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Ask Ellie: Grief is a process, not something to 'get over'

“Understand that the loss and grief will always exist. We think about our daughter every day. It just happens."

Dear Readers: Here’s a very moving response to my asking readers on Jan. 26, to share their “learning to accept the loss” of a loved one. So many of you responded, and this is one in which the writer describes the nature of grief:

“My wife and I suffered the unexpected sudden loss of our dear daughter in 2014 at age 26. She was the light of our life. What we learned about grief:

“Memories fade. We feel, sometimes, that the world is moving on and forgetting the one we love so dearly. Please don’t avoid speaking about our daughter, worried that it may cause us pain. Knowing that she’s remembered by others is a source of comfort.

“Listen empathetically. Just knowing that you care enough to let us pour out our hearts is a gift that cannot be underestimated. After many years, this is still an important comfort.

“Understand that the loss and grief will always exist. We think about our daughter every day. It just happens. Once we realized that this is normal, a huge weight lifted emotionally. It’s not something we have to “get over;” it will always be.

“It isn’t about forgetting the past but remembering the future. It’s not wrong to feel less pain over time. Our initial feeling of grief was so intense that we didn’t want to fall asleep because we knew we’d wake up and the pain would start anew.

“We didn’t want to die, but didn’t want to live this way. It took time for the pain to lessen.

“Allow others back in but do so as you feel comfortable and able. You need their help carrying this heavy burden.

“Face the loss in small doses. Her photo has helped me to grieve gradually and continually, but in a controlled manner. It also sometimes brings a smile to my heavy heart.

“Don’t rush to get rid of things. Every time you throw away (or donate) it feels like a piece of your heart is gone. But some things are tied up in memories and emotions. We pour out our hearts and feelings in prayer.”

Dear Ellie: I’m in a 25-year marriage with two kids but feeling incredibly alone. My husband’s never been affectionate. When I try to discuss my feelings, he dismisses them as exaggerated.

He’s a great father — present and helpful, but, otherwise an introvert with no need for friends or sharing. I’m an extrovert thriving on social and emotional connections.

During the past two years, besides COVID isolation, one of our kids has become very ill, and then, I got sick too. My husband told no one, shut me down when I tried, and recently started hiding my health issues from everybody and insisting I do, too.

He’s dismissed my many past requests to see a marriage counsellor, saying “I don’t have any problems.”

I don’t love him anymore. I’m considering leaving as I’m depressed and lonely, but worried about emotional/material damage I’d cause the kids.

Need Advice

It’s not a good time for major changes when feeling ill and worried about children’s health too. But it IS a good time for finding a counsellor for yourself. You can air your feelings, get feedback from a professional therapist, weigh the emotional/material risks and discuss other options.

When your health and your child’s has improved, also talk to a lawyer on your own to learn what’s involved in ending a marriage or other options.

The right answers for your needs and that of your children, will become clear.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the letter-writer who took issue with your writing a “Tip of the Day” (Jan. 15):

“I certainly don’t consider it what the letter-writer called a “waste of time.” It’s a succinct summary of the advice offered in the column.

“Anybody who doesn’t like it can skip it.

“I read your column online and it’s one of the most organized websites I’ve come across, and when you refer to a past column, you give the date as well as the writer’s reference “name.”

“A click on that date quickly refreshes my memory about the prior letter and your advice.

“People write/trust you with their innermost secrets. That’s the true measure of your positive influence. Ignore those who only criticize.”

Ellie: I regularly publish feedbacks from readers with different or disagreeing perspectives from mine.

I rarely boast my positive feedbacks, but this one’s special. Thanks.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Grief is a process, difficult but insistent, eventually necessary and helpful.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].