The Mighty Logo

What Grief Awareness Day Means to Me

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I’m writing this on National Grief Awareness Day — Monday the 30th of August if you don’t buy into the idea of having “days” for things. As anyone who has experienced any form of grief in their life will be aware, every day can be grief awareness day. When a loss has happens, it feels ever present; it weighs on us, makes anxious messes of us, overwhelms us and irritates and frustrates us as though the air is filled with sand. Some days it doesn’t. Some days we are fine! Some days we even … (whisper) forget. Although that one, certainly in the early days of any loss, can leave us feeling extreme guilt and send us into a shame spiral leaving us doubting whether we are the “world’s worst person.” Or that last one might just be me.

Grief is strangely still a taboo subject in many areas of our life, and in many of our circles. It happens to each and every one of us in varying degrees, but yet few of us feel comfortable in talking about it or in sharing our grief with others. In my own life I’ve lost countless pets, grandmothers, recently my beloved aunt, my childhood best friend … I leave these dots here as I know there will be more and although I’m generally pragmatic about that fact, it also frightens me. No one relishes the idea they will experience the anguish of losing someone or something they love, but it’s one of life’s inevitabilities. As my sweet Gran used to say “it comes tae us aw.”

Losing my aunt recently has thrust grief back into sharp focus for me. Watching my incredible mother navigate the loss of her only sister, and my wider family navigate her loss in their own ways, has reminded me of the fragility of our connections. As much as we are all aware we will one day leave this earth, or become it depending on what you believe, we rarely live our lives as though each time we see a loved one might be the last. For one that probably wouldn’t be practical; there would be a lot of crying and a lot of follow-up headaches to put it mildly. We never expect to lose anyone, and even when they have been advised it might be just around the corner, it’s still a very difficult thing to come to terms with.

When I say goodbye to my parents and my friends after we’ve spent time together I always tell them I love them. Mainly because I do, but also because I’ve been severely ill myself and likely will be again, and I recall the comfort I felt in knowing I was loved when I felt I might not see many more sunrises. Telling someone you love them is a gift and I like to give it to them when I can because their being a part of  my life is a gift in mine. Love is something I want to be at the forefront of the mind of anyone I love when the time comes for them to leave, whenever that may be. There are many different and beautiful types of love, and it is so intricately entwined with grief that it makes sense to me to share it while I’m around to do so. There is no grief without love; the pain of loss is the cost we must pay for having loved someone so dearly.

Many of us avoid the topic of grief as we don’t know what to say. We presume we should have a perfect phrase which will soothe the pain, or at least a verbal sticking plaster we can provide that might ease it until we are safely out of sight. But in my opinion condolences are not meant to “ease pain,” but merely communicate in whichever way you can that you care. The simple “sorry for your loss” can act as a verbal hand squeeze, a comfort, even if it feels trite to say it.

Hearing from others who have known grief serves to remind us how natural it is. From the moment we live, we will die, and acknowledging the simplicity of that is nothing to feel ashamed of or morbid for discussing. Sorrow is ever present in our lives, and we absolutely do not need to wallow in our grief, for want of a better term, but can allow ourselves to talk about our struggles without feeling burdensome or afraid of shocking or upsetting those we love. Grief will ebb and flow like the sea throughout our lives and to ignore those incoming tides would feel absurd and disrespectful to those we have loved and to ourselves. I love those I will lose and I’ve loved those I have, and I’m hopeful that that love is enduring and powerful enough to aid me when a wave feels like it might consume me.

I hope whoever this has brought to mind for you, that you are able to remember them with peace and love and feel the “life” in the wave as it washes over you. The salty sea, the roar or the deluge of water … life! There is still so much “life” in death, our memories of those we’ve lost are everywhere and while that may initially seem incredibly painful, they are aspects of our time together that our brains have stored to remind us of the love we shared.

If you are  grieving, I want to promise you that you will heal. I want you to know it won’t always hurt like this. I want you to remember the love.

Photo credit: azur13/Getty Images

Originally published: September 1, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home