The Reality of Growth and Grief: where the hell is my rainbow?

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Litsa Williams

For further articles on these topics:

If you regularly read WYG you might have noticed that Eleanor and I can be a wee bit pessimistic from time to time.  Okay, maybe a little more than a 'wee bit'.  Actually, get me and Eleanor in a room together and you will find us holding half-empty glasses of cynicism, playing a drinking game called - what do you hate the worst?  Just kidding - that game doesn't exist...but maybe it should.

When we first met, our grief-friendship partly grew out of a mutual frustration with existing grief support. Despite meeting in a professional capacity, we shared personal grief experiences and the fruitless desire for grief support that wasn't filled with broad generalizations, vague advice and, what felt like the most alienating of all, the "transformation" narrative.  You might know what I mean -- books and websites covered in images of butterflies and rainbows and filled big promises of growth and change.

Although we'd never deny the potential for posttraumatic growth (in fact we just wrote a post about it), you won't often find themes and images of metamorphosis here on WYG.  Why?  Because we know that when you're grieving it can be somewhat demoralizing to be hit over the head with the concept of growth.  We are cautious about how we discuss the possibility of a better day, knowing that in the depths of grief this is impossible to imagine and even a little terrifying to consider.

Here's the deal: the butterfly and the rainbow, we know they can happen; we love that they can happen; we know from research and experience that it is important to be open to the idea they can happen.  But we also know that in the dark days of grief it's totally normal to believe things like strength and hope aren't possible, and sometimes it seems like the rhetoric around the transformation-narritive really isn't helping.

People hear a sound-bite or read an inspiring headline and they are left with an over-simplified and excessively optimistic idea about what's supposed to happen when people grieve.  Not to mention, even though many people are well-intentioned, there are many who peddle their '7 Steps to Transformation' or other such BS in hopes of making a dime.

Many of us are so sensitive and vulnerable in our grief that encountering the wrong growth-related sentiment at the wrong time can make us want to shut ourselves off from such ideas forever.  We know how this happens.  It happened to us and it's probably happened to many of you. We know how unrealistic and ridiculous the idea of strength and hope can seem, and we know you're not going to believe in these things just because someone says they are true.  Why?  Well, let's go through reasons we personally struggled with it:

Reason #1: The suggestion of growth implies that the person you are after the loss is somehow better than the person you were before the loss.  No surprise that leaves you wanting to yell, “guess what, I was pretty darn good before my loss, I was pretty darn happy.  I don’t want to be a different person or a ‘better’ person, I want my loved one back.  Period.”

Frustration #2:  The idea of transformation or growth after grief gives the impression that there is some final moment or end point that one should strive for.  Even though this is not an accurate depiction of growth in grief, the misconception can leave those of us who continue to feel wretched in our grief feeling bitter and defective for never going through a metamorphosis.

Annoyance #3: Oversimplification and misunderstanding of growth after loss are most likely responsible for many of the annoying (albeit often well-intentioned) statements people make when you're grieving.  You know, the ones that make you want to scream like, “this will make you a better person”, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and on and on. It's not that these things aren't maybe someday going to be true, it's just that they're not helpful.  At all.  Seriously, don't say them.

Infuriation #4: If you don’t become the butterfly or find the rainbow, you feel like you failed, grieved wrong, or it is your fault.  This one is tricky, because there are many grievers who have the experience of making a choice to think differently, in a way that they later realize was crucial to moving out of the darkest place.  You hear their stories and can be left wondering, "If that happened to them, why isn’t it happening for me?". 

Aggravation #5: The butterfly and the rainbow sound sooooo perfect.  In an over-simplified version of this narrative the butterfly and the rainbow sound like a place where the pain of grief is resolved.  Even when your days start getting just the tiniest bit brighter, you don't think it counts as 'growth' or 'transformation' because you're still living with so much pain.

Irritation #6: These ideas are often presented at a time-lapse, as though growth after grief is equivalent to the rainbow appears right after the storm.  Most caterpillars stay in their cocoon for less than 30 days before they emerge a butterfly, but people aren't bugs.  Years later we still may be struggling.  Meanwhile those around us are like, why aren't you a butterfly yet?!?!

