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Dear Life., death, Grief, Guest Posts

Dear Life: How Do I Feel Alive Again After Losing Someone I Love?

May 31, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackWelcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. Today’s question is answered by author Megan Devine (check out Megan’s earlier gorgeous essay on The Manifest-Station.) Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Send an email to dearlife at jenniferpastiloff.com or use the tab at the top of the site to post. Please address it as if you are speaking to a person rather than life or the universe. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us! Here is the link to submit your question.

Dear Life,

So I’m less than two years from losing my boyfriend in a motorcycle crash (we had a real life planned and I miss thoughts of that life) and I feel like I should get a pass for the first year because I was a zombie.

Now, however, I’m “alive” again and I’m struggling to find my motivation. Is that normal? How do I start caring again? I just can’t get there, about anything.

Things I’m unaware of hit me at the strangest, most unexpected times and I constantly feel apologetic for it. I’m now a crier, and before this I’d been through so much that made me cry that I’d become immune to tears. But here I am, near tears when I don’t know they’re there and I find myself angry at myself for that. Help?!

 ~Motorcycle Widow

Image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

Image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

Dear One –

Two years is so early. It’s just a blink, isn’t it. Somehow it’s both an eternity since you last saw him, and just a moment ago that he was here. Of course you had “a real life planned.” Just because you weren’t married doesn’t mean your life together wasn’t real or serious. But we do that, don’t we – justify and defend, because so much is taken from us: the world doesn’t always see a boyfriend or a partner the same way it sees a husband or wife. Be assured, please, my love, that your relationship was real, is real, and it makes perfect sense that you miss that life, and that tears are now commonplace.

You ask about finding motivation, and whether it’s normal to struggle at this point in your grief, in your life.

It is. It’s entirely normal. When sudden death erupts into your life, your whole way of understanding the world is rocked. Knowing that it can all disappear at any moment tends to change a person’s interest in things. Previous interests – even things you loved – can seem futile.

You aren’t the person you were before. This experience of love that you’re living has knocked you off course. When you gain your footing again – and that takes the time it takes – you’re going to be facing a different direction. You’ll have to find out how you fit here now, who you are in this new place.

Another thing to remember is that grief is intense: it’s physical and emotional and spiritual and all sorts of other things. It takes a lot of energy to grieve. The first year, as you say, is a zombie year. For many people, year two is worse: your systems begin to come back online, your gaze is just slightly lifted from your feet. The world has changed. You have changed. You are still changing. The world hasn’t righted itself, and you are just aware enough to know it.

You’re aware enough to know you aren’t where you want to be, and still broken-hearted enough to not be able to do anything about it.

That you want something different for yourself, even as you have no energy to find something different – that is the beautiful place. That’s the place to lean on.

If there is any glimmer of interest, any spark of light or fascination, capture it. Lean into it. Lean towards it. Hurl yourself to face in that direction, even if that’s the only motion you can make. Face what is good. Face what is love. Want that for yourself.

Get greedy for those moments when you drop into your core, when you feel – not “right,” but righted. Darling, if anything draws you – follow it.

It doesn’t matter what you might “do” with any of those fleeting sparks of interest. You don’t need to find your direction, your path, through the rest of this life. You only need to take notice of what draws you, right now, and follow it. As best you can. One tiny little glimmer at a time.


And sometimes, there are no sparks. The world is empty and boring and full of things that make you cry.

You want it to be different. It isn’t different. That’s annoying.

You can’t fake interest. You can’t just tell yourself to buck up and get on with it, throwing yourself into things that are empty and dry. It won’t work.

At the same time, you don’t want to be this way.

You don’t want to cry. You don’t want tears leaking out at every possible moment, making you splotchy and weepy and red.

At the same time, there’s not a damn thing you can do about that.

Being angry at your own broken-heart is such a tricky thing.

It turns into this giant, escalating storm: tears. Then angry at tears. Then angry at yourself for being angry, for being unable to come to yourself with love. Angry that this is what you’ve got now: a reason to have tears, and anger about tears, instead of the life you were living. You had a good life. Now you don’t. More tears. More angry at self for having tears. And on and on and on and on it goes.

Can you just notice it? I mean – catch yourself? A thousand times a minute if you have to?

Can you recognize when you are heaping on the judgment and anger and frustration at who you are and what this is?

What this is is a broken heart inside a deeply changed human, still alive in a world that doesn’t make any sense.

The path here is to honor that, somehow. To allow it, to let it be okay that everything sucks and there is no point. To somehow stop apologizing for having a sensitized heart.

It isn’t easy. None of this is easy.

And you are here, still, now.

