10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Grief

When I was in my Master’s program, we had to do a yearlong unpaid internship. I wanted to work with the Seriously Mentally Ill, people with diagnoses so serious that they need extra support to function in society.

I didn’t get the internship I wanted. Instead, I was assigned to work in Hospice. If I had to rank where I wanted to work, grief would have come last. So of course, that’s where I needed to be.

It ended up being an amazing experience, and I learned a lot. I’m from the “suck it up and deal” school of grief management, so I had to learn everything about grief, including how to be sensitive to how others grieve.

Here are some of the things I learned.

  1. There is no wrong way to grieve. Before I worked in hospice, I really believed that my way was the best way and that people who were more open to feeling their emotions were doing it wrong. The truth is that people grieve in a myriad of ways, and most of them are healthy.
  2. People grieve the way they live. This is the single most important piece of information I ever got. Expressive people tend to grieve more expressively. People who tend to turn inward do the same with grief.
  3. There’s no end date. Sometimes other people set a deadline for the grieving person, that they should stop being upset in a year, or two years, or whatever it is. The truth is that grief doesn’t just end. It often does hurt less over time, but sometimes, especially anniversaries, birthdays, and milestones can make the grief fresh and new.
  4. Grieving people DO want you to reach out. They don’t expect you to have the right words (though there are wrong ones), but they want you to acknowledge their pain. Contacting them on anniversaries, birthdays, etc. is a thoughtful and welcome gesture.
  5. There are wrong things to say. These include things like, “Aren’t you over it yet?” or “It’s time to move on.” Depending on the belief system of the person, “It was meant to be” or “They’re in a better place” can also be hurtful.
  6. Grieving people want to talk about the one who died. Bringing up the lost loved one won’t “remind” them; the loved one isn’t far from their mind anyway. It’s important to say the loved one’s name and share memories to show that even though they’re gone, they aren’t forgotten.
  7. You can’t ever be prepared, not really. Whether the death is sudden or you knew it was coming, most of the time, you’ll wish for one more day with your loved one. In some situations, you can start the grieving process ahead of time, but it’s always difficult, no matter what.
  8. It’s not your responsibility to grieve in a way that makes people comfortable. Death and grief make people uncomfortable. Real, raw feelings make people uncomfortable. If the way you grieve makes someone uncomfortable, that’s okay. Take ownership of your feelings and let others take ownership of theirs.
  9. People will say stupid things, but it’s probably not intentional. When people get uncomfortable, they say things as a way to make them feel better or more comfortable. Even though it often doesn’t work, they’re not trying to hurt your feelings. We’re not really taught what to do with emotion, so we’re all just floundering around trying to deal. (raises hand)
  10. There are five stages of grief, but people don’t usually go through them in a linear fashion. The stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. They can happen in any order, and you can go through any stage more than once. The stages can also overlap, like you can be in bargaining and anger at the same time. In a nutshell? Grieving is a mess. It’s important to be kind to yourself as you grieve and understand that all those feelings are normal.

I could probably write a list much longer than this one, but ten is always a manageable number. Is there anything you’d like to add?

D is for (Books About) Death #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I’m talking about Death, the character, not death, the event. I used to read a ton of Greek mythology, and my favorite myth was always about Persephone and Hades. I always felt that Hades didn’t get nearly enough screen time in the stories. He was certainly more interesting to me than Zeus or Poseidon.

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak (literary): During World War II, Death is struggling to make sense of the world. He narrates the story of Liesel, a young lady who steals books and tells stories. This is such an interesting premise, and it was so well done.

On A Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony (fantasy): Death’s job is to weigh people’s souls and figure out if they’re supposed to go up… or down. Zane gets the job by accidentally killing the old Death, only to find that he was set up, and he’s embroiled in a conspiracy. This was a fast read, and I loved that Anthony integrated a number of different death tropes, but put a different spin on them.

