25 In Women Now

What do you do with grief in the headwind?

Grief is visiting me this October

A lot of memories are flooding in this October

I’m not sure what happened to September. One day it was September 5th and I was hanging out in Sonoma on Labor Day and then it was September 30th and I was reflecting on all the outfits I’d made for clients that month. And now, poof, no more September.

No problem. I love October. I love Halloween and dressing up the house in decorations. And I could have and would have done that this weekend but I just didn’t have it in me.

I don’t know why but I feel troubled when something I love is no longer appealing. What changed? I’m clear on where the decorations are. I know the treasures that are in the boxes. Maybe I’ll get an inkling to put them up later in the month, but right now, that idea is cold.

When changes happen

It’s kind of like when I came home from Minnesota in August and looked at my refrigerator door which was filled with family photos with Mother in them and knew I had to take them down. I’d gazed upon those photos every single day for months and months. They’d brought me great comfort.

But after that August trip back to their home, those pictures almost hurt my eyes when I looked at them. They are now stored in a fabric handbag that hangs on the doorknob of my home office. They’re close by but I’m not looking at them, at least not now.

I still have a table top altar dedicated to her and I buy fresh flowers for it (for her) every week. That doesn’t hurt; it nourishes.

Anniversaries revive grief

The anniversary of the death of my youngest brother Todd was on August 29th. August 31st was my mother’s birthday. Those were some really tough days this year. They kicked up a storm of memories and aches and longing for both of them.


Erin, Brenda, and Caitlin leaving for Todd's funeral service on Brenda Kinsel website

September 25, 2014, leaving the lake house for Todd’s funeral, my daughters at my side.

Thinking back to October two years ago

I know what I was doing a lot of two years ago in October. I was talking to Mom on the phone nearly every day. She was overcome with grief. I worried that she wasn’t eating.

One day, I was explaining this physical feeling I’d get: It was sort of like a stomach ache but not really. It was kind of like anxiety but not really. I had brought this up to a nurse friend, wondering if something was wrong with me, and she said, “Oh, I know exactly what that is. It’s grief nausea.”

That totally resonated with me. I told Mother what my friend had said and I could hear her sigh of relief on the other end of the phone. It resonated with her too. She said, “That’s exactly what happens. It just comes in like a wave and then goes away and then comes again.”

When Mother died six months later, I didn’t have grief nausea, not once. Grief didn’t come and go; it moved in, took up residence and never left my side. I guess I’ve  been living with it ever since. Oh, it’s changed, but it’s never gone. Lately it seems to have come forward more than it’s receded.



An image of my brother, being there in my time of need

My younger brother, Kirk, is in Scotland with his wife, Wendy. They return this week to their home in Minnesota.

Let me tell you a story about him. He and I did most of the planning for Todd’s funeral. We were with the minister discussing some readings and sharing some stories about Todd.

Kirk was clear about some passages from the Bible that he wanted to read. He thought I should do a reading too. At first I said no. But then he mentioned the Twenty-Third Psalm and I thought, okay, I can do that. I love that Psalm.

The day of the funeral Kirk ended up at one end of the church and I was at the other end sitting next to Mom and Dad. The church was overflowing with people. There weren’t enough seats for them. They were standing at the back.

When it was time for the readings, Kirk got up and graciously welcomed everybody on behalf of the family. I was so proud of him. He read his piece and then sat down with his wife and kids and grandkids.

It was my turn.

I walked across the front of the church and approached the lectern. The Twenty-Third Psalm was printed on a card that had been sent to my family in sympathy. I held it in my hand. I couldn’t look out at the people. I looked down and started with the first few words: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not…

I couldn’t go on. I stopped, tried to compose myself but was failing. I looked out in front of me and saw Kirk in his crisp white shirt. He wasn’t smiling but he was radiant. He leaned forward onto the back of the front pew and he spoke to me through his eyes. He said, “Do you need me?” And I spoke back with my eyes: Yes.

He made his way out of the pew and came up and stood beside me. He leaned his hand on the lectern close to my reading.

Here’s what he didn’t do: He didn’t take over. He didn’t read the words for me. He didn’t whisper in my ear. He just stood there. It was as if he said, “Take your time, Brenda. I’m here. It’s okay.”

I took the time it took to read the Twenty-Third Psalm. I didn’t get through it without crying. When I was done we headed back in opposite directions to our seats. The service continued with a hymn Mother had chosen.

