Grief has many faces

Grief has many faces

Hello there,

Last week I shared with you that I felt I was experiencing another realm of grief after my oldest son left for college. It made me think more about grief and that it’s not only related to death. In fact, grief has many faces.

While most of my posts about grief center around the loss of my husband, Larry, there are other experiences in my life that have led to me grieving. I know I’m not alone. I imagine if you’ve lived life you too have experienced grief. Grief is related to loss, but not only the loss of a loved one.

I have poured quite a bit of my heart into my weekly posts and I’m always grateful for the amount of support I receive from you, my readers.

I’m truly humbled when I get an email sharing the journey you’re on and how you could relate to what I’ve been through. Many of you have had profound losses of your own that create our common ground.

Like I said, I’m so grateful to read your stories… Yet, I’m saddened when I see the caveat that sometimes comes first: “It’s not the same as losing your husband…”

I’m saddened because I don’t want you- or anyone, for that matter- to discount your own difficulties and your own journey of healing.

But I get it. I felt the same way last week. It’s not the same as losing Larry, but it still hurts.

I had to stop myself and listen to the same advice I would give anyone else who was hurting while dealing with a life change. DO NOT discount your feelings!  

No, it’s not the same, but just because you’re not facing the loss of a loved one, doesn’t mean you’re not grieving. It doesn’t mean you don’t have your own pain that needs to heal.  

It’s a common misconception that grief is only related to the death of a loved one.

After years of grieving and educating myself on what grief truly is, I have come to understand that grief has many faces.

I’ve also learned over the years that grief is a continuous process of letting go.

One doesn’t “get over” the pain… You heal from the pain.

Unfortunately, the pain associated with letting go is part of the healing process. While I accept that some pain is more profound than others, as far as I’m concerned if you’re hurting, you’re grieving.  Rather than compare whose grief is greater I say we be respectful of each other’s pain and offer support, love and encouragement. 

In the book, Good Grief, by Granger E. Westward, he discusses the various losses we face in our lives. Regardless of the source of the sorrow, many of the emotions (shock, anger, depression, guilt, and acceptance- to name a few) are the same and require a process that allows for healing.

What would you say if I told you you’ve dealt with grief throughout your life?

Did you recognize it for what it was? Probably not, as many people don’t realize they’re grieving.

Most of us have dealt with the end of a relationship at one time or another in our lives. The end of some relationships is extremely difficult.

A separation or a divorce is devastating. Grief is constantly by your side as you go through the process of separating your lives from one another. The intensity of emotions is very high, and the pain is very real. Before one can move forward after a life changing event such as this, one needs to take time to grieve the loss of the relationship and find a positive path to healing.  

Another example is receiving the diagnosis of a child with special needs, an occasion of sorrow and pain for the parents. Having a child with special needs is an experience that can be challenging and rewarding all at the same time… But it’s not easy.

When we first learned that our son, Charlie, was diagnosed with Mosaic Down’s syndrome, Larry and I both grieved. We grieved for many reasons, but certainly not because we didn’t love him or want him. Quite the contrary, our hearts we’re grieving for the difficulties he would most likely face during his lifetime.

Then, a few years later, some of that grief resurfaced when Charlie was diagnosed with Autism. Only this time I had to grieve alone, since Larry had already passed away.

Speaking from experience, grieving alone is hard, and I really miss Larry’s bear hugs that he used to give to comfort me.

Receiving the diagnosis of a chronic illness is another life challenge that brings grief into your life. The diagnosis can be frightening, what with all the unknowns attached to it. Along with these fears comes grief, both for the unfamiliar future and for the lives that may be altered.  

As for me, when I learned how severe Larry’s illness was, I grieved for him, our family and our future. This also brought on a lot of anxiety, which I will discuss in another post.

Another form of grief that’s becoming all too common in many families is the one that accompanies depression and all forms of mental illness, including addictions. The individual isn’t the only one affected, because basically anyone who loves the person ends up suffering too.

For years I grieved the loss of a loved one who faced addiction and mental illness. Not because this loved one has died, but because this person is no longer the person I once knew.

