64 Things Our Readers Would Tell Their Younger Selves About Grief

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Eleanor Haley

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We've been engaged in a bit of dialogue over on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram about the things our readers would tell their younger selves about grief—either before they experienced the death of their loved one or just after. The advice our readers have to offer runs the gamut but echoes the collective wisdom we hear from people in the WYG community on a regular basis.

We wanted to extend this conversation beyond social media, so we've paraphrased it below. Some of the comments may resonate with you and some of may not. Please remember our question was (and) is:

What would YOU tell YOUR younger self about grief?

The answer to this question will depend on the person answering it, who they were when their loved one died, and who they are today. If you haven't already, we'd really love for you to add to the conversation and share what you would tell your younger self about grief if you could.

1. Yes, death and grief can happen to you.

Who, me?

2. Grief is a lot harder on you physically than you'd expect.

3. You will learn a lot about yourself.

4. Waking up in the morning will be really hard.

5. You will be surprised by the people who are there for you.

6. You will be surprised by the people who aren't there for you.

7. Seek support from people who understand grief and who want to understand you.

8. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

9. There is no timeframe for grief that is too long or too short.

10. There is no such thing as too sad or not sad enough.

11. Don't try to change or contain your grief because people pressure you to grieve the "right way."

12. Many people don't know what to say, but say something anyway.

"Don't be sad... You can always have more children."

13. Tune out hurtful words from other people.

14. Nothing - I wouldn't want my younger self to know anything about this terrible ache.

15. Grief bites!

16. Sometimes the mind cannot grasp what the heart is feeling.

17. You will question your life so much more.

18. You wouldn't believe how bad it feels.

19. It is the worst pain... but life has to go on.  

20. The death of your loved one will knock you on your butt, so stay on your knees and trust God you can get through.

21. What you're feeling is normal.

22. Love your family. Never take for granted that they will always be there.

23. Savor every moment.

24. Life never goes back to how it was before your loved one died.

25. You will get better at living with your grief, but it will never totally go away.

26. You will miss the person for the rest of your life.

27. Your pain won't end, your grief won't end because your love never ends.

28. The passage of time can be both your friend and your enemy.  

29. Whoever said "time heals" lied.

30. Although time doesn't actually heal, some days it can make the grief feel less raw.

31. Don't do things you aren't ready to do.

32. Grief can sneak up on you at times when you are feeling okay.

grief monster

33. Take baby steps.

34. Try to get some sleep.

35.  Don't quit your job. Don't drop out of school. (Here is some advice for returning to work and/or school after a loss).

36. People will tell you not to have regrets or to feel guilt, but that's a lot easier said than done.

37. No one will ever completely understand how you feel.

38. Sometimes you'll feel like no one is there for you.

39. You will feel isolated at times.

40. People may take advantage of you in your grief.

41. Even well-meaning people sometimes say or do the wrong thing.

42. It's okay to ask for help.

43. Let people love you and love them back.  

44. Make grief friends.

45. Talk about your loved one.

46. Communicate with those you love about how you feel.

47. Don't pretend you're okay when you're not.

48. Not everyone grieves in the same way.

49. You will feel like you've lost a part of yourself.

50. The person who has died will always be part of you.

51. You will experience joy again, but it will be different than before.

52. It's okay to laugh again and it's okay to love again.  

53. Finding happiness is not a betrayal to your loved one.

54. As time goes on, you will grieve the things your loved one missed out on.

55. It's never too late for you to feel better or to heal from grief.

56. Find a way to make friends with the sadness. It isn't going anywhere.

"I can tell we're going to be life long friends"

57. Grieving is a normal part of life, so make sure you honor it.

58. It's possible to carry grief with you in a healthy way.

59. You will grow from this experience, but you'd trade it all to have your loved one back.

60. Be kind to yourself.

61. Hold on.

62. You can do this.

63. Subscribe to What's Your Grief.

64. Listen to the What's Your Grief podcast when you're bored.

What would YOU tell YOUR younger self about grief? Comment down below.

We wrote a book!

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

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

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

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

Let’s be grief friends.

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30 Comments on "64 Things Our Readers Would Tell Their Younger Selves About Grief"

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  1. Jessie  April 8, 2021 at 4:52 am Reply

    I wouldn’t tell her anything. I’d just hold her.

  2. kathleen Vaudo  January 13, 2021 at 9:26 am Reply

    People will want to put a timeline on your grief. Some will do it out of love and worry and some will do out of selfishness. Only you should decide how and when you grieve. Even though others suffer the same loss, your feelings for your son, your relationship with your son, your grief for your son is unique to you. Stay true to yourself.

