What is grief actually like? A Slate survey.

A study of bereavement.
March 24 2011 4:48 PM

What Is Grief Actually Like?

Participate in Slate's survey about mourning and loss.

Take an anonymous survey about grieving here. We encourage anyone who has experienced grief following a death to take it, whether or not you feel that you had a particularly acute response to loss.

What is grief actually like? This is what I began to wonder after my mother died, at Christmas of 2008, after living with colorectal cancer for two-and-a-half years. She was 55 and I was 32. Few of my friends had lost parents or close loved ones. In the first months, I felt adrift, confused about how long I could expect to feel the way I felt, concerned that what I was experiencing wasn't "normal"—whatever that meant. Sometimes I was extremely sad; at other times I found I was tired or had trouble concentrating. Grief didn't look like the wailing or incessant sorrow I saw on TV; I still laughed, enjoyed movies—but at the same time I found myself trying to make my way through a world that seemed newly alien to me. I wrote about my experiences in a series for Slate, which became the seed for a book about grief, The Long Goodbye, to be published this April by Riverhead Books.

1_123125_2255073_2281014_2289107_110322_poll_grave

Recently, I talked to Dr. Leeat Granek, a critical health psychologist and researcher who studies grief and loss. She also lost her mother to cancer, in 2006, when Leeat was 25 and her mother was 53. We quickly realized that not only did we share the unfortunate role of grieving daughters, we also shared a curiosity about what grief is really like for other mourners. Leeat said, "When my mom died, I couldn't ride two subway stops without sobbing. I knew it was going to hurt, but I didn't know it was going to devastate me. The year after she died, I turned my attention to studying grief and discovered that there's a lot we still don't know about what this experience is like for people."

Advertisement

We decided to team up and ask you, our Slate readers, to tell us more about what grief is actually like. We share a belief that it will help all of us understand this human experience better if we can hear more stories from mourners themselves, in their own words.

If you have experienced a loss, please take our survey. Fill out as much or as little as you like. Your responses will be anonymous. In April, we'll write up what we learn about what helped or hurt you as you mourned.

...............................................................................—Meghan O'Rourke

Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.

Dr. Leeat Granek is a critical health psychologist and researcher who studies grief and loss.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.