You deserve a life that is honest and true, even – or especially – when what is true is pain. When what is true is the blank space: the places that haven’t filled in.

The road here, the ‘what do to’ here, is to want love for yourself, even when you have no idea what that looks like. Even when you have no energy to explore it, even if you knew what it was.

I don’t know if it’s possible; I don’t know if it will help.

But heave yourself in that direction. Turn yourself back towards love.

Moment by broken-hearted, weepy, disinterested moment.

As often as you can.

Let love carry you.

Love, Megan.


Megan Devine is writer, grief advocate, and clinical counselor. Her partner drowned on a beautiful, ordinary, fine summer day, and she’s stayed alive after that.

Megan is the author of the audio program When Everything is Not Okay: Practical Tools to Help You Stay in Your Heart & Not Lose Your Mind. Roughly every six weeks or so, she hosts a 30-day online community of writers and grievers in the Writing Your Grief e-course. If you want to talk about your grief, you can even pick a time on her calendar for a free 30 minute phone call. You can find all of this, plus weekly posts, resources, and the weekly letter, on her website, www.refugeingrief.com.

You can find more of Megan’s words on Huffington Post, Modern Loss, and Open to Hope.

Follow Megan Devine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/refugeingrief


Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.


Megan Devine.

Megan Devine.

Jen is available for public speaking engagements or workshops via info@jenniferpastiloff.com. Submit to the site by clicking the Submissions tab up top. You can also submit your Dear Life question there or via the email address above. All of Jen’s events listed here. Next up:  Vancouver.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Book Feb 14th, 2015 in London with Jen Pastiloff.

Book Feb 14th, 2015 in London with Jen Pastiloff.

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  • Reply Joyce McCartney May 31, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    This is just perfect!

  • Reply Joyce McCartney May 31, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Reblogged this on Motorcycle Widow and commented:
    I could never have imagined such amazing advice. I’ve signed up for Megan’s grief writing e-course that starts tomorrow and I know now that I will get much relief through it

    • Reply Megan May 31, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      thank you Joyce. <3

  • Reply Hellen May 31, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Perfect and inciteful.

    • Reply Megan May 31, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      Thank you Hellen.

  • Reply Vicki Dwyer Cuticchia Bumpus May 31, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Yes, I just saw and read it. It was excellent and struck a chord with me; both the question and the answer. Found it helpful and thought-provoking. I’ve lost my mom and dad, our baby daughter Kelly in 1976, but none of those losses prepared me for the devastation of losing Rosie. It’s hard to fill the enormous hole in my life and in my heart. Sometimes you feel like you’re coping well and the next moment that all goes to hell in a hand basket. But the way Rosie chose to live her live spreading as much love as she could and your words of wisdom. “I have done love” provide daily inspiration and focus. I try desperately to make that my daily goal. Small acts with great love. There is an inner turmoil raging though. Sometimes so tired of feeling the pain yet guilty for not feeling the pain. Thanks for thinking of me Jen. Hoping with each day your life is slowly returning to something manageable. Sending love and gratitude for the sharing yourself with Rosie and now me.

    • Reply Megan May 31, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      So glad you found it helpful, Vicki.

  • Reply Nat May 31, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    This is beautiful. I can’t even imagine to know what this woman’s grief is like. I do know, though, that sometimes the grief isn’t from a death.I recently worked up the courage to get out of an abusive relationship. It was hard to accept that this person I loved became a monster. And I don’t know if I’ll ever love or be loved again, if I’ll ever be interested in anything again. But thank you.

    • Reply Megan May 31, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      you’re so welcome, Nat.

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  • Reply Emma July 22, 2014 at 12:47 am

    This is so helpful Thank you. I can’t describe the depth of pain I am in. I get respite from sitting in a nearby field with the birds and caterpillars. But the rest of the time I am so over whelmed with grief and a 1000 fears – not least because I can hardly function and work and keep roof over heads of self and children. In the distance I sometimes glimpse a serene place and me, with the wisdom and strength to be in it. But I don’t know how. But for now thank you.

    • Reply mmdevine July 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      you’re so welcome, Emma. Do be in touch – I’m happy to talk with you.
      (megan @ refugeingrief (dot) com)

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  • Reply Jason Ellis August 26, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    We can endure much more than we think we can – all human experience testifies to that. All we need to do is learn not to be afraid of pain. I have learned this when I lost my only brother. But I have instill in my mind that life has to move on, while we are still alive.

