Spending Grief

My happiness journal.

My mother passed away in December after a terrible struggle that resulted from a number of health issues. She was eighty-seven. Some might say that she lived a full life, and some might be right, but no life, full or not, should end in so much suffering. Suffice to say, I would wish that on no one. I wish that this had not happened to her. I wish that it had not happened to my dad or us—my brother and me—or to anyone who loved her. Three years is a long time to watch anyone fade away, to go through the phases of dying. Those who’ve experienced this know this to be true.

I passed through the stages of grief like doors that lead from one room to another. I’d leave one room only to enter a stage of grief even more complex than the one I had just left.

Now that she’s gone, I find myself in a stage where there are no tears left. I remember, in the beginning, crying on the shoulders of so many of my friends, one a doctor, some who are nurses, all of whom provided much comfort both practical and heartfelt when she first became ill. I spent much of my grief then, on their shoulders. When she finally left us in December, I was grateful that after three years, her suffering was at an end and that my tears had finally dried up because sometimes, the hard part is still ahead, shoring up those who are left, those whose tears are not spent. I’m grateful that I’m here for them and that more of my own tears are not shed on their shoulders.

Shortly after my mother became ill, I went through a divorce. So much waste. So much loss. As many will agree, the difficulty of divorce is only second to that of losing a loved one. But unlike losing my mom, there were no tears. I did not shed tears when I made this decision. I did not lie awake at night wondering if I was doing the right thing. Instead, I grieved at the end while I attempted to put my life back together.

I struggle to give myself permission to experience grief when others are suffering pain so much greater than mine—those living in war, those with cancer, others who have lost a child. We know that we are still entitled to our grief, but ours often feels so small in comparison.

But there needs to be a stopping point, a rest stop for grief, an expiration date so to speak.

Waking every day feeling sad, beaten down, is a physically and mentally demanding and unhealthy, monotonous cycle.

So when does grief end? At which point is it all spent?

Playing ball with my dog and her friends.

The answer, in my new-found experience, is that it takes work. By this, I think one must actively seek those small, fleeting, healing moments and will them into a form of happiness or peace. It takes a while to recognize these moments, for they won’t automatically come to you. You need to make them happen which often seems impossible because sometimes “small and fleeting” feels synonymous with “tiny” and “miniscule.”

And they may seem that way in the beginning.

You won’t spring out of bed one day feeling like a new person.

I miss my mom, and I miss a lot of things about my old life, but I’m choosing to end grief by finding “moments.” I have to.

This process takes skill, and it takes skill to feel a little bit happy, but I’m hoping that soon, five minutes will turn into ten and then twenty.

I’m still working at it. I’m not very good yet.

But I’m getting there.

Dog and human footprints in the sand.


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  • To lose your mother after a difficult and long illness (and all that goes with that) and also lose a marriage at the same time would take a massive toll on anyone’s outlook.

    Losing the marriage, as you say, did not bother you in the same way as your mother’s passing. I don’t believe there is a particular moment grieving over a deceased loved one ends. I have found it simply lessens somewhat with the passage – and distance – of time. There’s always something there. Above all, you do not need to be guilty about feeling grief.

    We also learn how to manage it. I found in the six months or so after my mother died, I would just get “angry” inexplicably and I did not know why. I would snap at those around me over petty stuff – and they did NOT deserve such. I had learned about that “anger” issue from a grief counselor. I remember feeling it coming on, a rising sense of fury and frustration over – nothing, really. (“Where’s the car windshield fluid?! It was HERE on the garage! I hate cars! I hate all this!”) Once I learned to recognize that feeling coming on, I was able to deal with it.

    Life will never be the same as it was. But, as I told my father, while it will be “different” from now on, there will still be life. We have no choice but to adjust. I had also found throwing myself into “projects” helped sideline grief for at least a while and helped “normal” life resume. (But that may not be how you best handle it, of course.)

    Regardless, we who read you hope you find the time and strength to write more again on here regularly – and maybe even another book eventually.

    • Thank you, my friend, for your words, kind and spot on as always. I can certainly relate to your emotions and understand the anger. I think, in my case, most of that was spent watching her suffer so unnecessarily. So unfair. Anger was the ONLY emotion during that period of time. And yes, projects and keeping busy are crucial. I know from reading your posts that you were close to your mom, and if I remember correctly, she was young when she passed. So heartbreaking and again, unfair. I am working on a new book, my first attempt at fiction. Time will tell whether I’m brave enough to publish it. 🙂