17 Things I’ve Observed About Loss

Shortly after my mother died from metastatic breast cancer, I started a list of things I learned, or more aptly, things I observed from the whole experience of loss.

Doing so was sort of out of character for me as I’m not a list person, as Dear Hubby will attest to. He makes lists for everything. I rarely make lists other than when I go to the grocery store. Not sure exactly what this says about me…

This is the first installment of some of my observations about loss; few if any, are new and certainly none are profound. It’s the act of stating them that matters.

Writing always helps me, and I encourage you to do the same if you’ve experienced a recent loss, or a even a not-so-recent loss. This list is entirely random. There’s no hierarchy here, or if there is, I have yet to figure it out.

17 Things I’ve Observed About Loss

   1.  It will start to hurt with less intensity eventually, but it will always hurt because loss is forever.

   2.  You don’t have to finish grieving even if some thing you should.

   3.  You might not even want to finish grieving.

   4.  Regrets are pretty much a waste of time and energy.

   5.  You might cry more than fellow grievers, or less.

   6.  Nurses and aides (good ones) are like angels and deserve thank yous.

   7.  It’s a tremendous honor and privilege to “help” someone you love die.

   8.  Your presence and your compassion are the greatest gifts to give a dying person.

   9.  It’s okay to cry.

 10.  It’s okay to not cry.

 11.  Some doctors are wonderful and some are barely adequate during this time; this is just a fact.

 12.  No one prepares you for loss and most choose not to talk about it.

 13.  Allowing pets in EOL care facilities is one of the best ideas ever.

 14.  Sometimes just being there is enough.

 15.  Silence is vastly under-rated.

 16.  Some things are not meant to be fixed.

 17.  Memories are treasures of the heart.

I found the process of making this list to be comforting. There’s something about writing stuff down that’s validating and healing.

If you’ve experienced a loss recently, or not so recently, why not give it a try?

What’s an observation or lesson you’ve learned about loss?

Have you ever felt as if you were doing grief all wrong?

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17 things I've learned from loss 

28 thoughts to “17 Things I’ve Observed About Loss”

  1. Great post, Nancy!

    From my experiences, I’ve learned that it’s possible to ‘expect’ all you like about grief, it’s never going to be in line with those expectations. As a result of my own expectations, I frequently feel as though I’m doing grief all wrong. Although now I’m trying to deal with it.

    Take care,


    1. Casey, You’re so right about the expectations. Grief is very unpredictable isn’t it? I’m sorry you’ve often felt as if you were doing it all wrong because of course you weren’t. I’m glad to hear you are dealing with things better. I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for commenting.

    1. Marty, Thanks for your kind words and thanks for sharing your link. Experience in grief isn’t experience anyone wants, but like most experience it’s worthy of sharing isn’t it? Thanks for doing just that.

  2. Nancy,

    Your list is right on!

    The only other bit of wisdom I have learned is that if your child dies, you should not expect to get comfort from your spouse – they are grieving too. You need outside help, not necessarily professional.

    I have been going through a book called “The Grief Recovery Handbook”. It actually contains several of the points that you have listed. It has been immensely helpful. I would strongly recommend it for anyone dealing with any kind of loss – not just loss of a loved one.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


    1. Dianne, I’m glad you liked this list. The bit of wisdom you added about losing a child is certainly correct. I hope this doesn’t mean you have lost a child, Dianne. I have not, but I know individuals who have, and that loss is like no other…Thanks for the book suggestion. It sounds really helpful.

  3. One thing I learned through several courses of grief is that while other people bringing food and running errands is nice, it really doesn’t lessen grief in any way. This has freed me from thinking I need to rush in and “help” when there is a death. Grief is essentially a do-it-yourself job.