  • Reply kathryn conway August 28, 2014 at 9:31 am

    i missed this when it was originally posted -weepily grateful to have stumbled across it today.
    lost my very best friend, lover, partner in april of 2013. he was 46 -hemorrhagic stroke.
    we shared a blissfully oblivious early saturday morning together. he was gone by 7pm that same day.
    one year and four months later, i’m thinking i should be fine. i want to be fine –and yet, the retelling of simple stories, a song, a memory, a photo (“but the history of desire is such that just one word, just one touch could send it reeling…”) -this post….this post has me reeling.
    i am so grateful for having read this. to know that someone understands -someone else knows just how it feels. i am blown away with love and gratitude to you for sharing this.
    thank you. a million times, thank you.

    • Reply megan November 25, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      Just seeing your comment now, Kathyrn. So glad this post found you.

  • Reply Jill October 9, 2014 at 3:30 am

    This is so beautiful. So perfect. 5am is really too early for tears, but this depth of writing called for them. I’m deeply touched by the power of your words and for the comfort that comes in knowing someone else understands the pain of grief. Thank you for so tenderly putting words to feelings.

    • Reply megan November 25, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      sorry for the late reply, Jill. You’re so welcome, and I’m glad my words found you.

  • Reply Anita November 27, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    How I appreciate these words. Death of the body is so final. I am feeling so many of these same things. The grief I am experiencing is a “death” of a relationship. It was an unconditional acceptance between two souls/hearts that has vanished unexpectedly. How does one get past this type of grief? When the “other” soul is alive but treating this soul as “dead”.

  • Reply Barbara potter December 31, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Your advice is so helpful for those in grief. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

    • Reply megan December 31, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      You’re welcome, Barbara.

  • Reply Diane April 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

    This was a wonderful answer, but the part I treasure most is “Two years is so early. It’s just a blink, isn’t it.”
    So many places you hear that grief lasting anything over six months is bordering on excessive.

    My best friend died a year ago last fall and we’d been friends for over 30 years. It was the kind of friendship that is closer than marriage, closer than family, and we counted on each other to listen with open and nonjudgmental hearts. So much of my understanding of everything came out of our relationship.

    I still have a family, I still have a profession, I still have a life and yet it’s a life I barely know how to live. I don’t discuss this change with anyone, but I’m in a parallel universe to the one I was in before. I’m afraid to think too deeply or try too hard to understand where I am because I’m afraid I’ll disintegrate. People are counting on me to be functioning, and so I function.

    Thank you for recognizing how hard it is and for giving me some thoughts about where to face.

    • Reply megan April 6, 2015 at 10:08 am

      You’re so welcome, Diane. It is a parallel universe, isn’t it.

  • Reply Terra Becks April 7, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    thank-you for this. My little brother died in a motorcycle accident 3 weeks ago and I’m trying to find my way through all of this. Coming to terms with his accident and the weeks that have followed have felt impossible. Every little bit helps.

    • Reply megan April 8, 2015 at 10:38 am

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Terra. 3 weeks is just a second ago. Be in touch if you’d like – I’d be happy to talk with you or point you in the direction of some useful posts. http://www.refugeingrief.com.

  • Reply Becky April 16, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Megan – your response is amazing. It speaks to me completely. I tragically lost my boyfriend, I am 8 months in and I have begun to notice that the numbness is receding. The actuality and pain is stronger today then 6 months ago. It’s as if the last memories we shared together are closer now then when I lost him. The change in weather, the notion that with spring we are to be more active does nothing but weigh me down. I too want better for myself, I want to plant a garden; I want to walk the dogs for longer than down the street, I want to get the laundry put away…but when I get home from a day at the office and even on weekends, I sit, in the same spot on our couch watching countless hours of stupid TV…putting it off to another day…wishing someone would show up and motivate me, knowing that if they did I would just be aggravated they were here.
    It is a tiny relief, but so beneficial, to be able to related to someone so completely.

  • Reply megan April 16, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Glad you found this post, love. Early grief sucks.


    • Reply Andrea June 24, 2018 at 8:05 am

      Just found this. Now several months in after losing my husband and best friend of 20 years to cancer, I’m finding there are more good days than bad. But when the grief finds me, it’s not fun. It could be in the grocery store when the ‘pina colada’ song comes on or seeing laughing boaters cruise along the river.
      After comments at my blog from strangers on how I should grieve, I wrote this post, about dealing with this beast called grief.
      Thanks for listening,


  • Reply Alana January 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    Megan-My dear friend lost her husband tragically a few months ago and your writings have been one of the only things that have made sense to her. When she told me she had been following your writings, I ordered your book as soon as it was released for both she and I. I have read it cover to cover and would suggest any friend of a grieving friend read your book. Although I can never truly know the depth of her pain, the book helped me understand how love her through this time, even when my attempt are not perfect. thank you.

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