Emotionally I’m taking it slow this October

I suspect we have inside ourselves a wisdom that can teach us how to live with grief. I imagine it’s a matter of being quiet and asking for guidance. I imagine a presence standing close and saying without saying, “Take your time, don’t rush, it’s okay. You’re not alone. I’m here.”


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  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    October 3, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Dear Brenda,

    I understand grief. It’s an important part of life, and eventually you will feel better. The only people who are fortunate enough to feel it are those who have loved someone. That does not include all of us. Not to make light of your feelings, but imagine how much worse it would be if you hadn’t loved your mother, or if she hadn’t loved you.

    So take comfort from knowing this sorrow will pass, and reflect on how much pleasure your blog brings all of us.

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 10:32 am

      Cathy you make a very important point and thank you for making it. Yes, I have known women who didn’t have a relationship with their mother or at least not the one they wanted. I was in my 40s when our relationship blossomed into something amazing. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. And I will do some reflection like you said. Thanks for the reminders. Blessings to you!

  • Reply
    Janie Van Ostern
    October 4, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Beautifully expressed, Brenda. Peace.

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 10:32 am

      Thank you Janie, for your sweet comment.

  • Reply
    Penelope Chandra- Shekar
    October 4, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Thank you for sharing so deeply with us. Your experiences resonate with me as I have had my seasons of grief. Although Grief, is no longer constant companion, it is a frequent and seasonal visitor. They say this is the time of year when the veils between worlds are thin, a time to go inward and remember. ❤️

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 10:38 am

      Wow, Penelope, I really got a lot from your comment. Yes, I feel like I experience seasons of grief. It does visit. Right now it’s visiting a lot. What you said about this time of year being when the veils between worlds are thin totally resonates. What I hear from this is that it’s okay to go inward and remember. That’s divine!

  • Reply
    October 4, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Last February I was to read the eulogy at the funeral of my sweet friend Hilary who died of the same dread disease I’d survived a couple decades earlier. I got a couple paragraphs into it, and poof, my voice failed me and a sob was on the way. I held up a finger to the assembled loved ones who had packed the church here in rural France, as if to say give me a sec. I gulped, I stuttered a half syllable. Nothing would come out of my throat. Then Hilary’s husband, now freshly widowed, leapt onto his feet and joined me at the podium…surely he was suffering more than me! But all of us on “Team Hilary” had gone through a lot of changes and bonding, giving our dear one as beautiful an ending to her life as we possibly could. So just that felt presence by my side did the trick. I got my voice, he sat back down, we all carried on. And in a larger sense, I guess that’s what you, too, Brenda are doing, just carrying on as best you can. Sending you big hugs. Connie

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Wow, this is good medicine for me! We really do help each other through the hard times, don’t we? I love that you shared this experience with me! Thank you, Connie!! I so relate!

  • Reply
    Julie F.
    October 4, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Oh, yes. And everyone’s grieving process is different. And everyone’s process is on a different timeline. And people derive comfort from different places. It’s as unique as each person’s individual grief event and it’s all valid. Healing thoughts to you for the long haul.

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 10:43 am

      What comfort your comment brings me. Yes, it is so very different for everyone and so layered and full of mystery as it comes and goes. When I was young and having children I remember mothers getting together and talking about their birth experiences. Everyone’s was different. Seems equally true with grief. Thank you Julie for “speaking to me” today!

  • Reply
    Marsha Galloway
    October 4, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Brenda, I just couldn’t get through this without crying. And then I tried reading some of the other related ones until I had to stop, because the ache was just too much especially when it also mentioned my mom’s funeral. I really feel for you Brenda and pray for you and your dear family every day. I appreciate you sharing your deep and raw emotions. Love to all the family. Happy to see Kirk and Wendy are in Scotland, good for them.

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Oh my dear cousin! Now I can’t get through your comment without crying too. Your mother, my sweet Aunt Vivian…
      I was just going through a file this weekend of keepsakes and several letters from your mother were in there.
      Grief is so raw at times. I know you know. Our aches are for our dear loved ones. And as Cathy already commented, we are lucky to have loved so deeply.
      Big hugs to you, Marsha, and thank you for sharing. Mother adored you, you know!

