Until MY Death Do Us Part

I’ve finally come to accept that this is ok. As Megan Devine says in the title of her book, “It’s Ok to not be OK”. He became a part of me when we married. He will remain a part of me until they lay me down beside him.

I’m trusting the love to carry me through as I carry him with me.

And, as I’m moving forward with his love, this is my goal: To carry him forward; to bring his light into the world. He was so boisterous in his joy.

That’s what I want to be.

Helping Yourself by Helping Others

The quote in the picture above goes for us that are grieving as well. Each one’s grief is unique, and sometimes it is difficult for us to put ourselves in another’s shoes especially when we are in pain ourselves. But, one cannot help another without helping himself.

It goes back to that old golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. If we want to be treated with grace and kindness, we must do the same.

Our challenge every day is to imagine and help.

And, we don’t have to have it all together or understand the crisis or tragedy of loss to help others.

I can hear my sweet Daddy reminding me of this. Almost every time I would say, I’m going to ask that when I get to Heaven, he would say, “No, you won’t. It won’t matter then, and you’ll be in such awe.” He’s right just like he was about almost everything. (My mother is convinced that I thought my Daddy could walk on water.)

Someday, when I get to see my Bob and all my loved ones again, I’ll know.

We’re Not “Stuck”, Just Carrying the Love

Something that we often forget is that “the” (Kubler-Ross) stages of grief were derived from studying anticipatory loss. That is, people who were facing their own death.

If one wasn’t “stuck” in staring death in the face, they wouldn’t be human. Seeing it that way reframes it. We aren’t stuck, just carrying the love.

Try not to let others frame your grief for you. This is your one and only life here on earth. Live it to your values, your needs.

My needs continue to be that he is with me.

This picture reminded me so much our of travels and our journey. While I miss the ability to hug him and hear his voice, I know that I carry him with me every day.

And, as I carry him with me, this is my goal: To carry him forward; to bring his light into the world. He was so boisterous in his joy. That’s what I want to be.

And, I pray that for you as well.

Experiencing Grief as Learning

Every experience we go through is a learning experience! Grief just seems to strip us raw. It’s as if the learning begins at Age 0. Yet, as we do the work of grief, we find that we can indeed walk and sometimes form complete sentences, so we’re a bit further along than it feels.

Yes, it was several months before I could read with any comprehension. I was like, so I’m a university professor, what’s up with this? I recognized it as what some call, “Widow’s fog” or “Grief fog”, but I didn’t expect the fog to be so thick. At some point, the fog dissipated enough so that I could read.

Yet, it still seemed thick. And, I’ve come to realize that’s part of the ebb and flow. I pray that you are beginning to find at some contentment in the life you are living now.

Keep Your Fork

Soon after I lost Bob, a friend who had been widowed in her 30’s told me that she wanted to be buried with a fork. Of course, this seemed odd, so I naturally asked why. She explained. “When I was young and attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.”

It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming …. like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!”

“So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder… “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you, the pastor or any one of my friends to tell them: “Keep your fork … the best is yet to come.”

That story meant a lot to me, because Bob is now in Heaven where the best is. So, now, every time I serve dessert or have dessert served at a dinner, I remember that the best is yet to come. I’ll see him again!

Just remember … keep your fork! The BEST is yet to come!

Mind vs. Heart

This describes my feelings so well. I was convinced that I would do better with this grief thing, because I am a Counselor and Counselor Educator who has taught grief counseling for over 12 years. I knew this stuff.

But no amount of academic knowledge in the mind can prepare you for the actual loss of your soulmate. We weren’t perfect. We were two flawed humans working through life together, but he was perfect for me. He loved me unconditionally!

It’s like the child trying to understand she’s not developmentally ready for trying to make sense of all of this. Still, at this point (28 months today), I can say that there are more good minutes in the day than bad. I’m moving forward with his love.

I am His, and He is Mine on Every Valentine’s Day

Just as ink on a page carries the story, his love has left an indelible imprint.

It surprises, almost shocks me, that I was so concerned with forgetting him when he first moved to Heaven. That’s impossible! He is mine, and I am his.

He made me who I am. He gave me our children and was my co-parent. He’s Papa to my Gogo. And all those other relationships and experiences we shared.

He will always be a part of me!

