What Grief Has Taught Me


Reflections After 6 years

It's very surreal to think that 6 years ago was the last morning I would wake up with my father still a part of this world. By that evening, his life had ended, and my most serious grief journey had begun. It's equally surreal to think that I somehow survived 6 years in a world without him.

As awful as grief is (and let's not pretend otherwise), it's also been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I don't recommend tremendous loss, per se, but, when it finds you, if you'll let it, grief can be an incredible teacher.

Here's what I now know.


"Mourning," oil on canvas, 2012 Anatoly Shumkin

  • You will never stop missing them. You will never stop loving them. You will never stop thinking about them. You will eventually learn to find the beauty in this even though it’s really annoying when people say things like that.
  • There is no time limit on grief. Your friends and family and the world may move on, but you’re allowed to grieve as deeply and as fully as you need for as long as you need. It will probably be much, much harder for much, much longer than you anticipated. You might find yourself still crying over your aching heart 6 years later. Or so I’m told.
  • Get some lovely handkerchiefs – tissue is so wasteful.
  • Therapy really helps. Bring the handkerchiefs.
  • Yoga really helps. Bring the handkerchiefs.
  • It’s okay to try mediums and shamans and psychics, but, it’s really best to learn to establish your own direct connection to the guidance and love you’re seeking. It’s there, if you’re open. Plus, it’s much cheaper.
  • Find a creative outlet for your anger before it swallows you.
  •  Find a creative outlet for your sorrow before it swallows you.
  • Find a creative outlet for your love and allow it to swallow you.
  • Every loss will hit you completely differently, and every person and their every loss will hit them completely differently. There are plenty of opportunities for all of us to eventually experience so many different kinds of suffering, so don’t compare, or congratulate yourself too much.
  • The person you were also died when they did. Rebirth your new self patiently, lovingly, kindly, and well.
  • Spend as much as possible with art, poetry, and beauty. And definitely watch ‘This Is Us.’
  • You will never replace them, since cloning humans is not available to most of us yet. But you can find other people who can offer many of the same activities or qualities you loved best about them. Maybe you will need one person for every single amazing gift that person brought into your life, but thankfully the world is overpopulated with potential options.
  • Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and of course the day they died will basically always suck. Even after 6 years as one of them creeps up you might find yourself taking it out on the screen printer in a rage-filled email. Or so I’m told.
  • Be gentle with yourself, even when you send rage-filled emails.
  • Appreciate the people you love right now. They too, one day, will be gone (it’s a bummer, I know).
  • People live on through memories and stories (and street names, too, I suppose). Think of them often, and share about them as often as you need.
  • Be the kind of person and lead the kind of life worthy of someone’s totally awful, sobbing, angry-email-inspiring, alchemizing, life-changing grief.