75 thoughts on “Feeling Grief Means Being Alive: 7 Tips to Help

  • February 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks, Dr. Goldstein, for a very helpful discussion of the grieving process. As you note, sorrow and grief–particularly after the loss of a loved one–are natural parts of “being alive”. What you call “mindful grieving” has much in common with what I described as “productive grief” [see http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/10/04/is-grief-a-mental-disorder-no-but-it-may-become-one/%5D. It is related to what Thomas a Kempis called, “the proper sorrows of the soul.” –Best regards, Ron Pies MD

  • February 21, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks for the citation of my work, Dr. Goldstein, and for the very helpful discussion of grief. Yes, grief is indeed a natural part of life. Your concept of “mindful grieving” is similar, I think, to my description of “productive grief” (as opposed to what I call “corrosive” or non-productive grief), in my blog on this website [Is Grief a Mental Disorder? No, But it May Become One]. Mindful or productive grief belongs to what Thomas a Kempis called, “the proper sorrows of the soul.” It is, as you say, part of “being alive”!–Best regards,
    Ron Pies MD

  • February 22, 2009 at 6:49 am

    A very helpful approach that is worth remembering.
    especially when working with clients. The tips are worth passing on where appropriate.

  • February 22, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I really like Kempis’ quote “the proper sorrows of the soul”, it really sums up the idea that grieving is normal and natural and needs space and support from us and other for healing. For the most part, we have an aversion to death in this culture and as a result, people often don’t know how to respond to it. Bringing more awareness to it as a part of life, may help with this. Ron, you also give a great discussion on productive and non-productive grief, if everyone hasn’t looked it at, click here:
    it’s worth the read!

  • February 23, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Many thanks, Elisha…and yes, I agree with you about what Ernest Becker called, in his classic book, “The Denial of Death.”
    As regards a balanced and healthy attitude toward death, I have always liked the essayist Montaigne’s attitude:
    “I want death to find me planting my cabbages, neither worrying about it, nor the unfinished gardening.” (Essays I.20).

    Best, Ron

  • February 25, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Thank you for the article. However I have noticed in all articles, (just about) everyone says ” go outward” go volunteer etc..
    I agree with that to an extent. We lost our 27 yr old son. It has been about 2 1/2 years ago. I barely function, I lie on the couch and cry, if I get out I see things that remind me of my son and what a tragedy his death was.I go to Church and the Drs. not much else. I feel parental grief is VERY different from any other grief. Children are not supposed to die before the parent. I will never get over losing my son. Going out and doing something for someone else isn’t going to change anything!!!!!

  • February 25, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Hi Debbie, your grief is one of the most difficult to bear. And you know that the grief you feel for the loss of your son will never go away. At the same time, the intensity and frequency of it will ebb and flow over time. Allowing yourself to acknowledge the grief when it is there without judgment is an important path toward healing. Everyone’s grief is unique and pick and choose what works for you. If something doesn’t support you (e.g., altruism), then that is good to know. It is also good at times to seek support from friends, family, groups, or a skilled healthcare professional. Most of all, may you be kind and compassionate to yourself during this time.

  • March 12, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Dear Debbie,

    An unbearable sorrow. I understand the mournful journey of loosing a child. Our Katie died of cancer, brain tumors. She was 28 years old.

    We don’t get over our child’s death because we are not supposed to get over their death because it keeps our connection to our child alive.

    Writing daily helped me to survive. Day by day I put my pen to paper and my feet on the floor. I was lost. Where was my old life? Eventually I came to realize that my “other life” was gone forever and that I had to make “another life” for myself and for the other people in my life who counted on me to be there.

    There is no comparable grief to loosing a child. We pray for grace. I will pray for you dear Debbie. You will make it, one day at a time.

    Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP
    Author of When Every Day Matters:
    A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life
    Simple Abundance Press, Oct. 1, 2008

  • April 21, 2009 at 5:22 am

    You people don’t understand Debbie, and you’re not helping her with this. I understand her, and I know of what she speaks. Don’t tell her she’ll ‘make it’….for God’s sake. That’s a horrible thing to say to someone suffering that kind of grief. ‘Making it’ isn’t what it’s about. You people are doctors…dig into your souls. People suffering like that aren’t worried about ‘surviving’ as you understand it. Debbie, write me anytime…leesisterstar@hotmail.com. I do understand, and I’ll write you back. Lee Anne

  • April 21, 2009 at 5:29 am

    I just got a message saying my comment ‘is awaiting moderation’, whatever that means…tell you what, just forget it. I realize you may be trying to help people, but your advice isn’t really helpful…sounds good theoretically, but just doesn’t do it. I’d really rather you just didn’t print it at all than alter it. Debbie needs help. She’s hurting badly. She needs someone to get to the nitty gritty rather than gloss it over with ‘tips’.

