What I’ve learned from and through my grief.

Wow. Grief is a powerful emotion.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that.

I’ve grieved before – but, this time is different. I grieved when my Grandmother passed away. That was my only ‘big one’ so far. I’ve also grieved for others – who’ve had a great loss. I’ve watched friends grieve for parents, children, siblings, and friends.

The truth is, everyone grieves differently.

I always dreaded the day I would lose my dad. He was so much more than just my father. He was a true friend; my lifeline.  It is the natural order of life though, so I assumed he would die before me. I tried not to think about it, but, the older we get, the older they get. Once dementia reared its horrid head, I knew it couldn’t be too long. But, I hoped. Sadly, three and a half years after that diagnosis, we are preparing to bury him.

It’s like a gut punch.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to that loss.  It’s a natural response for most of us. It is a form of suffering.

I’ve learned a lot over the past two weeks.

I’ve learned that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to go through something like this alone. My friends and family have been so incredibly helpful. My big girls, despite their own sadness, are constantly checking on me. Sending texts and calling, just to make sure I’m okay. My husband has been a gift. He’s let me grieve how and when I want to. He’s been so helpful and understanding. We’ve been talking so much about my dad – and it feels nice, not painful.

I’ve also learned that people care.

So many people have experienced great loss and are living with it every single day. I’ve read many comments, messages, texts, and emails from people saying the same things… Their parent or grandparent has passed away or they are suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Some people told me they had real hope after I said my dad remembered me at the end. There is something really beautiful about that. This disease, that took so much, didn’t win in the end. That is a gift. For anyone dealing with this disease in their family, hold on to that hope. Also, talk to people about things; don’t try to go it alone. Find support groups or friends who are dealing with similar situations and talk about it. I am happy to talk to anyone who needs some support. Anytime.

I’ve learned that getting a loved one from Florida to NY is not the easiest of tasks. It takes time and patience. Which means the funeral can be weeks out. That’s the case here. Dad will be laid to rest on Friday the 13th (I know. I know) – more than three weeks after he passed away.

I’ve also learned that loved ones do send signs.

I was profoundly impacted and forever changed when I saw and heard my dad call for his mother at the end.  It gave me more hope than anything else in my life has. He reached up for her and called to her. I know she was there waiting for him. That gave me peace. So, I’ve learned that with death, comes peace. Pain. And heartache. And peace.

I’ve learned to have patience. I posted on Facebook – as I tend to do – that I really needed a sign from my dad. So many shared their signs, their experiences, their shared wish for a sign. So many said – “it’ll come”.  And, it did. And it changed everything for me.

I’d been pretty much inconsolable for ten days. Just a wreck. So sad. Sad, sad, sad. Then, I had to go out of town this past weekend – as part of my graduate program I had to go to Syracuse University for seminars, meetings, and classes. The timing was awful, but in order to finish, I had to go. Thank GOD I went. I checked into my hotel, feeling very depressed. I got into the elevator and pushed number 5 to get to my room. I was alone in the elevator. The music playing was very low but I heard a familiar song. One of my dad’s favorites. “Somewhere over the Rainbow” was playing in the elevator. I have NEVER in my life heard that song on the radio. Not anywhere. It was the most glorious sound. I rode up and smiled the entire time. I recorded the song with my phone – just to make sure it wasn’t it my head. I called my husband from my room and told him – he confirmed it must have been my sign.

I knew it was.  I had been an open-minded skeptic about the whole sign thing. But, there it was.

I thanked my dad and went on to have a wonderful weekend (after a minor breakdown).

It seems like from that moment on, I’ve been dealing with my grief in a different way. I’m still sad, but not only sad. I’ve opened my mind, my heart and my memory. I know this is part of the healing process; the grieving process. It feels much better to remember the good times. There were so many. It feels good to think about what my life has been like thanks to my dad; how blessed I am.

It’s also given me strength to write my dad’s eulogy. It’s been quite an experience writing this – summing up my dad’s life. I’m finding that I have an awful lot to say.  I fear writing it might be the easy part; saying it might prove to be too much. We’ll see.

I used to think of death as so final. So absolute. And it is – but, it’s also a kind of promise of what is to come some day. That’s where I choose to focus. I know my life will be different without my father here – he’s guided me all along. But, I’m hoping to still be guided by him, just in a different way. Yes, I wish he was still here. Yes. But, he’s not so I have to make the best of it. He would want me to do that. His advice to me would be to continue celebrating life – each and every day. So, that’s what I’ll do.

Thank you for the kind and thoughtful messages – know that they have helped more than I could say.



Mary Friona

Mary Friona

Following my heart with my husband and four daughters. An Emmy Award winning journalist lucky enough to work in television & radio for 20 years - seeing wonderful places, meeting great people and telling their stories.

Comments (4)

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    Balling……i love you tons xoxo


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    What a wonderful article.
    I’m so sorry for your loss..
    Sending love.


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    Mary, so sorry for the loss of your Pops. I know how much he meant to you; that until Scott, no man could ever measure up. I will look forward to hearing your beautiful eulogy next week and give you a big hug.



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    Jo Pfetsch


    We just lost my mother-in-law in the middle of June, and she was really the only ‘mother’ I really had. I think about her every day. I don’t get signs, per say, but I am an atheist. Your blog made me cry and miss her so much. Her name was Violet, and she was 89. Thankfully, she was in good health when she passed. I miss her terribly, and our visits with her at Fox run in Orchard Park.


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