So there it is, our list of beefs.  And there are probably more that we're forgetting.  Interestingly, our own list of agitations (that we suspect some of you may share) are based on oversimplifications and misunderstandings. These misunderstandings, in the darkest moments of our grief, can often exacerbate our own fears of the future. As grievers we assume if we aren't rainbow/butterfly/transformation people, the only alternative is permanent exile to the darkest depths of griefy despair.  Luckily grief and growth isn't nearly as black and white as the oversimplified transformation narative would have us believe.   A little clarification of facts opens up the possibility that most of us grieve and grow in shades of gray.

Fact #1: Grief doesn't always lead to growth or transformation.  It always makes you a different person, but it doesn't always make you a 'better' person.  Sadly, sometimes it can make us angry, hardened and jaded.  If you are someone who feels they have not experienced growth after grief - you are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you.

Fact #2: The grand transformation narrative just happens to be more visible than other grief and growth experiences.  This doesn't mean it more common or more valid.  Maybe people want a happy movie ending, or maybe a transformational experience is more likely to inspire a memoir than an "everyday" experience.  But whatever the reason we often hear these inspirational grief stories told in 2 hours or 200 pages, and they become an unrealistic ideal.

Fact #3: The 'growth' and 'transformation' that people report experiencing after a loss is often small and subtle.  There's hardly ever a revolutionary, ground shaking moment; rather growth is a gradual change that occurs over time.  Many times it is so slow you don't even realize it is actually happening.

Fact #4:  The pain of grief doesn't end.  Even when you grow, even when today is a little better than yesterday, grief still remains.  Growth doesn't mean you eliminated the grief and the pain.  Those things stick around, in some way, forever.

Fact #5:  You can't will yourself to experience growth.  Wouldn't it be nice if you could?  But you can be aware that your perspective does have a huge impact.  If you shut yourself off from the possibility of experiencing growth or feeling better someday, it is far less likely you will ever get there.  You don't have to think about it or talk about it....just don't actively rule it out.

Fact #6: You can feel free to embrace or reject the rainbow and the butterfly imagery.  It is imagery that resonates for many people, it is imagery that doesn't work at all for other people.  I wish I had a better image to offer you, one that captures this nuance we are trying to describe, but I can't come up with one at this moment. That said, this feels like a challenge!!  You know we love thinking about grief, photography and images that express emotion.  If the butterfly and rainbow imagery hasn't resonated with you, find an image that better represents your experience.  It can be a photograph, a drawing, painting, art journal page, whatever!  Share it with us on facebook, instagram or twitter by posting it to our page, tagging us, or using the hashtag #WhatsYourGriefLookLike.  And if it is a photograph, you can submit it to photogrief.

Alright, that about does it for today.  Leave a comment to tell us what you think about butterflies and rainbows and growth and grief. Or subscribe. Or check out our podcast.  Or check out photogrief.  Or do all of the above! 

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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

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You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:

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41 Comments on "The Reality of Growth and Grief: where the hell is my rainbow?"

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  1. Stephanie  October 19, 2019 at 7:52 am Reply

    Thank you for this. I believe in God, I have huge faith that my son is in heaven, and still I miss him with everything I am. He was 17 and has been gone for 89 days. He was mowing his grandparents lawn and the tractor rolled on a slope. I don’t have anyone to be angry at, it was an accident. I just hurt. My heart is broken and the wounds are raw. It was nice to read something that didn’t expect me to be the happy person that I was 90 days ago.

  2. Marion Paddock  July 9, 2019 at 6:51 am Reply

    Great article and really do agree with all of the above – being with my Mum watching her day but everyday wanting to live, she thrived and smiled throughout her illness and towards the very end her spirit glowed as she took her last breath. Her passing objects moved, lights flickered, things fell, butterflies visit. A robin sat on my hand….. Timely and fortunate events, and dark days of butterflies and black rainbows….. always the presence of her life and my reason to change live and breathe more passionately – her death gave me renewed life. Her death and not being here but at rest and at peace…. because she suffered so bravely… Thank you for this…

  3. Paula Bowen-Watson  June 9, 2019 at 2:18 pm Reply

    Thank You for your point blank honesty. One of My biggest problem since losing my son is trying to be nice and respect people who I feel or at least hope their intentions are in the right place. But when I hear ” Oh Sweetie…I know exactly how you feel, I thought Id lose my mind when I lost my little dog”. Them comparing the loss of my 26 yr old son who was months from starting law school Smart , mapped out life who was killed by a drunk driver is compared to the love and devotion I have for my son…..

