The Real Struggle in Grief

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench We simply don't want it to be.  We can't accept it.  AND most of all we don't want to accept it.  When we first received the news of our loved one's death, we rejected the news with such comments as:

  • No, it can't be.
  • Are you sure? Somebody must have made a mistake!
  • How can that be?  I just talked with him/her yesterday!
  • Maybe there's been a mix-up in the medical charts.  Hospitals can make a mistake!
  • No! No!! No!!! No!!!! NO!!!!!

With every fiber of our being we fight a reality that we can't wrap our minds around.  How can someone be present one moment...and gone the next? We are like the two year old who has been told NO.  He/she throws a temper tantrum with his/her whole body because he/she is rejecting a reality that he/she will not tolerate.  When the news of our loved one is delivered we fight totally a reality that we will not tolerate or accept at that moment...mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  How can it be?  It was never meant to be this way!

That's where the true struggle in grief comes.  We are forced to accept what to us is the unacceptable.  Even 25 years after the deaths of my wife and daughter in a car accident, I still have moments where I think to myself, "I just can't believe that they really died!"  In my mind I know the hard, cold, cruel reality that Cindy and Katie did die, but there is a part of me that cannot accept an unacceptable truth.

Over time those thoughts and feelings of rejecting the truth about the deaths happen less and less, even though the reality will always be terrible, horrible, and unacceptable. I am learning to accept my reality, adjusting to the reality, and hoping for the future.  But that feeling of No, No, No will never fully go away until I see my loved ones again.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or

The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunica Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on

Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX