My Early Days of Grief

funeralMy husband’s funeral on October 30, 1990.

The early days of grief following my husband’s death had me on my knees. That was nothing new. I had been there for years. My brother-in-law (23) was murdered in 1979, my father (54) was killed in an accident when his 18-wheeler went over the side of mountain in 1986, this was followed by my brother, Brian’s (39) sudden and unexpected death due to physician error in 1989. In October 1990, my friend, Ruth and my husband, Gerry died two weeks apart, both resulting from brain injuries.

What I remember most was feeling as though my world was under attack. Everything that I knew to be true, no longer was. My support system of mom, siblings, extended family were suffering from these losses too and therefore, not fully able to carry me emotionally. Make no mistake, they were all there for my two young daughters and I; however, they were experiencing these losses too and on a unique journey themselves.

I was overwhelmed with legal ramifications of my brother-in-law’s death. I was overburdened with the significant debt load my father left behind. I was embarrassed to admit how tormented I was over my brother’s death because after all, I was only his ‘little sister’. He had a wife, three beautiful children and a mother and our brother and sisters who were also grieving. I couldn’t call this much attention to myself. I was devastated when Ruth died. She too had a young family. She had been my hope and inspiration since her initial injury three years prior. My husband was injured 5 ½ months before his death – so for him as long as Ruth kept getting better, he could too. Then she died. Then he died. I was not only shattered by his death, I felt abandoned. I was now alone with two little girls and I had to pull it together to look after them. But how?

One may have thought that because I had been down this path before that I would know exactly how to cope and get through my sorrow. Nothing was further from the truth. Each death was different. Each relationship was unique. The heartbreak I was going through each time was different than the time before. The only thing that became abundantly clear was that I had to go through the pain to get to the other side – in other words, I had to be proactive in my grief. That seemed impossible given I was in reactive mode constantly.

The death of a loved one is something truly beyond our control.  My healing was ongoing and to this day, over two decades later, I am still finding little bits that need to heal.  Grief is not something that we get over.  Grief is a process – it’s not the event. It is something one must go through to get to the other side. This is not simple work, but rather the most gut-wrenching, soul-searching, heartbreaking- challenge you can undertake. But you can do it.

Part of my healing was to understand that we do not get to choose who will die, when they will die, or how they will die or where we are at in the journey of life with them when they die. What we can do is to know and trust in our hearts that PEOPLE LIVE UNTIL THEY DIE. They live. And we all deserve to do the same… live until we die. However, this means we must choose to do the work of healing.

In Brave Hearts and the Life Redesign Intensive programs, I explore the journey of grief and help people to unravel the layers so they can reconcile their loss and move forward in life (Brave Hearts is an online group and the other is 1-on-1). For more information about these programs and more, visit

I encourage you all to do the work of healing so you can once again embrace life and fully live it because you deserve to.

Remember loss is painful. Grieving is life-changing. Mourning is healing. Do the work and you can heal your broken heart ~ I promise!

~Janelle Breese Biagioni

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