Why It’s Okay to Grieve


I have finally understood something about grief that I haven’t been able to put into words and understand before: Grief allows you to hold on to the thing you lost and allowing you to hold on to it changes you. People advising you that you need to stop grieving and move on have no idea what they are really saying to you. “Stop grieving” translates into “stop loving and stop remembering” who you lost. Just forget about all that. It’s in the past. 

The problem with that is…you can’t forget it. You can’t run from it or hide from it. It just is. I will be honest, I tried to hide from it because I thought I should be done with it all. But I really couldn’t and deep down I knew it.

At the five year anniversary of Tony’s passing, I began to feel as though I should just stop grieving as if there was an off switch. I should feel better and everything would go back to “normal” within me. While the loss is somewhat in my rearview mirror, it’s not gone from me and who I am. But isn’t that how it is supposed to be? Gone? Wiped from memory? And why isn’t it? Am I crazy?

Some people are quite ashamed of still feeling grief, especially if it has been some length of time. This shame does not come completely from inside…it also comes from outside and influential forces in the griever’s life. For me, it came from the one person I expected to understand how I felt. This person told me I “needed to stop wallowing in grief.” That I talk about it too much still. That I should be looking for a new love to spend the rest of my life with. In other words, “forget him and stop grieving.”

So now, not only does the pain of living without my beautiful Hub bother me, the pain of trying to figure out what exactly my problem looms before me or if I even had a problem.  What am I supposed to be feeling?

I got quiet within and decided to really understand this. Why do I feel judged, even by other widows, because I still feel some hurt about Tony’s death? The reason is obvious. The problem is not with me…it’s with those judgy people!

After 2, 5, 8, 10, and 20 years, widows still miss their spouses. It’s just a fact. These same people may have found joy and positivity in their lives or they may have not. But one thing always, always remains: they grieve their lost loved one and everything associated with that loss.

As I approach the sixth year anniversary, I’ve kept even quieter and more to myself about my grief. The more I do that, the more judged I feel. The more judged I feel, the more I feel I’m forgetting him. I don’t want to do that. I’ve decided its time to make people aware. 

A saying I read on the internet struck me very deeply:

“Grief is a part of who I am. It lives in the very bones of me.”- Unknown

To me, that is what grief awareness means.  People outside of your grief simply don’t understand that your grief is a permanent part of you and often try to “will it away”, under the guise of “I’m just trying to help.” People need to become aware and understand that your grief is yours, deep in your bones and nothing can be said or done to take that away. They don’t understand that the grief never, ever goes away and it is a part of you forever. Your grief has settled into your very cells. How could you not change?

As a rule, many people don’t like change and they definitely don’t like to see someone they love change because of such a terrible thing. But there is nothing they can do about it. There’s nothing we can do about it either. We had no choice.

It needs to be recognized that loss and grief, which are about the most negative life changes a person can have, can also bring positive change to the person in grief.  I have found that the people who fuss at me the most about “wallowing in my grief” don’t see that at all. 

They don’t realize how much you’ve changed, and they don’t realize it wasn’t a bad thing.


“You can do the impossible, because you have been through the unimaginable.”-Christina Rasmussen

Admittedly, my grief overwhelmed me for a long time.  But I began to realize what learning to cope with my grief has done for me: I have become a bigger advocate for my special needs son. I don’t take much crap from anyone like I did when my husband was alive, because he always stood up for me. I learned to stand up for myself. I discovered a real passion for helping people and I try to do that every day.  I also discovered that I enjoy writing.  I have purged some things from my life I never thought I could. I am definitely stronger. I am heading towards living my best life and rediscovering who I am!

Maybe you recognize some of the same things in yourself. These are things to be proud of and things you know have happened since you lost your love. You’re stronger. You’re more sympathetic. You are more aware of what life truly means.  Sweating the small stuff is no longer something you do. You have been through the worst thing possible and came through the other side. You may have learned some new skills. You have learned to do things because you had to. You’re taking better care of yourself. You’ve made some new friends and let go of others who needed to leave your life. You’ve let go of things, physically and mentally, that you never thought you would. 

How could such a huge loss not affect you and your being? You fell in love with your person and intertwined your life with theirs, only to have that piece of your torn away.  Why is it always expect that you are to return to what you were before your love died? Don’t let nay-sayers take any of this away from you. Speak about your loss. Share it with others. Doing this not only heals you but reflects how you’ve changed if only to yourself. Living with your grief takes strength.

So, I discovered that it is okay to feel pain and grief. I don’t have to push it aside, because frankly, I can’t.  I don’t want to. It has made me who I am and I love who I am.

To all my grieving sisters, I love who you are too. We are okay.



Cheryl Barnes was born in Atlanta, Georgia and after several moves with her family, settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended college at Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in Public and Environmental Affairs Management. While she attended college, she laid eyes on Martin “Tony” Barnes and was completely lost. They became inseparable and were married on December 24th, 1991. After five years of marriage, their first son, Malcolm, was born on New Year’s Eve, 1991. After Tony obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Work, the family moved to Orlando, Florida. Tony worked as a counselor, while Cheryl got her dream job working at Walt Disney World. Two years later, their second son, Miles, was born in July 2004. Cheryl left Disney and took a job in accounting at a property management company. Everything seemed to be going well for the family and Cheryl made plans to attend nursing school. However, in July 2011, Tony was diagnosed with end stage renal failure caused by lupus. For the next three years, Cheryl cared for her husband while taking care of the boys and working. Tony’s health deteriorated as a result of several complications until he passed away on August 29, 2014. Thus began her new journey as a widow and solo parent.
Cheryl was devastated at the loss of her beloved Tony, but continued to work and care for their sons as she had before. As a way to work through her grief, she started writing, at first, only for herself. But, being encouraged by others, she began publishing her blog, “Widowness and Light.” Along with writing and being involved with several widows groups on Facebook while raising her boys, she works as a training bookkeeper at an association management company.
She plans to go back to school and obtain a Master’s in Social Work so that she can help other widowed persons cope with their losses. She is also working on a book about her grief journey.
Her hobbies are reading, attending Orlando Magic games, yoga, going to the beach, and just chilling with her boys.
Additionally, she is also the founder of Black and Widowed: A Unique Journey, a Private Facebook group and a contributing author of the book, Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle and Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women.
You can also reach Cheryl through her public Facebook page, Widowness and Light, which is based on her widowed journey.