Unfortunately, over the years many people have lost their job. That loss is usually followed by other losses (home, relationships, etc.). These individuals may very well find themselves engulfed in grief- and they, too, must find a path towards healing.

Many of these losses cause profound changes in our lives and can certainly rock the very core of our existence.

And though not all grief is that deep, we still need to pay attention and recognize that “grief is grief” and steps need to be taken to heal, to create a new path.

One grief that is not always recognized is the one parents face as we watch our children grow. (Which, by the way, is not to be confused with the “grief” we get from day-to-day parenting- that’s more exasperation than anything else!)

The grief I’m referring to is the sadness (even depression), the anger (have you ever looked at your adolescent and wondered who the heck they were?), and eventually the acceptance that it’s necessary for our children to become independent and eventually leave our homes.

This is the grief I’ve been experiencing. I have had bouts of sadness, anger (sometimes even directed at my son) and even moments of shock. Where the heck did time go?!


Whatever life challenges you face, along with them come a whole range of emotions. Recognizing them for what they are- parts of grief- is the first step. The next step is getting on the path to healing. And, if you’ll allow me, I’ll be there to lend a helping hand.

So even though it’s been almost nine years since Larry died, each day I still face having to let go of the life we had together. I must now let go of my children as they do what nature intended for them, to move on and be independent.

I pray every day that I’m given the strength, wisdom and courage to continue the path I’ve chosen to help me heal. I pray you are given the same.

Many Blessings,


I’ll See You Later

I’ll See You Later

Hi There,

Before my husband, Larry, passed away, we lived in Arizona most of the year. We were fortunate to spend our summers and holidays in Illinois. This allowed the boys to get close with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. On the flip side, family enjoyed visiting us, especially during the spring training season. 

At the end of each visit when our guests would leave and give everybody a hug and say goodbye, Henry would usually respond with, “Bye, see you later”. Sometimes a little too energetically! This started a good-natured bantering between Henry and our relatives.

“I’m going to miss you Henry will you miss me?” One of them asked. To my embarrassment Henry would laugh and say, “no”. The other person would pretend to be hurt and say in a joking manner, “I’m going to miss you. You won’t miss me at all?” Henry’s response was always the same, “I’m not going to miss you because I’m going to see you again!” And then we would all laugh.

For the most part he was right. In just a few months we would be back in Illinois for the summer and we would see them. It became a running joke that Henry never missed anyone. A stance he has since passed on to Charlie! The great innocence of kids is they don’t waste time worrying about what they might lose in the future. Too bad we can’t stay innocent forever.

Unfortunately, when Henry lost his uncle, then his grandmother, he was very young, but he started to realize that death meant you wouldn’t be able to see the person again. 

When Larry got sick, I was worried how I would handle the boys asking me questions about death and the possibility of Larry dying. To my surprise, when we told the boys that Larry was sick and had to go to the hospital, none of them questioned whether he would die. If they had I would have told them the truth, “we don’t know, but dad was going to get the best care possible.”

After going through a very difficult round of chemo, Larry’s body didn’t respond as we had hoped it would and we knew we wouldn’t have much time left with him. I had to tell my boys their dad was going to die. One of the worst moments of my life.

With the help of a Child life specialist, I sat with the three boys and told them the doctors had done everything they could, but dad was not going to be with us much longer. Henry knew right away what that meant and started to cry. My heart was already breaking knowing I was losing my husband, seeing my boys in pain, pretty much shattered it.

Over the next couple of days, I tried to encourage the boys to see their dad, who was no longer conscious. I wanted to help them find their own way of saying goodbye. George and Charlie couldn’t get enough of touching Larry, crawling in bed beside him, talking to him. Henry on the other hand kept a certain distance of space between him and Larry. Being a little older than George and Charlie I think he understood a little more how final death really was. Henry knew this was our final goodbye, and Henry didn’t want to say goodbye. None of us did. 

After Larry died, the boys and I attended and participated in a grief therapy program at New Song, the center for grieving children. While this helped me and the boys tremendously, grief never completely goes away and over the years we have all experienced challenges at one time or another.