    • Debbie Jennings  August 19, 2019 at 2:19 pm Reply

      Paula….I have had a similar reaction to a statement made by my sister who is estranged from her daughter and two grandchildren (a situation that she was way more than 50% responsible for) I was told that the her grief at losing them was threefold to what I was experiencing after the death of my 38 year old son to sepsis. I may never forgive her for her selfish thoughtlessness. I would give anything on earth to have my son living a happy, healthy life and just not wanting me in it like her daughter is doing.

  4. Kimberly Hochrein  March 9, 2018 at 1:41 pm Reply

    So true.. for me the idea of morphing into a better self… being better than I was before feels, simply, disloyal and dishonorong to my mom. In other words, I SHOULD have been better when she was here….WE SHOULD have been better in our relationship. NOW, somehow, ALL the simplest lessons, like NONE of what we thought mattered so much, really DOES NOT. That, had I truly grasped that before my mom became ill and faced death, I could have made her life better, IF I WAS this enlightened person that death has made me. In that, lies tremendous guilt and shame. So, for now, I deny the joy of enlightment, tucking it in a safe place, until I am ready for it.

  5. Kimberly Hochrein  March 9, 2018 at 1:41 pm Reply

    So true.. for me the idea of morphing into a better self… being better than I was before feels, simply, disloyal and dishonorong to my mom. In other words, I SHOULD have been better when she was here….WE SHOULD have been better in our relationship. NOW, somehow, ALL the simplest lessons, like NONE of what we thought mattered so much, really DOES NOT. That, had I truly grasped that before my mom became ill and faced death, I could have made her life better, IF I WAS this enlightened person that death has made me. In that, lies tremendous guilt and shame. So, for now, I deny the joy of enlightment, tucking it in a safe place, until I am ready for it.

  6. Jim gilliam  January 3, 2017 at 1:47 pm Reply

    Great article, you are right on the money about rainbows and butterflies. It also infuriates me when someone dare say “it was in gods plan for you”. I like the person i was, grief has cracked and broken me. Today taking the advice in one of the many grief books screamed out loud in my car “im not afraid to be alone”. I’ll let you know how that helps lol. Thanx again for article. Jim

  7. Candy  June 12, 2016 at 8:33 pm Reply

    Barb, I could have written your post. I feel the same way. The mind knows, the heart wants…The yearning; the waiting, I wait. It cant be true. If there is such a thing as God I think why would he not take people in two’s why would he leave me here yearning, waiting. In sadness.
    Its been a year and half since I lost my husband the acting like your doing fine your progressing that your “making it” its all so exhausting. Nobody understands the primal yearning.

  8. Paula  March 11, 2016 at 9:42 am Reply

    Thank you for this article. People are so quick to say “things happen for a reason”…like that is some magical phrase bringing instant comfort. I hate that phrase. Even worse are friends/relatives/acquaintances that ignore me or the subject, hoping by doing so things would just magically return to ‘their’ normal. I push myself through each day, mostly as a tribute to my son, trying to make it a reflection of the life he cannot live. However, there a no rainbows. An enormous part of what was my rainbow is gone…I do not want a new rainbow…I want the old one with him in it back.

  9. Louisa  February 18, 2016 at 5:12 pm Reply

    I decided at the beginning of my grief journey that I would not let the images and expectations of how those around me perceive grief define my own journey. I’m sure I’ve seemed to be aloof and not wanting to be bothered, but I somehow knew that I had to find my own way through this difficult journey. The process was complicated by very little family support, problems with the funeral home and my church. I decided to go to therapy, so I could speak freely and get my head clear. Long walks on the beach, a new church, moving in with my daughter temporarily in a new city, many support groups, Zumba, this blog and others have all helped me to feel more stable and secure.

  10. pamela s  February 16, 2016 at 4:35 pm Reply

    another great read , its like your answering all my questions before i have even asked them , sick of hearing , it will get better with time , your be ok in the end , things will get easier , time will heal etc when all you want to do is scream no it wont , and how can things ever be ok , get better or easier and even if it does , how do you get through it now! because the future is not what i am thinking about , its how i am going to face tomorrow , how im going to get through today , let alone a future , a future without them in it, what future is that , not this bright rainbow everyone talks about or pretty butterflies or this brilliant strength you now have …. so thanks again for writing what is real and honest and not what should be or will be or what wont be , but just what is x

  11. Joy  February 11, 2016 at 12:13 pm Reply

    On target…. bravo.

