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‘Grief and Love’
Joanie S. Holm, R.N. C.N.P.

Writing about grief is like writing about life—huge! Where does one start? It is like describing love: basically impossible. The comedian and late-night host Stephen Colbert lost his father and two older brothers in a tragic accident when he was young, and said, about grief, “It is a gift to exist, and with that gift comes suffering. If I am grateful for life, I must be grateful for all of it. I hope that grief stays with me because it is all the unexpressed love I didn’t get to tell you.” 

So even though grief may be difficult to describe, I’m working to do what Rick taught me: to share my grief publicly, as he did his death. As I’ve sought to live with my grief, I have found tips and ideas that have helped. Not every tip will be pertinent to every person, so use judgement as you address someone in grief. 

• Talk about the one who has died. They are generally the grieving person’s favorite subject

• Contact the person in grief frequently. Loneliness can be consuming. Remember birthdays and anniversaries, which can be emotional triggers for the one grieving. 

• Include the grieving person in activities. Sometimes getting away from the grief can be a relief. 

• Offer to help a person in grief with household chores, as these tasks can become overwhelming. Better yet, just show up and help! 

• Be aware that grief can be like a roller coaster, high one day and low on another. Grief can be exhausting. Realize that a person in grief may need extra rest. 

• Consider the vulnerability it takes for a grieving person to ask for help. The grieving person may suffer in silence rather than admit defeat. 

• And last for this incomplete list: grief has no right or wrong and no timeline. Every individual is different. 

The songwriter Nick Cave said “It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable.” 

Rick showed us, courageously, how to face death while honoring life, with love and joy instead of dread. Now maybe those of us who grieve can see the shape of our love in our grief. The poet John Roedel wrote: “Your grief is a temple in your heart that honors that love.” 

I hope that I continue to find wisdom in this grief as I continue my journey. 

Richard P. Holm, MD passed away in March 2020 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He is founder of The Prairie Doc®. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc library, visit and follow Prairie Doc on Facebook. Joanie S. Holm, R.N., C.N.P. is co-founder and president of Healing Words Foundation that supports Prairie Doc programming.