You Know You’re Recovering from Grief When . . .

Grief is a dark place, so dark you wonder if you will ever see light again. While you’re grieving, you are struggling to find your way through a long tunnel of darkness and there is no light ahead. You wonder if you will survive. Maybe you won’t find your way out of the tunnel, a terrible thought, and one that adds to your sorrow. Courageous as you have been in the past, you wonder if you have the courage to face this new challenge.

It a life without a loved one worth living? Although you’re trying as hard as you can, you may feel mired in grief, and unable to escape its grip. You would feel better if you could see some signs of progress, and the list that follows contains many signs. Give yourself credit for each one because all of the steps you take, large and small, eventually count. The day will come when you realize you are moving forward on the recovery path. Watch for these indications.

  • You don’t cry as much.
  • You can tell your story without sobbing.
  • You laugh again, although your laughter feels rusty.
  • You have your first belly laugh.
  • You are aware of the outside world again.
  • You attend your first support group meeting.
  • You continue to go to support group meetings.
  • You want to help others.
  • You think about establishing  a memorial.
  • You make a life change in honor of your loved one.
  • You welcome quiet.
  • You can be peacefully alone.
  • You choose to live and enjoy the miracle of life.
  • You remember your loved one and smile.

People have similar grief symptoms, yet each journey is unique, and no grief journey is like yours. As someone who experienced four deaths in six months, including the death of my daughter–mother of my twin grandchildren–I can assure you that sunshine will return to your life. Your loved one would want you to be happy. So make the conscious decision now, at this moment, to let happiness back into your life. Do this in memory of your loved one. You are worthy of happiness and can claim it for yourself.


Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit


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  • Bubba Tintle says:

    Ms. Hodgson,
    My Karen passed away this past June 9 after a three year fight with colon cancer. She was my entire world. This article that you wrote help me to organize my life a little. Thank you for that.
    Sometimes I am not even sure I want to go on. I truly have gotten little support from family do friends. I go on because that is what Karen would want.

    • Thanks for reading my article. I truly believe, with all my heart, that our deceased loved ones want us not just to go on, but enjoy the miracle of life. Do it in memory and honor of your precious Karen.

  • Leslie Lynch says:

    Wonderful article! I’ve lost my dearest sibling, my father and my best friend in 3 short years. Your list helped me to see how far I’ve come since that tragic night in May of 2015 when I got the call from my sister that our other sister was gone. Though the other deaths have hit hard, Kathy’s was the hardest because there was no time to say goodbye; she was killed instantly. I’ve started a business and a grief blog as a way of honoring them and supporting others who have suffered loss.

  • Kathy Gilbert says:

    My husband of 36 years died 5months ago and everything seems to get harder. I have lost interest in church and the people there I don’t want to talk to them I just want to hide. Some who were”friends” haven’t spoken to me sent a card nothing. So I hate going. I just don’t care about cooking dinner, cleaning my house the way I used too. I dread the coming of fall which was my favorite time of year, also this year would be my 37th. I also have developed malignant hypertension with chest pains. I’m hanging in there but I really don’t care.

    • I’m sincerely sorry for your loss Kathy and understand your feelings. Like you, I’ve had moments when I didn’t care. Both of my twin grandchildren’s parents died from the injuries they received in separate car crashes. My daughter was their mother and she appointed my husband and me as the twins’ guardians. Two vulnerable teenagers needed us, so we pulled ourselves together and raised them for seven years. Life became brighter and the four of us became a family. Surely your husband would want you to enjoy the miracle of life. Please take care of yourself in memory of him.

  • Patricia says:

    Dear Ms. Hodgson,

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t first extend my sympathy on your losses.

    Your article is very helpful to me. I lost my elder Beagle, Lily Mae nearly 3 weeks ago. She was euthanized after months of deterioration and me discovering she had blood in her mouth which was not from her teeth; but from all her membranes basically closing down. The decision was made along with her lovely doctor. Lily was about 13/14. I adopted her, so I don’t know her real age. She was nothing short of a grateful, gem of a pup.

    I have lived a life of grief having lost my Dad suddenly 2 weeks after my 20th Birthday. I am now 60 years old. I took 2 days off from work to honor my feelings and to honor Lily’s life. The first day I sat in my room pretty much staring at the wall and crying endlessly. The next day, I went to Mass, also went up to the Shelter where I adopted her from, and purchased a brick in her name to be placed on the main path. I purchased a bracelet with a little paw print, a “LOVE” magnet for my car with the “O” being a paw print. I also ordered commemorative sympathy thank you cards to send to the hospital staff and others who showed kindness to me during Lily’s challenges. I saved this little girl from 2 shelters. I still talk to her first vet tech who commends me for what a great job I did, yet, I felt like I didn’t do enough.

    I’ve sought counsel with a pet bereavement counselor who told me I know more about grief than most people she’s counseled. Yet, I am struggling and honor that. My other Beagle is extra clingy and of course knew all along what’s going on. She kept going over to Lily and smelling her mouth. She knew before I knew.

    So while I am addressing my grief, and ackowledging disruption in the daily routine, and honoring Lily in many ways, I am reminded I need to give time TIME. I remember watching cartoons when I was young and they showed the passing of time with a calendar flipping through the days, weeks, and months, which I find myself longing for.

    I am also a 3 time breast cancer survivor having had a bilateral mastectomy in December of 2016. I’m still undergoing reconstruction. This is more loss to deal with.

    Then my cousin (63) died suddenly with a heart attack and another young one (38) after a battle with Lymphoma. Not long after, I lost Lily. Needless to say, it’s been pretty sad being surrounded by loss and being around people in my work world that appear to have no depth of emotion. How sad for them.

    I still cry everyday. The morning and at night and during transition times of going from one place to another.

    I made a list of what my pups mean to me. It’s a valid, wonderful list. I am keeping my eye out for another Beagle. In time. In TIME.

    Thank you for your reminders. While I shed my tears and remember I gave Lily Mae, aka “Lily Girl”, the life of a princess, I am also reminded Dog spelled backwards is God, and luckily, I choose to journey with Him to help me through.

    Grief…sure takes a lot out of you! Charlie Brown proclaiming “Good Grief”, makes me wonder is there such a thing?



    • Thanks for reading my article Patricia. You and I know too much about grief. As time passed, however, I came to realize the death of loved ones, and our two beloved Golden Retrievers, made me more grateful for life. I am my disabled husband’s caregiver. Despite our physical problems, we consider each day a blessing. You were blessed to have Lily Mae in your life.