18th November 2013

Last week was one of *those* anniversaries. Not for me but for a dear friend of mine. And not the good kind of anniversary – at least not all good. Loss is never better or worse, but from the outside looking in, it’s sometimes impossible to see how an individual makes it through.

About six months after her loss, my friend began writing. She asked me for book recommendations, and I, in turn, went to Twitter. I got some excellent recommendations, but the one that touched her the most was Ann Hood’s Comfort: A Journey Through Grief. This quote, in particular:


Grief is not linear. People kept telling me that once this happened or that passed, everything would be better. Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with a beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. One day you are acting almost like a normal person. You maybe even manage to take a shower. Your clothes match. You think the autumn leaves look pretty, or enjoy the sound of snow crunching under your feet. Then a song, a glimpse of something, or maybe even nothing sends you back into the hole of grief. It is not one step forward, two steps back. It is a jumble. It is hours that are all right, and weeks that aren’t. Or it is good days and bad days. Or it is the weight of sadness making you look different to others and nothing helps.


She told me she repeats the first line to herself: Grief is not linear. Grief is not linear.

Our lives may be, but our pain most certainly isn’t. And making sense of it is necessary for most of us. If you’ve read something – fiction or nonfiction – that helped you cope with grief, I’d love if you’d share it here.

  • Ti Reed

    What a strong passage. Brought tears to my eyes. I feel for your friend.

    • Isn’t it so strong? Sometimes putting words to the feelings is incredibly powerful.

  • Kate LeDonne

    Yes, “Getting Over It” by Anna Maxted is simply brilliant.

    • Thanks, Kate.

  • Leslie

    Life Lessons. Elizabeth kubler Ross / David Kessler

    • Thanks for sharing!

  • bellezza

    How very true. I think that grief lasts with us forever, some times stronger than others, but always underneath somewhere. It helps so much to be able to discuss it with others, and to read insightful posts about the process such as yours.

    • It’s part of what makes us who we are. And caring for another is never wrong in my book.

  • Chrystal M

    Thank you for sharing that quote. It is so completely true. I might have to read this to my dad so that he knows it’s still okay to miss Mom. Thank you so much for this.

    • Definitely, definitely ok. I hate how we often feel like we have to justify our grief.

  • Kate

    Wow. That line about grief not being linear is so, so true.

    • It really is. When I read it, I was a bit blown away, actually.

  • That passage is so beautiful and so true. I don’t have a whole book that helped me through grief, but an Irish proverb has stayed with me since I first encountered it when my grandfather died a few years ago, and again last month when my grandmother died. “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

    • Kristin – So sorry for your loss. And that really is a lovely adage.

  • mcslgs

    A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble, by Paul David Tripp

  • Priyanka Desai

    This is a very powerful passage, indeed. Though grief is not all bad. A beautiful quote has always stayed with me. “I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”

    J.R.R. Tolkien

    P.S: I would love to hear your thoughts on my fictional short stories. As all of you out here are avid readers, all your suggestions will be highly useful to me.

  • Caroline

    Meghan O’Rourke’s ‘The Long Goodbye’ is powerful stuff. She chronicles her thoughts and feelings in the wake of her mother’s death. Beautifully written, too.

  • Nishita

    That’s a lovely paragraph indeed. I wish your friend all the strength in this world to cope.

    I don’t know any books that comforted me during troubled times, but one book that explained grief in a powerful and relatable way was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I think he really captured that feeling in this book.

  • Terri B.

    This is the best description of grief I’ve ever read. It’s been 10 years since my heart got torn apart by grief. It is a jumble. It is overwhelming. It is always there in some fashion even after years. “Grief is not linear.”