The Grief Deadline

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I’ve been doing pretty good dealing with my grief after losing my dad.  I think about him all the time, but it doesn’t make me cry nearly as much anymore.  I can think about funny stories about him and laugh, I can remember him and smile.  In fact, it’s been a few days since I’ve cried, which is a big improvement.  I’ve been so worried about how my family is dealing with their grief that I didn’t really have to deal with mine for a while.  And, I have to tell you, it was kind of nice.

But then after a few days have passed without the tears, I start to wonder if I’m doing this right.  Am I grieving right?  Am I sad enough?  Am I strong enough?  Am I moving forward enough?  Am I remembering enough?  I feel bad when I go too long without crying, but I feel even worse when I spend days in sadness.  I just can’t seem to find the balance yet.

Yesterday, out of the blue, the sadness overwhelmed me.  I hadn’t stopped to really LOOK at a picture of my dad in a week.  It was just too hard.  But last night, I was missing my dad so much that all I wanted to do was see him.  So, I pulled a picture out and looked at it as long as it took to cry it all out.  I let myself indulge in that for as long as it took.  And it took a while.

What has been so hard lately is that the reality of my dad’s passing is hitting me.  In those first few weeks, there are things to take care of and arrangements to make.  In the weeks shortly after that, our family was really rallying around each other and letting us all dwell in the loss.  But in the past week, life has gone on as normal for the most part.  I’m working, taking Gracie to swimming lessons, taking Bean to soccer, going grocery shopping, grading papers, reading, cooking dinner, packing lunches…  Every day things are back in my every day world.  But what has always felt normal to me now feels very empty and bland.  Every day feels like I’ve left home without my wallet or my sunglasses.  Like something is missing.

Because he is.

Last night as I held on tightly to my little boat while the waves rolled around me, I kept thinking to myself, “So, this is it.  This is just how it’s going to be from now on.”

I know the sadness will fade.  I know that the storms will weaken.  But the loss of my dad is permanent.  Final.  For me, that has been very hard to accept, but impossible to deny.  Maybe what I’m experiencing is the shock of his passing wearing off, and the reality of his death hitting me like cold water in my face.  Whatever it is, it hurts.  And it dulls everything around me.  Nothing is as funny, as interesting, as exciting as before.  I can’t help but wonder if that’s just how things will be now, too?  Will things ever feel as vibrant as they did when my dad was alive?  I hope so.  I think he would be really disappointed in me if I kept walking down this path of sadness.  My dad was full of joy, and he would want that to live on in me.

I wish someone could just tell me when this would be over.  I wish there was a deadline or an expiration date on grief.  “You will be done grieving exactly 90 days from the date of death.”  This feeling of taking two steps forward and one step back every couple of days is exhausting and makes me feel like I’m doing this all wrong.

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36 Thoughts to “The Grief Deadline”

  1. kirsten

    there is no “right” way to deal with grief. You do what you have to do do deal with it in your own way. we all do. My mom died 2 and a half years ago. I miss her and think about .every single day. does it get easier? yes. no. but i do know that you’re not doing it wrong.

  2. It does seem like a deadline would be nice, but then what would things really look like once that time period passed? I had a miscarriage earlier this year, and nothing has ever hit me as hard–and not immediately, but later. It’s not the same, of course, but I think what happened that might be similar is that I became a new version of myself through it–a stronger version, a version that understood maybe for the first time what it really meant to rely on God. You’ve said that you are who you are because of your dad, and that will always be true! Maybe it’s better that we don’t have to have a deadline to work towards; I’m struggling not to use a cliche, but maybe one day at a time is the way we should always be living. Prayers are with you!

  3. Check out the song “The Reason for the World” by Matthew West. Grief is an ugly monster. What it’s really done for me (and it took me FOREVER to figure this out), is to make me really long for Home……nothing this world will ever have to offer compares to Heaven. I think as Christians that we have a bit of that longing in us, but grief magnifies it and helps us to see priorities as never before. My blog is much neglected, but I have a post on this topic rattling around in my head screaming to come out. Praying for you as you find the path that God has for you at this time.

  4. Jessica

    The heavy heart of loss never completely goes away but it does get easier. I was very close with my Pop Pop and when he passed away, it was like a huge weight on my chest every day. Even now 7 years later I’ll have moments where I just burst into tears because you’re overcome with that feeling of ‘missing someone’ or thinking about how great it would have been to have them there. Everytime I have a breakdown I try to call or text my mom (it was her father) and we remember a funny story or moment with my Pop Pop and that always helps. I’ll always miss him, but knowing he’s with God comforts me and I’m thankful every day that I got to spend 19 years with him.