I enjoy when Death is a well done main character. Are there any books you can think of featuring Death?

L is for Loss

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Loss is part of life, one of the most difficult parts.  As humans, we resist change, yet grow bored when things stay too long the same.  I didn’t fully appreciate the lush green of Pennsylvania until I moved away.  It was only then that I realized the  green was bright and full of life, and everywhere.  When I first moved to Arizona, the brown and heat seemed so clean and so lovely in a stark, simple way.  I told this to a friend who’s lived here all his life, and he shrugged and said, “I don’t see it that way.  I just want to get away.” Loss reminds us of what we have, strangely enough.  In the days, weeks, and months after my grandfather died, I kept wishing I had called him more often.  Neither of us were particularly chatty, so it probably would have puzzled him if I had called for no reason… but I still wish I had. During the brief time I worked in Hospice, I met a lot of people, and no one ever regretted the things they did so much as they regretted what they didn’t do.  We all get busy with life and assume there’s going to be more time.  More time to do, to love, to laugh, to cry, to see, to know. The fact is: there’s only today.  So enjoy it.  Wring every drop you can from it.  And if tomorrow comes, do it all over again.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” -Norman Cousins

Tales from Jerome

This past weekend, my mom and I went to Jerome.  I knew she’d love it because I did, and we tend to have the same kind of taste when it comes to that stuff.

Sunrise view from our hotel; Photo credit: Doree Weller

Sunrise view from our hotel; Photo credit: Doree Weller

I was there a year and a half ago with my husband, and I loved it then too.  But I “see” different things depending on who I’m with.

The Grand Hotel, high on the hill; Photo Credit Doree Weller

The Grand Hotel, high on the hill; Photo Credit Doree Weller

My mom and I stayed at the Grand Hotel.  It sits high on the hill above the town and is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in Jerome.  We did a ghost tour, and went from boiler room to 4th floor and heard tales of suicides and a potential murder.

See, Jerome was a mining town from the 1900s, and the Grand Hotel was the United Verde Hospital, built in 1926.  They had an emergency room, a psych ward, and later, a maternity ward.  The hospital was shut down for years, until it was purchased and renovated into a hotel.  They tried to keep it quiet that there were ghosts, but people kept asking, so in 1998, they went public and started giving tours.

During the tour, Chris, the owner’s nephew, gave out EMFs, laser thermometers, and digital cameras.  I had a camera and got a few orbs, but nothing terribly exciting.  Something banged in the boiler room at a dramatic point in the story, but it could have just been coincidence.  It probably was… right?

So what do you think?  Orb?  Speck of dust?

So what do you think? Orb? Speck of dust?

After the tour, my mom was determined to encounter a ghost, so she talked to them and kept prompting them to talk to her.  Chris said people could borrow the equipment for the night, so we borrowed an EMF and thermometer.  But still… nothing.

After my mom fell asleep, I started to hear an odd rattling.  We had already been there the night before, and I hadn’t heard anything like that.  It wasn’t like a cell-phone-on-vibrate-rattle (and besides, neither of us missed any calls).  I bought a book, Arizona Ghost Stories, by Antonio R. Garcez from the gift shop.  In the book, someone mentioned hearing a squeaking noise, as if from an old hospital cart being pushed down the hall.  Yeah… I heard that.  It also felt like something nudged the bed, hard, about three or four times.  So, I’m pretty sure I had a run in with a ghost, and it felt playful rather than malicious, as if they were joking around with me since my mom had been so eager to make contact.

In my opinion, no trip to Jerome is complete without a stop to Nellie Bly, the kaleidoscope shop.  So we did that and I bought myself a new and fun kaleidoscope (or three) and then came home to my ghost free environment.

Have you ever encountered a ghost?

