How Long Should You Tell Your Grief Story?

By Harriet Hodgson

Last week my husband and I went to a holiday party. We enjoyed the food, piano music, and visiting with friends. As we prepared to leave, a friend asked what I was doing these days. When I told her we were raising our twin grandchildren because their parents had died in separate car crashes, her jaw dropped.
“That’s unbelievable,” she said.

Another person overheard our conversation and was obviously uncomfortable with my honesty. This is not the first time this has happened. Years ago I had a similar experience. I answered a question honestly and a guest commented, “Please don’t spoil the party.” She was partially right. There is a time and place to tell your story, but sometimes you tell it because you are surprised or caught off guard.

You have a story to tell. But Vamik D. Vokan, MD and Elizabeth Zintl, in their book “Life After Loss,” say the American culture prohibits the expression of grief. “We are a culture of death deniers,” they write. Death deniers, which may include family members and friends, do not want any connection with your pain. Yet you must tell your story in order to cope, do your grief work, and create a new life.

Grief changes you forever. Not telling your story is to deny your identity and life experience. Though you are temporarily lost in the darkness, telling your story helps you find your way through grief. At least, that is my experience after losing four loved ones in nine months. If you are like me, you may have wondered how long you should tell your story.

Tell your story until you can do it without sobbing. In other words, you are starting to accept loss. Judith Viorst writes about this in her book, “Necessary Losses.” Some mourn quietly, she explains, while others mourn vocally. We experience terror, tears, and terrible emotions. “In our own different ways, having managed someow to work our way thorugh our confrontations and unacceptable losses, we can begin to come to the end of mourning.”

Tell your story until you can idenfity feelings. Repeating your story will help you identify confusion, anger, frustration, and stress. You may also recognize feelings of aloneness and abandonment. I didn’t realize how worried I was about money until I wrote an article about tracking down my deceased daughter’s assets. Getting feelings out in the open helps you cope with them.

Tell your story until it gets shorter. Your story will change over time. Though it still includes the basics — cause of death, memorial service, secondary losses, and other facts — you start to condense your story. Surprising as it seems now, the time will come when you can summarize your story in a few sentences. This is a sign of reconciliation.

Tell your story until you start to see progress. Humor may start to creep back into your story. The results of your grief work become apparent. You may use more positive words. Repeating your story will help you reinvent yourself. Today, I give talks about grief to help others. How long should you tell your story? As long as you need to, and then hold it close to your heart.

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalists for decades. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of Health Care Journalists, and Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.

Centering Corporation has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life” and a companion journal with 100 writing prompts. Please visit Harriet’s website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.

Article Source: [] How Long Should You Tell Your Grief Story?


2 Responses to How Long Should You Tell Your Grief Story?

  • Harriet is right! Tell your story as long as you need to. For some, this may be just a short time. For others, years. Neither is right or wrong, it is just the time needed to reconcile the loss. Harriet identified many reasons why the story telling may take longer for some than others. We should fight to change our death denying culture into one of acceptance, tolerance and support of one another. We all carry a stories that shape our grief experience and we can never know another person’s story unless we listen. I hope for a peaceful and comforting holiday season for all.

  • JoAnne – Thank you for this website – it has rescued me over and over again. It has been almost 9 months and it is almost Christmas – I find myself more grateful for the time I got to have my daughter here than sorrowful that she is gone. I am grateful that she is no longer suffering or worrying – that she doesn’t have to see the evil here anymore and that she is with Jesus and all of the other members of our family that have stepped into eternity before her. I do miss her companionship and her laughter – when she started laughing you couldn’t help but laugh yourself it was so infectious. I just want the readers to know – celebrate your loved one – make that your focus instead of your loss. It will make a huge transition in your grieving process. Also, let the people around you know if you are having a bad day or need some prayer. You don’t have to act tough all of the time – we are human and the grieving is because of the love you had for that person. Be kind to yourself. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    Shannon Hoag

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