  5. Beanie & Gracie's Nana

    I hope it helps to know that in those darkest moments, Gin and I are there for you. As are Chris and John Michael. Its not that any of us can change the pain, but it may be comforting to know that you are not walking this path alone, Sweet Kitten.

  6. I’m very thankful that I haven’t lost a parent, however, I’ve lost a lot of loved ones and I can assure you there is no timetable on grief. The more you allow yourself to just feel what you feel, though, the more you’ll begin to understand how you go on with your new normal.

    I am grieving myself but over something entirely different. It has been five months, but some days it feels like just yesterday and I wish very much that everything could just go back to the way it was, but then again, life happens and God gives and he takes away … Like Lindsay said, we can become stronger through it and I pray that for you.

    Also, I truly appreciate your transparency. You’re a beautiful soul.

  7. Deepa

    Hi Katie. The 5th anniversary of my dad’s passing is coming up, and while it gets easier, it never, ever goes away. My mom finally bought a new place and it was really hard. I had two kids since then and cried with her right after I gave birth because he wasn’t there, and still break down often when something good happens, because he isn’t here with us. The period of painful, gut-wrenching grief does pass (it took me about three months, but I was so angry, I really should have seen a therapist or consular or something), but his memory will be with you forever. Sometimes that memory will make you happy, sometimes it will make you cry that painful, heart-hurting cry. There is no “right way” to grieve. I basically shut down and didn’t talk to anyone for a month. Not great, but it worked for me. My mom threw herself into work. Everyone is different and will heal in their own way, including you. I know you said going to church was hard, but maybe talking to someone there might help? You’ll come out of this cloud, no matter how long it takes.

  8. Monica

    Grief never goes away, as I’m sure you’ve heard. You just learn to live with the loss. I lost my dad six years show and was in deep grief for a couple years. Now I just miss him randomly and grieve when new events happen that he missed but I believe he sees even more from his perspective now. 🙂 My husband never met him and neither will my future children but I take comfort in knowing that I get to share so many stories of how wonderful he is and they will see all his goodness and love through my eyes <3

  9. kk

    i hate to say it but thereès no deadline or expiration..my dad has been gone for 13 years and i still miss him and i still grief and think about him alot..BUt it does become easier ..I recently watched a star trek episode with a person who passed away and there she said when a person died, there are no goodbyes..just good memories of time. So this is not really a good bye , thereès all these good memories that you can keep with you 🙂

  10. jen

    It is never going to be the same normal you knew when he was here but someday it will be normal again…it will just be a different normal. You will look at both big and little things differently and appreciate it a little bit more tthen you would have before cause you know that from up above your dad will be looking down making and sending you little signs that while you may not be able to touch him he is always going to be around to support you.
    I also have to say your mom must truely be one of the most amazing people. I sobbed when i read the comment she left on her….my heart goes out to you all. And leaning on each other for the sad times and the happy memories is the best way to keep you dad’s memory alive.

  11. I wish I had magical words to help you, but I just don’t. I will continue to pray for you, and that’s even better 🙂

  12. I don’t know if grief ever really ends. Of course, there are phases of it and it feels different at different points. But you will always love and miss your dad. It may not always hurt the same way or feel quite as awful as it does right now, but you will always miss him. And that is totally okay. You’re doing it right because you’re doing what’s right for you. You will feel joy again and you will heal from this. I am sure your dad would be so proud of you and of the strength you’ve had in this situation.

  13. Sue V.

    I remember this stage of grieving. I was 22 when my mother passed away from cancer. I had just married 9 months before. I took care of my brothers and my father – I made sure I was the strong one for all of them. It didn’t hit me until I went back home, a week later, that I realized I hadnt allowed myself to grieve. It hit me like a bus. I cried for days, I wallowed in my sadness. I shut my husband out. When I finally came to terms with the fact that I had to function as a normal human being I remember thinking “Wow – life is going to be like this – enjoyment out of little things was gone, laughing was hard, sadness and negativity crept in so easily. I remember feeling like “okay, if this is how it is I will just adjust. ” I stopped trying to find enjoyment, I avoided fun situations, and I didn’t allow myself to be creative. I thank the Lord that my husband was supportive but not pushy. He continued to…ask me to do the fun things I used to…he still cracked his jokes…he would take me to stores I used to love…he would try to start creative projects. It took months, but slowly I started to find joy in simple things, laughing got easier, and I found a way to recall happy memories of my mother when the sadness would creep in. There is no deadline, but time does change it. It doesn’t stay the way you are feeling right now. Let Chris know that you need him to be the happiness sometimes – when the sadness overwhelms from time to time – let him bring the joy back in. He knows you better than anyone, he knows how to reach the you that lies beneath the grief. It will get better – and things will become even more vibrant because you will share the story of your father with your children – they will know what a wonderful man your father was because they will learn about him from you – they will feel the love he gave you.