The Fault In Our Stars- A Review

UnknownThe Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, is new to my favorites books list.  The author is careful to state that the book is non-fiction.  It’s about Hazel, who has been terminally ill with cancer since she was 13.  She’s now 17, and knows she’s lived longer than she should have.  Her mother thinks she’s depressed and makes her go to a cancer support group, where she meets Augustus.

Augustus lost a leg to cancer, but is now in remission.  He and Hazel share a dark and unique sense of humor that made me laugh even while it made me think.  Despite Hazel’s death sentence, she and Augustus fall in love.

There’s more to this story, much more, but I wouldn’t want to spoil even a moment for you.  For some people, this book might be depressing, and I’ll admit that there were times it made me cry.  But the fact that the kids lived despite so many things is uplifting to me.

I raced through this book and then bought it.  I can’t wait for it to show up so that I can highlight parts of it.  Yes, THAT’S how much I loved it.

Highly, highly, highly recommend it.  I need to borrow other people’s thumbs in order to give it enough thumb’s up.

My Year, Up ‘Til Now

From the Daily Prompt: State of My Year

IMG_0796First off, I can’t believe 2013 is over halfway over.  I knew 2013 was going to be a good year (Lucky number 13!), and so far, it has been.  Yeah, it’s had it’s ups and downs, but for the most part, it’s been good.

This year, I had a visit from my sister in law, took a cruise to the Bahamas, went to Vegas with a friend, took a glassblowing class, made a few new friends, and my parents moved to Arizona.  I’ve been swimming and hiking.  I’ve had lazy weekends at home and super-productive-busy weekends.  I had a ton of zucchini and tomatoes from my garden, and it’s looking like I’m going to have a bumper crop of lemons come winter.

We had to put my 13 1/2  year old German Shepherd down as she was sick and couldn’t get around on her own.  She was a good friend, but I’m not too sad because I know she’ll be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.

I’ve rediscovered my love of putting pictures in photo albums, so I have one more hobby.  I’ve been reunited with my beloved desk.

2013 has been really good to me so far, and I fully intend to enjoy the rest of it!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

I *try* not to complain.  Some people take the attitude that things can always be worse, and I suppose that’s usually true.  But that’s not why I try not to complain.  For me, it’s more about this: I only have one life to live.  It’s mine.  I can’t control everything in it, nor would I want to.  I actually try to embrace the chaos.  But the fact is that whatever hand I’ve been dealt, it’s mine, and it’s no use to complain about the cards.  Sometimes it feels good for a minute, but it doesn’t change the cards and just delays the inevitable… whatever play I end up making with them.

I really believe that attitude is everything and that most of us make our own luck.  I try to send positive out into the universe, and hope that I’ll get mostly positive in return.  We all have personal tragedies… unfortunately none of us can get through life without them.  People die… loved ones get sick… we ourselves get sick… there’s loss and pain… And none of us can escape those things.  So why not be happy/ grateful/ content with what I have today, knowing that tomorrow it could be different?

I remember with love the ones I’ve lost… my friend John… Jamie… my grandmothers… my grandfathers… my mother and father in law… my grandparents in law… pets…  I miss them, and am even more grateful for those I still have.  Yes, I get mad at those I love.  I’m only human.  But I try to remember what they bring to my life (other than aggravation).  Love, laughter, friendship, a shoulder to cry on.

I know this is a photo challenge, but I felt thoughtful and wanted to share.  So… in pictures…

Family and friends…

Discovering exercise I actually love… hiking!

Quiet time…


Good health…

Y is for Yesterday

“Yesterday… All my troubles seemed so far away.  Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.  Oh I believe… in yesterday…”- Paul McCartney, from Yesterday

After a loved one dies, it’s not unusual to re-evaluate life.  My husband’s grandfather died last week, which is part of the reason my posts have been so sporadically timed this last week and why I haven’t been very good about reading other A-Z bloggers.  I’ve had a lot on my mind.

