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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Barrett

What Does Grief Look Like?

From June 2021, sitting on the porch one morning, sipping coffee:

I'm reminded of my mornings in Rwanda, just after Dad died. Grief looked like a wild escape to Africa, warm coffee on a veranda, listening to the birds wake up with the sunrise.

Grief looked like relief and gratitude that my dad was no longer suffering.

I flashback to early in his cancer diagnosis - me yelling at Nash in his room, "Just stop!!!" The ferocity in my voice and my eyes scared my then-three-year-old and he just burst into tears. "I need help," I thought to myself. Grief was beginning to fill my reservoir of emotions, but I couldn't name it or see it at the time. Grief looked like no room for other emotions - exploding with anger, or overcome with anxiety or tears of frustration. Grief was masked by a multitude of emotions- the ones spilling out because there was little room for them.

Grief looked like emotion-full.

A lot of grief was happy. A lot of my visits I got to spend time with Dad - Thanksgiving in Austin, a creek trip skipping stones, movies, coffee and CBS Sunday Mornings. Greif was abated as my dad made jokes about smoking marijuana to ease his pain.

Grief looked like making the most of the good days.

But slowly and suddenly the outings stopped. Helping nail down the med-chart, the pain patches, watching hours of HGTV together because there was no energy or capacity for an outing. Watching him vomit every day, wince and sometimes cry in pain. Seeing him lose so much weight, wondering how he could stand without muscles to support his skin-and-bones frame. Hearing him fall in the bathroom when he forgot he could no longer walk.

Grief looked like tears, shock, trauma, deep sadness, and loss. Grief looked like begging for this to be over- even if that meant his death.

I remember prayers of envisioning him walking with God and asking God to take him. We gave my dad permission to let go one night when it seemed like his breaths were so far apart, it could happen any time. 20 seconds apart, then 30 seconds apart. My mom and me, staring at him wondering... waiting. Then he opened his eyes, suddenly lucid, and said, "What are you all staring at? Are you waiting for me to die or something?"

Grief looked like an outburst of laughter and special moments together.

Today grief looks like memories. Sitting on the porch this morning, hearing birds. I was transported to Rwanda... "Oh yeah, when my dad died." And I remembered a selfie I took a long van ride, at the time thinking, "I can't believe I'm here and my dad just died, and this is what grief looks like."

Then I hear the Holy Spirit prompting me to write, to write this today about what grief looks like.

Today grief looks like memories.

Some good, some sad, some tears come that I didn't know where in there to cry. I didn't stop them. Grief today feels good and the slight ache of missing my dad is warmed over by the good memories of a life together.

Grief looks like time to grieve, whatever that looks like can be varied and seasonal and deeply personal.

Live loved,



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