The Gift of Grief

In our society, you are revered when you ‘don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”  Grief is rarely talked about openly and is considered taboo. The average bereavement time a person receives after the loss of a family member is around 3 days and that might be generous. Three days is just enough time to attend the funeral/memorial services but not enough to mourn, yet we are expected to return to our jobs and lives without missing a beat and be fully functional. The loss of a family member is a devastating experience that alters a person for the remainder of their lives.  Grief can encompass many losses in your life such as divorce, loss of a job, house or a stage of life.   Even with good changes, there is still a feeling of sadness and loss of what was.  Grief is relative.  Some people say that divorce is like a death, and it is in the aspect that your hopes and expectations die, such as of growing old with your partner and being a support to one another.  However, with the change and death of a relationship, you still have a choice on how you want your Ex to be a part of your life going forward. When you lose a family member to actual death, you have no choice.  You have no choice on burying the hatchet in the future, sharing time or a conversation with each other, or co-parenting.  These are all choices that you still have, whether you choose to exercise them or not.

We don’t talk about grief, unless it comes in the form of a divorce or loss of a job, things we know we can replace.  Your grief will unknowingly make people uncomfortable.  It’s easier for people to digest the loss of a job, house or relationship because they often come with inspirational sayings such as, ‘when one door closes another one opens,’ or ‘you’ll get a better job, there’s someone better suited for you out there’ and on and on.  But, when you lose someone to death, the people around you won’t know what to say or what to do, some may even disappear from your life.  As you attempt to step outside of your grief for a brief moment and into your old routine seeking some normalcy or respite from your new reality, people may wonder ‘how can they do (that),’ ‘why aren’t they at home grieving,’ ‘there’s no way I could do that?’  This will  have little to do with you, and more to do with the person’s difficulty and inability in dealing with the enormity of the situation and sometimes their own emotions. The secondary experience of grief may feel too intimate, too real for someone in your orbit.  I don’t necessarily think this is a fault, it is just a response, some people just can’t be present to another person’s pain or because they can’t take your pain away and fix it.  Grief can make the people around you take stock in their own lives, questioning what is real and worthy in their own lives and this is uncomfortable for most everyone regardless of the circumstances that precipitated it.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has identified the 5 stages of grief, but know there is no right or wrong way to grieve there is only your way. The stages of grief are fluid.  You might stay in one stage much longer than other stages, you may go back and forth between the stages and right when you think and feel you’re at the tail end to acceptance, you might circle right back to the beginning stage during your grief. Because of this, grief can feel like it’s The Never-ending Story or Groundhog Day the movie only not a fantasy nor funny. Grief isn’t linear and if you think it is, you are being a disservice to yourself and others.


One thing for sure is that grief will change you in some may. One never really heals from the loss, instead you accept the circumstance.  To ‘heal’ would suggest that you are the same as before the loss, that you will never feel the pain or think of the loss.  You may be able to organize the loss in such a way that it ‘makes sense’ to you, but you can’t really go back to who you were prior to losing someone close to you.  The term, “Time Heals All Wounds’ really isn’t true.  What Time gives you is the opportunity to accept the reality of the loss and get comfortable with not seeing, hearing, speaking to or sharing milestones with your loved one.

The loss of a loved one can set the stage for self-examination and can be an opportunity to re-evaluate what is important to you.  What you value may become crystal clear to you and others.  This is the biggest gift because the loss may propel you to live as authentic and honest as you want. Forget about living via the constructed expectations of society, family, friends, or self.

Loss will change you, even when you think it hasn’t.  The experience of losing someone you love is traumatic and therefore will alter you in some way. You will be changed regardless of how much you want to be yourself prior to the loss. Loss is experienced viscerally in the depths of your nervous system. The bigger the shock the bigger the trauma. Put it in simpler terms, shock gets experienced by your body (nervous system) and becomes registered in your long-term memory. Once an overwhelming experience becomes locked in your long-term memory, you register it as trauma. Because this trauma is recorded in the limbic system, your behavior may change based on subconscious experience.  For instance, abandonment and trust issues may be amplified.  Such as, ‘I don’t (subconsciously) trust you to be here for me, you will leave me, I can’t rely on you.’  Have compassion for yourself.




The loss of a family member is devastating, even when a loved one has lived a long life. To lose a parent is tantamount to losing the foundation beneath you. You are having to grapple with the loss of your life-long and unconditional support/love and not being ‘taken care of’ any longer even though you’ve been self-sustaining for years and also have your own family. To lose a child, well, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  To lose a sibling is like losing your childhood, your camaraderie.