  • April 21, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Hello Lee Anne,
    this type of grief needs more than blogs you are right. People come here to get connected to things that may be supportive, but hopefully, more than that, to get connected to community, people like yourself. That is what is most helpful. When anyone comments for the first time the comment always awaits moderation to ensure that it is not spam, which unfortunately can be a real problem in here as it can fill 100’s of spots with unnecessary advertisements. Once you have been approved, this won’t happen again. Thank you for your interaction and for your connection with Debbie.

  • April 27, 2009 at 3:55 am

    I think we all need to be compassionate towards eachother and that includes ALL people who comment. They are trying to help…and who knows…they just might. Speaking gruffly about “you people aren’t helping” isn’t terribly respectful. Please lets all have grace and kindness towards eachother. It’s all that is left among us.

  • May 18, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Wow on the interpersonal skills in here! Really is amazing what is flowing along and then a negative, pessimistic, critical whirlwind of ravenous rabid anger drops in to condemn and stomp on us. You may need to go to the anger page for coping and anger managment issues–this is a page for comforting and consoling grief from death and loss. Soothing. Don’t pour hot water on 3rd degree burns.

  • May 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Interesting discussion overall. I lost my spouse in August 2008 to pancreatic cancer. It was sudden, unexpected, and he was young, only 37. I was devastated and overwhelmed. In order to try to cope, and take the edge off the pain, I have participated in support groups, attended different churches, and continued to work. It has been helpful, but I am still unable to stay in our home comfortably, and his things are still everywhere in the house. I can only deal with a fraction of his items at a time, it is so painful to me. I find visiting with family helpful. I have also found the books “A New Beginning” and it’s accompaning workbook “Surviving the Death of Your Spouse” by Deborah Levinson to be very essential. For me, it’s not a matter of finding time to grieve, it’s a matter of finding time to heal, to be happy again, to reach out to others again. Friends have not been very helpful in this process, especially the married ones. People avoid you because they don’t like to accept the reality of death, and a widow is a tangible reminder. Blessings to whoever reads this.

    • March 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

      My husband of 49 years died on Jan. 29, 2012. It has been really helpful reading about others and how they are coping. I plan to join a support group in a few weeks. My grown sons have been a real support, my daughter not so much. I know she is grieving big time as she was very close to her Dad. We barely communicate. This makes me very sad, as if she doesn’t care about me.

      • January 28, 2019 at 5:36 am

        At the death of my mother, my sister had the same reaction as your daughter. Perhaps we are painful reminders of that person and they are in denial. Try sending packages to her with something of your husband’s you think she would like to have to remember him by.

  • June 26, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I lost my wonderful 51 year old sister to cancer last month. She leaves behind 3 young children. The notes I have received from acquaintances have been very comforting and allow me to talk more about my sister when I thank the writers. Some people whom I supported through their own grief in years past have not contacted me. Some of them even knew my sister and our close relationship. Has anyone else experienced this? Can anyone explain this?

    • March 12, 2012 at 10:05 am

      Dear Tess, yes I have experienced the same thing. My pastor said that some people just don’t know what to say, I don’t understand that, but I do know that until you have had a death in your family you are clueless. For me, everyone is ready for me to go on, and I am not at that place yet. I am learning to speak my mind and just do what feels right to me. I am joing a support group in a few weeks, my hope, that it will help.

      • November 18, 2014 at 9:28 am

        i lost my brother in feb 2013 to cancer he was only 43 when he died.he left behind a wife and 2 small kids.and the 3rd child was born 3 months after he passed,in april this year my mother went in for a routine operation and never woke up she passed away in april this year ,we are all finding it extremley hard to cope

  • July 2, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I just do not know how to stop grieving. My partner of 20 years developed tardive dyskinesa,a disease that is caused fron years of medications for depression. When the medications stop quickly(wich is what happened to her) your body stops functioning normally. Yoy develope uncontrolable movemewnts of the body and memory starts to go.
    I ‘ve taken care of her for more than 5 years but finally had to have her in an assisted living. Everyone I know says I “need” to let go and move on but I just cannot do that. I visit her most every day and continue to watch out for her well being. She has 2 daughters that never go to visit her and most of our friends have dropped by the wayside. It’s been 8 months since she lived here at home but I just cannot seem to pull out f the depression and feeling of loss yet I see her all the time. I know I need to move on but how? How caN i JUST WALK AWAY FROPM SOMEONE i’VE SPENT THE BETTER PART OF MY LIFE WITH.Now it seems when I there I cant wait to leave but when I’m home she is all I think about,sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy.We have been through so much in the poast few years,she’s had cancer and a masectomy,two brooken hips this TD thing and countless trips to the hospital and psych wards. I dont believe she will come back this time. God knows I love this woman but how much longer can I go like this? So how do you grieve someone still alive?

