem like grief support comes with an unspoken expiration date.

Of course, many people carve out safe havens where their grief can exist indefinitely, but these are usually small and sacred corners, like a secret club or a hideaway under the stairs. As lovely as these spaces may be, it seems unfair that they are the only places where ongoing grief can exist. 

I write for a grief website, and I will confess I struggle with the same fear of sharing my ongoing grief. This October will be 15 years since my mother died, and I have plenty of thoughts and feelings about my loss, but sometimes I feel self-conscious continuing to talk about it. I worry it will come off as disingenuous–like it’s attention-seeking or milking my loss for content. But it’s none of these things. Trust me; I’m not a good enough writer to churn out 1000 emotional words on something I don’t feel.

I struggle with the misperception that I shouldn’t still be actively grieving her at this point. Like I should have made it past the turbulence of grief long ago to calmer and more enlightened skies. I mean, I’ve been putting in the work. So how come my grief isn’t more transformative after all this time and processing? Because I’ve got to be honest, how I feel about my loss couldn’t be more basic after 15 years of grieving. I miss my mom, and I want her back. Period. End of story. 

grief never ends

The narrative arc of my grief story is a circle. Time and again, I find myself back at the beginning. And this is not a failure to accept things or complete the grief process – because “complete” and “grief process” really don’t belong in the same sentence. I think there will always be times when I feel clumsy and awkward like an amateur griever.

My mother physically raised me until she left this Earth when I was 24. Her love and example continued to shape who I was at 30 and am at 40. We are so intrinsically linked; it’s illogical to think the scars of this loss wouldn’t remain forever tender. Even my most profound and comforting connections are simultaneously points that cause me pain because they remind me of something undefinably precious. And absolutely no amount of processing and coping can ever make the reality that my mother is gone feel positive or good.

There’s some relief in understanding that feeling this way is normal. And as happy as I am that you and I get that grief never ends, it’s still hard to live in a society that doesn’t. It makes it harder for us to accept ourselves and the good and bad of our ongoing grief when we live in a society that suggests we should actually work harder to resolve our “negative” feelings away.

We have to stop thinking about grief as something with an end destination (like a journey). And we need to stop believing that feeling sad is bad. The goal of grief isn’t to polish it until it shines with the lightness and promise of something new. Instead, we should hope for the courage to live alongside grief and understand it’s an active part of what comes next. Sometimes this looks pretty, like growth and connection, and sometimes it looks ugly.

I am who I am because of my mother’s life and because of her death. These two points will never stop being a part of my ongoing story. Can I live my life without her? Yes. Can I still find a sense of purpose, meaning, peace, and happiness? Yes. But there will always be a sense of loss because she’s gone. And this is as it should be.

So, if you get the chance, spread the word–grief never ends, and that’s okay.

P.S: Some of you may be struggling with the idea of grieving forever because, well, grief can be a nightmare. You need to know; it does get easier as you find ways to cope with your experiences and, hopefully, support. Many people also find comfort in ongoing connections with the loved one who died. If you are looking for reassurance, here are a few articles about how our relationship with grief and deceased loved ones can change.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

Let’s be grief friends.

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27 Comments on "Grief Never Ends, and That’s Okay."

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  1. Coco  October 22, 2021 at 1:52 am Reply

    I lost my father a year ago and I still can’t believe he’s gone forever. I’m staying at my college campus and here everyone’s life is normal, everyone is excited about festivals, dresses etc whereas my life is scattered. The worst thing is lack of support system. I can’t really share these with my friends, they really don’t understand and their reactions after my share make me more upset. Now I don’t care about my studies or dreams or any festivities. On days like festivals where everyone is happy I miss my father the most. It feels like someone is stabbing me in my heart.

  2. Judy  October 19, 2021 at 2:50 pm Reply

    I love hearing other story I thought l was losing my mind since l lost my husband of 60yrs l go in and talk to the container with his remains l feel him around me l still do a lot of crying l was looking at a picture my friends took on our 55 anniversary He looked so good and 5yrs later he is gone l am 82 now and l feel like l have nothing to look forward to l dread the Holidays

  3. Judy  October 17, 2021 at 10:19 am Reply

    I understand this grief never ends l relate All of my husband clothes are here l go in and smell them Everything is the same as when he passed l cannot give any of things away As long as they are still here l feel him around me

    • Toni Cicillini-Repoza  October 21, 2021 at 8:56 am Reply

      My name is Toni, and my best friend of 10years passed away March 13,2020 and I have been empty and broken down from the toxic areas I knew he battled,I am just not going to be right again for this empty part of my life, but I have his memory only no goodbye,just a broken heart.

