Grieving woman crying by the ocean with her hand on her head
Grief & Trauma

Grief Never Ends, It Only Changes Shape

“Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”

– Megan Devine

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since my grandmother passed away. It literally feels like it just happened yesterday. But as of today, it has been 371 days since we laid her to rest, and I still find myself grieving for her at times. 

Sometimes I catch myself thinking she’s still around and I can just hop in the car and take the hour drive to see her and my papaw. But the delusion doesn’t last long when reality eventually sets in and is quick to remind me that they’re both gone.

I often wonder, “shouldn’t I be over this? The whole world has carried on as if nothing ever happened, so why haven’t I?” But one thing death has taught me is that the hustle and bustle of life doesn’t stop for anything, even for death. 

The demands of your everyday life will still be there waiting for you as soon as you say your goodbyes.

And as a result, we tend to only give ourselves a few days to get it together and move on with our lives. But I’ve found that grief doesn’t work that way.

Grief isn’t fleeting. In fact, grief is ever changing and constantly changes shape.

Being no stranger to death, I wanted to share three things that I have come to know for sure about grief. Knowing and accepting these things has allowed me to grieve naturally rather than suppressing my grief and keeping it locked away.

Grief Can Last a Lifetime

I used to be under the assumption that grief only lasted a short while after someone you loved or cared for passed away. That it’s something everyone goes through – but only for a moment. Then, once you pass the initial mourning period, you’re good to go on with your life.

But the truth of the matter is that grief can last days, months, or years. Grief can even last a lifetime.

How long you grieve and how you grieve varies person to person. And no one way is the correct way. The thing about grief is that it is universal. It is one of the few things that all humans will experience at some point or another.

But it can also be a very personal and isolating experience and is often misunderstood.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking something is wrong with you just because you’re grieving years later after a loss. It can be very humbling to recognize that you’re only being human and you’re going through a universal, human experience.

Grief Can Show Up Unexpectedly

And oftentimes without warning. Life is all hunky-dory, and then suddenly you find yourself breaking down.

This breakdown can occur anytime, day or night. It can happen while you’re taking a shower, grocery shopping, or chugging away at work or school. Grief can even happen 20 years later when you thought you moved past it.

That happened to me with the sudden death of my father when I was a young child.

Even though I was just a kid when my father passed, I was fully aware of what death meant and knew he wasn’t coming back. I just couldn’t fully comprehend how to grieve properly. So, I did all I knew how.

I locked up my grief inside of me and threw away the key. 🔑

I attempted to go on with life and just be an ordinary kid – but I was struggling on the inside. It felt like my dad’s death was such a horrible thing, that I wasn’t even allowed to talk about it. Otherwise, I might upset someone or make someone uncomfortable. 

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I became aware of the fact that I had never properly mourned the loss of my father. But by that time, it was already too late. My grief had unexpectedly broken free, took complete control, and caused me to have a breakdown.

Grief Isn’t Always About Death

Oftentimes, when we think about grief, we associate it with death. However, we can grieve a variety of losses in our life.

Maybe a dear friend is moving far away, or you’ve drifted apart recently. Perhaps you lost your job or are graduating from high school or college. Or maybe you lost your home due to a tragedy or are going through a divorce.

A few years ago, when I moved back to Kentucky from Colorado, I had a difficult time adjusting. While part of me was excited to see my family and friends again, I felt like a complete failure. I was also embarrassed that I “didn’t make it”. 

The main culprit of moving back was due to the cost of living in Colorado. I didn’t really want to move back, but knew it was the best decision for us as a family. So, for the first year or so after moving back, I grieved leaving Colorado.

When we lose something that is important to us, it’s natural to grieve the loss of it. It doesn’t make you “crazy”. It’s what makes you human.

Grief is complex and we all react to it differently. So, while something may seem like it’s not worth grieving to you, it could mean everything to someone else.

Grief can be tricky to navigate, especially since it’s so deep and personal. It can be hard to put grief into words for someone else to understand, thus leaving us feeling like we’re all alone in our sorrow. 

But the beautiful thing about grief is that we all experience it on some level or another. So, we are never truly alone in our grief. Someone somewhere is also grieving something or someone they have lost.

Most importantly, there is no cure for grief. We can’t make it go away and we certainly can’t wish it away. Sometimes, we must learn to live with grief and find a way to carry on with our lives but doing so forever changed.

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What kind of losses have you grieved? Were you able to move past it, or do you still grieve at times? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

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16 thoughts on “Grief Never Ends, It Only Changes Shape

  1. This post really hit me hard. I’ve been grieving for my grandparents for a long time and while it has gotten ‘easier’, I know I’ve just shaped my life around it instead.

  2. Great info here. It’s true that grief isn’t always about death, and I agree that if we don’t process our emotions, they will catch up with us eventually. Grief does change us.

    1. I know! I think people are so quick to only thing of death when it comes to grief. But grief is so much more than that.

  3. Such an important topic and you covered it so well….the grief from the loss of my dad 7 years ago felt incredibly insurmountable at the time. The waves of grief come further apart now, but sometimes they can still take your breath away when they do hit. It’s a forever thing, I think….learning we are not alone in these feelings is so helpful. I think it’s great that you point out that grief can be caused by so many other things too, not just death. Excellent, piece! Thank you so much for always writing about such poignant topics. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I don’t think I truly grieved my father’s death until I was in my late twenties. And I lost him when I was eight. It’s funny how it can just show up when you least expect it too. I for sure wanted to point out that grief isn’t just about death. We grieve many losses in our life and it’s just as important to recognize those too.

  4. Your post is spot-on. Grief definitely never ends and is constantly reinventing itself in different shapes. And it’s the most simple things – a song or a smell or forgotten memory – that will trigger it.,

    1. It’s so interesting the different things that can remind you of grief. Any time I smell a particular cologne, I always think of my dad!

  5. I needed to read this more than I knew… I recently (very) lost my grandmother. The grief comes and goes in waves, but most of the time I am still in shock that it’s even happened. It was very sudden. I look forward to the day that my grief begins to change shape, and I begin to be able to help others work through theirs.

    1. I’m so happy this post was helpful for you. But am so very sorry that you recently lost your grandmother. And when it’s sudden, it can be even harder to process. I know it can be hard and that the grief can feel like a never-ending battle, especially so early on. I wish you peace and comfort during this difficult time.

  6. My mother-in-law passed and I miss her but I have faith and hope that I will see her again in heaven and that helps with the sadness.

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