“Chronic” Grief

For more acute grief, please read post 1 and post 2.

I end post 2 with the quote, “The place in your body where these two meet—strong back and soft front—is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply when we begin the process of being with dying.” (p.17)

But what about the “brave. tender ground” when we are at the two year or the five year anniversary of our loss?  I always say to clients who are experiencing grief that grief is like bad weather, like a cloudy, stormy day.  As a person, you experience bad weather and in a way, other than staying under the covers, there is little you can do but hear it as it passes and feel.

I think having an attitude where you see your grief like bad weather helps to reduce the resistance to the potentially strong feelings, so they may arise…and with time, pass.  I have seen grieving clients get EKGs (multiple, over months) due to “chest pain” and the EKGs come back normal.  The anxiety and pain of grief is REAL.  I often say to clients that the body grieves.  Someone close to us dies and the pain of the loss filters through us.  We lose our appetite.  We overeat.  We go out and do crazy things.  We never want to leave the house.  Do remember, no matter the thoughts involved or the physical symptoms, grief has an impersonal element to it.  It happens to us, through us, and for us….kind of like the death of our loved one “happened” one day.


1. Find support

2. Do your best to relax into the pain and feel it without shame



It’s been over three years since I lost my husband, Roger.  Research shows that successful “grief resolution” typically involves meaning-making which is what I did by going back to get my Masters degree.  I took the pain of grief and used it in a practical way (attending school) in my life.  Of course it helped me  to move to a new town and getting rid of old things.

The bad weather comes but less often.  I can think more fondly of my time with Roger, rather than feel the heaviness that surrounded his care closer to the end of his life.  I tell people that I LOVE the illusion of permanency that fills my life.  For me, I don’t forget that it’s an illusion and that death comes to us all.  Sometimes I watch mothers with infants and I marvel at the risk inherent in love.  How else could we go on living our lives so completely but by pushing away the idea and reality of death?  When one is grieving, whether it is chronic or acute, the perspective is different than others.  It is good to acknowledge this.

Honestly, I have moments where I struggle to find meaning in life.  (I know that one doesn’t have to be “experiencing grief” to have this struggle.)   Usually, I say to myself, “I make the meaning that is my life,” thus making it up to me to invest my time in people and experiences so that I can feel the connection that is life.   That is the story that I carry today.  And I know that it’s a story.

On the other side, what I am settling into is a meaningfulness that is self-created.  Here, I take greater and greater responsibility for the time that I have left to be alive.  I do not numb with sugar or alcohol or things.  I did once and we do what we need to do to survive.  I am ever-simplifying my life so I can come closer and closer to living my values, clarifying my goals, and completing them in whatever time it takes to complete them.  I am getting better about not rushing, which was a big habit for me.

Remember, grief is an incredible journey that brings gifts on the other side.  (It can totally suck along the way though.)  We often underestimate the value of grief when it arises in our lives.  (It is the same with sickness.)

Readers response:

“Are you kidding me, Heidi?!  You’re saying I should be GRATEFUL that my son is dead???? Really???!!!”

I’m not saying how anyone should feel.  I’m saying that on the other side of grief, once I have cried to completion and bathed in the love that comes through the nourishment inherent in life, I feel gratitude for everything including death.  Yes, I lost someone that I loved deeply, but I have so many others around me now!  I think that because I sat with my bad weather for long enough, I was finally able to “bury” Roger and find new ways to give and receive love in my life.

Grief is mysterious.  Everyone’s journey is unique.  How we make peace with our loss and meaning out of the pain is SUPER individualistic.  My hope is that what I write here may provide insight or hope.  When I was really lost, what mattered the most were the people that loved me…the hospice grief counselor, (Jan,) my acupuncturist, my mom, Donna Cottle, who took Roger out every week so that I could have a few hours alone…the research calls this my “social support network,” I call it my lifeline.  And it keeps happening, even though I’ve moved twice and find myself with new people.

Questions? Contact me at

[email protected]

Remember, I want to help you live the healthiest life possible! –GreenLightHeidi



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