Advice on Grieving

I’ve come to realize something really dangerous about grief: avoidance. It’s worse than denial and much more sneaky.

“If I avoid thinking about dad, I won’t be sad anymore.”

“If I don’t talk about dad, then I won’t have to think about grief and I can be done with it.”

Nope, wrong answer. Grief must be dealt with head-on. It’s messy, but, as with all messes, you’ve got to get knee-deep in it before you can clean it up. I’m making a point of acknowledging my loss. I talk about dad and my favorite memories with him. I cry when I miss him. If it comes up, I tell people about how I lost my dad.

Grief is real. Avoiding it doesn’t make it go away.

At this point, I imagine some readers are struggling to believe me, but let me assure you, not talking about dad in order to save me from hurting is just about the least helpful thing you can do. Here are some helpful tips for helping loved ones (and yourself) through grief:

  • Talk about my loss. Dancing around the issue only makes the grieving person feel alienated.
  • Ask me how I’m doing. Don’t look at me with that, “poor you, it must be so hard” face, but really ask.
  • Listen to me. When you ask how I’m doing, really listen. Some of us need to talk through our grief, but won’t open up until you ask.
  • Get dirty. Sit down and cry with me. Yell and scream and throw a fit with me. Just be with me and grieve with me and be a part of my mess.
  • Don’t give advice. Don’t tell me it will be okay. I know it’ll be okay, one day, but right now it hurts. Don’t tell me how to grieve; everyone grieves differently.
  • Make me laugh. If you can get me to laugh while I’ve got tears streaming down my blotchy, red face, rest assured that everything will be okay.
  • Remember with me. As sad as my loss is, I have infinitely more good memories. Don’t look at me like I’ve got three heads when I talk about my loved one, but share your own favorite memories. That lets me know you remember the good things too.

I don’t presume to be an expert on grief, but I sure have had plenty of experience in my 27 years! Thanks for being on this grief journey with me. In the spirit of this post, would you share one (or both) of the following in the comments section:

  1. A piece of advice to add to the list I’ve started.
  2. A favorite memory of my dad (I’ll start, so check out my memory below)

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  1. Becky M on September 7, 2013 at 10:20 am

    One of my favorite memories with my dad was every time he would pick me up from the airport: he’d have this huge, goofy grin on his face and give me one of his famous bear hugs. Usually, a quiet guy, rides home from the airport would turn him into a chatty cathy 🙂

  2. Carole on September 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

    One of my favorite memories of your Dad is at your Christmas Eve gatherings. He would always be in the kitchen cooking (and making a mess!) such wonderful, delicious food for everyone. A glass of wine was nearby, and he was always working on several parts of the meal at the same time, but he always stopped to welcome and hug everyone as they arrived. I will never, ever forget the year he was frying smelts, and we ended up going to church “smelting” of fried fish!

  3. Kim Stirtan on September 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    When my Dad died suddenly it was the joy of friends calling me to seeing how I was that helped me feel loved and cared for.

    A memory about your Dad:
    I had emailed your Dad b/c I could not remember that exact date of your Mom’s Bday.
    He emailed me back saying he could not remember either and then waiting all day for me to react to his email. Of course I did not know what to say and so I did not reply. His email said Just Kidding and gave me the date. Ahhh he got me!

  4. Molly on September 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Wow. I’ve been doing that exact thing. Literally pretending he didn’t exist..

    • Becky M on September 7, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      Easy to do, isn’t it?! Mom and I agreed we have to acknowledge that just because he’s not here now doesn’t mean he never was…

      • Patty on September 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm

        We’re getting there, girls…little by little. xoxo

  5. Kate on September 13, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I just stumbled upon your blog and was (am!) Loving it, and I saw you lost your dad. My heart broke for you, remembering when I lost my dad so suddenly, just after Father’s Day, 7 years ago. I wish someone would have told me then, that it does get better, but its okay to miss him- be ause you will always love him. Some day, hopefully, you will be blessed with the chances to remember the great things about him! Best wishes from a stranger in New England… <3

    • Becky M on September 13, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Kate, thanks so much! Grief is quite a journey and I appreciate your encouragement 🙂 curious to hear how you discovered the blog and where you’re from (I grew up in New England).

      • Kate on September 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

        Pinterest! An adorable pic of your little guy. I am in and grew up in MA but we have lived ‘all over’. ( Many hugs and hope for you. I got to the point of wishing people would just stop asking how I was or if I was doing okay, because they weren’t looking for the real answer, but it does, I repeat, it does, really, get better.

        • Becky M on September 14, 2013 at 6:16 am

          I’ll check out your blog! I grew up in CT, but my sister goes to school in MA and we have lots of friends there 🙂

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