Our grief support group began as it always did, everyone introducing themselves and stating how they were doing. It was June and anniversary dates, Father’s Day, birthdays and other trigger dates were all weighing heavily on the hearts of those in attendance. One after the other person said things like: “I am horrible.” “I am so sad.” “I am lost without him.” The energy in the room grew heavier and heavier as each related how difficult it was to cope with so many memories tied to this time of year.


While I understood their pain, I also knew that their choice of words was not helping them to feel any better. Gently I explained the difference between “I am” and “I feel.” “I am” is a statement of ownership. It is a defining of who you are, not how you feel. “I am horrible” is a powerful statement that labels you. 


“I feel horrible” on the other hand is a statement of fact. It is your emotional place at this moment in time. Feelings change throughout the day. They are like the proverbial tide that is so often used as a metaphor for grief. In and out, back and forth, our feelings and emotions waver and shift. Sadness may be present at all times, but the intensity of the feeling varies based upon what is going on at that moment. Perhaps we are distracted by friends or family and our hearts lighten for a while. Maybe we are exercising or out for a walk and we feel like we can breathe deeply and feel calmer. Perhaps we are watching a favorite comedian and a laugh escapes our lips and a smile creeps up on our face. Feelings change – we are not our emotions. 


Begin to pay attention to the words you are using to describe yourself. Try “I am” phrases like “I am grieving, but finding ways to cope” or “I am resilient and surrounded by supportive people in my life.” Link the “I am” to an affirmative statement that reminds you of your resiliency, your ability to receive support and the inner power that you possess right now. 


Use the “I feel” wording for a check-in on your emotional state at any given moment. It is okay to feel however you feel, as long as you are aware that all emotions pass and fade and change throughout our day. Acknowledge the pain and the loss, but also recognize that you will make it through and you will find a way to bring your loved one along on your journey through grief, as they will always occupy a special place in your heart.


Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.


Image via Flickr Creative Commons / vitroid

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Comment by Judith Lorraine Harvey on August 12, 2013 at 4:34pm

 Nancy, this will be the first birthday without my beautiful mum. She was always the first one to call me in the morning to sing Happy Birthday to me. I thank God every day for the gift of my mother. I know time heals. I prayed to her last night. It's like there's a band aid across my heart, and if I take it off I will shatter and fall apart. One day at a time. That's all I can ask for at this moment. God Bless...Jude

Comment by Nancy Weil on August 12, 2013 at 7:56am


Celebrate your birthday with joy for the life that your Mom gave to you. she is still a part of you and always will be. surround yourself with caring people and those who uplift your spirit. Lean on your faith and know that these intense emotions will ease and you will smile again. God bless...

Comment by Judith Lorraine Harvey on August 10, 2013 at 4:23pm




 It's comforting to know that you understand what a horrendous journey this is. I talk to my sister, but it is hard as she did not have the same relationship as I did with mum. My mum was my best friend, my confidante, my shoulder to lean on, my all. She always told people I was her rock. I was the anchor, she was the ship but she became so ill, that she sailed away. I had to let her go. Now as I face this life without her in it, I can only pray that one day there will be sunshine in my heart again, not tears. I love her so much and miss her with every fibre of my being. Every loss takes its toll on the heart. Two days until my birthday. Precious mother, like no other that was you. Take care of her Dear Lord because she was my life. I see her face, her loving face, that cheeky grin. Yesterday was the most horrendous day, it was like a raging river washed over me. I put my arms around the urn and cried and cried and cried. God Bless you all that suffer from the loss of the most pivotal person in your life. Jude

Comment by Nancy Weil on August 10, 2013 at 6:59am

Jude, you have expressed so eloquently the profound loss of a parent that makes it like no other loss. Our mom and dad have known us since we drew our first breath and no longer having them available to call or laugh with or reminisce over old times, is so very difficult. I have found in my grief groups that many of their friends don't understand why the loss of a parent is as difficult as the loss of a spouse or child. I can only urge you to get out around others who understand and who can help you as you continue to cope with your loss, your cancer and all of the other things that life sends our way. I pray that you continue to let laughter help you to heal.


Comment by Nancy Weil on August 9, 2013 at 1:13pm


I am so sorry for your loss. Your feelings are valid and I understand where you are coming from. I think you and I are saying the same thing in different ways. We do feel the pain of our loss and we carry it with us in our heart forever.  Yet, when we use words that define us as our grief or our feelings, it can keep us from healing or even from having a joy-filled moment. 


I am sure your parents are sending you love from Heaven.


Comment by Judith Lorraine Harvey on August 7, 2013 at 5:27pm

 I believe we are our emotions. That is what make's us the people we are. The love, compassion, empathy, generosity of heart and soul. It is the heart that rules the head. Our eyes see the happiness, the sorrow, the joy, the pain. Laughter is a gift from God. Music soothes the soul. But death tear's you apart. When you have lost your parents, you feel like an orphan. No more phone call's, no more visits. No mother's day, no father's day, birthday's become meaningless. You look for joy, but it eludes you, deludes you into thinking that there will finally come a time when the grief will stop and you will finally wake up without tears rolling down your face. Tear's inside my heart. I remember very precious moment's and I laugh. I want to ring mum and tell her something then I remember, she's gone. I would not wish her back to suffer as she did. The last six month's of her life were horrendous and no child should be a witness to it. But she was my mother and I would do it all again. I would have walked the highest mountain, carried her if I could. God Bless all the people who battle this journey.



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