Knowing About Grief Helps with Grieving

My father died almost two weeks ago after two weeks in the ICU. For most of that time, he was on a ventilator. My dad had lymphoma, and he was already in the hospital due to issues connected with an infection in his lungs and the effects the cancer. Still, no one guessed that his situation would escalate and culminate the way it did, landing him in the ICU. And no one expected him to die.

Yet, here we are, a week out from my father’s wake and burial. I miss him terribly. I’m about to go watch aerial ski jumpers with my daughter and our friends. It’s just the thing my dad would have delighted in hearing about and seeing pictures of.

I wanted to try to write something from this place within the halo of loss and the acute stage of grief, but from the perspective of someone who has written a book about grief. Not because I’m claiming expertise status or anything like that, but because I’m noticing a difference in what the grief terrain looks like for me this time compared to when I lost my mother just about seven years ago.

Anchoring My Thinking

Part of why I chose to co-write The Long Grief Journey was because of the devastation and long-lasting effects of grief I experienced after my mom died suddenly. Working on the book helped me to anchor my thinking in research, story, and all the ways we might tend to our broken-heartedness.

I see now that in writing that book, it was as if I studied maps of mountain climbs and of rocky and steep terrains, looking for trails to open spaces where I could breathe and see. If you’ve gone on a hike up a mountain, you know that having a good sense of the path and landscape doesn’t necessarily change how hard the hike is, but it helps the mindset to be able to identify where you are.

“Oh, we are here, at this craggy steep ascent, but once we make it over this spot, it’s a more horizontal walk for a bit.” Sometimes it helps knowing what’s coming so you can make it through where you are.

How I’m Grieving Better This Time

Here are some things I’m noticing in myself as I grieve the loss of my cherished father that I know are informed by my interest in and respect for the process of human grieving.

• I’m not trying to get back to “normal”.

• I’m taking care of my body and mind by eating nourishing and comforting foods. Also, I’m walking and resting.

• I’m not pushing myself to do things I don’t want to do because I feel like I should.

• I’m recognizing that I’m grieving and metabolizing many things. For example, I’m grieving the loss of my father, and I’m working through the stress and traumatic experience of seeing certain things play out in the ICU. Holding space for the many experiences we all had as individuals and as a family is helping me to see where I’m struggling and what kind of help I might need to heal.

I Pay Attention to my Feelings

• I’m aware of the things I do to not feel my feelings and am taking the cue that there’s something there that needs tending. I don’t always tend to it right in the moment, but I don’t ignore its presence.

• I literally “look around” many times throughout the day with the goal of establishing contact with where I am on my own journey. I think about the reality of my life now that my dad is gone. And I notice the color of the sky and grass, the birds that are around, the size of my children, the ways my animals sleep. It’s like I’m laying markers on my trail so I don’t forget I’m moving through a time that is unique and painful, heartbreaking and love filled.

I Try Not to Judge Myself

• I’m working on not judging myself. For many of us, we have this part of ourselves that critiques how we’re doing, feeling, behaving, etc. I’d prefer to be connected to what I actually feel and to respond to my heart, not my fear.

You can bet that as I watch people fly through the air with skis on their feet and I hear the people around me cheering, I’ll be sending so much love to my dad, wishing he was standing next to me. I’ll tuck the experience in my heart and keep walking up the mountain.

Bradie Hansen is co-author of  The Long Grief Journey: How Long-Term Unresolved Grief Can Affect Your Mental Health and What to Do About It (Compassionate Grief Book for Healing After Loss): Blair, Pamela D., McCabe Hansen, Bradie: 9781728262666: Books

Read more from Bradie Hansen: Maintaining Contact with the Dead Heals Some Grievers – Open to Hope


Bradie Hansen

Bradie McCabe Hansen is a licensed psychologist- Master, who’s been in private practice for over twenty years. She has worked with children, adolescents, and adults, especially around issues to do with depression, anxiety, grief, addictive or abusive use of substances, developmental transitions, and trauma. She is the co-author of the newly released book The Long Grief Journey: How Long-Term Unresolved Grief Can Affect Your Mental Health and What to Do About It as well as the article “The Wisdom of Regret”, published in the Assisi Institute Journal. In addition to Bradie’s clinical work, she teaches weaving and helps to manage the fiber studio at the Shelburne Craft School in Shelburne, Vermont. Certified as an Archetypal Pattern Analyst and a Weaving a Life Leader, Bradie has the unique opportunity to help people use weaving and fiber craft to work through life stages and passages, grief, and moments of choice. As a psychologist, Bradie worked with individuals around complex life experiences for many years, but it was the sudden and traumatic loss of her mother in 2017 that opened her eyes to the lived experience of long-term, complicated grief. Grief altered her capacity to socialize, complete mundane errands, and carry on with many of the responsibilities that had previously been part of day-to-day life. After a particularly challenging time of sleeplessness and stress all to do with the rigors of grieving, she found herself learning how to weave on a four-harness, counterbalance floor loom that had come into her possession. Her teacher showed her how to thread every heddle, and sley every dent in the reed. The repetitive and mindful motions required for dressing a loom helped her find her way back to herself. While Bradie was already teaching children about the wonderful world of handcrafting, the gifts she received from weaving were expanded, and she now tries to bring the healing potential of handcrafting to clients and students. Bradie shares, “There was no thinking my way out of the pain I was feeling. No problem solving could get me through it. No timeline applied. But engaging in something as tangible as weaving helped me to connect with myself and with the threads that connect all people to each other. Weaving is a part of our ancestral DNA. Through the simple process of interlacing threads, I was able to weave comfort over my broken heart and find my way back to community and my own creativity. Now, I just want to share that gift that I received when I was at my lowest point with other people.” You can reach Bradie through her website: and you can find her book, The Long Grief Journey, on Amazon. Additionally, Bradie and her co-author Pamela Blair will be regularly contributing to the Long Grief Journey Blog which you can find here:

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