Grief and life after Jessica: Don’t tell me how to feel

We’re coming up to the third anniversary of Jessica’s death. This time of year is a tough one. This time three years ago, Jessica was already struggling with the viruses that ultimately caused her death. The memories looking back are intensely painful and come with a hefty side helping of guilt that I didn’t react enough to her being unwell; that I didn’t do more to save her. This time of year is full of triggers – some of them expected; others which just come out of the blue and hit hard. I’m a mess emotionally.


Jessica's memorial with the light making a rainbow around her - "Grief and life after Jessica: Don't tell me how to feel"


Nearly three years into life as a bereaved parent, there are times when other people seem to think they can give their opinion on whether my grief, or my coping reactions to life with grief, are appropriate. To tell me how they think I should feel or act.


Don’t tell me how to feel.


Don’t you dare tell me how to feel. You do not walk in my shoes; nor do you live this life. You don’t wake up every morning and have to live another day without a child that you loved more than life itself. You do not get to tell me how to grieve.


Don’t tell me that I “mustn’t feel that way”.


Telling me that I mustn’t feel a certain way doesn’t stop me feeling that way. It just tells me that I’m not allowed to talk about it. It tells me that you are not someone I can confide in. All you have done is silence me and make me feel even more alone than I already feel.


Don’t tell me that I need to move on or “get over it”.


Every morning I wake up, and every morning Jessica is still dead. Every little milestone that her siblings reach is a reminder of all the milestones that she will never reach. I will live my life as best I can with this huge hole in it; I might learn how to carry grief with grace and dignity, but this isn’t something I will “get over” – just something I will learn to live with.


Don’t tell me “you know how I must feel”. You do not know how I feel. You might be able to imagine it, but you do not know. Even if you’ve lost someone you loved dearly, you do not know exactly what goes on in my head. Even those closest to me don’t know that.


Just be there. Tell me you’re here, that you’re listening. Talk to me about Jessica. Tell me your memories of her, tell me when she pops into your mind. Let me know that I’m not alone. Tell me that it’s okay to fall apart, that it’s okay to struggle, that it’s okay to grieve. And forgive me on the days when I am prickly and just want to lash out at the world in anger at the unfairness of having to live without my beautiful daughter. Bear with me on the days when I just want to hide away. Respect the fact there may be particular subjects I want to avoid talking about.


It isn’t easy to support someone who is grieving. Please know that there is nothing you can say or do to fix it, but just being willing to be there and to listen makes living with grief a little easier to bear.


Just don’t tell me how to feel.


18 thoughts on “Grief and life after Jessica: Don’t tell me how to feel

    1. Thank you Kim. Fortunately it is a minority of people but it’s hard to deal with all the same. I felt a lot better for venting!

  1. I think it was when I lost my Mum that I realised that most people just don’t know what to say when you are grieving. I pocketed all the comments that made me feel worse and swore I would never use them on anyone else. But, it’s so hard to know what to say or how to behave, and everyone is different. One thing we can all be sure of…you never get over it and it always hurts. We do what we can to make ourselves feel better and it’s hard to take the comments of someone else, even if they are well meaning. You are right, it’s okay to grieve and struggle and it’s most definitely okay to speak of your beloved little girl Jessica as often as you wish. Sending much love at this very difficult time.

    1. Thank you Anne. People really don’t know what to say and it is hard when you’re on the other side to know what to do or say. That’s partly why I share these posts to help raise awareness of what is helpful and what is unhelpful, as well as to vent! I’m sorry you experienced comments that made you feel worse when you lost your mum too x

  2. Louise, thank you for this powerful, honest post. You are so right – no one knows how you feel. You are “allowed” to feel your own feelings. I agree with Anne – people don’t know what to say when you have lost a loved one. They want you to feel better but don’t realize that you have to navigate grief in your own way on your own time. Sending virtual hugs and love your way.

    1. Thank you Laurie. I do think it is important to raise awareness – it is hard to know what to say but I do also think that grief is something that isn’t talked openly about enough which also makes it more difficult to know what to say. I do try and also share the things that are helpful as well as what really isn’t! Thank you for the virtual hugs – they are always appreciated!

  3. Oh Louise. This is such a good post. A reminder of what not to say. It is difficult to know what to say. It’s an instinct to try and make people feel better, but that is not always possible. Jessica was a very special person and I think her memory live on in all of us. Sending hugs.

    1. Thank you Cheryl. It is difficult to know what to say, I know that – it’s part of why I share so much about living with grief as the more people talk about things like this, the easier it hopefully makes it for others.

  4. I’m so sorry you have to deal with comments like that Louise. You will grieve in your own way, not how someone tells you to. I’m sending you so much love and I’m always here. X

    1. Thank you Jayne, that’s much appreciated. I know people generally mean well but you’re right, I will grieve in my own way x

  5. Sending virtual hugs and thinking of you and your family, Louise. Sorry you have to deal with harsh comments. Grief is so personal and I find it really insensitive to tell somebody how they should be reacting. Take good care. X


    1. Thank you Catherine. I know others find grief uncomfortable and there is a sense of wanting to make it all better but there are things that just can’t be fixed, only carried.

  6. I can’t believe anyone would even dream of telling you how to feel, that’s awful you have to deal with that on top of grieving for your lovely girl 🙁 Sending big hugs, you’re amazing xx

    1. Thank you Hannah. I know people generally mean well but it does make me cross when people think they can tell me how I should feel x

  7. Sending hugs Louise, I have so much admiration for you and your family. Jessica was a special little girl that much is clear from what you’ve shared of her. #PoCoLo

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