  4. Vicki  October 16, 2021 at 10:57 am Reply

    I feel the same grief as the author about the death of my mother. It has been 17 years and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her or need to talk to her.
    I have, since her death, lost every other person in my life who has meant something to me.
    I changed, they changed, age changed us all who knows?
    Loss continues by way of beloved pets, my only source of comfort now. 4 days ago I put one to sleep who was suffering.
    To walk this life completely alone is frightening as well as frighteningly sad. Aging is difficult, the world has changed so much since I was young and I am lost as how to connect and not even sure I wish to any longer.
    I am sorry for all those that suffer in silence ( like myself) because others simply don’t understand and many really don’t care to hear it after a certain point. Vicki

  5. Nancy  October 15, 2021 at 10:53 pm Reply

    It’s been a year since my husband of 34 years passed away. What do I do? He was my life. My”friends “ don’t want to hear that I’m still grieving. I have no one I can talk to when I drink too much. I’m alone

    • Fiona  October 19, 2021 at 3:01 pm Reply

      Hello Nancy,
      It’s very sad that your friends don’t want to hear that you’re still grieving. They mustn’t have lost anyone very close to them and therefore can’t understand the pain you still feel every day.A year is nothing in terms of loss, particularly losing someone you were married to for 34 years. I know because I lost my husband 2 years ago after 33 years together and the pain of separation is awful. There’s isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him and I still cry a lot. Losing your husband is traumatic, painful and very, very lonely. I, like you, often tried to dull the pain with wine but it was only temporary numbing. I came to realise that no matter how many glasses I had, he’d still be gone and nothing I could ever do would change that fact.
      Please take care of yourself. I’m sure your husband would want you to. I’m thinking of you.

  6. John  October 15, 2021 at 8:48 am Reply

    I lost my wife four years ago and my grief is without end….we had been married 52 years when she died….. I weep when I look in her closet…at her shoes by our bed or her toothbrush still in it’s place in the bathroom and her purse still hanging on the bedroom doorknob where she always left it. I still buy her cards for each birthday, holiday, and anniversary and set them underneath her photo. I had a photo of her printed on canvas and it hangs in our living room….above the mantle filled with her knickknacks. I keep a daily journal for her most days. I speak to her often during the day and night… the hope that there is an afterlife, and that she can somehow hear me. Hope is all I have now….hope that I will be with her again someday. I worry that my hope is in vain. I am the only one in the family that mentions her name anymore….and when I do it is like the elephant in the room. Georgette…..your name is always on my lips and in my heart….and I will be loving you forever…..john…

    • Nancy  October 15, 2021 at 10:59 pm Reply

      I had 34 plus years with my husband and I still talk to him every day since his passing a year ago. I don’t know why we’ve been left behind, but I know there’s some reason we haven’t figured out yet. Please hang in there. Take care.

    • Fiona  October 18, 2021 at 8:54 am Reply

      Hello John, I lost my husband Robert 2 years ago to cancer and I grieve for him every day and I know that, like you, my grief will never end and I don’t expect it to. It’s something that I will carry with me until the day I die but I’m ok with that. In some ways, I feel more connected to Robert because it’s always there.I honestly don’t believe that we get closure and the grief ends but instead,we learn to live with it. Losing our spouses has such a profound and traumatic effect on the lives that we are forced to live without them so we’ll always feel intense sadness and longing. I still have all my husband’s clothes and personal belongings and each time I open his wardrobe, I break down. Like you, I talk to him all the time and kiss his casket every night before I go to bed. I know that you’ll see Georgette again and I’m sure that she’s with you in your darkest moments, comforting you. She may not be with you in body but she’s right by your side in every other way, still loving you, supporting you and wanting only the best for you and my thoughts are with you too.