  12. Christie  February 10, 2016 at 8:36 pm Reply

    Thank you for these words of relief with expectations. This culture is always about outcomes and productivity. Grief is countercultural and just real life and operates in its own time zone. I am open to where this journey takes me slowly. I lean on God. And I let go that it has to have a certain outcome. I am 40 years old and it has been 2 months since they put a butterfly on the door of my husband’s room at hospice–two months since I said goodbye to the love of my life and partner of 10-1/2 years. He’s the butterfly. I’ll be me and will find out who I am in time.

  13. Diane  February 10, 2016 at 7:53 pm Reply

    I am learning to live with the grief of losing my precious son 22 months ago in an accident. The deep sadness doesn’t go away, but we somehow I carry on. I miss him so much it aches somedays. People say how strong I am – they don’t see the inside. I think as time goes on we get better at hiding our grief, but the heartbreak remains. Thank you for your posts. It helps me to know I am normal

  14. Barb  February 10, 2016 at 7:48 pm Reply

    Thank you for this message. It is spot on!!I feel like my self esteem has taken a nose dive as it is since my husband’s death but then you add in those “transformation narratives” and I want to crawl into a hole. It really makes me feel like a failure when I am truly making post loss growth in my own way.

  15. bea  February 10, 2016 at 6:43 pm Reply

    It’s only been six months since I lost my husband/best friend/constant companion/soul mate. Just yesterday, our family doctor told me “you know it’s been six months, and that is the usual timeframe to snap out of it.” I left feeling even more depressed than when I went in. Your posts are spot-on. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Kevin  March 11, 2016 at 6:22 pm Reply

      If your doctor feels that way, he/she is ignorant of the uniqueness of grief.
      I’ve dealt enough negative, ignorant feedback from the VA, and not even about my grief or the multiple traumas/losses after witnessing my partner’s suicide.
      Feb. 16th, 2016 was a year: the VA actually has done nothing for my grief, except give me Zoloft in Jan. 2016.
      I’ve been scorned for my ADHD symptoms: lost my meds eight months before/just after the suicide.
      Was told by their psychiatrist: “we don’t offer Individual Therapy, too expensive and Group Therapy wouldn’t work for you because you talk too much/fast and noone’s intetested in all you have to say!” *I use an exclamation point, because it was eight months after the suicide and other losses/traumas that I finally was able to arrange a visit with the VA. Almost immediately after I started talking, the doctor blew-up at me.
      Other things:
      One VA Rep, reply to my complaint about their slow/inefficient treatment actually said “you could just say you’re suicidalif you want a faster response”
      Another said “you cannot have PTSD if the trauma did not happen directly to you”
      The fabulous No Homeless Vet hype? One Housing Rep actually suggestedns homeless shelter! After saying they could help me, the rep said it could be weeks or a month or two before they might be able to help. We lived in Florida, after the suicide, I actually drove to Michigan, was overwhelmed by Family Member Issues, then drove back and forth to Wyoming, never knowing why: never been, didn’t know anyone There, just did.
      The VA doc in Cheyenne said I’d have to stay in one place to get help, I’d told her I lost everything: Soulmate, home, job, 90% of our belongings, had 0% Social Support….basically my mind was all over the place, no sense of direction, no help, etc., trying to emphasize how lost I really was. Go see the Housing Rep, we’ll set you up with housing, then start on a treatment plan. Then That’s when the Housing Rep shot me down with her Weeks,Month,Months B.S.
      They have emergency housing options available, I found out after, yet She never mentioned them.
      Left the VA, badly discouraged: the many calls to the VA, several even to the famed Crisis Line, everyone I spoke to made it sound so easy to get help, none of the VA Reps had any doubt in their voices/words to me, That they had help easily/readily available….but didn’t.
      This and the belittling, rude treatment, comments, etc. have me afraid more-than-not to seek VA help.
      Another big VA wound: going out to Wyoming, I at-least had thoughts to just dive-in and do whatever to “find myself” again. I wasn’t concerned about The Norms: socializing, working, having an address, etc., nothing! Life, Society had just robbed me/Us of every aspect of my life.
      When at the VA Registration Desk, the lady entering my info, hearing I had no proper address, whispered asif embarassed “should I put Homeless?”
      That Word didn’t phaze me right then, but later, feeling discouraged from the Housing Rep ordeal, I went for a drive: the Open Land, hills and mountains were beautiful, much more peaceful than Florida. I stopped along a Back Road to admire these beautiful mountains: standing there, for a few seconds, beautiful, but Homeless flashed through my mind.
      “You’re a bumb, Homeless now, you don’t deserve This View” reality is, I thought: I just wanted to sit somewhere, anywhere, as long as it took, to figure out what-the-hell just happened.
      One day I/We had jobs/plans to buy the company, cars, a boat, Love, etc., then in a very short time: suicide, fighting to save him, his greedy family, our greedy boss harassing me, everyone we ever helped/called friends, etc…..GONE!
      His mom always called me her Adopted Son: but a week before, she’d refused to come down from Ct. to help/an Intervention (she never came down in fifteen years): making excuses. Then yelled at me after about an Intervention.
      *I was his sole caregiver all our years: his family never bothered, He never wanted me to say anything to anyone, He had a Public Face and a Private Face: normal/almost normal to anyone else, pure agonizing hell at home.
      After That Night though, his mom got him: shipped him to Ct., but never came down to help. Our greedy boss saw to it that I missed His Service in Ct..
      To this day, I don’t know exactly where his ashes are, what the urn/container looks like….his mom actually had to ask his Final Wishes, yet will not honor Them.
      Anyway, sorry so long: if your doctor or anyone else gives you any crap, or comments like your dictor did…..find Another. It’s 13 months now for me: honestly, everything else has/is been affecting me STILL, just surviving/coping every day, I have not been able to grieve but in tiny bits/pieces. Very Tiny…..

