Good Grief

For those who follow this blog, you may know that I have had a time these last couple of years with the sudden death of my mother, care of my dad and then the brief, yet emotional drain of seeing my dad go from seemingly functioning, to a fall, then hospice and then his death on January 6th.  I still feel that I am in that in-between time and land: where I cannot go back and cannot go forward. It is difficult for me to concentrate, sleep and generally function.   I know that it is the physical process of grief and yet it is frustrating nonetheless. Part of me wants the pain of grieving to be over and another part of me wants to wallow in it.

I went to see the bereavement counselor supplied by the hospice.  She was very helpful.  I look at the scenario leading up to my dad's death and I see the many blessings of God's hand: while it seemed like the days went on forever while we waited in the hospital for a clear diagnosis of what was going on and then the days spent in the hospice, yet from the time he went to the ER until his death was just three weeks.  Not too long when others spend years with chronic and declining illnesses. Because we had dad tested over the past summer and had a grasp of his capabilities and decline, we were able to present an accurate picture to the doctors and the hospice so that dad received the best care. I am so grateful that his decline and end did not happen when I was incapacitated with my own surgery recovery. 

While dad was in hospice he was able to see and spend some time with all of his children. My one sister was there when he took his final breath. His "financial" affairs were all in order.  He was ready to see my mom. He and I were ready to part- no regrets with either party.   I feel very fortunate to have spent much time with my parents.  The last couple of years were transactional- they needed help and care from me, just like when I was little and needed help and care from them.  But the subsequent years in-between were great.  My parents and I and then later, my husband and sons enjoyed spending time together, enjoying The Cape, going on trips, visiting extended family, visiting museums, playing games, sharing hobbies together. 

Even with all the good memories I find I am still grieving.  Grieving is not bad.  It is part of life and death. It is a process we all must go through. Grief can be for a number of reasons, not just for the present death of a loved one.  Perhaps it is the regret of the past- a poor choice and its consequences.  Or it can be grief for the future- a loss of a dream or expectation.  I think there are positive attributes with grief, once the shock of loss is worn off and the day to day existence commences.  Good grief brings about a clarity of purpose, of reevaluation of life's plans and of one's mortality.  Grieving the past may be the only way to put it in its place- the past.  Grieving the future may help narrow the purpose and plans of one's life.

With all my muddling and aimlessly wondering around the house, I have had time to ruminate on all that has happened in my and my parents' lives. I find that my grief comes at a time when I am also grieving unmet expectations of extended family and of my own future and career.  I know that my grieving goes back before the death of both parents, it extends to my parent's decline and my increased roll of caregiver.  I also recognize that I gave so much of my time and emotional energy to extended family that I am reevaluating where I spend my time now. I feel that I spent so much lost time and emotional energy over senseless things and situations over which I had no control.  

It is if a fog is starting to lift.  No more are all objects shrouded in heaviness and angst. I am beginning to distinguish shapes.  I still have a long way to go but I feel a peace on the scene that is unfolding.

What about you?  How is your experience with grief?  Grieving a person?  A situation?  A lost dream?  A future?  A past?  What has helped you muddle through?  Have you felt at peace?  Has it lasted? 

Things you may experience when you are grieving:  (resource page from Gilchrist Hospice)


  • hyperactive or under active
  • feelings of unreality, e.g. detached from body
  • physical distress- chest pains, abdominal pains, headaches, nausea
  • fatigue
  • appetite change
  • weight change
  • sleep difficulties (getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking up)
  • restlessness
  • crying and sighing
  • feelings of emptiness or a physical void
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness or lump in throat


  • shock/numbness
  • anxiety
  • fear
  • sadness/sorrow
  • anger
  • irritability
  • guilt
  • relief
  • loneliness
  • longing
  • meaninglessness
  • apaty
  • vulnerability
  • abandonment


  • overly sensitive
  • dependent
  • withdrawn
  • avoidant of others
  • lack of initiative
  • lack of interest


  • forgetfulness
  • difficulty concentrating/focusing
  • slowed thinking
  • wandering aimlessly
  • dreaming of the deceased, or sensing his/her presence
  • searching for the deceased
  • needing to retell the story of person's death
  • avoiding talking about loss for others' comfort


A Daughter's Tribute

In a week we will have a memorial service for my mom.  I wrote the following in the wee hours of the first night after learning of her death. The thoughts are random and certainly reflect my state of grief. I share with you so that you too might think of your loved ones.  Whether they are alive or not, it is good to reflect on the qualities of those we love.  I would encourage you to write out that reflection and what that person means (meant) to you.  If you are fortunate to have your loved one still alive, I would encourage you to send him/her a note telling them.  We never know what tomorrow will bring.

