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My mom died in April at hospice, and after about a month, I decided to use the services of the hospice grief support group. It meets on Saturdays, and I went every Saturday for approximately six months. The group became essential for all the reasons Polly mentioned. You lean into your grief and discuss it with people from all walks of life who understand you and what you're going through because they're going through it too. Every week someone says something that resonates with someone else. People are nodding their heads in agreement and understanding constantly. You find yourself contributing and hearing yourself say things that help not only someone else but yourself...as you're saying it. This grief support group has been my saving grace. You do not get over the loss, as much as you work through it, with others...with complete strangers...some of which who have now become my friends. The grief support group is vital and necessary because it has also made me realize that these are the kinds of conversations I have longed for all of my life! Nothing is more real and meaningful than these deep and intimate discussions. It's like having a one-on-one with your best friend about your innermost thoughts and feelings. The grief support group, is what, in a roundabout way, led me to Polly, through a recent NYT essay she wrote about Matthew Perry about shame, which then led me to this blog and more of her posts and Tracy McMillan, then Tracy's Instagram and her book suggestions, and ultimately deeper dives into my early relationship with my mom and how that affects my relationships today. I cannot recommend enough starting with a grief support group and see where the work leads you. I am utterly grateful that Nathan Adelson Hospice, the only non-profit hospice in Las Vegas and regarded as the best, has so many services here for the grieving community. They also have a virtual grieving group that meets weekly on Zoom, and my understanding is that there is a participant from as far away as New York in the group. You can go on the NAH website to get more information on the virtual group. Hope this helps you in your grieving journey.

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Thank you for explaining what makes grief support groups so helpful and important. I love that you say you've been longing for those conversations your whole life. I understand that completely. It's too bad there isn't just a LIFE support group for most people, where you get to empathize about mundane and heavy events alike, face to face, and connect to people who have a similar need to talk it out. Maybe this is a fitting experiment for some us: Create a support group out of thin air. Serve cheap food and sit in a circle and say "this is a time for us to talk about sadness and struggles honestly." It would feel refreshing to have a community space where people don't have to be ON or casual.

Okay, running with this inside my head! I also love how you trace your steps here. Tracy McMillan is so great. Thanks for being here and for sharing this. I'm sorry about your mother. I hope you continue to discover deep connections and new sources of comfort out in the world. xoxo

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This is the Ask Polly I really needed, thank you for resharing. I searched through your previous columns for something on grief and couldn’t find any, it’s so good to see this one. My baby daughter died 2 and a half months ago and the long road ahead without her is so scary. Reading the experiences of people who’ve lost someone on how loved ones stay part of your life, how we don’t need to move on is one of the few consoling things, and running and walking really does help. I hope one day I can help someone who’s had the same terrible experience.

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I'm so sorry, Eva. Sending you love.

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I'm so sorry for your loss, Eva.

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thank you for your article. I lost my brother when I was 12 and my Dad when I was 18 yrs old. I am 67 now and I still look back on both of them to try to hold on to their memory of what we did together. With my Dad, I was sorry he didn't get to see me get married, have 4 children and adopt a child from another Country. He didn't get to see me start a business, become a community activitist, etc. But I have felt him with me. I talk with him as a exaultation when something amazing happens. My mother never understood my attachment to my Dad as she cared for us after the Divorce.

But your words are solid, your emotions are solid. Don't ever fail to feel the emotions you are experiencing. I have found, when I stuff things down, they will come out as something other than what I mean at the time. The quicker I was honest with myself, the faster those emotions were complete and I could move on. I refer to the emotions like clouds, they come in all different sizes and shapes. They come and they go. As you appreciate them, and check the sky again, they are different!

Great advice from you. Thank you

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This is a great image. Emotions change constantly, surprisingly. Letting yourself feel them, letting your unconscious mind push them into the foreground, is the only way to allow reality in. If you push them away, they manifest in stress, false words, anxiety, unease, contempt, and eventually depression.

What's difficult is this: Being a very emotional person whose weather changes often! Control is so tempting. Suppressing and pretending is tempting. Respecting what you are is harder, but it makes life bigger, more joyful, easier, more relaxing. We're taught to struggle against these storms but when we surrender, life gets better. Simple, often repeated, but not that easy to do in real life.

Thanks for the kind comment. I'm sorry about your brother and your dad. xoxox

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

This is comforting. I had never thought about how alive I feel after both of my parents died. Acutely aware of my own mortality. What I want and don’t want. It’s living an intentional life, because you finally understand this is not the dress rehearsal. Thank you for this.

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As a grief specialist, this is the most perfect and profound advice. My mother died of a brain aneurysm when I was 27. Grief found me later too. Thank you Polly.

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Oh I wish someone had said this to me when both my parents died ❤️

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This is so timely for me. My dad has just been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, and I am already grieving. I come from a family of fairly stoic people, so I feel that, to be even as in touch with my grief as I am, I've come a long way. And I have my husband, who lost his dad just three years ago, to support me. Thanks for posting this; it reinforces the journey I'm already on.

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

My mom died when I was 20. I was a wreck for a long time. Every word of this is true.

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My Dad died of a heart attack at 56, and my husband left my marriage at a similar age, leaving my daughter to mourn his upping and leaving. After the grief, I too was left feeling more alive and determined to make a go of life. I still feel this. I so hope my daughter doesn't feel I am unconsciously trying to get her to pull herself together. Great post, especially before Christmas.

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Like others here, I'm really glad you reposted this. My mom passed away unexpectedly last spring. Although our relationship wasn't completely free of difficulties, she was the family member who understood love for books, writing, using words. She had a passion for good writing and always asked about mine. And she encouraged me even though she felt many fears (for me and herself) about making enough money, having stability, living a conventionally successful life. I guess that's natural; she liked art and nature but wanted her offspring to be comfortable and have nicely furnished spare rooms for her visits : ). Anyhow, I miss her so much. This has been helpful to read.

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

So glad to see this repost. I was struggling with the 19th anniversary of my dad's death last week and was searching through your archives for letters about grief. Your last paragraph especially resonates. My dad died when I was 15 and although it no longer hits me on a daily basis, big anniversaries still pack a giant emotional punch and I doubt they'll ever stop doing so. Every year brings a new struggle (knowing you've been alive longer than you were with them, knowing you've been alive longer than they were, etc. etc.). However you're right that if you don't run away from it, it helps you connect more with the reality of life and know how not to turn away from others' grief and that's also incredibly important.

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

i wish someone said this when i was adopted

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I have been reading this again and again for a couple of months, glad to have this on substack as well.

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Beautiful. Also: “unfrozen caveman” lololol perfect 🤌🏻

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

🥺😢 Wow

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Dec 13, 2023Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Very wisely said.

Thanks for sharing this.

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