Grief is…

The below article is taken from a passage in the book You Are Not Alone by Lynne B. Hughes.

Grief is… like an earthquake

Grief is like an earthquake. The first one hits you and the world falls apart. Even after you put the world together again there are aftershocks, and you never really know when those will come.

There is no single definition of grief. It feels different to each person who experiences it. It changes from day to day, month to month, and year to year. Sadness, anger, loneliness, numbness, fear, confusion, and even relief are just a few of the components of grief.

There just isn’t a magic “right” way to grieve. Grief doesn’t have an expiration date (although many people who have never had a loss may think there is one). Grief also looks different depending on how new or recent your loss.

What does your grief look like? What did it look like in the beginning? Has it changed?

For me, in the beginning, I remember feeling numb and functioning like a robot – going through the motions but not really feeling anything. It was like a bad dream that I wanted to wake up from but couldn’t.

Emily was 13 when her father died. Two years later, this is how she describes grief:

Grief is like the rain. Sometimes it only drizzles, but other times it pours so much you feel like you’re going to drown in it.

Cassie’s father died when she was 15. In the two years since his death, taking time to remember her dad during the “roller coaster” of grief has helped Cassie ride out the low times:

Grief to me is like a never-ending roller coaster. Imagine a roller coaster that is just a series of hills, up and down, up and down. Sometimes I’m on the top of the hill: being up there can last for days, sometimes weeks. But then something little – a memory, a song, a picture – will trigger emotions that send you flying back down the hill. And then the only think you can do is brace yourself, hold on tight, and go flying down the tracks. Once you hit the bottom, it’s uphill from there. 

Elizabeth, who was 12 when her father died, has another great way to explain how grief changes over time:

It’s like a cut. At first it hurts so bad, and you bleed for a while. You stop the bleeding, the pain subsides, and you put on a bandage to hide the mark and help it heal faster. You develop a scab, but every once in a while, that scab might break and you’ll bleed again. Once that stops and the pain is gone, you still have a scar. That scar becomes a part of you, and it’s something people will know about. It will stay with you for the rest of your life, as will grief.

Sixteen-year-old Ella, who lost her father in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, sums up the roller-coaster ride of grief’s different stages with honest and reassuring words:

Grief is a process. You go through stages of grief, and everyone’s grief is different in both its form and its order. Some people will be angry, then sad, then very depressed, then suddenly be fine. I was scared, then a little bit angry, sad, depressed, okay, depressed, okay, angry, sad, etc. It’s a cycle, or a wave. It continues on and on, but it changes periodically. I don’t think it ends, but it stops being so prominent in your life.

Now I ask, how would you finish the sentence: Grief is… ? Share in the comments below.


  1. Carrie Horton said on May 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm ... #

    Grief is…missing your friend every time you look in her childrens eyes, seeing the pain the comes out of three teenagers who just lost their mom, it is remembering the FIRSTS and getting through them, its watching how God weaves in and out of situations that makes you understand that that friend, is right there beside you. Grief is painful, devastating, and takes up a lot of tears, but grief is also watching the days pass and know that though you will never ever forget that loved one, you WILL go on that you will make it, that you will survive. Grief is making memories that will last forever, despite the loss~~~ Grief is..a part of life!!

  2. Samantha said on May 21, 2010 at 1:13 am ... #

    Grief is real

  3. jdavis said on May 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm ... #

    Grief is like a giant ball inside your chest. At first, the ball slowly inflates as you stop feeling numb, it carries on inflating all the time never ever ending, till one small thing, a memory, song, phrase, ad bang, the ball eplodes filling you with enormous pain, tears and memories. Then you start again, inflating the ball again and again, wishing and wishing it would disappear, yet it never does…

    Lost my mum at 14, my greatest friend in the world

  4. Lisa said on June 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm ... #

    Grief is never knowing the someone special who gave me life, always wanteing to meet her just once… having to forgive the dad (also now dead) who could never bring himself to share her story with me. Getting over grief is trying to find joy now that I am a mom (and wife).

  5. Jen said on June 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm ... #

    Grief is when you finally stop denying that a loss has knocked you down. It’s when you admit to yourself that you are human and yes, it really did matter.

  6. Amir said on July 16, 2010 at 1:59 am ... #

    Greif a countdown that keeps resetting itself. you keep waiting for things to go back to the way they were but they never do.

  7. tammi rahrle said on August 11, 2010 at 9:43 am ... #

    how true. it will never be the same.

  8. Margie said on August 12, 2010 at 4:01 am ... #

    Grief if permanent. Grief is losing my son and not seeing him fulfill his potential. Grief is seeing his three younger brothers have to go on without him and missing him. Grief is seeing my husband lost in his grief. Grief is being alone without my son. Grief is not “getting over it” like so many people expect you to do but to me, grief is “going through it”.

  9. Sneha said on November 7, 2010 at 7:23 pm ... #

    Grief is like the ocean
    It ebbs and flows

    Sometimes it’s high tide
    And dragging you down
    And you feel like you’re going to drown
    Alone and helpless

    And sometimes it retreats
    Peaceful and calm
    The waves can be heard
    Always there
    But muted
    So constant you don’t notice it immediately

    Sometimes the waters turn stormy
    The sky turning gray
    And the waters turbulent
    It rejects
    And pulls in anybody
    Who gets too close

    Grief is like the ocean
    But makes up so much
    Of the Earth
    Of ourselves

  10. Diane said on January 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm ... #

    Each loss is so different. Mine is a gray cloud above me, sometimes it is big and dark and relentless. Sometimes the cloud is small and I can see the sun. I do think it gets easier with time, but it is always there lurking.

  11. izabel said on January 28, 2012 at 11:37 pm ... #

    After I lost my son I truly didn’t wanned to get up and see the sun rise again it was so painful but the first few months were the hardest

  12. melody force said on February 2, 2012 at 3:02 am ... #

    I miss my husband I am so sad. ihave no friends. Ron’s wife Melody

  13. E said on November 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm ... #

    Grief is knowing you’ll never hold his tiny hand in yours.
    16 years old, lost my nephew, Buddy, about ten minutes after he was born.

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