Coping with death and grief, 10 things I have learned.
I started this blog on August 19 in hopes of creating some good karma for the day. My father-in-law died on August 19th, 2004, and it has been a hard day for us ever since. I know it’s just a day, a number, and the 19th doesn’t make him any more dead than any other day of the year. But it’s still brutal. The teens of August are miserable for me. The 19th. It’s the last teen so it seems endless til the day arrives, we grieve once again, and then life seems normal again.
My father-in-law died in a work related accident. My husband and I were only 23 and 24 when he died. Not even married for two years. Looking back at this day, almost 15 years later, it isn’t any damn easier but we have learned a lot about grief, loss, and life.
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What I have learned about coping with death and grief
1. First and foremost, “You don’t get over it, you just make room.”
It may be corny to quote “The Walking Dead” but it is the most accurate description I have come across. You never get over this, you simply learn to live with it. Some days are easier than others but you never truly get over it.
2. Life is short.
One tiny slip, and it could all be over. When I got the phone call that my father-in-law was dead, my heart sank into my gut. I remember thinking, “It takes one phone call to change everything.” And because of this I know that being alive is gift. The last time you see someone could be the last time you see them.
3. Life can change instantly.
Our life could easily be divided into before my father-in-laws death and after. In the blink of an eye. Everything changes.
One thing people don’t say about grief, is that you remember ever aspect of the death day. I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t remember the joy and elation in my husband’s voicemail when I heard he would be home on Friday for the weekend. Then my heart breaking at the next message when he told me his dad was dead. Then listening to the next message as my husband’s aunt wanted to desperately know where my husband was so she could let him know the tragic news. I know exactly where I was. The weather. The feelings. My heart dropping. In that moment I knew my life had changed forever.
4. Hard times reveal true character.
Death brings out the best and worst in people. The people who support you the most don’t have to be family. Blood makes you related, but loyalty makes you family.
5. “You won’t be better for a long time, and you will never be the same.”
This quote from the tv show The Affair, I heard only recently and it rings so true. Days, weeks, and months go by where you really aren’t ok. But eventually you reach a point where life seems to have gone back to normal, but you aren’t the same. Not in a bad way, it’s just different.
6. Grief hits you when you least expect it.
We have had meltdowns after watching United 93, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings. You never know when that grief will strike you and you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach like the moment you found out.
7. Time heals shit.
Time heals all wounds is bullshit. A great quote I found is “They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite.” Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince.
8. Your kid’s relationship with their dead grandparent is difficult.
I felt tremendous guilt that my kids never got to meet their other grandpa. But I don’t want to burden them with my loss. It’s a delicate balance between remembrance and baggage.
We try to keep the memory alive, but it is difficult. Little girls can’t really understand/comprehend the fact. But we still try. They didn’t understand he saved a baby high chair for us. They don’t understand how he would have laughed endlessly at their antics.
He deserved to be a grandfather. He deserved to meet them. But that isn’t how life works. It’s hard. And we grieve. And yet we smile when we see the little bit of him in each of our girls.
9. You will feel their presence.
No matter your beliefs, religion, or skepticism. There will be days when you feel your loved one with you 🙂
10. Grief changes you.
But know that you can move on. Don’t let yourself get stuck. Being alive is a gift. Don’t waste that gift.
Coping with death and grief is a continuous process and changes as you go through different stages of life. How I help my husband cope with the death of his father is different today than it was in the days after my father-in-law’s death. But one thing that has never changed is my complete support and emotional availableness any time he needs it.
Very well said Katie. I so agree. Time does not heal all wounds but we just carry on. Losing a parent or a child or any close family member, never goes away. We just cope the best we can. You have built a beautiful family and I am sure Jason’s dad is very proud.
Thank you so much Sharon. Your loss was such a tragedy and I can’t begin to imagine losing a child. But death does teach us about empathy for others in a much deeper way. Jason and I have been through a lot, but so many others have experienced much worse. I am so sorry for you loss and thank you so much for reading. Your kind words mean so much to me 🙂
I agree! This is very simply and very well expressed. The only thing I’d add is that it also helps you comfort others better when they go through a similar loss. Rather than glib, pat remarks, you can actually KNOW what will help them in their grief, rather than add to it. I’m sorry this date is painful for you. Comfort and peace to you and your family.
Thanks so much Heather. And yes, it is so much easier to talk to people when you have gone through something similar. I usually find myself without words and express how much the situation sucks. It’s probably not the most eloquent answer but sometimes that is what the situation is. The day was surprisingly well. No breakdowns. Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂
Wow, I agree with everything. You adapt to the grief and pain but it never “goes away”. After my brother’s and father’s deaths I developed a level of compassion and empathy for others I never had before. Thank you for being honest about grief!
Thank you so much. I pride myself in the ability to be honest about things. I, too, have found my compassion for others has improved. We went through a lot with my father-in-law’s death, but others have experienced much bigger tragedies. Thank you so much for reading, and I am so sorry for your losses. Have a lovely weekend.
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
Wonderful pointers Katie. We had a horrible year with a dear friend, who at the tender age of 28 was struck and killed by a car. Then several months later my beloved grandmother died.
Grief comes in crazy waves… and it takes some time but eventually we find our “new normal”.
Thanks so much for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop)!
Wishing you a lovely weekend.
Yes, the “new normal” is a great way to put it. As sad as it is, we adjust to life afterwards and it is sometimes hard to remember what life was like before. Thanks for reading!
Your Spot on
NO ONE Truly understands till it happens too them
I came across your ‘10 things I have learned about grief and loss’.
I lost my dad, will be 3 years in June this year 2020.
And I still struggle with the grief and loss of him everyday.
People keep telling me it’s okay to let go, but I just can’t, as I think if I do I will lose everything about him, I have locked deep in my heart and mind 😢
But looking at what you have written actually makes sense 😊
I wasn’t sure if I was going to comment but after seeing you and your beautiful smiling face I just had to. I clicked on this site because I just learned today that my
son in law found out just yesterday on Facebook that a very close friend of his had died suddenly. He had just been talking and laughing with his friend two days before. I am going to send this to him tonight because I feel it will help him, maybe not today but eventually. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on grief because they will be a help for many!
I am so sorry for your son-in-law’s loss. I hope he finds the article helpful. Thank you so much for sharing it with him.
This is exactly right. I am a wife of an angel. Its only been 3 months. I know who I can rely on and who I have been distancing from. I am not the person I was before December 22,2022. Thank you for this. I really appreciate your words
I am so sorry for your loss. I’m glad my words brought you some comfort. Sending virtual hugs. ❤️