  16. John Rand  February 10, 2016 at 2:08 pm Reply

    Thank you for the realism of all your articles. Like many of your respondents, I resonate more with this approach than with the more sentimental line that is sometimes adopted in grief counselling. However, I would not want my cynicism to extinguish hope that life will get better and that I may emerge from my bereavement as a stronger person. I already feel after twelve months since my wife died, that I am changing.
    In the midst of grief, it is not possible to conceive of ‘happiness’ as a goal, but I have been attracted to the concept of ‘acceptance’. as described by Julie Chen (Accepting and Embracing Grief’):
    ‘In the acceptance phase, you learn to accept the loss and integrate it into your life. It’s not so much that you are fine with the loss. Instead,your mind, body and emotions are finally ready to accept what has occurred, and you see it as something you can assimilate into your everyday life, thoughts and feelings.’
    Described in this way, acceptance is to be at peace with what has happened and to be able to look forward without pain or sadness.
    I have not reached this stage but am exploring ‘mindfulness’ as a way of facilitating my journey. On good days. I feel optimistic that it is attainable. One book that I have found useful as a guide is: ‘Grieving Mindfully’ by S M Kumar. It is a very lucid account.
    Thanks for all your work.

  17. Michelle  February 10, 2016 at 12:52 pm Reply

    Thank you for a wonderful post. I think we grievers beat ourselves up and hide our sorrow because we feel we are always being judged and nudged. I am 15 months out . I had a wonderful life with my husband of 25 years. I miss his “being” his friendship and the love and security he offered me. I do go to work daily and I am doing well professionally. I do volunteer work, but nothing takes away the pain in my heart. I laugh, I smile, I go to comedy clubs often just because the comedians can make me laugh so hard, I think it actually helps to rewire the brain. All that being said , when I think of my husband being gone it is a pain like no other. Do we continue to grow, yes. All humans do , regardless if they have to go through grief to get there. I just wish my continued human growth could continued to be enjoyed with my husband.