Love Energy

Love is an energy that behaves very much like the life-sustaining energies of air, food, and water. Research says that it takes our body about 3-4 days to experience the pain of not having food, 2-3 days to experience the pain of not having water, 1-2 minutes to experience the pain of not having air, and 1-2 seconds to experience being deprived of love.

Yet, we as a culture seem to insist that those who have lost someone they love simply “move on”. (“And, do that rather quickly, too, because it makes me uncomfortable” is the unspoken thread we hear.)

Years of research studies with physical conditions have now confirmed that “Love is nourishment like air, food, and water.” (Registered at the Library of Congress in 2003.)

So, if it’s taking you a minute to overcome the seeming deprivation of an intense love, that’s to be expected. Give yourself grace and time.

Continuing on this idea that love is an energy brought my mind to Maslow’s hierarchy. Love is a base need known as deficiency. These needs are required in order to function at all. And note that love is right down there with food, water air, and safety. We need love!

So, when a loved one passes away, we find ourselves searching for that love. Even infants practice this behavior. They don’t really understand the concept of death at all, but they know that someone is missing. Their brain begins searching for that person.

Grief is simply the unplaced energy of love. We know that the pain of grief is equal to the intensity of love. It simply goes back to our needs. Grief is a surety of life just as love.

Let’s help to make it comfortable enough to allow healing.

The Courage in Grief

People kept telling me how strong I was. It was infuriating, exasperating, frustrating, and any other synonym that fits in that category. What choice did I have?

Yes, I could roll in the fetal position, throw a pity party, and give up on life. That is a choice, but one that most of us don’t want to take. So, we put one foot in the other, as it were, take that next step and move on – even on those days when we’d prefer not to.

Meriam-Webster defines courage as, “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or the ability to do something that frightens one”. Courage is not the absence of fear as many would have us believe, but the exact opposite. It is doing something even with the presence of fear.

It’s frightening to live this life without him, but I am glad I’ve fought through it. I’m getting to see our grandchildren grow up. I’m getting to keep him alive for them and for the world.

I pray that you will get to the point that you’re happy to be alive again.

But, We Will Survive

Continuing the analogy of the tree, we will survive! Just as this tree was not stopped by the piano in its way, we will move forward – whether we want to or not. And, in early grief, there are days where it’s work simply to get through the day. But, it’s important that we put the work in – for ourselves and for those that love us.

This is an important image for me as I work through this grief on Day 111 (and our daughter’s 32nd birthday). Yes, I still count the days. I know there will come a day when I will move to counting months, then years. The loss will always be with me. I will always miss him, but life will push forward – just as the life in this tree pushed through the piano. Will the weight of grief be as heavy as this piano? You bet ya! But, life gives us choices. We can work to walk alongside the grief, just as this piano sits alongside this tree creating a beautiful image of the trials of life. Or, we can allow the grief to swallow us or tamp out our life. My hope for you is that you choose to live, to walk alongside the grief.

But, enough with the imagery, what are the skills to survive? It’s important to be with those going through the trials and tribulations of grief – to show up. But, what can we actually DO to help? First, say something. A colleague at work texted about a work question, but first said, “I think of you often, but don’t reach out because I don’t know what to say.” You don’t have to know. Just that you’re trying is enough. Please don’t pull away out of fear of saying something wrong.

In an article for The Guardian, writer Giles Fraser calls this “a double loneliness” – on top of the loss of someone they love, the griever loses the connection and alliance of the people around them (Fraser, 2016). For fear of making things worse, people go silent just when we need them most (Devine, 2017).

As a friend or counselor, you are not expected to be perfect. It’s perfectly ok to lead a conversation with, “I don’t know what to say.” Most don’t. This is a difficult and awful time, but we do need to be there. Admitting you’re uncomfortable allows you to at least be there and say something. That’s the real gift – Companionship!

If you’re not sure what to say, ask! It’s always been confusing to me why we think asking what to say is wrong. It reminds me of the cultural connection. If I don’t know someone else’s culture, it’s respectful of me to find out – to ask them – rather than do the wrong thing. This is much like that. Your friend or client is walking a path – a culture – that you may not have walked. Err on the side of being present. Your effort really is noticed and appreciated (Devine, 2017).


Fraser, G. (April 27, 2016). The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice. On Being. Retrieved from onbeing.org/blog/the-gift-of-presence-the-perils-of-advice/.

Devine, M. (2017). It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand. Boulder, CO: Sounds True. (ISBN: 97871622039074)