  • Reply
    October 4, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Oh Brenda,

    I’m so sorry for your losses. I’ crying here as I type this. I lost my mother in June of 2012 and my father in August 2013. My dad died of a broken heart. I understand grief nausea. It comes and goes like the wind, never quite leaving, always there. I too, struggle every single day especially during certain months. I miss my parents terribly. I miss them mostly because of my children who are missing out. My dad use to always say, “This is the circle of life.” I don’t like this circle of life but it’s reality.

    Thank you for sharing and thank you for your blog. I love it and I just love you!

    Peg Crew

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      Peg, thank you so much. Your comment made me think of those wise words of our fathers and as a daughter not always liking it. Yes, it is the state of life. We go through losses and although it’s the natural order of things it’s just no fun sometimes. It helps me to hear from you. I’m so sorry you lost your parents so close together. I watch how tough it is for Dad to live without his beloved. It’s tough, tough, tough. Sending my love!

  • Reply
    October 4, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Grief nausea resonates with me too. I find it comforting to have the feeling named and validated by so many. Remembering with you.

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Ah yes, remembering with me. I remember being with Mom and seeing you at the Hostfest and of course, all the family gatherings. Too bad they’ve been funerals of late. Big hugs to you, my lovely cousin!

  • Reply
    Carolyn Mullenix
    October 6, 2016 at 7:13 am

    You have expressed your feelings so articulately Brenda. What a gift! I remember that moment at Todd’s service so clearly. It was a gripping moment that united everyone there: an unplanned permission for all of us to grieve.

    • Reply
      October 6, 2016 at 8:21 am

      Golly, how interesting to hear this from your point of view, Carolyn. It was clearly a moment of breaking from our stoic Norwegian heritage but I couldn’t help myself. Hearing this now, I’m glad it gave others permission to grieve. It was so sad. On a lighter note, Wendy in her dry sense of humor said afterwards, “Whose idea was it to have Brenda do a reading? We won’t be doing that again.” Sadly, we’d be in that church again in just a few months. I did get up and speak about Mother and it was different that time.
      And forever I will remember your story of Mother putting notes in your sandwiches-to-go after you paid them a visit at the lake. Too too funny! She thought the world of you and John! Big hugs to you, Carolyn.

  • Reply
    Diana Pemberton-Sikes
    October 8, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Oh, Brenda – I’m crying as I read your beautiful words as I can clearly envision the scene you wrote. Been there, done that. I lost both of my parents when I was in my early 20s and nearly 30 years later, I still miss them every day. But then my daughter will smile just the way my mother did, or my son will gesture the same way my father would, and I’m reminded that they’re still with me in so many ways…

    Take time to grieve. There is no time limit on missing people.

    • Reply
      October 10, 2016 at 10:27 am

      “There is no time limit on missing people.” I cherish your whole comment and that line really stands out. I am learning about this but what you said is really helpful. I am so new to loss and hearing from others really helps. Gosh, they were so young, your parents. I love how you see them in your children! You’re a blessing to me today!!! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Cathy Lawdanski
    October 12, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Beautiful perspective on grief, Brenda. I lost both of my parents in 2015. I am just now feeling the full impact of their grief. My husband is putting all of our videos on DVD’s and it’s so hard to watch the ones that they are in. I get it. Blessings to you.

    • Reply
      October 14, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Cathy, you said something that means so much to me. I have been curious why grief can hit hard, like sometimes harder than in the beginning–different but strong. Sharing that you are now feeling the full impact of your grief helps me, my friend. I just found someone who can turn videos into DVDs and I’m just not ready. Many blessings to you and thank you for sharing about your parents. The words, I’m sorry for your loss are so simple and they were quite comforting. I know those words try some people who are going through grief a bit crazy. I’m going to go out on a limb and say to you Cathy that I am sorry for your loss. Loving hugs to you.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 4:16 am

    I don’t know you personally but I feel I do now after reading your beautifully written story on grief. Thank you.

    • Reply
      February 2, 2018 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks, Sue. I really appreciate it!

  • Reply
    Joy Ross
    March 27, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for your words on grief! My husband of 64 yrs passed after 6 yrs of paralysis and cardiact failure! Ours was a uncomplicated love. The compassion and understanding expressed from another heals and soothes my aching heart. It truly is something you have to ride the waves through, but someone standing with you makes it possible. Friends, family and Faith takes on new roles in our lives.

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