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“Grief is love not wanted to let go” …one of the most damaging beliefs you can hold after losing someone you love.

“Grief is love not wanted to let go”

…one of the most damaging beliefs you can hold after losing someone you love.

Earlier this week I spotted this quote by Earl A. Grollman going back and forth on twitter and facebook.  It might seem lovely, and understanding, and respectful.  I think it’s just a little bit……ghastly.

Recently a regular reader of my blog commented that I’m often banging on about beliefs about G.R.I.E.F., but not spending as much time telling people how to come out of pain.  She is right…but there is method to my madness.  Well…at least the ‘madness’ around my work anyway.   The reason I write a lot about beliefs is simple.  The first, and most important, step in starting to come out of your pain is to address any unhelpful beliefs you may have about it.  By ‘unhelpful’ I mean any beliefs you hold about this pain being permanent and or/desirable.  If you believe that a) your pain and grief will never go away, or that b) you wouldn’t ever want it to go away….then guess what….it never will.

The process I take people through has 9 steps and the most important one, the absolutely crucial one, is the one dealing with beliefs.  Because, to be absolutely honest, when you’ve lost your mum or dad or someone else you love if you don’t address your beliefs you can let all the time in the world go by, or do all the different work you like….but you won’t ever completely come out of grief as your reasons to stay there are too strong.

He does not believe that does not live according to his belief  ~Sigmund Freud

Freud was absolutely right.  We will live by our beliefs….and your beliefs around grief/pain are no exception to this.  I read a blog the other day by an artist who had created a beautiful mandala that said over and over ‘Love is forever grief is forever love is forever grief is forever’.  Grief is forever? That is one heck of a commitment to have made.

And the quote by Grollman is the perfect example of one of the beliefs that will keep you in the pain you are in.  ‘Grief is love not wanted to let go’.  Identifying your pain as being one and the same as your love for the person you’ve lost is not a good idea.  Why?  Would you ever give up your love for them? Of course not. And if you believe that your grief is love then you won’t give that up either.

So here are some ‘what ifs’ you might like to think about instead……

What if   your love for them and your grief over their loss are actually two separate things?

When they were alive you loved them without it hurting you. What if  you could do that again?

What if   your love is your pure connection to them…and your painis just your emotions and thoughts around their loss that get in your way?

What if   you could let go of your pain without letting go of your love for them?

What if   your grief/pain, the thing you think binds them to you and keeps their memories alive, is actually the thing getting in the way of your love for them? like a painful barrier that stops you thinking about them and connecting with them easily?

What if   examining and challenging your beliefs around grief could make a profound difference to the pain you are in and the way you are able to remember them?

What if   your grief is not ‘love not wanted to let go’?

Love is forever but what if  the pain doesn’t have to be?

Just what if?

As always I’d love for you to comment below if you have anything you’d like to add, share, or ask.




jenny cutler November 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

brilliant. You’ve really got it. Will think of you if ever I need help.

sandra November 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm

you are so correct, I have thought many a time its what people expect of you, but sadly life goes on, if the shoe was on the other foot would we expect our loved one to go on grieving and hurting the answer is no. Thankyou for helping me to believe I can move on .

Kristie West November 23, 2011 at 8:31 am

Thanks Jen. And I’ll always be here should you need me. x

Kristie West November 23, 2011 at 8:40 am

Hi Sandra, yes you absolutely can when you’re ready to. And it is a good think to know you can do it for Graham’s sake as well as your own. Not just because he wouldn’t want to be the cause of so much suffering, but also (and even more so) because he would want to be loved and remembered by you – and this is far easier when it doesn’t hurt. Contrary to popular assumptions around grief, the pain doesn’t keep the memories alive – it pushes them down because they hurt us too much. When you can move beyond grief you don’t forget them – in fact it becomes so much easier to connect to them and remember them. xx

speccy December 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm

When my dad died, my mum got a lot from that Canon Holland verse about having slipped away into the next room, especially ‘laugh as we always laughed’. She died this summer, and we have permission to laugh, chat and smile. That’s not all we do, but it’s ok when we do!