  3. Red  February 2, 2019 at 6:45 pm Reply

    Grief is a test of character. Not yours, mind, but that of the people around you.

  4. Abbey Colton  October 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm Reply

    I would say. You’ll get through it. You are so much stronger than you think. Its hard. Harder than anything you’ve ever been through. But you’re surrounded by love. Keep God in your heart.

    • Mark Zerbe  December 10, 2016 at 6:26 pm Reply

      It has been almost 8 months since Peg has passed and the grief at times still is crippling. It is so hard to believe that in a year and a half of time I had become so dependent of her for my happiness. It was the happiest I had ever been and the last 7+ months has been the saddest and most painful I have ever endured. I lean on God daily but can’t help but ask the obligatory question “WHY”. Shortly after my beautiful Peg had passed I was browsing grief sites when I stumbled on a quote from one of Pegs’ favorite authors Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”. I know she would be saying “AMEN” to that and nudging me to carry on. I know if given the choice of loving her and having to endure this seemingly never ending pain or to have never met her at all and to be spared this grief. I definitely without thought would have chose to love her. She was that special and what we had was incredible. I can at times “smile because it happened” but I have yet to have a tearless day, so the “crying because it’s over” is still very predominant in my daily routine. I know nothing made her more sad than when I was hurting, so I know she would want me to find happiness again. I try as best as I can but struggle terribly and the holidays have really kicked a big stumbling block in the path of my recovery. How do you get back to normal? The main question is what is normal? Any prayers are greatly appreciated. Any advice is welcomed. Thank you for all the help. Mark

  5. Leigh Miller  July 3, 2016 at 4:19 pm Reply


    I am so sorry for the losses of your wife and your fiance. There are no explanations for this. Please know that I will pray for you. L Miller

    • Mark Zerbe  July 6, 2016 at 11:48 am Reply

      Leigh, Thank you for your prayers as they definately are needed. It’s been 10 weeks and the pain and shock seem like it happened yesterday. I’m seeing a grief counselor and it helps at least for a little while i’m there and maybe the day after but there are days that are unbearable. I never knew a man could hurt this bad and live. She was such a wonderful woman and we had such a fantastic future planned. It just doesn’t seem possible for it to happen twice in the span of just more than 2 years. Please continue to pray as i need to start taking more steps forward and less back. Thanks again and God Bless.

  6. Mark Zerbe  May 17, 2016 at 10:21 am Reply

    On 2/14/14 i lost my wife of 28 yrs. Together 32.We were highschool sweethearts. She died after an 8 month battle with pancreatic cancer. We have 2 children 14g + 11b at the time she passed. Our family struggled terribly and still have those bad days that pop up more often than you would like. 8 months after my wife had passed i met a wonderful woman who much to my surprise fell madly in love with. The kids were adjusting nocely to another woman in my life and i actually found happiness again. My new love Peg and i adored each other and were inseperable when we weren’t working. On her birthday i proposed and we were to be married on June 11th in our front yard. On april 20th i came home from work to find Peg dead in the bathtub of a heart attack. She was 52. My heart is aching and all those 64 answers are true but to climb out of that never ending pit and get to the top of the hill just to get kicked right back down is more than i can handle. Im a devout Christian as was Peg and as our love grew i thought that God sent her to me as a beautiful gift for remaining faithful through my wife’s sickness and eventual death. The grief im going through daily is unbearable. Need some words of wisdom and support as nothing seems to help so far.

  7. Kathleen FitzGerald  May 3, 2016 at 7:34 pm Reply

    When I was a nun, I wanted a child so much. I would pray to God if He would just give me a kid, He could take him back. It all happened. At 39 Garrett died of a brain tumor, the same kind that Ted Kennedy and Beau Biden had. On some level, I feel that my Faustian bargain w. God condemned my son to an early death. I know that is silly, but I really feel that way and the guilt is huge.

  8. Irene  May 1, 2016 at 8:31 pm Reply

    This was very helpful for me. I am going through a loss of my husband. Everyday I have another fire to put out. I

  9. lucille thares  March 17, 2016 at 7:18 pm Reply

    Thank you. Some very enlightening thoughts

  10. gloria  March 14, 2016 at 1:22 pm Reply

    I think I will print this out and post where I can read every day. #65. One day, one minute, one second at a time.

  11. Nancy druech  March 11, 2016 at 10:36 am Reply

    Grief is like living in a foreign country…you don’t know the language, you don’t know how to talk to other people and other people don’t know how to talk to you, you cannot read the street signs, you don’t know how to go from one place to another, Everything is foreign but you must keep going.

