The Mighty Logo

There Is No Checklist for Grief

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“When our child is gone, we not only grieve their demise — we grieve over everything they did, everything that reminds us of them, everything that once had meaning and no longer does. The layers are seemingly endless. I don’t think it’s possible to get through every one anymore in this lifetime. Everything about them is so intricately intertwined.”

I had just posted this comment and then went to check my email when I found an email from GriefShare, subject line, “Identify Your Losses”

“One reason grief disrupts so many aspects of your life is because your loss is not one isolated loss. You will miss so many qualities and facets of the person you lost that each will become an opportunity to experience grief.

The range of things you need to grieve for may surprise you. Identify your losses and be prepared to grieve for each one.

Use the list below as a starting point.”

I understand their point. There are numerous facets in our grieving process that we are forced to address. A checklist may assist some in sorting through some of those layers. I make checklists all of the time. I will do so for chores, calls I need to make, items I need to purchase from the store. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could simply make a checklist of everything I need to grieve about my child and then have the satisfaction I feel once everything has been checked off?


I’ve been working on my checklist for more than 18 years, and I’m still not finished. Even if I were to complete it at one point, it’s like mowing the lawn, it will be back on the list next week. Every year there is a “déjà vu” moment when another holiday rolls around, another birthday, another anniversary, etc. A checklist may assist in un-knotting that ball of yarn, but I will never be done with the list of grief. Tomorrow, there will be more dishes to wash; in a few days, there will be more clothes to wash. And there will be another layer of grief I will need to grieve.

I wish grief was as simple as a checklist.

But, it’s not.

Grief is complicated. A movie, a song, even the sight of another person who resembles my child can release a torment of seemingly endless tears. I find comfort in God’s Word, the Bible, where it says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

Somewhere in Heaven there must be an immense storehouse filled with all of these bottles. I imagine a recorder’s office filled with endless volumes.

I will never be done with my checklist of grief — not in this world. I will always be missing my son. Every memory of him that surfaces which brings a smile, is soon followed by a tear. Every time I drive by a place he once visited, just for a moment I look to see if he’s there. Every white car that passes by that resembles his will have me peering at who is behind the wheel.

It simply does not end.

I’ve adjusted to my “new normal.” I’ve accepted this is my life. I’ve adapted to an endless checklist. I’ve “normalized” touching my son’s face through a piece of glass in a picture frame. Then I remind myself I believe this is all temporary. There will come a day when I will rip up that checklist into little shreds and watch every piece blow away never to be seen again.

For you, O LORD, have delivered
my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
Psalm 116:8-9

Jude’s book, “Gifts from the Ashes,” is available at Direct Textbook.

Follow this journey on Jude’s website.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image by Hydrogenn

Originally published: May 31, 2017
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