Confessions on grief from a bathroom stall


I lost my dad to cancer in the summer. While families were going on vacations and taking trips to the beach, I had been going through the hardest days of my life. I spent the next year often rushing to the bathroom.


Work was utterly overwhelming, guilt would pile up because of missed homework assignments, I saw “Dad” in the Favorites section of my phone and called it just to see “Calling Dad” on the screen even though I knew it was no longer in service. Whatever the reason for breaking down, I would find the nearest bathroom stall and cry. There are not many places lonelier than behind a locked door, tears streaming down, on a toilet.


I had expected to feel depressed, devastated, and traumatized, and I think that is mainly how I felt at the beginning. Yet, as the weeks passed by there was a symptom of grief that I hadn’t anticipated. Loneliness.


My husband was my constant support, but I found it hard to communicate what I needed or wanted, quite simply because I had never gone through anything like this in my life. I would often hold in how I was feeling around him because he wanted so much to see me happy. We had not even been married a year when my dad passed away.


Being around people was exhausting because I didn’t have the energy to be my normal self, and I didn’t want to. My normal self would smile a lot, ask people lots of questions, and be engaged in whatever activity we were doing. Now I didn’t want to do any of those things. I wanted to be around people because I was miserable by myself, but when out and about, I would often find myself wishing I could leave.


My spirituality was at an all-time low. Every time I tried to pray I would end up crying, and I was so tired of crying. It was because I couldn’t hide from God. I could hide in a bathroom stall; I could hold my thoughts and tears in from others, but the second I tried to pray my façade would break. I knew he knew how bad I was doing. So I avoided praying and going to church.


Do you know what the first problem is in the Bible? It’s loneliness.


During creation God had said “it was good” over and over about everything he had created. Yet, after creating Adam he realized something. In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Adam had everything and yet God realized that if you have everything, but do not have someone to share it with, it is not good.


I quote this text to make the point that loneliness is not a small problem. God himself realized it’s effect. Yet, here’s the irony—most of us are surrounded by people, and many times people who love us. So why do we so often feel alone during our pain?


I believe there are many correct answers to this question, and I am going to supply the answer that I believe rings true for me in dealing with the loneliness of my grief.


Grief is inexplicably lonely because our society encourages us, whether overtly or subliminally, to “move on” faster than we can, causing us to pretend that we are all right when we are not, refrain from saying what we need to be honest about how we’re feeling, and to run to bathroom stalls to cry alone.


Do you know what symptoms your body undergoes when you try to hold in tears? Headaches and nausea are just a few. Or how relationships are affected when you aren’t comfortable being 100% honest with how you’re feeling? They’ll feel fake and you’ll wind up feeling a divide between yourself and those you desire to feel close. I think as a culture we are uncomfortable with grief, or at the very least uneducated at how to help those we love in their grief.


I learned this by talking with the therapist I saw during the year after my dad passed. I was having a hard time feeling like my spouse was comforting me how I wanted. I thought my therapist would think my husband was being insensitive, because after all he wasn’t even there to defend himself. Instead he said that I needed to look through the eyes of my spouse. How difficult it must be to watch your spouse suffer so greatly and not know the right words to say. He then asked me what I wanted my husband to do. I sat for a while and then said that I just wanted him to not try to calm me down or stop my crying. I wanted him to simply tell me that I was allowed to be sad and that it was greatly warranted. To just sit with me and make me feel like I could take all the time I wanted.


It seemed so simple. If you want something and it’s not communicated you can’t get upset when they don’t do it, well you can—but that only makes everything worse. And do you know what? It helped. My husband was relieved because I gave him words that he didn’t know to say and I ended up getting the support I needed.


There’s still a huge problem though with our general culture on grief. People are often required to return to work almost immediately after the death of a close family member and even spouse. Churches and friends are often great at supporting the person in the moment of the initial loss, but there isn’t much done months later. Someone asked me what the worst part of grief was and I said “pretending that I was okay”.


There are so many subliminal messages received that we should have our lives back together and be “normal”, I believe, much sooner than is healthy. What ends up happening is that many people end up feeling lonely because they refrain from feeling comfortable showing their grief or confiding in anyone—even close friends and family.


Grief is not something that can be cured. It is for most people something that they will never completely be free from, for the loss of someone you love is permanent in this world and thus your pain from their separation will also be. Yet while grief is a life-long process, ebbing and flowing, our feelings of being alone don’t have to be.


I’ve learned that communicating my grieving needs with those I love is so very important. Not only do I receive the support I need, but those who love me know how to comfort me. I’ve also found it very useful with those I love who are grieving to ask them how we can support them because not everyone is the same. Let’s communicate, let’s ask questions, let’s stop the loneliness.

mindyMindy Kissinger is finishing her PhD in Psychology at Andrews University. She and her husband Seth Kissinger, live in Niles MI with their daughter Mia.

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16 Responses

  1. Laura

    Great point that grief is isolating and often expected within a time limit. I lost my dad 2 years ago while pregnant with my second child, and it still has it’s moments of that extreme, stomach churning sadness (not as frequent but very present). I think because I was pregnant and I knew others were worried about me, I tried even harder to pretend to be “okay” even if I didn’t feel it and it’s exhausting! I love that you touched on the importance of communicating what you need and how you want to grieve.