For myself, the loss of my brother in my teens changed me and family. It is no wonder that I became fascinated with psychology with ‘what makes people tick’ and spirituality with ‘what does all of this mean?’ in a search to answer my own internal questions.  Since the loss, what I value most is Time, family and real, honest conversations.  I value the time that I have and others take to spend together, however mundane.  I also value deeper conversations with others, so I have little interest in the superfluous conversations.  Money, things, jobs I can always replace, but I can never get back Time to spend with my brother.


What or whom have you lost?

What do you value most now?


Know that:

You will laugh again, for real.

You will feel joy again.

Your life may change to exemplify what is truly important to you.

Your empathy may increase.

Remember to:  Be patient with yourself. To love yourself. To have compassion for yourself.


It really does take a village….

“You can tell the wealth of a nation/country by how well its women and children are treated.”

Ok, I don’t remember who said this, but this quote speaks volumes.  The connection between mother and child is paramount to your development.  Needless to say, your development impacts society as a whole.  Our connection to our mothers has been found to impact our overall current and long-term health and well-being. Studies have linked stress levels in children to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety and addiction (Neil Schneiderman, Gail Ironson, and Scott D. Siegel).  This is not to negate the role of fathers, by any means. Fathers are, of course equally important (we’ll get to that later in another post), but the focus is on women today due to 1. Women being the ones actually carrying to term and giving birth and 2. Women still being the majority primary care-giver.  Because the connection between mother and child is paramount to development, we must look at the environmental factors that can impact this bond or connection.  BTW, environmental factors don’t start for the child when they are birthed, it begins in utero, but that’s another post also.  There’s so much stuff to get to!

Sustained subtle stressors = trauma.  Overwhelming stress = trauma. Stress and trauma impacts you, because it impacts/impacted your development in some way. If stress and trauma impacted/impacts you, your relationships and your health (mental, emotional, physical) are all also impacted.   In a nutshell, environmental factors and your connection with your mother (and father) impact your health, work and relationships

In this country, we have been conditioned to think in terms of  ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘My’ and ‘Mine.’ We think about how something (system, experience) or someone can help or hinder Me and My family. We don’t think about how a system, circumstance or experience will impact the ‘We,’ ‘Us,’ or ‘Our.’ This is the reductionist, individualist, competitive social society that doesn’t fully foster or allow for Connection. However, Connection (attachment) is about all of us as connection contributes to the strength and health of a nation (society).

We’ve read of studies about connection as it relates to loneliness and the negative effects on physical health and an increase in depression.  Studies have indicated that the stress and trauma a child experiences can contribute to their physical, mental and emotional health as an adult. Stress and trauma can contribute to the rise of addiction, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, stress and trauma have been linked to anxiety, depression and other mood disorders (Neil Schneiderman, Gail Ironson, and Scott D. Siegel). Our healthcare system is and has been at a crux with the increase of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke being among the top ten killers as well as the increase of drug/alcohol use and addiction contributing to a rise in death rates primarily among White Americans. These are for the most part, preventable diseases.

If we as a society began to view parent-child connections (relationships) and the systems that can support the relationship as a necessity to the long-term productivity, success and health of our society, then we (society) can begin to alter our long-term health and healthcare system through preventative care. The probability of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and addiction would likely be reduced, due to the reduction of stress endured, therefore reducing the long-term need and long-term cost of maintenance band-aid healthcare.

I don’t know who the Artist is to give credit.

What systems (communities) impact the connection (relationship) between parent and child?

Childcare. Childcare is expensive.  Infant childcare can range between $5,000+ to $16,000 a year depending on which state you live in.  Childcare, on average takes 10%-25% of the yearly joint income of a married couple, while single moms have to spend 30%-80% of their yearly income on childcare.  HALF! of your yearly income just on CHILDCARE! so moms can go to work to provide for their families.  For a family on or near the poverty line? They’re looking at an average of 50%- above 100% of their income on childcare.  This means, that people on or near the poverty line ‘spend’ what they don’t have on childcare, or the cost of childcare is contributing to their financial loss.  This. shit. is. CRAZY. when you look at the numbers.  The yearly cost of childcare is often running close to or near the cost for one year of in-state college tuition.  Living pay-check to pay-check increases the stress which often trickles down to children with parents unable to be physically and emotionally present due to working long hours/multiple jobs and then coming home to do the cooking, cleaning etc. How present would you be?  You can view the cost of childcare in each state at

