With patience and planning, grief eases somewhat over time

  • A stain was easily removed from our chair by planning ahead -- just a metaphor for the benefit of patience and advance planning.

    A stain was easily removed from our chair by planning ahead -- just a metaphor for the benefit of patience and advance planning. Susan Anderson-Khleif

Updated 10/10/2021 8:42 AM

There is an old saying, "All things come to one who waits." This sounds biblical, but I don't think so. Seems it came from an early 1900s poem. However, there is truth in that line of poetry.

I think it's about the merits of patience, and also of planning ahead. In my experience, both are helpful and useful when trying to cope with grief.


After the death of a beloved partner, or other loved one, lots of thoughts race through the mind. One of them, for some, is wondering how long this hurt will last, will it ever go away? We may be impatient, or just wondering.

Many have been misled by the idea that we can go through a set number of stages in grief, be done and move to the next one, and then we will be much better. Yet in my experience, it really doesn't work that way. If we have patience and wait, let time take its course, and do our part to cope as best we can -- grief gets less intense with time and we can find a path to a sustainable daily life.

On the matter of planning ahead, a practical example happened to me many years back. We had already furnished our house here in Sleepy Hollow. After a while, Baheej and I realized we needed a couple of new, comfortable, sitting chairs in a space at the end of the dining room. We went to IKEA.

We got two Scandinavian arm chairs with light beige cushions and foot stools. These chairs had removable and washable cushion covers. At Baheej's suggestion, we decided to get an extra set of seat covers thinking we may need them in the future. So the extra set of covers were in our storage attic for many years.

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But recently, I needed that spare because one of my sweet kitties had a hairball accident right on one of those beige seat cushions, staining it. So I simply got that replacement that was stored long ago and replaced it. Then I stripped and washed the soiled cushion cover, so now I still have a spare in the attic. Baheej was a good planner and had patience.

We have been misled by the idea that somehow we can go through "stages of grief" and it will all get better -- we will "get over it." Well, we know it doesn't work like that. That's where patience comes in. If we wait, and take positive steps to cope with our loss, then grief does get better with time, less hurtful, and we are more able to cope and to forge a path to a new daily life.

So planning ahead for many events and eventualities can save us from lots of undo and preventable stress -- not just something as trivial as fresh seat covers, but for most things: a trip, hosting a dinner, holidays, household maintenance, you name it, both little and big.

Planning ahead helps avoid stress.

The point is: We can help ourselves by cultivating certain qualities and by planning ahead. Patience is a good one to cultivate. Let's do what we can, and on our own time schedule.

There are so many different situations when patience helps us. When bereaved, no matter how many years it may have been, less stress is especially good. I try even though I don't always succeed. But I try.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at sakhleif@comcast.net or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.

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