    • April 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm

      wow John, thats a tough one to answer. How painful this must be for you.I think as you visit her you love her and then you go home and try to move forward . I think its ok to move forward even though she is still in your life. I think you can do both.
      I will pray for you that God gives you guidence and amd gives you strength to move forward in your life even as you have her still. just comfort her in this part of her life and feel good about that. Go home and make plans without guilt..you seem to be a devoted man and that commendable.. praying for you!

    • May 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm


      Feel what you need to feel. By visiting your wife, you will have no regrets. You will not look back when she is gone and “wish” you had visited her. There is no answer for your pain. Your pain is real and terrible. I always tell people that I am not just suffering the loss of my husband of 36 years, but recovering from the terrible journey of loss for 8 months while he fought to live. Stage 4 small cell lung cancer with met to the brain.
      It is terrible John to watch your loved one losing life and you are losing them. But you are giving what a spouse/partner can give. Love, support, caring for your loved one.
      God bless you.

      • February 15, 2015 at 6:01 pm

        I commend you on not only your advice but your strength! I too lost my husband of 34 years to the same disease as yours in only 5 months. I struggle every day. I have never been alone because I married my sweetheart right out of high school. I don’t know what my future holds. We did everything together. And those people who tell you, Just call me if you need anything…never answer their phone. Am I alone in this? Or does it eventually stop hurting so bad?

    • July 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Dear John,
      My older sister passed away less than a year ago from a freak car accident at the age of 37 leaving behind a loving husband and 2 young children, even though as in your case it was not my husband that is alive and sick in hospital and I have not had to go through agonising years of seeing my soul mate and partner in life suffer as you have had to, I sometimes wish I had had more time with my sister to atleast say goodbye and that she wasnt so suddenly taken without a chance for any of us to tell her how much we loved her and how much she meant to us. I just felt so robbed for a long time…

      You have been given a gift of being able to share such a difficult but the most intimate and precious moments in your wife’s life and even though I cant imagine the constant and daily pain you must endure by seeing her that way and feeling that you cant change it-she must feel she needs to still be there for you.
      Your wife must truly love you that in your time of greatest need she does not want to let go!
      Maybe try to focus on what you both loved doing together , what brought you joy when you were with her? Take a moment, even if only 10 minutes a day to feel some joy-allow some happiness into your life, I am sure that she so desperately wants you to feel that again!
      For me, my 2 year old son and dearest husband who has suffered a lot of grief in his lifetime has helped me so much in my darkest days by making me laugh and helping me to keep going…
      Sending you a world of love and inner peace and the strength to say Goodbye if you need to… Leila:)

    • September 24, 2018 at 3:53 am

      This is so heart breaking I wish I could see you now and give you a warm hug… I can only tell you that things will get better I know it’s not easy don’t have the right words but pls hang in there everything will fall in place

  • July 2, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    how long should I wait for some sort of answer?

  • July 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Hi John,
    I want to relay my heart in this message, this sounds like quite a struggle. It seems to me that part of the grieving is around how your relationship was, as that has passed and now there has been a new relationship with all of these challenges.

    One of the greatest things to do is to surround yourself with community of friends and family if possible to be support. It’s also critical that you are doing things for yourself at this time as being a caretaker can be an impossible task at times where we are not even on our own lists of ‘to do.’ Ineteracting here may be one way, but allow this to be only one fashion of support that is also limited. You may receive more thorough exploration around this deeply meaningful issue with in-person professional support in therapy if this is at all an option.

    In respect to time answering, blogs are sometimes responded to and other times meant for other people in teh community to respond to. It is through this peer-to-peer interaction of people who are struggling with similar issues where we get some of our greatest wisdom. So may be the same day or many days later, just depends on the people.

    I want to thank you for reaching out, may you be kind to yourself during this process and continue to reach out for the supports you need.

