Your Words to the Grieving Fell Flat – This is Why

I have been so touched by so many people who are grieving since I started sharing my writing. And in the last few weeks I have been touched by many people who have not shared this same type of deep grief but who know someone who has, or was simply touched by the reminder to be grateful. I am grateful for the stories, I am grateful to have touched the lives of people who need that connection.

There are no words that can encompass what it feels like to lose someone who plays a defining role in your life. My husband and I had plans. We were building our lives, we were growing our family. It didn’t make sense that he could die when we had so much left undone. The empty future it left me with, the blank pages of the story we were writing, I never knew exactly where life would take us, but I knew who I would be writing my story with. And then one day, the blank pages of that story we were writing burned, and I was left holding the ashes.

I always believed that life is what you make of it. We all make decisions, some good, some bad. They direct the path we walk on and they create our future. For good or bad, the life we live is the life we have chosen. But I didn’t choose this. How can my life have shattered in the middle of my story when I did nothing to create this mess?

I can give words to the emotions that I have felt through my struggles, but there are no words that will ever help a person to understand what it feels like when the thing that should never happen… happens. When your heart shatters and all you can do is watch the life you almost had burn to the ground. There are no words that can describe the pain that fills your heart and your body when all you have left is the memories. We treasure our memories, but we don’t live for our memories. So how do you live when what you were living for only lives in the past? There are no words that can describe this, because the pain doesn’t live in the body or the mind, and it doesn’t live in a time or place. The pain lives in every breath, in every memory, in every corner of every room, and in the this idea of the future itself.

I spent a lot of time feeling lost and alone. Alone because I lost my husband, and alone because it seemed no one understood. Everywhere I turned, it seemed that someone wanted me to patch up my wounds and put on a smile and tell them I’m doing alright, that it’s hard but I’m moving on. It seemed as though they wanted me to be this pillar of strength that I didn’t feel I could be. The truth is, I did often use lines that I knew people wanted to hear. I’d tell them I’m ok. I’d tell them about the parts of my day or my life that suited the picture they wanted me to paint and I’d get on with my day.

I don’t know why, but we live in a world where we don’t talk about pain or suffering. We don’t talk about our deep personal truths, the difficult ones. I think we have collectively forgotten how. We have forgotten to look outside of ourselves to acknowledge someone else’s pain. We want to get on with our day, get back to our lives, so we do our due diligence and ask, but we aren’t prepared to listen, and we aren’t prepared to feel their pain with them. Instead, we pass along tips, and talk about staying strong and moving forward.

Move forward. Move on. Don’t live in the past. Think about the future. Take in those words. Read them carefully, and then read them once more. Now throw them in the trash. Put them away forever. When a person is grieving the death of someone they love, it is the future that hurts so much. Moving forward is what paralyzes us. Holding onto the past is survival… for a while. It won’t always be like this. No one will stay paralyzed forever. These words, however, can make it feel more lonely. You have the best of intentions, but to one who is surviving a loss so deep, it can feel like you are telling that person to leave their loved one behind.

We grieve because we love. We experience pain that we can’t escape from. The pain doesn’t stop when we are strong, we just learn to endure it. It takes time. My grief is my love for my husband. I wouldn’t choose for this to hurt less if I could. I would choose this pain. He is worth this pain. His life has ended. My daughter, our daughter, and the lives we lead are his legacy. So I let it hurt. I make the choice to feel this pain completely, to let it cut me until I bleed.

It is hard to read those words. It is hard to be there for the grieving, to watch them do exactly that – bleed. But you can’t fix it. I know you would if you could. I know you would take their pain away if only there was a way. You can’t fix the un-fixable. There are some things you can never understand until you’ve walked the road yourself. It seems as though you could do more to help if you just understood, so you try. Stop trying. There is no need for that. So instead of telling them to be strong, let them bleed. There is no running away from the pain. Looking to the future is necessary and unavoidable, but it hurts so much and it’s scary. Let them know you are there through the fear. Sit with them. Be there for them. Strength comes in time, but not in your time. In theirs.


It will not always be like this, the bleeding will stop. So take out their trash, walk their dog, take the kids for a few hours here and there… and listen. Just listen. And if you are ever concerned that someone may be at risk, listen to that voice, not mine. I speak only from my personal experience. 

If you are concerned about the health or safety of yourself or someone else, please contact a medical or mental health professional.







Published by

Becky Nolan

I a widowed mom to my young daughter. I lost my husband suddenly at the age of 29, leaving me with a one year old child to raise on my own. I live in Connecticut, where I met, married, and lost the man that I am still proud to call my husband. Every day I struggle. Every day I learn. Every day I am grateful for the time I had with him, and for the little girl he gave me before he left. I have found comfort and healing in writing. I have found purpose in sharing my story, knowing that so many others have been through it, too. Knowing that everyone has experienced loss and struggle. Words can be healing when they come from that deeply honest place within the soul. Grief is too lonely a road to walk alone, so I aim to give comfort and company on that lonely road.

6 thoughts on “Your Words to the Grieving Fell Flat – This is Why”

  1. You are so right in everything you have said. I too have spent a lot of time feeling lost and alone for exactly the same reasons as you and yes you do end up just saying the things that people want to hear. I’m naturally quiet anyway and became even less inclined to talk because I felt no one understood. This was not good and I just got lower and lower.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also feel like you that people just don’t want to hear you talk about your loss so I don’t. I keep things to myself. I miss my husband so much. It was three years ago on September 1st. He showed me what it is like to really love someone and we told each other that we loved each other a hundred times a day. He was so special and meant everything to me. I feel like days I just don’t want to go on anymore without him. I miss all the things we did together and now I just stay a home. I had a love with him that I know a lot of people will never have in their life. When he was alive he called me his special angel and now that he is in heaven he is my special angel.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Everything you said is so true. I wish the people in my life would stop talking over me and just listen! I am angry that people expect me to move on after 9 months. How could anyone think my life is good. Maybe one day I will move forward, but I will never let go.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is true. You will never let go, you will never enter a part of your life that doesn’t incorporate the love that you miss so much. 9 Months is still new to this new life. I think of the place you are in now as a place that is between the land of the living and the land of the undead. In time, you will find your way back to the Land of the Living. But it takes time, and there’s shame in being in that in between place. You will make it out and back to us in your own time. For now, keep your head up when you can. Cry when you need to. And keep marching. And just do your best to withstand the opinions of those who think they know, but will never really know.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve lost a husband twice in this lifetime. There are no words to share the anger of the second one. Why God? The first time I fell into a deep dark hole I didn’t think I’d ever get out. There are very few days that I don’t miss him still.
    And although it’s almost 6 years now for the second time. The pain of the loss and the anger still surface. The worst words you can say to me ….” I know how you feel.” You don’t know how I feel. You know.. how you feel. Just like I don’t know how you feel. Each of us suffers our loss, our pain, our grief, in a different way.
    My son suffered and grieves completely different than I . He had just had his 8th birthday. I will never be able to feel or imagine his pain.
    All these years later he still Grieves deeply and I still search for the child I love . It changes us in a way no one else can understand. Each of us differently. This was such a beautiful writing it brought tears and touched my soul. Thank you for that

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My heart is sore reading this. 26 years of marriage here. 2 years of courtship. I dont think i could bear his absence. Shania Twains song… “you’re the one” feels like it was written for us.
    I send loves and a hug.


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