Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

On Grief

CrocusesMy mother is dead.

I’m not sure why this is news to me, since she died on January 3, but for some reason in the last few weeks my grief has worked itself into something more menacing. It’s quite awful, and physical, like a weight on my chest.

“I feel like someone has shoved a bacon press over my heart,” I tried to explain to a friend. “Sometimes I cannot breathe.”

But the key word is “sometimes,” because at other times life feels almost normal. I work, I write, I make dinner, I enjoy watching Dr. Who. There are some changes to daily life, like the hours I have to spend now on Mom’s finances and fixing the house up for sale, but if there’s a surprise about grief it’s that ordinary life goes on.

And that feels like such a betrayal. Mom should be here. I should be able to call her, to see her, to chat about what we’re reading, to make plans for the future.

How can life move forward? How can there still be taxes to pay and sinks to scrub? How dare the crocuses peek out?

Shortly after Mom died, a reader sent me her condolences along with a lovely quote to help me through the weeks and months ahead. The words she sent have indeed been a balm, especially in helping me envision a time when grief will have settled into something less, I don’t know, physical, less urgent. I know life will never be the same, but maybe sometime in the not-too-distant future the grief will become more absorbed, more settled.

13227454The character Harold Fry says:

“I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone; the only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It’s like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it’s there and keep falling in. After a while, it’s still there, but you learn to walk around it.”



The crocus image is used with permission of

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church," which will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2019. She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.