I always thought grief was linear. That there was a defined path from devastation to moving on. Even after it happened to me, I had the expectation that grief was a process to move through, a tunnel that you walked through–maybe at your own pace, sure, but you always emerged out the other side.

I also thought grief was pretty straight-forward. It was difficult, but it was simply “grief.” I knew I would lose my parents some day. But I didn’t anticipate dealing with it in my twenties. My father’s death was a violent sucker-punch to us all. And what has been most frustrating about the experience is the total and complete lack of actual understanding I had about grief. Because it’s not linear. The first days, weeks, months are unimaginable, sure, but just because it starts to get better doesn’t mean it stays better.

It’s two months shy of two years since I lost my dad. I’ve had moments recently where it’s felt like his death was just yesterday, and suddenly I’m back at the beginning of my grief journey. It’s debilitating and has been disruptive to my life in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

I attended counseling in the weeks following his death. My counselor told me that if I was still struggling in six months then that could be problematic, but that at the time I was exactly where I needed to be. She was trying to reassure me, but I’m now realizing how damaging her words were. I used her timeline to gauge myself. Once the six months had come and gone and I was still unable to get out of bed, I wrote myself off as a failure.

We make great exceptions for grief in the hours and days following devastation. But after a few weeks, the phone calls stop. The food stops coming. People stop asking how you’re doing and no longer offer condolences for your loss. Time moves on and people expect that you do, also. But grief doesn’t care that your friends and colleagues think you should be doing better than you are. It doesn’t care that it’s been a year, or two, or ten. Assuming any sort of timetable for those who are grieving does nothing but harm. Because once it’s vocalized, the bereaved are constantly assessing themselves according to what the world expects of them. Nothing hurts a grieving individual more than feeling as though they are letting down those around them. After the acceptable amount of grieving time has passed, when a depressive episode hits and you find yourself unable to get out of bed for a week, people closest to you are often confused and unsympathetic. They don’t even think that it could still be a grief response, because how could you still be crippled by grief? Still?

Sometimes you can feel it building. This usually happens in the time leading up to anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. But other times, it comes out of nowhere. It’s like another sucker-punch and the amount of damage that it can wreak on your life is shocking. Most often (and this is what your loved ones will struggle to understand) it is simply brought about because something else in your life is causing stress or pain. You’ve had a bad week at work? Expect that your grief will come visit, too. You had a fight with a friend or significant other? The grief wants to come keep you company then, as well.

Grief isn’t straight-forward, and it isn’t always just “grief.” It’s also anxiety, anger, self-destruction, anger, depression, anger, numbness, and I should also mention anger. Maybe you’ll take three months and indulge in some retail therapy, only to spend the next month in bed crying over your debt. Maybe you’ll be stone-cold for several months, throwing yourself into work or pretending to function like a productive member of society. Maybe you won’t be pretending. But then a switch will flip, and for the next few weeks you might not be able to stop crying. You’ll push away those you love, maybe with irrational anger, and insist “I don’t know” when they ask what is wrong with you. Because you won’t know. This isn’t still grief, is it? Still?

Yes, still. That’s the danger with measuring your healing according to timelines. Grief isn’t linear. It’s not an experience you go through before moving on and getting back to your life. There is no moving on. There is no getting back to life, because now your life is changed. So you have to learn to create a new life, and that takes time. It may take six months, but it may also take six years. Forget what everyone says, and don’t let them rush you. Most importantly, don’t rush yourself. Take all the time you need. Pull those who are trying to help you close, and those who are going through it with you closer. Practice self-care, and lots of self-forgiveness. Let yourself heal on your own time. Your only job sometimes, especially at the beginning of your grief journey, is just to stay alive. And if you’re reading this, then you’ve succeeded.

Yes, it gets better. But it doesn’t stay better. There will be bad days, weeks, months, even years. Expect them, and don’t fight against them. Let them pass, and know that the good days will be back.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Kayla Cormier

Kayla Cormier is a freelance writer with dreams of becoming a published fiction author a la J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. In addition to her online contributions, she also provides copywriting and editing services to businesses and individuals in the areas of marketing and journalism. Find Kayla on Twitter or Instagram: @kayy_cormier.

A Letter To My Mother in Heaven

In: Death of a Parent, Grief, Motherhood
Wide open sky at sunset

Dear Mom, I miss you. I wish you were here. I can tell you a mom is irreplaceable for a child. When a mom dies, her child is no longer whole. The loss makes it hard to breathe. That child flails in the wind like a cottonwood seed. A piece of fluff that gets knocked about the world by the wind. Sometimes I landed on solid ground, sometimes I landed in a pond and almost drowned. But I’m still here. I survived. RELATED: To Those Who Know the Bitter Hurt of Losing a Parent In the year after your death,...

Keep Reading

The Grey Sweater

In: Death of a Parent, Faith, Grief
The Grey Sweater www.herviewfromhome.com

Folding the laundry gets me down sometimes. It’s a mindless activity, really. My brain runs on autopilot as it remembers the old days when laundry only took up a small percentage of my time. Nowadays, I can spend up to four hours in one afternoon doing laundry for my tribe of six people. I drift into a mechanical rhythm as I go through my three step process: retrieve fold put away (Granted, this is an ideal scenario- I don’t typically make it through all three steps in one day!) While I was going through the motions this morning, my hands...

