Psyche logo

Maybe We Never Get Over Grief, and That's OK

The harder I try to heal, the worse it feels

By Steffany RitchiePublished 4 months ago 6 min read
Photo by Levent Simsek:

It was my birthday the other week. I was naively kind of looking forward to it. My birthday is two weeks after Christmas exactly (January 8th-happy birthday to me, Elvis, Bowie and some other cooler than me cats!).

It always has a sort of after party vibe to it, which I have come to enjoy over time.

But I fell down the bottomless hole of grief and regret despite my best efforts not to. My mind is stuck on a loop in moments of grief; the missed opportunities, the guilt of not being with him at the end. My Dad was good at birthdays and holidays, he was the fun dad, the involved dad. Until he wasn’t, after I grew up and we grew apart.

Christmas was a write off because I was at my in-laws, which never really feels like Christmas to me. But I was ok with it because I knew the first Christmas after my dad died was probably going to be weird/tough anyway.

It’s still surprising to me how potent my grief remains, considering I was largely estranged from my dad for many years before his passing last July. I have good days, weeks even, and I think I am through the worst of it. But grief doesn’t fade or get easier in terms of the intensity when it hits, and often it sneaks up on me when I least expect it.

Sometimes it feels like I am drowning and no one can see or hear me, like one of those nightmares you have when you scream and no one notices. Grief is incredibly isolating for so many of us.

Grief doesn’t feel lighter or easier almost seven months on. It feels woven into my bones despite my efforts to move past it. I’m tired of fighting it or trying to force myself to feel better.

I really appreciate when conversations about grief acknowledge the complexity and depth of it, for example this exchange from a longer, excellent talk between Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper on grief really resonated with me.

Stephen Colbert experienced a terrible tragedy when he lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was ten years old. He often gives guests on his show the breathing room they need to discuss their own grief openly. As he discusses here, he considers it a gift to be able to hold space for others in pain.

I think this acceptance that deep grief will always be a part of us is something that probably comes to most people who have been through it at some point. For me, burying it or “healing” from it isn’t really an option seemingly, and it’s not easy, because I do have undealt with stuff and a lack of peace or closure with my dad’s passing.

I related to much of this article “We Don’t Recover From Grief, and That’s Okay” (I SWEAR I came up with my title and had not read this piece before I started writing mine. I think it just goes to prove how universal this stuff really is!):

Ongoing grief is normal, not dysfunctional. It’s also not dysfunctional to experience unpleasant grief-related thoughts and emotions from time-to-time sometimes even years later. Humans are meant to experience both sides of the emotional spectrum — not just the warm and fuzzy half.*

I think so much of the psychological and self help landscape is consumed with the idea of healing our trauma and ultimately finding some sort of happiness or bliss state, that to allow grief the room it needs can feel counterintuitive. It’s ok to be sad, and not always feel positive or grateful or elevated from our pain. I don’t know why that is so socially unacceptable.

It is uncomfortable to be sad so much and to feel out of control of my emotions, no question. Nothing in life prepares us for this, grief is a whole new ballgame of lessons in turning your world upside down.

This is also one of the only moments in my life that I have felt that maybe I would feel better with a little pharmaceutical smoother on top. I like the idea of easing my grief, of pain being lifted from me, or even just dulled a little. Grief is exhausting, no judgement from me for anyone who needs help getting through it. I might change my tune in a week or a month’s time, who knows.

But I am beginning to feel a hint of something like breathing room when I try to think of grief as just a part of me that is there, that will always be there, that it is not something for me to fight or try to suppress or even “heal”.

I may never relate to the comfort some find in memories/relation to the passing of a loved one; the peace that some eventually find in grief is possibly never going to happen for me. I can’t magic my relationship with my dad into something it wasn’t now that he is gone.

When people in my life have tried to smooth his death into something it wasn’t I get annoyed. We were a mess, his death didn’t change that. I do have some good and positive memories, I have some level of contentment with aspects of our relationship. But it wasn’t perfect, it will not be made perfect in death, and accepting that is all there may ever be is a part of this process for me.

It has forced me to confront things and try to find closure where possible, sure. But I am realizing more and more that his death, his memory, is something that will always be a part of me now, it seems.

It’s not always comfortable, and some days I would rather not think about it at all. I am grateful when I can focus on other things in life and not my grief. But it’s probably not going anywhere so I think I need to get used to it.

I am making room in my life for grief. I think it would be nice if as a society we were all given more space to express and feel our grief when necessary, not just in the “acceptable” weeks and months of mourning after someone’s loss. Grief takes time, and that should be allowed and embraced.

“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” **— Anne Roiphe, Writer

*We Don’t Recover From Grief, and that’s Okay,

**10 Uplifting Grief Quotes | Guideposts

This article was originally published by the author on Medium


About the Creator

Steffany Ritchie

Hi, I mostly write memoir, essays and pop culture things. I am a long-time American expat in Scotland.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.