  4. As someone who has faced way too many losses in her life, I can say that I’ve learned that I must go on and live my life to the utmost. Sometimes I hear my mother’s voice approving of the house I just bought and how I am taking care of myself as a single person again. I can hear her cheering me on as I go through these grueling cancer treatments. Her voice keeps me moving in the right direction. Thanks for listing these. I look forward to your further lists. xo

    1. Jan, You have had some terrible losses, Jan, and I’m so sorry. Your mother’s voice and ongoing support, though she’s no longer with you physically, must mean an awful lot. Remember many others are also in your cheering section, including me. Thanks for commenting. And yes, more lists are to come!

  5. This is an excellent list, Nancy. Everything on there really rings true. I’ve learned a lot from loss as well, not only loss by death, but by divorce, which is a type of death, and the losses associated with cancer and its treatment.

    One thing I’ve learned is that there is no one way to grieve, which is what you do cover at the top of your list. Everyone handles it so differently, and there’s no “right” way to grieve.

    Thank you for sharing your list; I look forward to other lists from you. I will say, I keep a daily to-do list, mainly because I like checking off the items one by one.

    1. Beth, I’m sorry about all of your losses and yes, you’re so right about divorce being a kind of death too. There is absolutely no right way to grieve and that’s really important to remember, especially in our society where it often seems grief is something to hurry up and get over. Thanks for commenting, Beth.

  6. Thank you for this post, your brevity, and your wisdom. After losing four family members within nine months, and becoming the legal guardian of my twin grandchildren, I discovered I was stronger than I thought. Talk about a life lesson!

    1. Harriet, Thanks so much for your kind words, Harriet. They mean an awful lot coming from you – I’m familiar with some of your writing. I’m very sorry for those unspeakable losses you’ve endured, so very sad. And you’re right about the life lesson you learned about strength. Thanks again for commenting.

  7. Maybe you should make lists more often, Nancy–this is a great one. I would add that it’s okay to be happy while you’re grieving. I wrote a poem after my cousin died about longing for the moment when that person is not your every thought–and the emotions that follow when that happens. This is a great post and topic.

    1. Lisa, Well, I imagine there will be a few more lists coming from time to time! Thanks so much for saying you liked this one. I love what you added to this list and I completely agree. That’s actually on my next list. It’s absolutely okay to be happy and laugh while grieving. I’m glad to hear you turned to writing poetry after your cousin’s death. Writing is a wonderful outlet isn’t it? Thank you very much for adding to this discussion, Lisa.

  8. I’m not sure if there were any lessons learned apart from the fact is is all about the dying process. Grief is normal Each one does what’s comfortable for him/herself depending who the person is you are grieving

    Love Alli xx

    1. Alli, Grief is a normal reaction to loss and each of us deserves to move through it in whatever manner works best. You’re so right. Thank you for commenting.

  9. This is an enormously helpful post, Nancy. I did not see this when you first posted it, ironically because I was in Scotland spending those last days with my father before we lost him. I am also writing about this at the moment, and will reference your posts. P x

    1. Philippa, It means a lot to hear this from you; your grief is so fresh and raw yet. I look forward to reading whatever you write about loss. Hugs.

  10. I think one other thing needs to be added — just because you have grieved, and think you have moved past it, doesn’t mean that you are done.
    I lost my mother at 23, and did all the appropriate things. But 10 years later, when I was pregnant, I found there was a whole list of things to grieve (seeing my mother hold my daughter, calling her on the phone to ask about baby issues, sharing special “firsts”) that had never occurred to me.

    1. Sue, That’s so true. A person is never really finished with grieving. It’s an evolving emotion/process. You raise an important point – we grieve all over as we pass through major (and sometimes not so major) milestones such as pregnancy. We miss sharing these things with our loved one and the grief a person feels during these times can be very intense. Thanks for sharing that. I’m very sorry for your loss, Sue.

  11. Lately I’ve found doing my family tree at ancestry.com very cathartic. Can upload photos of those that are gone but not forgotten. Seeing all of them is sad but I feel like they are with me.

    1. Janine, I’m glad you find delving into your family tree comforting. I have never visited that site, but I’m definitely interested in family history. Thank you for sharing.

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