Mom and I at our beloved beach

Mom and I at our beloved beach

I am awakened in the early hours of Easter.  I cannot sleep.  This afternoon I received the call that my mother had died. I know that I am still in shock. Yet I know that the best way for me to honor and remember her is through words. 

My mom loved words.  She loved a well turned phrase. She loved books.  She was a veracious reader.  In the years she and my dad lived at a retirement center, she was an active part in the community library, reading every book that was purchased or donated to the facility before she placed on the shelf.  One of my earliest childhood memories is of her reading the Children's Illustrated Bible to me at bedtime. I can still hear her voice telling the story of Jesus' birth, David and Goliath or Joseph and his brothers.

Mom loved Jesus.  She loved stories and words that told of Him and His love for mankind.  Words were her way to impart God's love to others.  She was the queen of sending a note of encouragement or a card or remembrance for a birthday or anniversary.

Mom loved music especially hymns.  She played the piano from an early age and her maternal grandfather, a Presbyterian minister, would have her play hymns.  "Keep up girlie," he would say to her if he felt she was dragging the hymn tempo on a hymn that he thought (and it seemed that he thought most) should move along.

She had a way of making the music speak to the tenure of the worship service.  That music was to be used as another expression of God's love.  Whether in church through her role as organist/choir director or through her teaching as an elementary music education, she would explain to the congregation or audience the meaning of the words and how they connected to one's life or situation. Long before it was part of the educational curriculum she would tie the songs, folksongs to whatever the children were learning in the classroom.  She imparted the idea of looking at things broadly- get the bigger picture and interconnectedness of life.

 She believed without a shadow of doubt that Christ was the son of God and that He came to earth with the sole purpose to rescue us and bring us back into community with God.  He was sent to bridge the gap of separation with God.  Our original sin, when we disobeyed God, placed us with a chasm between being in absolute communion with God.  Christ came to be the sacrificial one, to once and for all bridge the gap so that we might have eternal community with God.  

I believe without a shadow of doubt that she is with her God and Savior.  She is also in the community of the saints who went before her.  She has reunited with her mom, dad, aunts, uncles, dear friends and her grandfather.

My mom was passionate about life and about certain things.  Whatever she became involved with, she did so with gusto.  When my one sister and her family were missionaries in Africa, my mom sent them regular care packages.  They were not for their personal use, but because mom had heard that the clinic where my sister worked did not have any linens, she would send boxes upon boxes of sheets that she found on sale or at estate sales. She could've filled a container ship with the amount of boxes she sent. 

There is a hole and ache in my heart that I do not have her here physically with me.  I knew this day would come but no one is really prepared for it.  I do believe that I too will see her one day when the temporal world in which I live is replaced for the eternal one with God.  For now I can only wish that I impart and encourage others like she did through my words.

I was blessed to have such a loving mom.  She was not a famous, wealthy or powerful person but she was influential on her family and in her small circle of friends.  She will be missed. 


"Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted."  

These are words spoken by Jesus in a section called the Beatitudes. I always thought that it seemed a strange thing for Jesus to say. Most people that I know who mourn or are in mourning don't feel too blessed.

Yet  beatitude means supreme blessedness.  As I am still in the process of mourning the loss of my mother I cannot say that I feel supremely blessed but I do see glimmers of blessed-ness every day.

I see the blessedness of re-connection with family with whom I haven't spoken in a long time.  It might be because of the heightened emotion of grief yet I feel the familial ties and the instant connection when we speak.  There is no pretense nor apologies needed for not connecting sooner.  It is just a comfortable connection of love.

I see the blessedness in the strengthening bonds of friendship.  So many people have offered to help and have cared for our family's immediate needs. It is through the intensity of life and death that binds us closer to one another. We see those who are there for our family through the difficult times. 

I see the blessedness in the ability to view life with an eternal perspective.  Nothing like a death to pull me up short to realize what is truly important in life overall and in my own life specifically.  I think that is one of the reasons that funerals make me cry.  Of course, I am thinking of the person who is gone but there is also the thinking of my own life- what have I done in it, who have I influenced, if any and will God be pleased?   I think for many a funeral is a time of personal reassessment. 

I see the blessedness in the way I view other people. Death's perspective causes me to feel a generosity and grace towards others.   We never know when it will be our last moment.  I want to live so that when I am gone, there are no regrets. Things might be left undone but nothing is left in anger, rudeness or any other negative behavior.   

What about you?  Have you ever had to grieve?  Are you still grieving?  What did you learn about yourself through that process?  What comforted you?  Do you (did you) ever feel blessed by it?