Five Years and Counting

My first visit to a grief counselor was in March, 2010. She was cool, full-time counselor and part-time yoga instructor. I sat on the couch embracing an aqua Pier 1 looking pillow, protection from the questions she might ask.

I was there for grief, but clearly she’d bring out more. Trudy was going to force me to dig deep, to explore myself, my fears – ones I’d buried underneath my marriage. In many ways, Lisa was my security blanket. Now I was exposed. Nothing to cling to. Nothing to hide behind, except the pillow.

I hurt so deeply.

“How long will I feel like this?” I asked.

“It takes most people five years to feel completely whole again.” She didn’t sugar coat.

“That’s unacceptable. I can’t feel like this that long.”

She explained that my grief would not be as intense for five years, but that it could very well take a long, long time to move forward.

Yesterday marked the five year anniversary, and Trudy was right. I do feel whole again. Looking back, it seems like so much has happened over the past half-decade. But in many ways, it doesn’t seem so long ago that I first met my counselor.

Time goes slowly when you look forward but it seems fast when you look back.

I remember three things Trudy told me that could help to speed up my healing:

1) Lean on those around you

I was a master at that. I let folks support in any way they were willing. At times I told them what I needed. All stepped up to the plate.

2) Lean into your grief

She told me not to run, to allow myself to feel it. To cry. To talk it out. Not to hold back. Again, a tip I conquered.

3) Find new interests

I’ve tried. I wish I had more, but I’ve discovered writing, acting with my kids, and I’ve ventured into dating and spending time with some really cool people. I’ve got some work to do on this one though.

There were two other things I found important in my journey. One was to keep busy, especially in the beginning. I think it could have been easy to sit in bed and watch TV. Fortunately for me, having kids did not allow that.

The final piece of my healing puzzle was building a stronger belief in the long-term future. Having faith that I will see Lisa again has given me the ability to enjoy this life more fully. That may sound counterintuitive. Maybe it’s like an upcoming vacation. Enjoying day-to-day life is easy when you know that you have something really exciting to look forward to.

So many people hurt for so many reasons. My hope is that they will find tools to move them forward. The darkness can be suffocating, but with hard work and time, there’s a whole lot of light to find.

Leave a comment


  1. Joyce

     /  February 25, 2015

    I can’t believe it has been five years. Lisa would be very proud of you. I still remember the two of you at the front of the gym at the Y, leading the counselors (me, Cathy, Mulva and Calvin) and children in laughing and “dancing.” And Y-Life kids placing their chewed up gum in the palms of our hands as they made their way to pool time. Precious times. Lots of smiles. Good memories.

  2. Thank you for this 5 yr perspective. I’m at 9 months and riding the rocky waves. Keeping focussed on tasks and simply making it through the day/week.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  February 26, 2015

      You have a journey ahead but it progressively gets better. And eventually, you feel good again.

  3. Mel Ham

     /  February 25, 2015

    It still takes my breath when i recall that day we got the call. The grief is a lot dimmer than it was but I still recognize its presence. You have grown a great deal…and suffered alot. WE miss Lisa. She brought so much to our lives. Love you much and the hamlets too.

  4. Mom

     /  February 25, 2015

    Good job, son. You’ve worked hard and have become a self-assured man who has a lot to give. We’re very proud of you and grateful that we got “Bruce” back. That’s a gift you gave your family because you have fought so hard to make it through.

  5. Rita Tolley

     /  February 25, 2015


    Thank U for your strength. You have given me hope for the days ahead.


    Sent from my iPhone

  6. How wonderful that you put in the work. I’m glad it is paying off!

  7. How beautiful. It’s nice to know that it does/can get easier.

  8. It’s such a relief to know how much better you feel 5 years out–not just because I’m glad for you, but because I know things will keep improving for me, too. When I first started reading your blog you were about 3 years out; I have a few months to go before I am. At that time I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be that far away from the crushing grief I was experiencing. I love your conselor’s advice. I haven’t found any new interests and really should do that. Thank you for this.

  9. Pam D.

     /  February 25, 2015

    It will be four years in April since my husband passed away. The list that you have sounds so familiar. I have had some “dark” times, but I am so thankful I have made it to the other side(that’s the best way to describe my journey through all of this). My family is glad to have the “old Pam” back.

  10. I’m glad it’s getting easier!

  11. it took my breath .. you saying 5 and it gets easier. whoa. i believe you but still.. seeing your writing it helps. just gotta say that. i talked about you at my church woman retreat. umm Bruce says this… and bruce says that. no really, i quoted others as well. but yeah. I went on my first retreat solo and left my chidden for the first time with my parents of 3 nights. wow. it was amazing. they prayed for me, (my church women). it was so freaking awesome. I said out loud… 15 months. I can say that now. i’m saying late. i’m moving forward. thanks dear bruce. for writing. i hurt for you but cheer for you as well.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  March 4, 2015

      You hang in there mamparks! You’re gonna make it.

  12. This is really good! I lost my mom at 14, I’m 20 now. It never gets easier, just something you learn to live with.


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