Kristie West December 12, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Hi Speccy, thanks for sharing.
It’s so great (and so healthy) that you all allow all the emotions through, not just the sad ones. That’s a beautiful way to honour your mum.

Rachel July 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

My dog passed two and a half weeks ago, and already I’ve forgotten how her bark sounds. I don’t have many videos of her, mainly just photos. I have felt like holding on to pain will keep me focused on her so I won’t forget. Reading your article, I think it makes sense to focus on the happy memories as much as possible, but how do you cope with the forgetting? Also, I was chronically ill for several years and she was with me all day in bed, my protector and my best friend when I didn’t really have anyone (besides hubby). How can I focus on the happy memories when I feel such a sense of loss, and I’m fearful of forgetting the sensory things (like how it felt to touch her, etc.)? I just found your blog this morning, so if you have an article on this, I apologize for asking this question here. Thank you.

Kristie West July 11, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Hi Rachel,
It isn’t about just focusing on the happy memories or being positive or anything like that at all….as doing that requires blocking out certain memories. This is what traditionally happens for most people unfortunately when they just wait for time.
A couple of blogs you might find interesting to start with are: (this one is for father’s day but the same stuff applies in any death!)

Evelyn Moore March 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Eight months into the death of my son and their is stil not a day that goes by where I don’t wake up with the same sadness and pain that I had the day that my Jesse died.
A huge part of me left with Jesse. I am not whole. Any parent who has lost a child will know what I am saying here. Losing a child is in a league all of it’s own. It cannot be compared to ANY other loss. This tops them all. I love Jess with all my heart. We had a special connection. But my grief lingers. I don’t want to let HIM go. If that means hanging onto my grief for the rest of my life . I will.
But now I see maybe I can keep Jess close to my heart, never forget him and yet get rid of the grief? Is this possible ? and how.?…..Thank you…Grieving parent, Ev Moore

Kristie West March 6, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Hi Evelyn,
Thank you for sharing. I am glad this resonated with you.
This sentence “If that means hanging onto my grief for the rest of my life . I will.” is precisely the reason most people spend their life in crippling and unnecessary pain – the belief that they need it, the belief that THIS is what connects them to the person they love who has died. This is simply not the case. Our pain is not our connection to others, it is not our memory of others, and it is certainly not our love for them. On the contrary, to hold on to the pain is what keeps us separate from them and only connected to our own painful emotions and the perceived lack of them (which is the opposite of feeling connected to them).
If you are truly interested in being able to let go of your pain so that you can remember and love Jesse easily and without pain then contact me at

Stephanie July 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Kristie – I lost my husband to cancer 4 years ago. The first two years were very hard, and grieving felt natural. By the 3rd year, I was feeling much better and thought the grief was behind me. The 4 year mark was this past February and suddenly, I’m feeling angry and depressed. I believe it is related to the loss of my husband as well as the loss of my lifestyle and my expected future. It is almost crippling and I find myself crying at odd moments. I found you because I googled “Grief – How do I let him go?” I know I will always love him. I just don’t want to be angry and sad. I have been asking that question a lot lately… how do I let him go? I finally decided to call Hospice to see one of their bereavement counselors. Thanks for your blog. I look forward to looking at the rest of your site.

Kristie West July 25, 2014 at 12:53 am

Hi Stephanie,
This makes perfect sense. Grief is never just about the person who died…there are other elements to it for everyone, as you have found. The issue is when everything gets lumped in as ‘grief’ because when we cannot pull the pieces apart and look at them separately then we are not able to resolve any of them.
There will be your feelings around your husbands death, as well as your ideas of the future and lifestyle and what that looks like now, perhaps even identity stuff (very common).

I would suggest that you make sure whoever it is that is working with you is able to see that and help you to pull those apart and look at them separately….as this is your way through them and completely out the other side.

Much love

Les February 3, 2015 at 6:39 pm

What can you tell someone who grieves a suicide? Someone who has loved a spouse deeply, but is left with the trauma and the sorrow of losing this way? The pain seems to wipe away the good memories. Sometimes it is exhausting to stay afloat, and it feels as if grief were still a whip. It is 3 years and 3 months since the moment that divided my life into the “before” and the “after.”

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