Of my three children, I believe Henry has had the most difficult time facing his grief and trying to heal from it. Freshman and sophomore year of high school were probably his most difficult years as his grief resurfaced. I prayed every day he would find peace, happiness and love in his heart. 

During his Junior year he went on a retreat at school called Kairo’s. It was during this retreat that I feel he really found the peace he had been searching for. And the rest of his high school years were pretty “typical”, and I was more than happy to see my son experience joy in his life. 

I felt blessed that he had some wonderful opportunities ahead of him. Grateful that he may have a chance of creating a life for himself that would allow him to be happy and independent. That’s really all I’ve wanted for all my kids, for them to be happy and independent. 

As much as I love my kids and wish I could keep them under my wings for as long as possible, I know that’s not realistic. I just wish the time didn’t go by so fast. A reminder to cherish every moment I can while they are in my home.

Throughout the summer many people would ask me how I was feeling knowing Henry would be leaving and going to school almost 1,500 miles away from home. I would respond that I really tried hard not to think about it. I wanted to enjoy the time we had as much as I could. It was my way of coping with the inevitable, when my son leaves, it’s not only his life that is changing but mine as well.

Then the weekend that I secretly dreaded came and we flew to Chicago.  We shopped for his dorm room, we visited family and enjoyed our last few days together.

The atmosphere when we arrived on campus was festive and the day took off like a whirlwind. Football meetings, a condensed parent orientation and a short window of time to move into the dorm room took up most of the day. The final event was a pig roast for the football team and parents. Even that didn’t last long. The freshman players we’re required to leave the pig roast to go meet with the doctor to assess any injuries they may have come to camp with and after was a full team meeting. Parents were told to say goodbye after the pig roast.

Wait, I wanted to shout, this is too fast, I need more time.

Secretly, I think the coach did this on purpose. No time for long drawn out weepy goodbyes!

Henry walked me to my car, and true to form, gave me a kiss, and said, “See ya later mom, I gotta go.” And off he went. No, “I’ll miss you”!

I watched him go, got in my car and waited. I waited for tears to come, but they didn’t.

Ok, I thought, it will hit me when I get home.

My flight was delayed, so I didn’t get home until after one in the morning. I was so tired I went straight to bed. I’ll face his absence in the morning, I thought as I crawled into bed. For sure the tears will come then.

But the tears didn’t come. Instead, I felt a little numb.  

Of course, being a mother, I felt guilty. Is there something wrong with me? My first child left for college, and there are no tears?

Oh no, have I adopted Henry’s stance on not missing people?!

Of course, the answer is no to all the above. I know I’m not a terrible mother for not shedding tears and I certainly WILL miss him, even though I will see him very soon.  

Instead of breaking down in tears I’ve had other challenges. I’ve had difficulty focusing or concentrating on my work. I’ve found myself wandering aimlessly throughout my house knowing there was so much to do, yet not really feeling like doing anything.

With all the boys back in school I’ve had my to do list ready and waiting for me to tackle each task one by one. This past week I’ve had zero motivation to do any of it.

What is wrong with me?

By Saturday, while I was sitting around watching TV, (remember no motivation) a little light bulb went on over my head and that’s when it hit me. I’ve experienced all these symptoms before. There was another time in my life that I had to recreate my life, recreate what the nucleus of my family looked like. That time was after Larry died.

It’s another realm of grief. It’s different than the grief I felt when Larry died, but it is grief, nonetheless.

After years of working so hard to create a new life for me and the boys, I’m realizing now I must work on creating a new life just for me. Henry going to college is just the beginning. I have a little time with George and Charlie still at home, but in two years they will be off to college, and I know just how fast the two years can go.

Oh boy, here we go again!

I mentioned above that I pray everyday for my boys to be happy and independent, well I think it’s time to include myself in those prayers.

Here’s to creating a Life that I want to Live!

Here’s to YOU creating a Life YOU want to Live!

I pray we all find the strength to make it happen.

Many Blessings,