  7. sharon stio  October 12, 2021 at 8:19 pm Reply

    I very much look forward to receiving these emails, they are a source of comfort to me. My wonderful, beautiful son Ed passed almost 3 years ago at age 39–my only child. He was my life. I still have a life but now vastly different without him in it. Two things that help me tremendously–I am part of a small grief group and we have become close friends sharing our stories. And the other thing is that I started writing in a journal 2 weeks after Ed’s death and although I don;t write as often now, it has helped me more than I can say to be able to put on paper how I feel or what I am thinking. Lastly, talk to your loved one–they hear us!

  8. Viv  October 12, 2021 at 7:23 pm Reply

    This really strikes a chord. My dad died 6, almost 7 years ago. 4 weeks after he died someone told me I shouldn’t still be sad because he wouldnt want me to be and that he’s not suffering anymore so I shouldn’t wish him back to that pain. so since then I’ve had immense guilt everytime I’ve thought of him so I’ve shoved it away. I ended up in tears with my psychologist just this week because I’ve been having crazy nightmares about dad and death on general. My mental health has deteriorated. I miss my dad. I miss his hugs and 6 years on, I feel like people sigh everytime I mention him.

  9. Gina  October 11, 2021 at 2:20 pm Reply

    My son Eddie suddenly passed 7 1/2 years ago at the age of 24. His loss & the grief is a part of my everyday life – “my grief friend.” Some days I can deal with this friend, others not so much. Tired of hearing I should be “over it & move on you have another child.” I’ll never be over it, never accept it. I miss him every single day.

  10. Jean Foster  October 9, 2021 at 10:09 am Reply

    My darling Husband passed away in April following a short illness with cancer. I cared for him at home with help and knew from the very first he was terminal. I thought that by knowing that it would help when he did pass but it didn’t. I was fine at first but it seems to be getting worse instead of better. Then in August I had to make the decision to have our Lab Fudge put to sleep as she had breast cancer. This just about finished me off. I had to go back for bereavement counselling. Now I shop,see friends and go about my daily life but I can see nothing ahead for me. I’m getting ready for Christmas with about as much enthusiasm as a zombie. As for the New Year I’m dreading it. I will be 82 soon and although I’m fit and healthy I feel my life is at an end.

    • pauline Stacey  October 14, 2021 at 11:34 am Reply

      I wonder if our age has anything to do with grieving. not intending, in any way to minimalize
      your suffering.. I am 85 and my dh died 2 years back, and well I wonder why I am so
      , well I hate to admit to depression, but I wonder if for me, it is my age, as I have little to look forward to.. dreading the winter months, let alone Christmas and the New Year.
      wish I had a magic wand for all of us .

    • Patricia  October 18, 2021 at 11:30 pm Reply

      Dear Jean, and I say dear without knowing you because I believe we are all family in the grief community*

      I just wanted you to know that someone in another country is sending you much light What you are feeling is completely understandable, and human. And I know you are doing your best.

      They say grief is love that has nowhere to go. I’m going through it too, and I realized yesterday that in this painful months whenever I feel better is when I’m supporting, aiding, helping someone else to feel a little better. Maybe just with a genuine comment about something good about them. A small gift. A call,,, I guess I’m just trying to do that with you too ;D

      Grief also shows us how deep we have loved and enmeshed our soul with someone, and therefore the profound pain of their loss. But love is a miracle… we have lived a Miracle*

      Receive warm thoughts and light from Mexico, <3

  11. Diane  October 9, 2021 at 8:53 am Reply

    Thank you for this article. My younger sister died from a congenital heart condition, 43 years old, in 2012. My Mom died, with COPD, in 2016, with a broken heart missing her daughter. Then my older sister’s husband died in 2020 from aggressive cancer. These losses ushered in a slower, more aware way of life in which I make significant room for grief and mindfulness. I miss them every day, and at the same time, I carry them with me every day, and the love and connection continues and is comforting.

  12. Clay Lawson  October 8, 2021 at 3:25 pm Reply

    Thank you for this powerful article. I lost my adopted 32 year old daughter to suicide on Aug 9 2020. I accept now my journey will never be over. I try to allow my grief to flow through me as well work to honor Kristin. She battled her demons for most of her life. She was not weak but heroic in her efforts. I know I now will carry that pain for her.

  13. Val H  October 8, 2021 at 1:02 pm Reply

    Thank you for writing this article. I enjoyed reading it and hearing from another who is still grieving after many years. I wish grief would end because it can be cruel. I lost my Dad 4 months ago and it’s been hard to just move forward without him. It doesn’t help either that I’m next of kin, so I had to get his death certificate, fill out paperwork, etc. while my brother is in prison and I’m estranged from my mother. I just wish I had a different life.

