From Isabelle · Grief · Sibling Loss

No One Can Tell You When the Pain is Over

The other day I was watching Grey’s Anatomy. (Yes, I’m still a sucker for that show, even though it’s hard to watch some weeks. I love the characters. And I’ve always loved medical dramas, even when I was living one.) In this episode, Dr. Owen Hunt was teaching the interns how to deliver the news of a loved-one’s death to a waiting family. The episode goes on to show several interns botch it up, even when following Dr. Hunt’s perfect step by step directions. 

Dr. Meredith Grey, whose husband died last season, steps in and gives a beautiful monologue  to the interns. I rewound it and watched it again. 

The most powerful words she spoke were these:

Respect that that person’s pain is the biggest thing in the room.

Meredith Grey

On that note, I’d like to welcome my daughter Isabelle to the blog again to share her thoughts about grief and pain.


Isabelle speaking at Mattie’s memorial service. I’ve never been more proud of her in my life. Photo courtesy of Sara LePage

Grief is complicated. People who haven’t gone through it cannot understand it. And that okay, but they shouldn’t pretend to get it either, because its bigger than they can imagine. I cannot even relate to the grief that my brother feels, even though we lost the same sibling at the same time; he is a different person. I can understand parts of what he feels, but I do not know what he is feeling 100% because I am not him. I use what I do know to love him well.

It is never ok to think that we know exactly what another person feels. It is never ok to project our own experience onto someone else. I’ve been judged by others for being broken and incapable of doing the things that most people do everyday easily. I’ve been told that I’m moving to slowly in my life, that I’m not doing enough or pushing hard enough to work through my grief, that I don’t show that I “want it” enough. I’ve had people put really unreasonable expectations on my experience. That is total B.S.

My pain is my pain and my triumphs are my triumphs. They might not look big and shiny to the person standing next to me, but they are HUGE to me and I won’t let anyone deplete them of their beauty. I am protective of the things that make me happy.

My “productive day” might look like, getting out of bed, eating right, showering, working out, getting a ton done at work, and spending quality time with my family. To someone else, that might not seem productive, but it doesn’t matter. We are all 100% unique creatures with different stories, emotions, and capabilities. Although we can relate to the people around us, we have to know the difference between relating and truly understanding. Every day is different for me. What I accomplish today might be totally different from what I am able to accomplish tomorrow. I’m proud of myself for learning to love myself even on my weak days.

I think a big part about grief that many people don’t understand is that it is unpredictable. It is not one steady walk forward. One day we take two steps forward and the next day we might go back five, that’s just how it works. I’ve had to learn to go easy on myself when those days sneak up and shock me. Sometimes the day says to me, “Nope, today we going back two miles, and you are just going to have to sit back and feel what you need to feel.”

Sure, there have been times where my family has come to me, lovingly concerned, seeing me in such a deep depression. Because they lovingly relate to my pain, they have helped by sharing with me ways that I can take baby steps each day towards getting better. By “getting better” they did not mean “moving on” or “letting it go” because those phrases do not exist when you are grieving. They pointed out ways that I could take care of myself and do the small, simple things I needed to relearn in order to one day be able to reach bigger goals. Big goals just can’t even be on your mind when you are in such a deep level of pain. Instead of standing back and judging me, pointing out all that I was doing wrong, my family lovingly came along side of me and helped me walk in it and become stronger.

Sadly, in spite of all the forward progress I have made on my grief journey, there were people in my life that weren’t impressed because I still had days where I cried myself to sleep or couldn’t function completely. I had to let those “voices” go, and listen closely to those who were there with me in the trenches, speaking love and encouragement to me.

If you are grieving I want you to know that bad days happen to everyone, especially when you’re grieving. And it’s okay. Have grace for yourself, even if the people around you fail to.

No one can tell you when the pain is over.


2 thoughts on “No One Can Tell You When the Pain is Over

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