A Mini Manual for Grief


Not even six weeks have passed since my father died. Most days this concept is still surreal, particularly when I hadn’t spoken to him in 11 years. For this reason, I think some people have struggled with what to say.

Is it even grief when it’s an estranged parent? Does this person still need to move through the necessary stages?

These are the questions I imagine people would ask because I might ask them, too. I get it. These are questions I have even asked of myself. And the answers are yes and yes.

Permitting oneself to move through grief is absolutely necessary, I am coming to understand, even if sometimes that grief is not observable. Sometimes, it even looks like joy. It looks like an average day at the mall. An average day walking the halls of your workplace. “Now, I am just getting some water at the fountain.” Or “I am merely picking out a good lemon.” Or “Does this skirt go with this top?” Average. Uncomplicated. Life.

Where is this grief you speak of? Why can’t I see it?

If someone you know is grieving, whether over a death, a divorce, a personal failure, or something else entirely, here are things I am coming to understand:

  1. Getting back to life is necessary. This is what pushes us on. And when we have children and spouses, this is essential.
  2. Just because the “most important person in someone’s life” didn’t pass on doesn’t mean there isn’t grief.
  3. This is the time to practice small acts of kindness. This is when they matter. And if you are the one in need of these acts, try giving more away. Giving can be cathartic, too.
  4. This is not a time to feel guilty for being needier than normal. In fact, it’s okay to be needy any time, but for goodness’ sake, don’t beat yourself up for expecting more good juju (or whatever) to come your way.
  5. This is the time to listen to life calling you in new directions.
  6. This is the time to forgive, even those who don’t know what to do, especially those who don’t know what to do.
  7. This is the time. This is the time. This is the time. To take things in. To be good to yourself.
  8. And to not be surprised when giving yourself a half hour to do yoga or meditate or just slow down is the time the tears will come. Let them. And don’t judge if they don’t come either.
  9. Don’t judge yourself. And try hard not to judge others.
  10. Perhaps it’s okay to indulge yourself a little. Buy the vase of flowers, even if you can’t justify the $15.99 price tag.
  11. Order the extravagant coffee – the one with lavender and vanilla. The one you never order because it’s “just too fancy” or “just not worth it.”
  12. Spend a few extra bucks on some new outfits, as long as doing so won’t make you go broke. (If that’s the case, go with a consignment store.)
  13. Cut your hair off again. You’ve been wanting to anyway. (And then relish that having longer hair never mattered to anyone.)
  14. Let the joy come in when it comes. Don’t feel guilty. You are allowed to feel good even if society questions this or no one understands. No one has to.
  15. Avoid the news – and possibly social media – even if you feel out of the loop. Who cares anyway?
  16. Put the energy you were spending on news and 300 hundred strangers’ opinions on Trump and climate change into yourself. What have you been putting off that would nurture your soul? Even if this is merely tidying up the yard or the bedroom closet.
  17. Overall, do what needs to done. There is no right way.


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