Alone in Grief

The anniversary of my sister’s death had me doing a lot of thinking on grief. We all know grief is one of those non-quantifiable, or objectively analyzed things. It is such a personal experience, and often one that makes no rational sense. This quote relating grief to the ocean is a wonderfully representative statement for something so hard to describe.

Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.


I have experienced a lot of grief in the last couple of years: notably, the loss of a sister, and a dog best friend. There are times when my grief hits me like a brick wall I didn’t know was coming. Sometimes it’s fleeting, and others lasting. One thing that is uniformly the same for me in my experience of grief, is the feeling of loneliness.

Robert E. Neale describes loneliness as “the condition in which something is missing” in his essay Loneliness, Solitude, and Companionship. Then, of course it would make sense that I feel lonely, as I’m grieving something lost. What concerns me is that this missing thing will never return – I can’t bring my sister or Rudy back. So, will I always feel lonely?

I think grief is forever, and something that never really ceases, as I covered a bit in my former blog, Healing.   I will never not miss my sister or Rudy. A piece of me left when they did, that I can’t get back. However, I’ve begun to fill the holes of their absence with other things and new perspectives, that have created measurable change in my life. The loss of my sister taught me to walk away from what isn’t serving me. Grieving has greatly reduced my bullshit tolerance level. So yes, something is always missing, but other things are gained.

But I still feel really alone when I grieve. No one else experiences my grief in the way I do, so it is a singular experience. This is true for everyone. There is no set way to grieve. For someone who is still learning to be alone, it is very hard to be alone in my grief.

The circle of those emotionally aware of  loss also tends to decrease over time, which increases the feeling of loneliness. For me, I also don’t want to “burden” people with my grief. This is the natural progression of life, and something I was warned about. When I first lost my sister, the circle of sadness extended far and wide to family, friends, friends of friends, and even some acquaintances. I was constantly checked on and supported. Over time, this fades. People move on with life, as they should. Life doesn’t so easily move on for those of us near the center of the circle. Even though I know this is part of human emotion and life’s experience, it does not make me feel less alone. My friends don’t necessarily know when it’s the anniversary of my sisters loss, and how that makes me feel empty. Strangers don’t know to treat me with extra kindness, because today I’ve been hit by a grief wave.  Because of the unique way in which we process grief, grief might not always look like grief. As time goes on, I find myself more alone in my grief that seems to exist only for me, and creates feelings I don’t know how to describe.

As human beings, at our very core we want to be loved and to belong.

Image result for human beings want to be loved and belong brene brown

Loneliness in grief can destroy ones sense of love and belonging. So sometimes, the one thing a person grieving needs to hear is “I’m here, I love you, and you aren’t alone”.  I got a couple of messages just like this from a couple friends on the anniversary of my sisters death this week. I didn’t need anyone to fix my sadness – well, because they can’t. I did need to hear that I am loved, and that someone is thinking of me. It is hard not to feel that no one cares, when you are in that deep dark hole of loneliness in grief. These words …just these few words can make the light a little brighter in that hole of loneliness. So, if you ever know someone that is struggling, and you don’t know how to respond…just let that person know you see them and remind them they are loved. Reach out, hug them, hold them, or sit beside them. While I may be the only one experiencing my grief, I don’t have to go it alone. And if you’re afraid to say the wrong thing to your grieving friend or family, I promise you can’t make it worse by simply letting someone know you’re there. There isn’t a right time to do this either, because as I said grief lasts forever. We don’t have to have the answers and solutions to grief – we just simply need to be willing to remind people they are loved and they aren’t alone. We need to learn to be more empathetic and crawl down in the hole with those suffering, rather than watching and waving from above. I think Brene Brown describes empathy best and animated in this short video. 

So, if today is hard and you find yourself in that place of loneliness and grief: you aren’t alone. You are loved and I see you.


6 thoughts on “Alone in Grief

  1. I love you kaitlyn. Beautifully written. It is so helpful when u can find the words to describe your feelings and share it so others have a glimpse into that lonely place. I understand. I’m sorry. I wish I could go back and change so much. Mostly me and my reactions, lack of real understanding. The loss was not limited to just my child but too her children, my granddaughters. I miss them so much it hurts. They are a part of her just like you and stacy. I miss the ability to just talk to them and spend time with them. To not have this pain in my stomach and heart when I try. I miss the easy contact with all of you. It’s hard. I love you so much for so many reasons baby girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love you Mom. I know you’re at the center of that circle of pain and loneliness, and none of us know exactly what you’re feeling. Please DO know that I love you forever and always.


  2. Kaitlyn I did think of you last Sunday on the anniversary of Amanda’s death….because I, also, never forget David’s death on the same date. There was so much going on between the retreat, babysitting, and Walsh’s party that I did push it on the back burner…but I never have turned the burner off once since my brother David died at 21, forty-five years ago.

    I can say, however,…I have turned the burner down low…just heat enough to remember the warm memories I wish to retain and to blow a kiss on to my framed photo of him…the last picture ever taken. His life was so filled, at that time, with promise,.. a college graduation coming up, a teaching job….so much to live for…this is how I choose to remember him…on the threshold of a new life…It just turned out to be a “newer” life…one lived in a place without pain or suffering…a world of pure, endless love.

    And Kaitlyn I endlessly love you too and thank God every night for your entrance into our family’s lives…you are a caring, wonderful, creative individual who has blessed us with your presence.. I think of David every time I see Tommy who is named after him – Thomas David Dingle.. Now you both share anniversaries of loved ones gone too soon…but still such a part of our lives.

    Love, Boo


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