Hidden Grief People who have lost a loved one often ask me, "How do you understand so much about grief?" I suppose, before I lost my dad, it looked to the world like I really didn't know much about grief. The truth is, that's because as a society we often only judge a person's grief or ability to understand grief by the losses that fit into our prescribed "big" and "normal" categories. Everything else gets brushed under the rug. There is an overall general understanding and compassion for these big catastrophic losses, like the death of a parent or child, but even these losses are often categorized or minimized. What about all of the hidden, silent grief that can be just as impactful, just as big, just as life-changing, but gets glossed over in our society? The grief in these instances can be just as crushing and devastating, yet many times we bear this grief alone with little to no understanding from the world around us. There is often no funeral, no closure, and no public tribute or acknowledgment of these types of grief. Broken hearts, losing someone we love, broken relationships, divorce, infidelity, miscarriages, chronic illnesses, traumas, or injuries that change how you function in everyday life, separation, rejection, death of a beloved pet - and this is only a small sample of the various hidden grief happening all around us. Even when it's one of those "normal" losses, we tend to lose patience quickly for the person's grief. If it's been a couple of months, aren't they over it by now? When will they return to their old "normal" self? The answers to these questions are, "No, they will never 'get over it.' No, they will never return to their old 'normal' self." They will move forward in life and they will find a new normal, but they will never be the same. If it is a loved one lost, they will never stop loving and grieving that person. This doesn't mean they won't be happy again; it simply means that a loved one is irreplaceable. It's impossible for them to return to their old self because they have become something completely new, born out of life-changing grief. A photo taken with my kids at the zoo shortly after our D-day prompted me to reflect on the complexities of hidden grief. On the outside, I probably look like a mom just enjoying the zoo with her kids. On the inside, I was carrying a heart shattered into a thousand pieces. To those of you who are carrying silent grief or who have had your grief minimized, know that I see you. You are not alone. I know how gut-wrenchingly hard it can be to carry on each day. You try so hard and then people come along and say something ignorant and it feels like your grief is invalid. I'm here to tell you that your grief is valid. Not only is it valid, but it is an important part of your story that no one can take away. There is no shame in feeling every part of your pain. Let that pain become a tool that enables you to help others in ways that you never could have without that pain. It is a path to becoming your best self. Through my journey of grieving, I have come to appreciate the familiar quote, "Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."