My husband’s family is from Poland, and my husband’s generation is the first one born here in the US.  We found pictures from before his family immigrated, a treasure trove of black and white photos.  In the pictures, people are gathered around with food and drink, laughing and having a good time.  There are pictures of his grandparents doing simple things, like cooking and working in the garden.  There are first day of school photos and photos from funerals.  Later, there are sepia toned, faded and creased pictures of vacations and days at the beach.

I know that the past tends to take on a rose-colored look, and that the “good ol’ days” weren’t really as good as they seem in retrospect.  But it made me wonder… what the heck am I doing with my life?

See, my husband and I are homebodies.  That’s not bad, but looking at those photos, it struck me that maybe I’m going to look back one day when I’m stuck at home with aches and pains, bad night vision, and medical dietary restrictions, and wonder why I didn’t get out there and do more when I can.

When we’re young (and I think young these days is anything under 50), we always think we have more time.  More time to vacation and more time to plan.  I’ll get out of the house and do something tomorrow.  Honest.  I’ll exercise more and eat better.  Tomorrow.

Tomorrow is an illusion.  It’s not guaranteed to any of us.  It’s good to make plans and to have dreams, but there’s a big difference between planning and procrastination, and maybe I need to start delineating that a little better.

Yesterday is great.  It’s a wonderful reminder, and it’s wonderful to have memories.  You can’t live there, but you can certainly visit.

Today is the important thing.  Doing, seeing, laughing.  My husband’s grandfather lived a full life.  I don’t know how he felt about it, but it looks like he had nothing to regret.  I wrote about regrets here a few weeks ago and thought that I had nothing to regret.  Now that I’m re-evaluating, I wonder if the things I don’t regret now, I might in the future.  It won’t kill me to experiment and try to get out of the house more and do more things.  See what I think.

When we were children, we didn’t take naps by choice.  We didn’t sit down.  We didn’t rest.  We ate cookies first and then ran off the excess sugar.  Maybe I need to get back to those roots and see what happens.

T is for Time

There’s never enough of it, no matter what.  Not in the practical sense or the philosophical sense.

When my grandfather died, this point was brought home pretty sharply to me.  I wish that I had been able to see him once more, but as it was unexpected, I didn’t have time.  Even if I had, it still wouldn’t have been enough; it never is.

I hear lots of people (myself included) talk about how there’s not enough time for everything on the to do list.  That’s true; there’s not.  It brings to mind a story that sharply clarifies priorities.  Take a few minutes to read.

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

-Author Unknown


It was quite a few years ago that I was really depressed.  The problem was that I didn’t realize I was depressed until I looked back at it years later.

I had a really bad year or so from late 2003 to 2004 and beyond.  It started in November 2003 when my husband lost his job.  Over the next 6 months, both his parents had died (in their 50s), my family stopped talking to me, we moved, and I got a newer, more stressful job.  For the next couple of years, I walked around in a daze.  I was just going through the motions of life, but I didn’t really seem to enjoy anything.  I was tired all the time.  It was like the world had turned from color to sepia and I didn’t even know it.

After a couple years of being a grumpy pessimist who saw the worst in everything, I woke up one day around my birthday and realized that I hated my attitude.  I had started saying things like, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade… but I’m all out of sugar.”  As ridiculous as it sounds, one day after I said that, I thought, “But if I were really out of sugar, I’d just go to the store and get more.  There’s always more sugar somewhere.”  That thought kept me going when I didn’t feel like being more cheerful.  I realized that I just had to keep looking for my sugar.

It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I got my positive, cheerful attitude back.  I became myself again, and hopefully a newer, more improved version of myself.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized I had been depressed.  When I was going through it, I had no idea, and because I had moved and my family wasn’t speaking to me, I had no one around me to remind me that who I was wasn’t who I had been.

Since then, I’ve moved again, found a job I love, and reconciled with my family.  Things are better now, but they didn’t get better on their own.  I could have chosen to still be miserable, but I didn’t.  I had to change my attitude first.