  14. Along with all the other wonderful advice that everyone above me has given you, I would say simply to take a look at your last sentence. “Two steps forward, one step back.” It’s exhausting, and heart-wrenching, and the hardest journey out of the deepest grief imaginable. But you’re moving forward, even if some days it doesn’t feel like it. Let yourself grieve, and continue to grieve. We, your invisible internet friends, are here for you!

  15. I don’t have any words of wisdom, just sending warm wishes and tight hugs. Grief is different for everyone and you’ll wade through it at your own pace – and no matter what, that’s the right pace for you.

  16. Katie, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your grief is palpable and heartbreaking.

    I miscarried my first (and loved, and so wanted) baby very recently–which is different, obviously, from the hole left in your life by someone who’s so shaped you as your father, but I’ve felt the same way. First there were doctor appointments and things to worry about and accomplish, and then in general I thought I was doing okay, but it’ll hit me out of nowhere after I thought I was “doing better.” (I also feel guilty when I’m NOT actively sad.) I think what you’re feeling is healthy and normal, and also devastating–what a painful, painful loss.

    I have no advice or anything like that, but I’ll be praying for your family. Take good care of yourself.

    P.S. I watched Ginny’s videos about her miscarriage and they were–helpful is the wrong word, but I was so glad to be able to watch them. I watched the whole thing twice.

  17. Angela

    “Death ends a life, not a relationship”

  18. I think that you are incredibly brave for being so open and honest with all of these feelings. That you can write about it must be therapeutic in some way, and I commend and respect you so much for doing so. I hope that you have days, or even hours, where you find the peace and comfort that you need.

  19. Sue

    As someone who is 21 and has already lost 6 family members and a friend, I am no stranger to grief and passing. What I’ve learned is pretty much what everyone else has said…it never goes away, it hurts the most during Life Events, and you will always end up thinking about him in random day to day moments. But as days turn to months and to years, there will be less and less days when you think about him. It’s natural. It’s necessary for your mental health. I’m not Christian so I didn’t rely on prayers or the thought of that they are with God (not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s not my belief). From a secular perspective, time heals. It truly does. You’ll think about them, cry about them still sometimes, but you won’t be “actively sad” after a while. The grief goes on the back burner, whether it’s a conscious effort or unconscious. Day to day life will take over. Even years after their passings, I still go to visit their graves when I feel that longing. It hurts, but it helps.

    Unfortunately, now I’ve developed The Fear. I see people with an expiration date. Who’s funeral will I be attending next? This is a good thing and a horrible thing. I am always appreciative of my loved ones and never take a day with them for granted. I’ve learned to push that fear to the back of my mind and out of my head. But in the quiet moments it always returns. And I learn to be strong and resilient again. Just as you will, with time.

  20. My father passed away 17 years ago when I was about to turn 11. I still miss him all the time and cry when a song reminds me of him. It won’t go away but it will get easier.

  21. Rachel

    After my cousin passed away several years ago, my aunt gave me the best piece of advice on dealing with grief. Accept and appreciate each day for what it is. Don’t feel guilty if you have a good day–you’ll have plenty of bad days too. Embrace the laughter and smiles. It’s OK to feel happy, and it’s OK to feel sad. Whatever you feel is the “right” way to feel. Don’t force anything. Your mind is healing itself the best way it knows how.

  22. Jocelyn

    Hi Katie,

    First let me say how sorry I am for your loss. I was 25 when I lost my mother who at 52, died of a stroke. It was 1 week before my 25th birthday and 2 weeks before my brothers wedding. It has been 7 yrs now. I think life does go on, and there are those sparkling lovely moments and everything is perfect. But the fact is, your dad will only hopefully be watching from above. When my neice and nephew were born, I did feel sad that my mother missed it. But I am not sure that anything had prepared me for when I was married, and then had my little girl. She will never know my mother. And that is sad. 7 years it will be on September 21st and I still cry. Not once a month, or even every few months, but it happens. I also think about her almost every day. I don’t think you will necessarily be in mourning forever, but you will certainly feel it. And it will get easier. But allow yourself those moments where it is just as raw as well in happened. Cause that is life.

