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Attack of the Grief Monster

There is a “monster” who quietly lurks among those who have suffered a loss and are bereaved.

It is stealthy and sneaky and pounces when we both most and least expect it.

As with most “monsters”, this one appears in the quiet and lonely of night. However, this particular monster can strike during the daytime hours as well.

It attacks randomly without care for its victims and even in the most mundane of moments.

It attacks during what are supposedly fun or happy times and most definitely makes an appearance during frustrating or challenging times.

It chooses its attack moments carefully. A song, a food, a scent, a place, a date on the calendar, even a particular time of day are ready invitations.

The result? Overwhelming sadness, tears, depression, and generally feeling as though the loss happened just five minutes previously.

Who is this monster?

It is the Grief Monster.

And when the Grief Monster attacks, it has the capability of stalling – or even halting – a Healing Journey, leading its victims to believe that they are no further along in their healing than they were when their Healing Journey first began.


Three months after my husband’s death, I was at the mall to purchase a birthday gift. As I wove through the maze of department store cosmetic and perfume counters, the Grief Monster struck quite suddenly and very hard.

Speaking frankly, the Grief Monster grabbed me around my throat and kicked my knees out from under me.


While browsing those counters beckoning with beauty of all manner, I had inadvertently caught a whiff of Mike’s cologne. His fragrant calling card.  His signature.  The one without which he never left the house. The one that sweetly lingered in the air after he had left for work. The one that always let us know that he was “there”… even if he was not home.

My insides turned to gelatin.

Caught completely by surprise and feeling the simultaneous burn and sting of overflowing tears and the familiar hint of post-loss nausea, I bolted from the store, ran for my car, sped to the sanctuary of home, and sobbed in the darkness for hours afterward.


The Grief Monster.

We naturally expect it to show up at night, when all is quiet – and it usually does not disappoint. We all but set a place for it at birthdays or on holidays.  However, and as we all know, the Grief Monster can also strike at inopportune and seemingly innocuous times throughout our day. Worse, victims of a Grief Monster attack believe that because they are having a moment of sadness or tears or grief – regardless of the grief trigger involved – they believe themselves to be “backsliding” or otherwise having a setback on their Healing Journey.

It is simply not true.