Photo of a Leaf - Newness

Let’s say we’ve adjusted to the death of a loved one to some degree. We’re back at work. We’re cooking, shopping, and taking care of the house. We’re gathering with friends and talking about something other than grief like sports, politics, and the sale going on at Kohls Department Store.

Hopefully we no longer feel like a victim but a warrior because we have battled tremendous forces and survived. We understand our emotions better, and we feel ourselves transforming into someone different, perhaps someone we’ve always wanted to be. 

We are new creatures because of grief. Don’t expect us to act the same.

We’ve discovered hidden strengths we didn’t realize we had. Maybe we’ve learned how to manage the finances, take care of the yard, or make basic repairs on the house. Maybe we’ve discovered that we like to cook, go on 100-mile bike rides, or paint landscapes. Maybe we have new friends – people we met in a grief support group. Maybe we’ve started dating. If our child died, perhaps we are trying to get pregnant again. We have a new normal, and how we view reality has radically changed.

We realize that society does a poor job of taking care of its citizens.

To get through grief, we had to do it on our own with the help of a few others.We know that any of us can died at any time. It doesn’t matter how young, good, or successful we are. Not everyone will live to a ripe, old age with all of our abilities intact. Too many of us will get cancer and have to endure surgery and chemotherapy. Some of us will get hit by a car and die. Or have a stroke and go through months of rehab, or suffer a heart attack. An increasing number of us will develop dementia and require help navigating through each day. We realize that old age is a gift, not a right, and it’s no longer one of our assumptions.

Friends are not the people we see and chat with every day.

Our priorities have changed. We don’t put important matters off anymore. If someone needs assistance, we help them today, because tomorrow one of us may not be here. Friends are not the people we see and chat with every day. Most of them kept their distance when grief began. Our friends are those who came, sat with us, drank coffee, and helped us bear the weight of grief.

We now value compassion over judging others.

When we needed help, a few people showed up and made all the difference. We understand how suffering feels, and how death can tear your life apart. Most people do nothing to deserve the sorrow, illness, or pain that comes their way.We also realize that many people don’t know how to help someone who is grieving. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they don’t realize they don’t need to have answers. All they have to do is be present and listen. We’ll do the talking.

The hardest thing is to trust people again and believe that goodness is the foundation of life.

If you ask how I’m doing, and I’m feeling crappy, expect the truth. I’m no longer going to tell you I’m fine, so don’t ask if you don’t want to know. I don’t have the time or inclination to sugarcoat the truth. Politeness no longer butters my bagel.            

I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below, and I’ll respond.


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  1. Priyanka on May 10, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Love the way you express, it feels like you know exactly what I am feeling. It is so true that we are a new creature because of grief, I don’t take any moments for granted anymore. While it hurts so much to live without the man I was meant to spend my life with i also understand how valuable each day and try and make the best out of it. A feeling that no one can understand unless you have lived through this pain. Thank you for sharing!

    • Mark Liebenow on May 11, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you, Priyanka. I try to put into words what I think we’re all feeling. And I think it’s true, that if people have never lost anyone close, then they don’t understand grief, and they don’t understand our lack of excitement about the future. Sure, the world is still a wonderful place that has what we once loved for all its gifts and beauty. They still exist, but somehow they pale in the face of our loved one’s death. Is there enough goodness left for us to continue on? There is.

  2. Sherrin Loyd on May 10, 2019 at 9:05 am

    I love reading your writing, Mark. It’s so spot on. Because Barbra stays with us every other week from Wednesday through Sunday, I often think of Evelyn. We often talk about her. Clio, who is now 19! joins us in these discussions. Sweet.

    I’m glad you’re still writing. I hope you’re doing very well.


    • Mark Liebenow on May 10, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Thank you for saying so, Sherrin. It’s neat that Clio joins in!

  3. Kathleen on May 10, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Politeness doesn’t butter my toast. Oh yes. My therapist told me that I seem to not react when people say the most outrageous stuff about my husband’s death. She told me that I absorb these comments and don’t respond in order to not hurt their feelings when I’m the one hurting the most. That was some absolute truth right there.

    • Casey on May 10, 2019 at 1:05 pm

      Different circumstances, but the outcome is similar. I too am all about protecting other people these days.

      • Mark Liebenow on May 10, 2019 at 3:30 pm

        Good for you, Casey. Beyond understanding, what people who are grieving need is acceptance and a protected space to find their way through in the way that they need to move.

    • Mark Liebenow on May 10, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      Yah, I don’t know what to do with them either, Kathleen. “Them” being those who have never lost anyone close and say clueless things that only make us feel worse. Do we stare at them until they realize they said something off base? Do we call them on it and say, “try again”? Do we turn and walk away? I don’t want to yell at them for the stupid things they say, because most are trying to comfort us. What I do want is honesty, so I’m likely to push back a little and say something like “Is that how you really feel?” or “If your (spouse, child, friend, sibling, parent) died, how would you feel?” This might get them to bypass their head and consult their heart.

Leave a Comment


This is such a well written & excellent description of how hard it can be to answer the “how are you?”Question that we are asked daily. @Sleotin describes some great suggestions of how to handle this question in a way that feels congruent to your emotions.

This article is so right. I just helped a friend make one yesterday. He is facing a barrage of medical treatment and wanted his papers in order. It is easy to do online at So worth it @livingwelldying #eolplanning

“Forgiving those that chose to walk away frees me to use my resources in more fruitful ways that help me heal. “



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