  23. Jess Z.

    You are not doing anything wrong, we all grieve in different ways and at different lengths. Katie, your grief will never end, but it will eventually turn into something different. Grief will ebb and flow in your life…it’s deafening at first, then it can turn into anger, then to sadness, and finally acceptance. It’s a process. I lost my mom ten years ago (next week!), and I feel just as sad today as I did ten years ago, but it’s a different type of sadness. Today I am sad because she never saw my babies, but I know she watches over us, I feel her beside me, especially in times of need. I am not grief-stricken sad where I cry and the waves of sadness feel like a punch to the gut anymore, it’s more of a gentle breeze now. Does that make sense? It will get better, and your feelings will turn into acceptance, but it will take time. I still feel cheated and betrayed that my mom is gone, but I think I’ve finally come to the point of acceptance. It changes you, the loss of a parent…it definately does. But what you learn from it and take away from it can also be a blessing. I’ve come to appreciate life more and my children, family, and friends more. But I still get sad and I think about her every day. I don’t that part will ever go away. I’ve just learned to accept that it will always be a part of me. I hope you feel better soon 🙂

  24. There isn’t any timeline for grief, unfortunately. It’s just going to be tough. Hold onto those good memories and your faith and your family. Those are the things that will get you through.

  25. Grief is…well like the tide. Sometimes its out and distant and you can view it without it knocking you over. Other times its rushing in and can knock you on your tookis for a little while. My brother died 6 years ago and I don’t think of him daily. Sometimes not even weekly, but then other days I just sob because all I want is a hug from him. That’s love – you’ll always experience sadness and sometimes it will feel as strong as the day you found out. Other times you’ll just smile and be happy with the memories. I wish grief had a pause button or rules but it doesn’t. Why? Because its from love and love has no rules either. Simple and as complex as that.

  26. Cat

    There is no deadline. No proper way to grieve. Nothing you can point to and say this is it, the end. But it ebbs and flows. Life will brighten again. You will remember and be reminded of him – it will start to make you smile instead of cry. And years will pass. And out of the blue, something will bring all the pain back. And you’ll cry. And be sad. And miss him. And life goes on. Life’s luster will come back, but so will that sadness from time to time. There are no rules. No one really gets it. All go back to their real lives while you wonder how ANYONE’S real life can go on. But it does. 3.5 years in, that’s all I can tell you – life does go on. And so will you.

  27. Melissa

    Katie– You are not wrong in your way of grieving, but you are mistaken in one thing. Your father’s death is not permanent, it is not final. This life was, is, and will always be temporary. I did not know your dad, but from the way you’ve talked about it, it sounds as though he was very busy putting up his treasure, and his heart, in heavenly things. Remember that God honors that. And remember to be jealous! Let yourself be jealous that your dad has gone Home. What a marvelous thing for him! That he is in the arms of our Lord and Savior. That he walks among Peter and Paul and John, that he sings “Holy Holy Holy” with the angels, that he tosses his crown a the feet of Jesus. There is no such thing as permanent death for us, and what a glorious blessing that is. When you feel the weight of your own loss, remember that your loss is your dad’s gain. There is solace in that.

  28. Gerda

    I had a rough time when my Grandma died; we were very close and I spent a lot of time with her when she was ill. Like everyone says, there is no deadline for grief, but I did find that when the one-year anniversary of her death had passed, I found it easier to stop looking backwards (“last year at this time, Grandma was…”) and start looking forward to seeing her in Heaven one day. I know she’s got a plate of her famous chocolate chip cookies waiting up there for me!

  29. Becky

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad on July 21, 2011. I have two children who were 4 and 1 at the time. Reading your posts brings me right back to last year. I remember feeling just the way you describe it. A year later, I can tell you that things are easier. I still grieve the loss, but the pain has lessened. It was hard for me to go to church at first too. I did find a lot of comfort in reading from Bible and listening to christian music. This passage from Max Lucado has helped me so much, “A person can enter a cemetary Jesus-certain of life after death and still have a Twin Tower crater in her heart. If Jesus gave the love, he understands the tears. So grieve, but don’t grieve like those who don’t know the rest of the story.” Hope this helps-hang in there!