  18. Barb  February 10, 2016 at 10:45 am Reply

    I found this helpful. I just don’t see “getting thru this”, not that I’m continually stuck, but, based on my circumstances, my world is just void of color. I hate rainy/snowy gray days, but sunny days are becoming bothersome, too. I know, in my brain, that my husband can’t come back, but it’s all my heart wants, and will want. I’ve lost other friends because of my grief, and while that adds to the pain, I know it’s them, not me. Grief is horrible when it’s someone you loved and who loved you more than anything. I just can’t describe how happy my husband made me, even in his worst of days and I want him here so we can share more of everything. I. Just. Miss. Him. So. Much.

    • Litsa  February 10, 2016 at 11:34 am Reply

      Oh Barb, I am so sorry for what you are going through. So often people don’t talk about the deep yearning that is part of grief- just wanting overwhelming to be with those people. I also very much relate to your experience with friend. I wrote a post about it that you may appreciate if you haven’t read it-

      • Jeanne S  February 11, 2016 at 2:12 pm

        Thanks for the suggestion but not everyone believes the “5 stages of grief” are necessarily true or right for them. I, for one, believe each person’s journey in grief is unique and, as long it it doesn’t cause harm, is the right way for them.

      • Litsa  February 11, 2016 at 2:58 pm

        Hi Jeanne! I couldn’t agree more! I am not sure which suggestion you are referring to. Many people (I’d venture to guess maybe most!) don’t relate to the 5 stage model. That is one of the reasons we write about the HUGE range of other grief theories and focus on how grief as unique as the griever! I apologize if anything I said conveyed something different. Please let me know, as it was certainly not my intent and would like to make sure I convey that better in the future!

      • Eleanor  February 11, 2016 at 3:32 pm

        Hey Litsa,

        I’m not sure, but she may be referring to some spam I removed from the comments section earlier linking to a five stages of grief article.


      • Litsa  February 11, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        Ahhh gotcha!

  19. Tom Krimminger  February 10, 2016 at 10:35 am Reply

    Almost 3 years since I lost the love of my life just short of our 50th Anniversary. I’ve read books and blogs and talked to numerous people and not much seems to have helped. I did come across this quote (author unknown) and it kind of sums it up–“Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile”. I would add that sometimes they make you cry. I guess that success is when the smiles outnumber the tears. Please let it be soon!

  20. joanie  February 10, 2016 at 10:09 am Reply

    thank you so much for this article. you hit the nail on the head on my feelings. I lost my husband and daughter in less then 6 months apart and i do ok sometimes other times i feel angry . i will never be the same happy person i was before this.

  21. Eileen  February 10, 2016 at 9:56 am Reply

    Thank you for you post. I agree 100% with you. It’s being 13 months since my mum and 12 years since my dad. Some days I feel like I ve been thrown in the sea with a tiny life jacket. I get the idea that society expects me to be over it. I don’t think some people handle parental death well when they have not experienced. I have learnt to tell the ones that care and not to convince the others. I love reading your blogs. Thank you.

  22. Mary  February 10, 2016 at 9:21 am Reply

    Thank you so much; very well-said. You express so many sentiments that constantly go through my mind. For a couple of years now, I’ve been waiting for this so-called “transformation” to happen. I can tell there are a few ways that I’ve grown since losing my husband and mother three years ago (the same week) but I don’t feel like I’ve had any major transformations. I just feel like I’m still slowly muddling through, still taking one step forward and many steps backward. Thank you for the new perspective.

  23. Andrea  February 10, 2016 at 8:32 am Reply

    I feel grief and growth can share the same moment. I believe growth to be from the trauma forward, not meaning improvement from prior to the tragedy. Growth to me is not transformation, it is finding purpose in a moment that allows you to keep one foot out of the darkest part of your soul. The opposite of growth is to decline or deteriorate. So simply getting out of bed and brushing your teeth can be considered growth. It does not have to be grandiose. If I were to steadily decline following the death of my 25 year old son, he would be so unhappy to be connected to my lack of growth. He would celebrate my moving forward with my grief growth. I like that term: grief growth. Growth I have to work really really hard at and often fail. But that does not make me a failure. Grief is a given. Something I will easily have forever and forever. Living is hard work. Does this make any sense at all? I cant draw a picture, but I vision a very large (enormous) circle filled with living, joy, happiness, struggles, giggles, arguments, sharing, hope, excitement, plans, potential, etc. Mind you a very large circle prior to my sons death. Following, a teeny tinny hole in this circle, smaller than a pin head with pieces of myself seeping outward. That- to me- is growth.