Keep Reading

Even Though You’re In Heaven, Your Grandchildren Will Know You

In: Death of a Parent, Grief, Motherhood
Mother and little boy looking down road

The well-loved picture frame sits on the shelf in your grandkids’ room; just high enough to be out of reach from curious toddler hands, but low enough for me to pull it down each time they ask about you. That photo of you— it has always been my favorite. You look so happy, so healthy, so whole . . . just the way that I want these sweet grandbabies of yours—the ones you never got to meet—to know you. Because although you may be in Heaven, they will know you. You’ll never bounce them on your knee, or sneak extra...

Keep Reading

He Died Getting Sober For His Granddaughter: What My Father’s Death Taught Me About Grief

In: Death of a Parent, Grief
He Died Getting Sober For His Granddaughter: What My Father's Death Taught Me About Grief www.herviewfromhome.com

Years had been spent trying to tell my father that he needed help. He and his wife had separated, gotten back together, and separated again. His alcoholism was controlling every facet of his life and he was in complete denial about it. That had been the way for years. When I finally became pregnant, my husband and I decided to drop the bomb on Dad with humor. He had what we called a “thriving” waistline (due to excessive drinking and poor diet) and so I pointed out his gut and said “give me a few months and I’ll catch up....

Keep Reading

Moving Through Grief With My Sensitive Son

In: Death of a Parent, Grief, Kids
Moving Through Grief With My Sensitive Son www.herviewfromhome.com

My middle child, Austin, is not the extrovert like his older sister and younger brother. Though he doesn’t hide from a crowd, he’s most happy at home, reading books, riding his bike in the alley, and cuddling in our big chair with me. He’s always been this way. My husband, Shawn, and I spent a painful year watching Austin scream and cry every single day when we’d leave him at the preschool doors. The next year was less dramatic, but he still shed many tears. Finally in kindergarten he could walk into the classroom without crying, but he would still...

Keep Reading

My Mom Died and It’s Not Fair

In: Death of a Parent, Grief, Motherhood
My Mom Died and It's Not Fair www.herviewfromhome.com

“I think we should leave,” I whispered to my husband through clenched teeth as my two-year old daughter, Hailey, wailed in my arms. We were at my cousin Ryan’s house for his daughter’s birthday party and Hailey was having a typical overtired toddler meltdown. Tears started to well up in my eyes, but not because of my daughter’s less than ideal behavior. As I surveyed the room, I could see my aunt smiling and laughing with her granddaughter and Ryan’s wife’s mom right beside them, doting on the little girl, too. Witnessing this made me think about my own mother...

Keep Reading

A Love Letter From Mamas in Heaven to Their Beautiful Daughters on Earth

In: Death of a Parent, Grief, Journal, Loss
motherless, motherless daughter, grief, loss, heaven, faith, grieving, mom www.herviewfromhome.com

“We know days don’t come easy for you and so we chose to band together and compose a love letter in your honor. Funny thing when it comes to mamas in Heaven: we find each other and form a tribe like a sisterhood on earth. We comfort one another when you’re hurting and we brag up the wazoo when you accomplish anything. Actually, we brag from morning till night. Yesterday Kim’s mama made us gather around and listen for over an hour how her daughter graduated college with honors although she had mononucleosis for two semesters. Right now, Sara’s mama...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Know the Importance of a Dad, Because I Lost Mine Too Soon

In: Death of a Parent, Journal
Dear Husband, I Know the Importance of a Dad, Because I Lost Mine Too Soon www.herviewfromhome.com

Dad was enlightened. He knew that every small moment mattered. He was silly, too. He made funny faces at me in every situation. He told stories of sailing to China on container ships, and he practiced Tai Chi every morning. He knew how to engage my creativity, spreading butcher paper all over the living room floor so I could draw on and on and on. His collection of string instruments and the bright, whimsical canvases he painted in oil decorated our home. We danced and sang to Ry Cooder and David Lindley and ate slices of juicy red watermelon on...

Keep Reading

To Those Who Know the Bitter Hurt of Losing a Parent

In: Death of a Parent, Grief
Sad woman head in her hands sitting against a wall

To the young adults out there who have lost parents, this one is for you. You experienced a great loss and you’re still so young with so much life ahead of you. You often wonder how you can make it through the rest of your life without the parent who is no longer here. I see you struggling. On the outside, you hold it together. You keep a smile and hold your head up high; you want to take on the world and embrace life. You meet new people and want to tell them your story because maybe they understand....

Keep Reading

Mother’s Day Magnifies the Loss of My Own Mom, and It’s Still Hard

In: Death of a Parent, Grief, Motherhood
Mother's Day Magnifies the Loss of My Own Mom, and It's Still Hard www.herviewfromhome.com

“Your mother’s gone,” my dad said as he walked into our apartment. Those words still haunt me, even 19 years later. My mother’s death wasn’t a surprise—she had been battling lung cancer for sixteen months—I just wasn’t ready to hear it. The finality of it all. My mother was gone. Those few days, weeks and months remain somewhat of a blur. I was very angry and bitter. I had recently started dating a wonderful man (my now-husband, Brian) and our lives revolved around parties and other social events.  But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to be happy. While out...

Keep Reading