  30. Cindy

    I lost my daddy suddenly 8 years ago. It was a total surprise, as it was with your dad. For me it was compounded by the fact that I had just gotten divorced also so I was going through two different grieving periods at the same time. I was like you and would have waves of when I would cry and be especially upset. It usually would be around some sort of “event” or holiday– like father’s day, Christmas, his Birthday, or even my own birthday (because he ALWAYS sent me cards). I found one thing to help which was to make a little scrapbook that I could go back to and look over. I can’t say when exactly I stopped crying for him because I do every once in a while still have those moments, but it becomes farther and farther in between. It’s just a natural part of having a connection to him. My prayers are with you and your family.

  31. Erica

    Hi Katie, I am so sorry for your loss. I am a long-time reader and have never commented but this is a very poignant subject and one that there is no real answer to. I know your faith is very important to you, but perhaps you may find interesting Jewish mourning rituals. I am Jewish and oddly it is nice to have a “mourning template” to follow. The first seven days after a death are called shiva. During this time you hardly do anything but grieve. It is customary to not leave your home, to not bathe (I know, I know), to not watch TV – do nothing but grieve. After that period, the immediate 30 days following the death are called shloshim. During this time you can go to synagogue and carry on with some basic activities, but your grieving is still publicly acknowledged by your religious community. After 30 days, you “emerge” from your “official” grief observance. You resume your daily activities etc but for one year you do not participate in festive activities. From then on, you observe the loved one’s yahrzeit (anniversary of death) by lighting a candle every year. Everyone grieves differently and there is really no real timeline, but hopefully you and your family find healing and peace as time goes on.

  32. Lauren

    Katie, thank you for sharing your journey with us. As a long time reader I want you to know that reading about your grief really illustrates the significance of lament in the midst of Christian hope. Thank you for being a witness of faith and grief.

  33. Amy Kathryn

    Thank you for sharing your feelings with us Katie. Reading your post brought back many sad memories for me. I was 29 when my fiance suddenly died. After the first few months of being in utter shock, the new reality was starting to take over and it was so very difficult to accept. I always equated my grief to a marathon — except this “marathon” was one that I hadn’t trained for, hadn’t expected on running, didn’t know the course, and most certainly didn’t know where the finish line was. I spent those early months being blindsided by mental and emotional obstacles that no one had ever warned me about (because who else would cry in the cereal aisle of a grocery store because you saw “his” favorite cereal on the shelf????). As someone else mentioned, for every baby step I took forward, I felt like I fell three giant steps behind. Over time however, I felt that the course even out — the obstacles weren’t as severe — and I realized that I could start anticipating parts the road ahead. It’s been over 7 years since I’ve been on this grief marathon and I can say that while I’ve remarried and started a family, the “race” is never really over. I still don’t know if or when the grief will ever really go away — whether or not I’ll ever reach the finish line, if one even exists — but I’ve learned to accept that this is the way life is. I’ve learned to treasure the past and embrace the future. You will never, ever let go of your father. But in time, you will learn to let go of some of the pain and sadness that came with his passing. The road will get easier, I promise. Sending you lots and lots of hugs.

  34. Meredith

    Hi Katie, I am so, so sorry for your loss. I lost someone very close to me just over a year ago, right before I started a new college where I knew no one. While I managed to go about every day life for the most part there would be moments, where I was so sad and so deeply hurting I would burst into tears in front of these new friends while we were walking down the street. There is no wrong way to grieve, and sadly there is no deadline. I still have my days where I stand outside in the pouring rain and cry as people walk by on their way to class. I try and think of all the good memories I had before, and think about how even though they cant be there with me physically, I know every time something big or important happens, and even the small things I know they are there with me inside my heart. It will gradually get easier, but there will always be moments where it hits you and knocks the air out of your lungs.

  35. PK

    You are doing just fine, Katie. Everyone grieves differently and there is no timeline on grief. I had a thought as I read your concern about wanting to live life while enjoying it because your dad did – Your dad lost his parents at one point too. And while he grieved, you can see that he did enjoy life again after they passed on. It may have taken a while and life probably seem less vibrant for a while, but he adjusted and learn to enjoy life while missing them. You will reach that point as well, but don’t rush. Grief takes times.

  36. Brendy

    You are being entirely too hard on yourself. I lost my father in an accident several years ago. The grief never goes away, but you WILL feel joy again. I know it’s painful to think that life can be normal without your dad’s everyday presence, but it will be. The cloud will lift more times than not, and you will be happy. It has only been a few weeks since your father’s passing. I think you’re expecting entirely too much out of yourself. Give yourself a solid year to ride these waves of ups and downs and figure out your new normal. You won’t be “done” in a year; you’ll never be done. But you should hopefully feel like you are coming out the other side.

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