This post is a continuation of my generated list of 30 words that could be used to describe grief.  Obviously this list relates to my experience with grief, so I am interested to see if anyone else can relate with some of these words.  I plan on continuing this series of postings that will not only define these words, but expand on why I thought they would be good descriptors.

The seventh word I chose was:

Smothering:  Defined as “a state of being stifled or surpressed”, “a dense fog”, “a confused multitude of things” 

There are several meanings to the word ‘smothering’ that I think apply to grief.  I felt “stifled and suppressed” for a long time after the death of my children.  I felt like I lost hope and often times felt like my recovery was being stifled by the flashbacks, memories and reminders that grief kept throwing in front of me.  Not sure if grief ‘suppressed’ my pain, but I think I certainly tried my best to suppress my emotions and pain.  I thought by doing this I was being the man I was taught to be when I was a child.  Real men don’t show emotions or talk about sad stuff, yeah right.  I was fed this bullshit for most of my life so when it came time to really deal with this stuff, I didn’t have the tools to cope.  I hear this “real man thing” from a lot of the grieving dads I have met, many feel shame for having normal and natural reactions to something not so normal, the death of a child.    

The second definition “a dense fog” really hits home.  I felt like I was in a dense fog for most of the time after the death of my children.  I think it’s the brains/bodies way of protecting you from something so horrific.  I don’t remember what I did at work most days and I would come home exhausted and just sit in my chair to keep myself calm.  The night would fly by and I would find myself back at my desk not knowing how I spent the night before.  I started to forget things as well.  I always had a strong memory, but I would forget names, things that happened or just what I was doing or supposed to be doing at that time.

I think the last definition speaks for itself, “a confused multitude of things”.  There are a lot of confusing things that happen to us after the death of a child and the aftermath that follows.

Do you agree that word “smothering” is a good descriptor of grief?

Can you relate with any of the things I described or care to expand on these definitions?

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User Comments ( 13 )

  • Well I’m a single mom and I feel smothered. I have to be “strong” for my son. I met my boyfriend after my daughter died. He does not have the same emotional ties to her that I do. He is patient, he is kind but I am forever trying to find that balance between grieving mom and “happy” girlfriend (whatever that means) and hell yes I feel very smothered.

    I can’t breathe.

    • Grieving Dads


      Thanks for your comments. “I can’t breath”, I like that statement because it’s the truth. Early on it feels like you have this really blanket over top of you. Its hard to see clearly or think clearly for that matter. All of your senses are impacted along with appetite and desire for life. I am happy to hear that your boyfriend is understanding and provides support to you.



  • Adrian Britt


    What a solid point. My grief continues to take me on emotional “roundabouts”. I am good one day; or better I should more accurately say. Then the next day, it is a deep melancholy. The smothering affect not only affects my conscious and sub-conscious mind, but also my physical health. The more I feel “smothered” or encumbered by my grief, the harder it is to remain physically healthy or to keep my activities up.

    I travel alot in business and I remember when I first started to travel. I would pack everything I could possibly need for the trip. In many ways, my grief has been this way. Since my daughter passed over a year ago. My grief has been a solid understandable burden. I don’t want to relinquish any of it yet I want some relief. It remains one solid visceral event. It seems, for me, that I have not learned or figured out the best way to “pack differently” or seperate various aspects of my grief.

    Maybe time will show me and the rest of us how to ease our grief some. It is on us all the time, isn’t it?

    My best,


    • Grieving Dads


      Thanks for the comments. Excellent insight, you are correct, early in your grief you are just bad all of the time, then as your start to see the light of day things change. You go from a good day to a bad week and overall it continues to get better, but its such a long process. You just want to rush through the pain, but it won’t let you and it does it on its own time. The loss will always be with us, but the depths of grief does start to shallow.

      I read once that it takes 5 years to get through the intense grief of the death of a child. For me it was a little less, but not much. Its not that you are in the depths for all of those 5 years. You’ll have good days. I can honestly say that I actually feel good again after 7 years and just over 5 years. I was in such a good mood today, I had someone ask me what I was taking. Nothing, I am just happy to feel happy again. Bee patient with yourself and the process, I know easier said than done.



  • Scott

    For those of us who children were murdered these is also an outragous sence of anger toward those responsible

  • John Geraci

    Stifiled is the way the last month has gone. On January 1, the new year, it will be exactly six months since my daughter Leslie died. And most of the time I feel like I’m walking around in a big cotton ball – things seem muffled, subdued and far away. I bascially don’t give a shit about much of anything these days. And grief never leaves. On one of the news programs they had a retrospective of who had passed this year and I had to go into the other room and cry because I didn’t want to see it. So six months will come; and then, eventually a year and so on. And to me it just looks like bleak empty time stretching out ahead..meaningless.

    • Thom

      John –

      I truly feel where your deep feelings come from. This time of year is just so filled with retrospective (memories) … and expectation (of memories lost). And that just generates so much raw emotion that it’s hard to know what to do with it all. Our son, Grant, died on Thanksgiving. It’s stifling. It’s lonely. It’s suffocating. And yes, smothering. For me, I’m just coasting through these holidays waiting for them to be done.

      I’ve done a lot of writing to try and get those feelings out so they’re not simmering inside. The other day, I wrote this about my response to ordinariness in the midst of grief … “How can the world turn as it has for all of time, when it should stop on its axis, even for just a bit?”

      That’s what the passage of time (and holidays) feels like for me. I feel your pain, John.

      – Thom

      • Grieving Dads


        I wrote something very similar when my son died. I couldn’t not understand how people (the world) kept going on like nother happened. All I kept thinking about is “he deserves this acknowledgment, even if its just for a moment”

        The sad thing is, it doesnt work like that. I have however adjusted my life to take as many moments as I need to think about my children and try not to let others place stress on me.



      • John Geraci

        Thanks, Thom and the others who have posted here about being smothered. It helps to know that many have gone down this path, sometimes more than once. It’s just that the finality of it all — that your baby will never be here again. And while I try and focus on the wonderful person she was, it’s still so empty. She’s not here. And never will be again. I will be glad when the clock moves and in another fifteen or so minutes this goddamn year will be over. One thing I have learned is that so many of us carry such hidden burdens that I don’t judge people too quickly or harshly any more. That “asshole” who cut me off in traffic could be someone just like me: a grieving parent. Peace with all of you tonight and tomorrow. Here’s to my darling girl Leslie. I love you so much.

    • Grieving Dads


      Things are muffled when you go through something as traumatic as the death of a child. I think its the bodies way of protecting your brain from being overwhelmed.

      You are right to feel that the future looks bleak because it does where you are currently standing. But ther will come a day where you will smile or laugh for just a brief moment and it will hit you what just happened. The fog lifts, but on its own terms and time frame. It is a slow, painful process. We are all here to help you carry some of that pain when you don’t think you can go on for another moment.



  • Mark Wooded

    Another feeling of smothering is that of the Stoic Father/Husband that smothers his grief to take care of his wife’s confusion and grief. I buried mine to take care my wife’s inability to deal with the loss of our son. Again, as you mentioned “like a good macho man” I was taught to be.


    • Grieving Dads


      Yeah, great point. That was me after the first loss. I thought I had a role to play in helping my wife. That’s what we are taught as kids. But its hard to help others until you have helped yourself.