    • Colleen Shonwise  August 27, 2017 at 2:51 pm Reply

      Nancy, this is the best analogy I have recently read about grief. I would tell my younger-self that grief is foreign, and unknown, until you take the “journey”…..

  12. Joyce Stapleton  March 10, 2016 at 10:34 pm Reply

    I would say I wish it didn’t take this deep unbelievable pain for me to be more empathetic and sensitive to what others may be going through.

  13. Elizabeth Roy  March 10, 2016 at 7:26 pm Reply

    When you learn the person you loved did something horrendous you vascillate between love and hate. Very diffucult!

  14. Wendy Petrucci  March 10, 2016 at 4:08 pm Reply

    Before the loss, I would say nothing because no one that young should have to know about such pain and emptiness…after the loss I would say that it is ok to grieve, it is ok to be sad, it is ok to be angry…be gentle with yourself and know that there will now always be that hole from the loss but your life will go on and grow around it; shaping you into who you are meant to be. The biggest thing would be…you’re not alone, others share in very similar grief and although no two people will grieve the same, it’s nice to know there are others who can empathize.

  15. Linda Birch  March 9, 2016 at 1:27 am Reply

    65. All of the above x?x

  16. Sherry  March 8, 2016 at 11:58 pm Reply

    Thank you for this! I’m finding myself being scared without my loved one here to help guide me, to love me unconditionally. I feel alone a lot.
    I rely on prayer constantly. HE is really the only one who knows me and can see inside my heart. ?

  17. Christy  March 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm Reply

    Everything will be different, but different isn’t wrong or bad. People will make assumptions about your life and how different you are. Don’t let the opinions of others affect the grieving.

  18. barbarabennett  March 8, 2016 at 9:46 am Reply

    You will wish you were dead over and over again. You are not suicidal…you are grieving.

  19. Louisa  March 8, 2016 at 9:44 am Reply

    Thank you so much for your insight. I always share your blog with others who are either leading grief and loss groups or are going through grief. They, too, are very grateful.
    I would tell my younger self. Love your loved ones with all of your heart, and treat each day as a new day to find more ways to love and appreciate them even more. Forget the small things. They seem really large right now, but, after losing g and living each day without that loved one, your perspective will change.

  20. Beth Marshall  March 8, 2016 at 8:59 am Reply

    Once again, you nailed it! Thanks for this brilliant perspective & reminding us it’s OK to feel what you’re feeling. You are not crazy…you are grieving!

  21. Tracy Russell  March 8, 2016 at 8:44 am Reply

    This is amazing! I can relate to most, if not all of this. I would tell my younger self that drinking too much is never the answer so stay away from the bottle, it’s ok to ask for help and as awful as it sounds but life does go on, even though you don’t want it to. Oh, I would also tell her never to forget you are loved and you are stronger than you think.
    Thank you so much for continuing to show me there are others out there who feel what I feel. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone.

  22. Sharon Delany  March 8, 2016 at 4:09 am Reply

    I can’t believe it You have nailed it all in a nutshell

  23. alice morgan simmonds  March 8, 2016 at 3:11 am Reply

    Wow, what a fantastic list. Thank you , thank you. Your work is invaluable.

  24. Mary Brazil  March 8, 2016 at 3:07 am Reply

    There will be times when you don’t have the faintest idea of what to do next. Admit that, then you will feel differently, maybe not great, but different. O and draw, paint, howl at the moon, love is extraordinary unlimited.

  25. Manette  March 7, 2016 at 10:18 pm Reply

    One of mine was that it’s ok to ask for help and honestly the more I think about it the more absurd it seems because I was 10 when my best friend died. A 10 year old shouldn’t feel like they can’t ask for help. In fact, kids are often encouraged to do so. Everything you do as a kid you’re told to “ask an adult for help.” But when I was 10 and my best friend died all I could think was “I don’t need help, I can take care of myself” and “I shouldn’t complain, other people have it worse.” And now I’m 26 have dealt with issues with self-harm, depression, anxiety, and survivor’s guilt. No kid, or adult for that matter, should ever feel like they can’t ask for help.

  26. rachel g lopez  March 7, 2016 at 8:37 pm Reply

    ever since I lost the love of my life my precious husband toa herion overdode, I feel as if im not actually living my life im just exsisting!!

    • suzy  March 14, 2016 at 2:41 pm Reply

      i lost my love my son the same way
      such a senseless way to die and there was so much pain for everyone during the addiction

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