When Grief Unexpectedly Hits

I almost considered not sharing this, because it’s so personal…but sharing is what I do. I know many of you have unfortunately lost a parent, or someone close to you, and while I have no idea if anyone else can relate to this, I figured it’s worth sharing instead of just keeping it for myself. I’ve been open with my grief and dealing with my dad’s death, so this is just one step in the grieving process.

This second year after my dad’s death has been remarkably easier than the first. Actually, it hasn’t even been two years yet; it’s been 22 months. Contrary to what most everyone says when someone passes away, I don’t really think about him every day.

And i don’t mean that in an I-don’t-miss-him-anymore way, but it’s just that I’m busy. My life has moved on, and even when he was alive, there were days where I didn’t think about him all the time. He was my dad; I knew he’d always be there.

Over the past year, the tears and random moments of grief have almost all but subsided. The first year was hard; I cried or really did literally miss and ache for him almost every single day, but after that first anniversary something clicked and I’d go several days without having a moment.

Lately, something will remind me of him, and I’ll typically smile and have a fond memory, but that sadness of missing him every day is something that is getting easier to cope with.

But today…right now…I’m having a moment.

An alligator-tears-falling-from-my-eyes, tight-throat, deer-in-the-headlights, ugly cry, and a feeling-deep-in-my-soul type of moment.

A moment where grief is hitting hard and pulling me under.

I was driving—alone—and saw a sign for a business on the side of the road. I’ve passed it before and never even thought twice about it. The sign was for a mortuary, and for a split second I had an intense flash back to that day after he passed, when we had to go to the funeral home to make his arrangements.

In that split second, the first thing that came to mind was that I vividly remember the scent when I walked into the funeral home—there was a sterile smell, but the air smelled like it was almost filled with incense, or something very “fake” to cover up the chemicals they used behind the doors. The air felt heavy; it was thick and somber as my family and I looked at each other, trying to make sense of where we actually were.

I remember exactly the way I felt—it was an out-of-body experience; simply putting one foot in front of the other was mechanical, and my legs felt heavy. I actually remember considering turning around and waiting in the car, because I didn’t want to be there. Having to listen and give key pieces of information, when my brain was in a complete fog felt like the hardest thing in the word.

I just wanted it to not be real. It didn’t feel real. It couldn’t be real.

I remember looking around in disbelief that he was missing from our group…from our family. Still shocked that we were there because of him, and for him, but not with him. My mind had a hard time processing that.

And I was angry.

I remember feeling so angry that he left us.

And so here I sit, in the parking lot of Michael’s with my tear-stained cheeks, and already swollen eyes despite that it’s been a whole three minutes since this moment of grief hit, wondering if I’ll actually make it in the store to return the things I came here to return.

I’ve never been so thankful to have my laptop with me so I could get these thoughts and feelings out of my mind, because without releasing them, they would certainly consume me.

Only now, after pouring my heart and soul out, getting these feelings and thoughts out on “paper,” can I take some breaths again. I didn’t even realize I’ve been holding it this whole time.

I may not think of him as much or cry for him every day, but when those moments of grief do hit, oh how they come at you like a rushing wave, pulling you under so quickly that you desperately want to take a deep breath.

*Photos courtesy of Chrissy Walther Photography in San Diego, California


  1. Oh, Jessica. What a beautifully honest and raw post. I am so sorry. Grief is so weird. It really can just come out of no where and punch us straight in the gut sometimes.
    Glad you took time to embrace it and share it rather than bottle it up and be consumed by it.

    Hang in there.

  2. This is such a beautiful and honest post. I feel for you so much reading about the few days after – it’s such a fog and feels so absolutely unreal. Like… “Really? Really? Really?” Grief is such a hard thing when it hits. It’s also so wild how different it looks for everyone. It’s one thing that I feel is so unique to each person. I feel you though… in these moments of gut wrenching grief. It’s so tough. So grateful you could process with this post and thankful you chose to share it! It comforts me 💛

  3. I experience this about my great-grandma who was my second mom. She passed in 2015 and I miss her everyday. Like you said, some days are easier than others, but when the grief hits, it’s very rough. It typically happens to me in the car too, when I’m free to cry and talk and yell and laugh in peace and in solitude. Sending you love and healing. You’re not alone.

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