Every Wednesday

Every other Wednesday, I will post a reflection on the landscape of grief. This blog isn't just for widowers. It's for everyone who grieves. I want to encourage people to share their stories and compassion with each other, build up a community of support, and help everyone understand the trauma that death brings.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Landscape of Grief

When someone we love dies, we not only lose them, we also lose the world they lived in. We lose our sense of PLACE, and no longer know where we belong in the world.

Grief is not a street address. It exists in every place we went with the person we loved. If we lived with the person who died, our house or apartment no longer feels right without them, and we lose our sense of HOME.

People may not know how to help and keep their distance. Invitations to parties dwindle because people feel uneasy around us, and we lose our SUPPORT NETWORK of friends.

If we can no longer afford the place we’re living on one income and have to move, we lose our NEIGHBORHOOD. 

We will find it hard to return to our favorite restaurants and stores because of the memories they hold. The streets we drive every day will fill us with dread, and we lose the familiar that anchored us to a CITY.

The physical landscape influences us—the trees, meadows, rivers, mountains, desert, or ocean. Even the weather affects our grief. It can lighten our mood or send it spiraling. We lean on the seasons to guide us through the seasons of grief, but they don’t always cooperate. The darkness of the winter months is hard.

If there is no place left where we can spend time with our grief and reflect on what it’s doing, do we ever truly grieve? 

Grief unrolls the map of our unexplored heart and bids us to explore.

Beyond the physical geography, there are also interior places where we don’t want to go. 

In the beginning, we may not want to recall any of our good memories because they deepen our sorrow—how we played with our child in the park on weekends, or how the breeze coming in off the lake cooled us as we ate dinner, or how we raked the leaves every autumn with our father as we listened to football games on the radio.

We also may not want to feel the depths of our love for this person, or think that no one will ever love us like this again because if we do, the wheels will come off our bus.

O my heart, where can I go to be alone with thee?

The place that held me together was Yosemite. Yet the first time I returned, even this place, my last safe haven on earth, held only sorrow. Everywhere I looked, I saw memories of Evelyn smiling and enjoying herself. It would take several trips back before I could feel the awe of nature again, and it would take days of hiking before I was ready to face grief.

Find a place to go. If your old places don’t bring you comfort, find a new place that does.


  1. This concept rings so true, yet it has rarely been talked about. Thank you, Mark for bringing this specific darkness to light so I can explore my world and my heart with keener understanding of the sorows and potential comfort.

  2. I understand this so well Mark. My special place was always Hawaii, but to return without him would be devastating. So, my new special place is Tucson at a very special, healing, comforting place called The Canyon Ranch. I will split my time between Tucson and the new condo I just bought in a 55+ community in Laguna Woods, CA.
    You are so right about not "just" losing a person. I too have lost my sense of place, neighborhood, and lifelong city I will always love. I feel more "at home" in a hotel room now because there is no real "home" anymore without John.

  3. thank you Mark
    I think that not only do we lose the places, but in addition relationships that were joint ones (or couple-y ones), and also time (with present and future most affected, but also past/memories).