Healthcare.  This is a no-brainer.  Infants and children need to go to the doctor, many might be for emergency purposes.  Needless to say, adults also need medical care without going into debt or becoming bankrupt.  Prior to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) maternity care was NOT covered AT ALL, which meant being a woman was a pre-existing condition!  In addition to maternity care, Family Planning  is also necessary. Family planning including insurance covered, free or minimal cost for birth control as well as the right to choose for having a baby.  Taking away funding for Planned Parenthood sets up an increase in possible STI’s and an increase in unwanted children coming into this world  with little financial means or emotional development to support the child (teen pregnancy).   There are 14.5 million children living in poverty in this country today and lack of funding for Planned Parenthood would only increase these numbers.  How can one be against abortion yet be ok with taking away universal maternity care as well as meals for children?  Aren’t infants and children just as valuable as a fetus? With universal healthcare,  women and children would get the care they need, without the nagging worry about going bankrupt or further into debt.  Personally, an overhaul of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries should be held accountable and tackled.   We’re coming up on tax day, and believe me, every year I throw my fists up into the air cursing Uncle Sam.  However, I’m all for universal healthcare and education even with higher taxes. At least these great financial burdens would be lifted and I (we) would get a direct payoff instead of my taxes contributing to corporate wealth.  I know many people are against universal healthcare, but can someone tell me how Cuba, a country with universal healthcare and education, yet considered well below the economic growth rate has created a vaccine (Cimavax) to halt the spread of lung cancer?  One of the deadliest cancers? Yet, billions have been raised for the Komen foundation for breast cancer, and yet there’s still no cure?  Can someone say Profits over people?

Ok, off my soapbox…Next.

Paid Maternity Leave.  Not just maternity leave, but Paid Maternity Leave. Having a newborn is one of the greatest gifts and joys, yet employs the biggest stressors.  As a parent, you are on duty 24/7 no matter what.  Your underlying feeling is worry.  Worry that you’ll be a good parent, worry that you provide for your child, that they get a good education, worry that you raised a good functional child into adulthood, worry that your child is safe especially when you have no control.  As your children become adults, you worry less and less often but the underlying worry is never-ending. Well, until you die.  But I digress. Having a newborn is stressful and a complete change of your life. Paid maternity leave is important in establishing a connection/bond with your infant through holding, cradling, feeding, soothing, eye contact, speaking, bathing, cleaning etc.  All of these actions are bonding, especially breast-feeding.  Maternity leave would allow for bonding between parent and child without the stress of financially providing by having to rush back to work.  Some people get three weeks paid, some get 6 weeks, while others get 3 months and others get leave without pay.  3- 6 weeks are not enough. Three months leave, much better.  Paid maternity leave is needed for every family, but for the single mom (dad) and the parent with minimal support, it is imperative.

Which brings us to….

Equal Pay (and a Livable Minimum Wage).  US Department of Labor states that 57% of women work outside of the home. Statistics share that women make .60-.86 cents to every dollar a man makes, with women of color (Black, Latina) making the least. This impacts all women and especially single moms who carry the majority of responsibility for day-to-day child rearing.  For the single parent household, the stress of financially providing for your child and the stress of keeping the job is most likely increased (overwhelm), which impacts the connection between your child. Women will lose 800+ BILLION dollars! this year alone due to inequality in pay. If the Equal Pay rights became law, this would greatly benefit women, single women and single moms by reducing  financial stress with the ability to provide more for their child or children.  In addition, many families have to work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet and often that isn’t enough.  Here’s where the livable wage increase happens.  Wages have NOT increased with inflation through the years contributing to the 14.5 million children living in poverty.  Kids not receiving basic care, such as food, healthcare and for some, shelter. Basic needs.  I don’t know why this isn’t an outrage in America and with our politicians.

Yes, these are all separate issues affecting women, but these are all connected.  These systems are environmental factors that impact the well-being and development of children.  To think that a child’s development is solely impacted by the individual family is not seeing the entire picture for child rearing and development.

The lack of these systems being made available to support parents can contribute to increased stress.  You’ve read multiple times already in this blog, that’s how important it is.  Sustained stress becomes a form of trauma and therefore affects your reasoning which impacts your ability to think rationally. Stress also affects your emotions (i.e. being quick to anger, lashing out at your child or your partner), and affects your behavior with coping mechanisms like alcohol, drugs, food, tv, phone, FB and anything else to checkout (Frone, M; Russell, M; Cooper, M. Lynne,  1997).  Stress taken alone doesn’t sound so insidious, but sustained stress is deadly.

I could’ve written separate blogs regarding each system, but that would take this subject and make it linear with a one-dimensional view, when in reality many systems impact mother-child (parent-child) bonds.  Furthermore, when we see that there are many elements to supporting women and children, thus society as a whole, then maybe we can see that we are all connected and it really does take a village.  Maybe then, we are liable to take action in the direction of the whole rather than the individual.