Grief shut me down, and I’m still working through the pain

 I’m not saying Google is wrong but grief isn’t only sadness. It’s more than that:  pain, anger, guilt, depression and numbness. 


Caroline Hobson

Grief isn’t one sided, and it doesn’t affect just one part of your life, it affects everything. The “grief wall” is almost impossible to knock down when you have no energy to do so.

Everyone has at least one fear. My fear has always been losing a parent .

Two years ago that fear came true.

I was at school when I got called to the office.  An appointment? Was I getting in trouble?  A thousand ideas raced through my mind.

When I walked into the office, my mom was crying while the lady at the desk was giving her tissues and trying to calm her down. 

I didn’t understand why she was crying so much.  How was I supposed to calm her down?

Later that day, because the flu was going around, I couldn’t see my dad in the hospital.  I don’t think that people understand how hard it is not to have said good bye.

After losing a parent, all that’s left to do is grieve.

Google the word GRIEF  and you will find  “deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.” I’m not saying Google is wrong but grief isn’t only sadness. It’s more than that:  pain, anger, guilt, depression and numbness. 

Grief changes everything. These are lessons I’ve learned the hardest way.


Grieving and being the oldest sibling means that in some ways I am taking over the responsibilities of the missing parent. 

To support my mom, I am now in charge of making sure that all of my siblings are eating, showering, and taking care of themselves. This includes making sure they’re doing their homework. For someone who has a lot of homework myself, I have to manage the school needs of five people.  The official term is “parentification.”

Not only am I taking care of them, but I also have to hurry to get my drivers permit and license in case one of them gets sick during school and I have to pick them up.  Most parents are worried about their children being mature enough to drive.

I am experiencing the opposite–it’s hard to run a household with only one driver.

I am not alone, in a study done by VITAS Healthcare it was found that many teens experience anger, intense mood changes, emotional regression, and have issues with their family because of a recent major loss. 

Rebecca Howes, Student Support Specialist says that while the amount of grieving teens she sees is relatively small, the emotional roller coaster each student goes through when losing someone they love is incomparable. 

With each student, she provides relief, support, and resources to help them in any way she can. There is a social worker, Meghan Egerton, who works with the school and comes in to help students when needed. Egerton provides sessions with both students and parents to help them work through their grief and provide support for the families.

Each person processes grief differently. . . there is no one size fits all

Falling out of love with life

In grief, nothing looks “fun” or “interesting.”  I have a  lack of motivation, and it makes it hard to get up and keep doing the stuff I loved to do. 

My parents were always protective; every time I asked to hang out with friends it was always, “No, maybe next time.” That means when my dad passed away, there wasn’t a big network of friends to help me.

After he passed I went to school, came home and went to my room. My mom started to notice that I spent a lot of time alone. She’d tell me to go out or to call my friends and let them come over or she’d tell me to hang out with them. Weirdly, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to hang out with anyone. I just wanted to be alone I learned that this is a common symptom of the depression that a person can feel after the death of a family member.  

In the past, I’d beg my mom to let me hang out with friends all the time, and then all of a sudden that’s the last thing I want to do. 

Then COVID-19 happened, and there wasn’t an opportunity to get together with other teens.  This amplified my aloneness.  Now that scare is over, I still find it hard to socialize.

“The number of grieving teens has definitely increased since COVID. Older loved ones were at a higher risk which created anxiety among teens. After COVID the amount of teens that I work with at school has increased significantly,” said Howes. 

All of those missing assignments

In 9th grade, my first class was Algebra. For once, I finally understood what we were doing. I had a chance to sharpen my weak math skills.

When I came back to school after my dad died,  I forgot what we were doing, and when I tried to focus , I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus in any of my classes. I listened to everything my teachers were saying, but couldn’t concentrate on what they were really saying. At some point, I stopped trying and stopped turning work in. 

I realized that my dad would not be there on the day I graduated.  I started to think that school is pointless.

Howes works with many students, and often will help with grieving students.  She sees two to three students each year, but “This year it’s been different.” Right now, she has five students, and she thinks it’s the influence of COVID. 

Grief during holidays 

In VITAS Health care they stated “Memories serve as constant reminders of loss. Watching others celebrate can be painful and overwhelming. Particularly in the first year after a death, survivors must learn how to develop new holiday rituals and traditions.” This reigns true with so many people who are grieving during the holidays and special family events, especially with me. 

“The first step in coping with grief at the holidays is to acknowledge that the first holiday season is difficult. You can prepare for it by making specific plans and obtaining the support you need. Remember too, that sometimes anticipation of a holiday can be more difficult than the day itself.” 

My dad was always the first person to wish me a  “Happy Birthday”.  My first birthday without him was the worst. I was feeling sad. I didn’t want to celebrate it. I didn’t want a party nor a cake. I wanted it to be just a normal day.

My mom invited friends over. I know her intentions were to help me, but I didn’t want to have a party.

I just wanted to be alone.

I was turning fifteen that year. A quinceanera is a popular tradition in my culture when a girl turns fifteen. This tradition includes dancing, music, food and family and friends.

One of the dances that are danced is a father and daughter dance. For years I looked forward to doing this dance, but it didn’t happen.

Last year for Thanksgiving, my aunt and cousins came over. They made food, set up a table, and we all talked and joked around. I was having a good time until I started feeling a little guilty. This was the second Thanksgiving without him and I was having a good time? That feeling of guilt ruined Thanksgiving. 

There are five stages of grief they include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There isn’t a time limit for these stages. Recovering from grief can take months, years, a lifetime. Going through grief is a little weird. One day I’ve accepted my loved one’s death and the next day i’m back in denial, and I’m learning that this is okay. It’s okay to go back and forth. Grief isn’t one sided. It is like an ever evolving ocean in which the tides never stop.