  • July 5, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Hi –
    I think your conflict arises from your feeling of being torn between the love that you had for your partner, your loyalty towards that love, and your own needs for nurturing and love, which she may not be able to reciprocate with at this point – these will take time to resolve.
    If you feel she’s in a place where her personal (and even if limited emotional) needs are being taken good care of, then you can tell yourself as a rational person, that staying away from her for one or 2 days does not diminish your expression of loyalty – go only when you have the emotional strength yourself to sit with her without feeling that you want to be away from her. When you are emotionally strong yourself, you can sit with her with more detachment, and be more ‘with her’, attentive to her – perhaps.
    I had read long time back an article from NYT which I am linking to, and the last para rings true even though your case is less about the death of your loved one, than about grieving while she’s still alive – http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/27/health/personal-health-often-time-beats-therapy-for-treating-grief.html?scp=15&sq=grief&st=cse&pagewanted=2

    “”We are less wedded to seeking closure, to the idea of saying goodbye to the one who died,” Dr. Neimeyer said. ”We now recognize the importance of finding healthy ways to sustain a relationship with a deceased loved one, to maintain continuing healthy bonds, for example, by carrying forth their projects.

    ”Closure is for bank accounts, not for love accounts. Love is potentially boundless. The fact that we love one person doesn’t mean we have to withdraw love from another.””

  • July 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I can relate so clearly with your feelings of loss John, after my partner of 21 years announced he had been having and affair and was leaving. I was absolutely devastated and became so distressed that I was hospitalized. That was a year ago and I’m still grieving every day. I lost him and his children and their children; his parents, some mutual friends and my home. As a result of the impact of this I lost my job. Frankly, I wanted to die. However, I have the most wonderful friends and family who have supported me unconditionally and I’m beginning to pull through. I have put my career back on a part time basis – something I never believed I could do. I’ve had an excellent counsellor and she taught me that it wasn’t anything I’d done or not done. Lean on good friends as I’m sure you’ve been there for them in the past. It was a good idea to write to this group as I find it helps to know that someone out there – total strangers- give such good advice. I’m wishing you all the healing you need. Take good care of your health and be sure not to neglect your diet at this time. You have been a good and loving partner, taking care of the woman you love and you will go on caring for her but you need to take care of yourself too. Your love is a strong emotion and you are not being less loving by allowing yourself to take a little time to walk in the sunshine and take in the pleasures of nature or taking a short break from caring for her. You will feel better for it and you will go back to visit refreshed and calm and she will appreciate that. May you find the peace you so richly deserve.

  • July 17, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    gladtobealive, sorry, but you are wrong. What’s great about all comments and the discussion is that it/they are ‘real’.

    What Lee An Robers expressed is ‘just fine’, and OK, and important.

  • July 18, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Debbie (above) –
    I think I know (may be a little bit) how you might be feeling; I ‘lost’ my 25 yr old brother to whom as eldest sister I felt like a mother, and it was in circumstances that couldn’t be fully acknowledged in the world so mourning him was also not possible for our family; in the 25 years since then i slowly went through the motions of a life that looks successful from the outside, even raised 2 sweet children to whom I think I have only been half the mother I could have/should have been, half the wife I should have been to my husband, I have been short-tempered, over-critical, angry, forgot kindness to others or myslef and only now have slowly begun the process of steering my life properly; and in that sense I am slowly realizing that they are, sure as anything, ‘raising’ me, helping me back to experiencing life fully again. My 87 year old mother has lived through all this, and lived day by day, helped see the rest of my siblings through our life milestones, raised grandkids, writes to them. We all struggle, everyone’s struggles are different, no one’s more or less important.
    I have a distant aunt who raised a spastic kid again in a upwardly mobile middle class community in India where to quote Garrison Keilor “all the children are above average” and I have often thought of how she adjusted to her life and different expectations for each of her children with such limited community support than what is had here, today, and now.
    Somehow, the god within each of us, if I may say, the life force, keeps us going, helps us put one foot in front of the other, like beached whales we struggle for breath as we seek the waters of the ocean, to find again our natural habitat, whether it be in our work, or family, or friends, or whatever.
    So Debbie, just pray to the force within you that you find a way for the sake of those others who also depend upon you.

  • August 8, 2009 at 9:40 am

    My surviving children think that I should take
    medication to help me in the recent loss of my son.
    I don’t want to take it, but I do want to be able
    to go back to work and function and have energy to be successful as I am a teacher. My son died a little over a week ago.


  • August 8, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Hi Yvonne,

    My heart goes out to you for this devastating loss. Taking medication is a personal choice, but before choosing one way or the other, it may be a good idea to seek counsel from a skilled therapist. This way you will have really explored the issues and the options for medication.

    Many blessings to you,


  • August 8, 2009 at 11:11 am

    thank you so much
    i am huting so badly and will seek therapy first
    thank you for your gift of helping others,


Join the Conversation!

We invite you to share your thoughts and tell us what you think in this public forum. Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. A first name or pseudonym is required and will be displayed with your comment. Your email address is also required, but will be kept private. (Please note that we use gravatars here, which are tied to your email address.) A website/blog/twitter address is optional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *