The Stealthfulness Of Grief

Nobody tells you how sneaky grief is. 

For the first five months or so after my mom’s stroke, I rode the emotional roller coaster all the time.  It was understandable.  So much was happening and changing on an hourly basis.  Of course my emotional reactions fluctuated. 

After about five months, my mother’s condition plateaued.  She was not improving, but neither was she undergoing stressful medical procedures.  I got her settled in the nursing facility.  I resolved the financial side of things.  I sold her mobile home. Once her status quo seemed to be pretty stable, I thought I might be able to begin to stabilize myself and start learning to cope with my own feelings. 

For the most part, I thought I was doing pretty well.  I was figuring out how to accept the new reality. I was even starting to carve out a “mini life” for myself.  I was regularly spending some time without being engulfed in my mother’s condition and care.  None of it was easy.  I certainly can’t say I was truly “okay,” but I felt I was gradually repairing my shattered psyche.  Both my mother and I seem to be living in the now with a little more good grace and good cheer.  Our relationship is certainly not what it was in the pre-stroke days, but we are starting to find our footing in our new one.  We both seem to be recognizing each other again and are acting more like ourselves.  Things are far from “okay,” but, for right now, they are better than I can expect.  So there is every reason for me to put on my big girl panties and get on with life.   

Still, every now and again, I am just floored by sadness.  There isn’t even necessarily a reason or a trigger I can identify.  I’m fine…  and then I’m not.   

The other day, I was walking up to the door of the nursing facility.  I was carrying my purse, a case containing a portable DVD player that I bring to show my mom home movies, and a milkshake.  I don’t quite know how it happened, but I tripped on a warped place in the pavement. I might have been trying a new technique for long-jumping, except that I think you are supposed to land on your butt when long jumping, not forward onto your face.   It was as if I really believed I was Tinker Bell and had sprouted wings.  News flash- I had not.  

Luckily, I didn’t really hurt myself.  As I lay on the sidewalk, stunned, all I could think about was the milkshake that was now spilled all over the cement and the DVD player that might have been much more disabled by the fall than I was.  For some reason, that milkshake spill just demoralized me beyond almost anything I’ve experienced in life.  I felt so defeated that I kind of just wanted to lie there and hope the world would end.  It was a weird sensation of knowing that I was reacting beyond all rational thought but not caring.   

I knew the reaction wasn’t really about the milkshake.  It wasn’t about the DVD player (which, remarkably, was unharmed by its flight).  It wasn’t even about the fall.  It was the same old grief and stress that I thought I was conquering.  The reaction was about the fact that my mother is so compromised and I can’t fix it.  I thought I was coming to terms with that reality, but the sadness came crashing back out of nowhere.   

A very nice gardener guy helped me to my feet.  I stared at the mess I had left in my wake.  The gardener guy asked if I was all right and I said, “yes, but the milkshake is all over the ground and it is ruined.  Besides, there will be bees and people might slip on it.”  The gardener guy looked at me strangely and mumbled some sort of embarrassed response.  Still a little in shock, I made my way into the facility and into my mother’s room, where I greeted her sans milkshake.  I burst into tears when I saw her, apologizing profusely for the lack of ice cream.  I think I kind of alarmed her.  She kept telling me to go home but I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want the fall to win.   

When I did leave the nursing home, still feeling unspeakably sad, I noticed the milkshake mess was mysteriously gone.  I am sure that my nice gardener guy cleaned it up for me.  Thank you, nice gardener guy.   

I read somewhere that sometimes you don’t have to get over things; you just have to get through them.  Maybe the “getting through them” isn’t always by a straight path. 

Has grief ever “snuck up” on you?  How do you cope?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a thoughtful day!

Terri 🙂

6 thoughts on “The Stealthfulness Of Grief”

  1. None of us are immune to loss and death. More than 25 yrs ago when I was going through a marriage break down, I remember the day I went to get a barn fork only to realize that my ex-husband had removed all those tools from the property. If anyone had asked why I was upset I would have said it was about the lack of tools but of course it was about so much more manifested in the loss of the barn fork. Yes, Terri, grief has a life of its own. It always takes longer and more energy than you think it should. It’s measured more in years than in days or weeks. It will show itself in all spheres of your life – social, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual. You will grieve for many things both symbolic and tangible, not just the death/loss itself. Like you said, the milkshake spill demoralized you more than anything. You will grieve for not only what you’ve already lost but also for future hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled expectations you held for and with that person. Loss will resurrect old issues, feelings and unresolved conflicts from the past. I’ve learned to ask – What is this really about? And like your mother’s health condition, it can’t really be fixed but it can be managed. Keep up the good work.

    1. Terri, you and Mona have described the grieving process very well. It sure takes many forms and can sneak up on you, as you say. But you’re working hard at recognizing it and getting through it as you live your life.

      1. I certainly have no monopoly on grief. We all go through it in our ways in our own time. I’m lucky to be able to find beauty and happiness in life, as well. Having wonderful people in my life like you readers helps me concentrate (mostly) on the sweeter times! Thanks to all of you!

    2. You are right, Mona. None of us gets through life unscathed. And I’m not sure that’s completely a bad thing. We wouldn’t be who we are without the challenges. Wisdom is kind of expensive. It does wear one out. I’ve been watching Downton Abbey with my mother. The dowager countess has a line that I think applies- There is nothing quite so exhausting as grief.

    3. Thanks for the digging down into your own life and letting us know how you are feeling. It is a difficult time for you but you are going through things and with God’s help, He is going through it with you. Remember that. When i was caring for an aunt and an uncle in CA, I didn’t know how i would get through it all, but God was with me, even to the end of both their lives. God knows the timing of our days, and what we can endure too. He is with us each moment. Without Him, I could never get through! you are in my prayers as you go through each day. It is hard, but with God He is with us through it all.

      1. I know everything in my life is better because God is with me… even through the hard days. I’m sure it was because of God that the milkshake took the brunt of the fall instead of the DVD player or me!

Comments are closed.