Grieving is Like a Lava Lamp – Field Notes and Gratitude

Earlier this week, I received a completely-unexpected gift in the mail. Inside the package was a little wooden coin engraved with “Dad” on one side and a lantern on the other, handwritten notes and crystals. Everything was wrapped in pretty tissue paper, the last little note in a tiny, hand-painted envelope.

I set them up as you see here, right in front of me on my desk, and took a photo, so I could let my friend and her daughter know that I received them, safe and sound.

I sat there for several minutes… in reverie.

I think about Dad every day… but I no longer linger there. Otherwise, I’d be an emotional mess.

But this gift… gave me permission to “go there”… led me gently with the lantern…

I felt that familiar lump in my throat…

“Oh, Dad!”

I had goosebumps.

I turned around and noticed my lava lamp, which I had plugged in earlier.

Something clicked.

I’d like to tell you about it.

At this point – in what can only be termed “the grieving journey” – most people have forgotten that my dad died less than half-a-year ago.

I know it’s not that they don’t care… it’s just…

Life does what it does… keeps on moving forward.

But my friend understands that *right now* when everyone else has moved ahead … it is time when I most needed to hear someone say, “I know your dad died. I know how much he mattered. I know it’s hard not getting to see him or your family cuz of Covid. I know. I get it.”

She understands because her dad died several years ago, before Covid. My heart broke for her. Her dad was like mine. A darling. A hero. A gift.

Like my dad, he was laid to rest in something comfortable, a sweatshirt with … if I’m remembering correctly… a group photo of his family on it. That’s what mattered to him. To all of them.

A lifetime of memories.

Another friend lost her nearly-adult son about four years ago in a horrific accident. After a year, some “well meaning” people told her not to dwell. Suggested she stop sharing photos of him on social media.

People sure have their own ideas about grieving.

A reminder: There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s not predictable. Even if you memorize and understand the Stages of Grieving.


This is where the lava lamp comes in.

See how in the first photo the “lava” is all at the top? That’s how it is when someone dies. All the grief is right there at the surface, solid, cold and hard.

As time goes by, it warms, expands and sinks to the bottom. Mostly out of sight but definitely not gone. More like a boulder in the pit of your stomach. You slog along, trying to get through the days.

And finally, it bubbles up in sometimes small and sometimes large ways, floating along, up and down in an ebb and flow. Always there, but not – generally speaking – totally debilitating.

My guess is that most of us who acknowledge that grief is a lifetime event are in the final stage that never ends. We find ways to live with it, dress it up (see my pretty bracelets?) and learn to love what it represents… that we loved (and were loved) deeply.

What do you think of my analogy?

Are you grieving? Do you believe it lasts for a lifetime?

Added note: I left my friend’s daughter’s card in the photo above in case anyone is interested in ordering a “Comfort Coin” memorializing someone in your life. Her information is:

Hilary Fraser

BONUS: Here is a 1-minute video of my lava lamp in motion, in case you want or need to see it.


  1. Hil and I are with you dear heart. We both grieve daily, it is part of who we are, and we are good with it. It’s all part of love.

    Liked by 1 person

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