    • Eleanor  February 10, 2016 at 10:11 am Reply


      This makes complete sense. In fact, the reality is that grief and growth DO occupy the same space. Contrary to what many believe, growth often emerges from the very same mechanisms that we use to grieve (rumination, story telling, struggles with understanding ourselves and the world in the wake of loss). So your comment and conceptualization makes so much sense. We discussed this recently actually in our post about posttraumatic growth


  24. Della Sacco  February 10, 2016 at 8:23 am Reply

    Thank you. This is the most sensible thing i have read regarding grief. I am tired of hearing about growth. Right now i am just trying to deal with the present.

  25. Bob  February 10, 2016 at 7:33 am Reply

    After the loss of my mother 18 months I entered into a hopeless world and reached out for any help I could find. I found a book online and it said it would get me through grief quickly. I read it and found it to be the coldest, unsympathetic book ever. I now know grief becomes part of us and there are no magic “cures”. I’ll take it in my own time with the help of blogs such as this. Thank you for being there.

  26. Lana grow  February 10, 2016 at 6:54 am Reply

    You are filling a huge void for me! You’re narratives are so on the ball and have validated my grief so many times. Bless you for sharing and giving me a safe place to feel my reality. I grieve my husband of 52 years and my pain is more endurable. You have helped me often!! God Bless you!

  27. Jeanne S  February 10, 2016 at 6:02 am Reply

    It’s been not quite 6 months since my 22-yr-old daughter died, and I often feel as though people have that attitude toward me of “Why aren’t you a butterfly yet?!?!” To hell with that, this is my grief and I’m doing it my way. Their assumptions and expectations can kiss off.

    Thank you for this post. A lot of it resonates for me.

  28. Chris Wallace  February 10, 2016 at 12:12 am Reply

    Thank you thank you thank you. Truth.

  29. Kelly  February 9, 2016 at 10:47 pm Reply

    I think the key point is that you are not going to be the same person. I am not the person I was 10 years ago prior to anticipatory grief and then the real deal of loss grief. I can’t classify the changes as better or worse, just different. I would say there has been a loss of innocence. I would say that I am a way more serious person, yes, a little cynical as well, maybe a lot. I think in some ways, I have become more fearful. I don’t trust that I am safe or that my children are safe. I am so worried that I will lose somebody else that I love that I am irrationally obsessed with their safety. On the other hand, as I mentioned on the Post Traumatic Growth post, something creative came into my life through coping mechanisms that I didn’t even realize I was using. Living with grief, carrying it, has been an ongoing state, one which I imagine will continue in its varied manifestations, and whatever is changed will most likely fluctuate depending on the circumstances of any given day. What seems undeniable whatever the changes, you are probably not quite the person you were.

  30. sandy  February 9, 2016 at 9:56 pm Reply

    thank you. a million thank you. you hit the nail on the head each and every time. this helps me so much. 100% agree. Sometimes I just well-suck as a person, and other times I “act” and others I just cry. today I cry. maybe tomorrow I won’t. thank you for showing me that I am normal. this grief stuff-well it just sucks. terribly simplified verbiage but true.

    • Deborah  February 9, 2016 at 10:59 pm Reply

      Thank you for being REAL. So many times I feel like a failure as a human/ a Child of God because my Grief is so harsh. This is a terrible place to be and a place I’d really rather not be if I had a choice. This is a monster that’s not letting go. I’m pressing forward every single day…it’s a struggle but I’m doing it. Just knowing that I’m not a flawed reject means more than you know.
      I thank God for your insight and how REAL your insight is. I want to know…where the hell is MY rainbow too???!!!! If I have to stay on this earth without my husband then I don’t want to be miserable forever. So many people don’t understand this…many Christian friends are the worst.
      Understanding and patience are not qualities too many of our family and friends have especially after 6 months to a year. I’m 528 days in to this horrible Grief life…I would “fix it” or “get over it” if I could. Being impatient and pushy doesn’t make life any easier for me.
      Thank you WYG!!!

    • Cynthia Randall  February 10, 2016 at 10:37 am Reply

      Finally I feel like I am ok. It has been 11 years and from 2 months on people have told time heals. Not for me. I have learned to live with it and around it. Sometimes it feels as if he left yesterday. Thank you for an article that was comforting and validating.

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