Conversations in Grief Blog: Grief is Like...

Grief is Like...

December 21, 2023 / 5 mins read

by Laura Wessels

I asked the grief support group that I lead what grief is like for them. We use many words to describe our deep feelings. But characters and images capture how we feel in ways we are not able to articulate.

Group members came up with the following images:


Grief is like Winnie the Pooh stuck in Rabbit’s house hole. One member recalled the saying, “Don’t just do something. Stand there.” This is the exact opposite of our instinct. There must be something we can do to fix it. Winnie’s friends were wise enough to simply stand there with him. At first, they did try to push him or pull him out. When that didn’t work, they didn’t leave him alone. They stayed with him and let him be stuck. Sometimes being stuck in your grief is all you can do. It’s enough for you to stay put and feel your stuck-ness, which is the enormity of your loss. And if you have friends who can sit with you in your grief, their presence will ease your suffering.


Grief is like water-dissolving paper. Group members wrote letters to their loved ones on water-soluble paper. After writing whatever they needed to write, they placed their letter in a glass of water to dissolve the paper and words; the letter was just between them and their person, and it didn’t need to be saved. What they discovered was the paper didn’t dissolve completely, and some of the words floated in the water, still very much evident. It was a surprising lesson that our thoughts and feelings can’t be ignored and that as much as we want to turn our backs on painful memories, they will remain. Continue to deal with your sorrow, lost opportunities, and unfinished business.


Grief is like Humpty Dumpty. After the great fall, he couldn’t be put back together again. Like the Japanese art of Kintsugi, repairing broken pottery with gold seams, many bereaved claim they are beautifully broken. The gaps and cracks represent the shape of their person. They desire to live with evidence of their loss; it is the way they keep their loved one alive in their hearts.


Grief is like a balloon or a kite. You feel untethered, floating aimlessly, and tossed about by the wind. You feel helpless to overcome the wind. We are used to feeling a sense of control in our lives, and the death of a loved one reminds us of our helplessness. The other part of feeling untethered is that you no longer care. So much purpose and meaning you had for life has been lost along with your loved one and it’s hard to want to fight the elements.


Grief is like living in my snow globe. You feel randomly shaken by an outside force, death. Your life is swirling around you and you can’t see anything. It’s a white-out. The snow is thick and chaotic. The snow keeps you from seeing your way forward. Confused and lost, you also discover that you’re frightened by your own lack of clarity. You want to do something, but you don’t do anything. Because you can’t see.


Grief is like the Incredible Hulk. Your internal dialogue begs you to be okay: “All is well. I’m moving through my grief at a nice pace.” Sometimes you can even believe you are okay. Yet the Hulk is right there, just under the surface. It won’t take much, a thoughtless comment, a sight that triggers a memory, and you feel the green monster simmering. You squash down your feelings and berate yourself for whatever you are feeling. Instead of owning your feelings, regrets, bargaining, and being with those feelings, you tamp them. Then the thing happens. Your grief is dismissed by someone, or you see a person with the same disease that ended your loved one’s life. The feelings build and build until the Hulk transforms and takes over. Yet maybe the Incredible Hulk needs to make an appearance to help you express how big and unmanageable the grief monster is for you.


Grief is like an old friend. Learn to live with her. She’s helping you remember your person and reminding you to take good care of yourself.

If grief were a character, who or what would it be? What would it say to you? What would you say to it?