    1. Mindy

      Laura, I’m so sorry for your loss. My dad never got to be a grandpa and that makes some things so bittersweet. I think certain types of people too have extra pressure to be “okay”. I am studying Counseling Psychology and so I felt like I should have it more together because I take classes on grief–but sometimes that added pressure can just complicate it and make it worse in many ways. I’m so thankful that you posted a reply because it wasn’t easy to write about, but feels comforting in a way to know that I’m understood. I hope as the holidays come that he will be close to your heart and you’ll allow yourself the opportunity to grieve and to also pass on memories. Thanks so much for your response, I greatly appreciate it. -Mindy

  2. Dorothy

    Thank you Mindy. Your thoughts and insights have allowed me to shed tears that I have kept in since his death. The pain is still overwhelming. I miss him so.

    1. Mindy

      Dorothy, I know the feeling. I hadn’t let myself dwell on it for a while and it felt really good to do it again. I’m sure you must miss him so, you were so close and so very alike in many ways. <3

  3. Gill

    I lost my youngest son to suicide 7 years ago, I was the one to find him hanging from a beam in our home.
    My husband is obviously grieving as well, so consequently we are not great support to each other. But we are all we have. All our family live in the U.K. and our other children live several states away.
    So yes, loneliness is one of the biggest challenges we have.

    1. Mindy

      Gill, what un unbearable pain that must’ve been and must still be. Recently becoming a mom, it just makes my heart break to even try to fathom you’re grief. I’m so sorry that you’ve found loneliness to be present in your grief as well, it definitely shows our society’s neglect to those who are dealing with loss. The sad part is that almost everyone will deal with it at some point in their life, so the need is so great.

      One great experience I had in my grief was reaching out to someone else in grief. There was a girl who lost who dad shortly after I lost mine and I had been debating about writing her or not–because I didn’t know her that well. I finally decided to do it, and I was so glad I did. We met for coffee and just sat and told our stories. It was beautiful to sit there together, not having to feel a pressure to be cheery or upbeat and knowing the other person was feeling similarly made me feel so much less lonely. We met for the purpose of sharing our grief and while we cried we also encouraged each other. Sometimes when no one reaches out, it can be very difficult to reach out to others, but it can feel so good.

      Know that you’re not alone in your grief, there are probably people you pass every day that have a secret burden of grief you can’t see. And know that you affected me by your comment. You didn’t have to reply but you did and it means so much to me. <3

  4. Betrayed

    After 35 years of marriage, my husband announces in May of this year he has been having sex with multiple men for four years. He maintained two full-blown 4 yr affairs with 2 of these men and I was “the triangle” are his words. I have cried more tears than I thought humanly possible. I don’t understand how a husband can do this to his wife or his family. He has completely shattered our lives. It has been six months since he broke his secret and the loneliness does not go away. Some people, including him, think I should just move on. How do you move on after being with someone for so long? How do you begin to trust anyone again?

    1. Mindy

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Divorce/ended love relationships are very similar to an actual death of a loved one–with many similar characteristics. I think 35 years is a long time for someone to want you to “move on” from. Though, I imagine in better words they would say they hope you’re able to find love and trust again with someone new because they want for you to be happy. With trusting someone it takes being vulnerable, and you may not feel ready for that for a while–and you are likely to be more scared when approaching new relationships. Yet, those who are worthy of your love I think you will find the desire to be vulnerable, even if it’s not easy–and I would hope that person would make an extra effort to put your worries at ease. For now, keep taking care of yourself, you’ve just had a great loss and it is for sure with every tear and sad day. <3

  5. Any

    Your article was so honest. We lost my mother, age 65, amidst two years ago. Her cancer had spread to get bones, and she didn’t get last week’s in agony.
    Even worse, my estranged sister and both my mother’s family and father’s family believed we were shutting others out, hiding mom’s condition from them.
    She went downhill so fast. Our last Christmas together in 2014 was miserable because we had gotten test results the day before.
    I am a nurse and tried to take care of her, then tried to be supportive of my dad, too. I ran myself ragged between work and dad and home. A few months after losing my precious mom, I had numerous strokes.
    I went back to work a few months later, but everything still seems like I’m trying to run through waist-deep jello.

    1. Mindy


      I just want to say how my heart goes out to you as I read your comment. I think there is a terrible agony that goes with watching someone die of cancer. My dad had to slowly die of cancer and I felt at times like I was being emotionally and physically tortured. I can also relate with family drama, there are still many family members I feel estranged from because of hurt feelings surrounding my dad’s sickness and passing. A lot of people are flooded with emotion and don’t say or do the best things for their loved ones. It’s terrible, but so often occurs.

      How lucky your mother was to have a daughter to take care of her like you did. I bet you didn’t imagine your nursing skills having to be used in such a way, but I bet you brought her so much blessing. I’m here to tell you that it is such a deep pain, losing a parent–especially one you were particularly close to. Giving yourself time to grieve is so very important and if you trust a friend/family member with your emotions enough it can be so healing to bring them into your grief. I have found that there are people who desperately often wish to help but are often confused at how to do so. Thinking of you. <3

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