  14. Nance  October 8, 2021 at 10:15 am Reply

    Thank you for this article. I read every word and for what it’s worth it captured my attention through and through. I lose my sister in June. She was my best friend and even though over two decades we have lived in different cities we remained close as ever. My heart aches for her all the time – I think about all the fun we had as kids and how kind and kid like she was even as a 40 something year old. I think about her body was ravished by cancer and the unfairness of it all. Every day I cry day and night and it’s impacting my work. Grief being here forever scares me to be honest. I don’t know if my body can hand this stress of heartbreak….I wished she was here every single moment of my day.

  15. Joanna Smith  October 8, 2021 at 9:25 am Reply

    I really appreciate this email, thank you. My mum died when I was 23 then dad when I was 30. I’m now 53 and whilst I am a happy, well rounded (ish) individual and have an amazing life in many ways, with loving husband and 2 amazing daughters, I can own up to still missing my mum. Grief does not end, it has made me who I am and I value life more as a result of my losses, but there are still moments when it surfaces. Not in the messy, howling banshee way it used to, but certain occasions like wishing they were there to see my daughter graduate and feeling a bitter sweetness. I have learned that I can be both happy and sad at the same time, and that’s ok.
    Thsnks again. You do an amazing job, Jo

  16. Lori Hughes  October 8, 2021 at 6:34 am Reply

    Thank you for your article and for sharing. I lost my mom almost one year ago and I still can’t believe she is gone. My dad is one of those men who has already remarried to deal with his pain. My moms belongings are already gone in one form or another. The house has been redone, I don’t “see” her in her decor, she is becoming a distant memory. I am in counseling and trying to “hurry”, or process the grief…properly, but I think it is something I will have to live with. It’s me that wants to hurry the grief process because I hate the feelings….it’s scary, makes me angry, so very sad…all of it. I could scream, and I do. What a devastation it is!! This is a portion of my grief, while watching my dad go through such sorrow and pain, and now his new life. This is life though. Thank you for listening.

    • Val H  October 8, 2021 at 12:57 pm Reply

      Hi Lori, just wanted to say that you are not alone. I also feel that I need to rush through my grief. I think I tell myself to “get over it” or that I cannot be sad. I lost my Dad 4 months ago and it’s been hard too.

      • Fiona F  October 18, 2021 at 3:26 pm

        Hello Val,
        I don’t think you can ‘get over’ grief. Instead, you ‘ get through it’ although I believe it stays with you. I lost my husband to cancer 2 years ago and my mum the same way 6 months ago so life has been incredibly difficult for me. I am learning to live with my grief and have accepted that it’s a part of me now. I expect it to diminish over time but I know for certain that it’ll always be with me.

  17. pauline Stacey  October 8, 2021 at 3:29 am Reply

    just read the article above, and this is so true! but mostly I am not sad at my mother no longer being with me physically. Actually, reading this article, made me realise where I am.
    my mother died, gosh,must be 50 years ago now… and she has always been near me, sometimes, closer, other times.. well I lived my life, but yes, she brought me up, so we are inextricably linked.. for all the sadness over the years, I think those of us who feel this, are blessed.. I know of people who had little or no love from their mothers or fathers, and therefore do not have this comfort.. cos thinking of it, it is a comfort

  18. Rosanna Bishop  October 8, 2021 at 3:28 am Reply

    My precious Mother passed away 3 days before Christmas and my older Sister 9 months before that (not covid-19). I miss them both so much it HURTS. I NEVER want to leave the house anymore. I have God in my life, but I feel such an emptyness that I think I can never be happy ever again. Life has changed FOREVER. I want them back! I want to be happy, but how can I be happy when you love someone so much and they’re just gone!

  19. Raam GES  October 8, 2021 at 3:18 am Reply

    The Blog is splendid. Calling a spade a spade.i was bereaved an year back when my beloved wife passed away…
    i seem tolove her more now than in the 27 years of lefe we had together. In fact if i don’t look at her Photo obn my Cell for more that a few hours together, i feel guilty ! The Article softens the guilt attached to feeling the grief after “One Year ‘ Thanks.


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