Grief Demands to Be Felt: Creating Space to Grieve When You Want to Run Away

Whether you’ve already experienced it or not, all of us will walk through some form of grief in our lifetimes.  That grief can take many different forms, whether through the death of a loved one, the loss of a dream, or recognizing unmet needs from the past.  You may have shown signs with the five stages of grief outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (shock, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance), or you may have taken your own personal path through grief.

Perhaps you’ve been surrounded with loved ones or friends during your grieving period because it has been public.  This often happens in cases such as the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a divorce or separation.

But for others, grief comes when invisible losses happen.  The private nature of these experiences makes their importance harder to acknowledge.  This might include discovering a spouse or family member’s addiction, wrestling through infertility, or experiencing rejection or abandonment in relationships.

Some areas of loss may seem small in comparison to greater tragedies and pain that are occurring in the world.  Know that if this pain is having an impact on you, it matters.  You might be uncovering stories of unmet needs from childhood in therapy, dealing with a chronic or major illness, experiencing generalized anxiety, or seeing the effects of aging.

The Process of Grief

Whether you’re dealing with visible or invisible grief, the process of grieving takes time, attention, and care.

We tend to minimize our own experience of grief in order to carry on with daily life.  As others who are uncomfortable with grief urge us to move forward, we might rush past the experience of sadness in an attempt to “get over it.”  We can be fearful of uncovering grief because we worry that once we feel it, we won’t ever be able to stop.  Facing grief over the loss of a loved one can lead to potential existential fears, such as anxiety about our own death.

Alternatively, we can stay stuck in our grief despite years passing and wish we could move forward through it.  This often happens with we feel stalled out or stuck in the same place years after the loss.  Usually this indicates that there is a certain layer of grief that hasn’t yet been accessed because of the additional pain it brings up.

How to Grieve Well


Do you assume once you start crying, you won’t be able to stop?  Are you fearful of the judgment of others who don’t understand?

Write a list of all the thoughts that immediately come to mind when you think about grief, good or bad.  Review your list and look for cognitive distortions or faulty assumptions.  Notice how they are leading you to feel anxiety.  Anxiety leads us to see only the worst-case scenario, rather than realistic possibilities.  Consider also what the best-case scenario might be of allowing yourself to grieve.

If you have questions you can’t answer, educate yourself on the grieving process.  Learn about the stages of grief. Recognize that they are not linear: you can jump forward and backward through the stages.  Remind yourself that periods of intense grief will not last forever – they will get better over time.  Research online or read books about grief.  Here are some resources to get you started:


These tendencies can be overt, like avoidance of thinking about the loss or refusing to grieve. Or they can be more hidden, like resistance to sitting down and reading a book about grief or leaving information out when talking with a friend.

Instead of getting down on yourself for experiencing these, instead ask yourself why they happen.  They likely came about as a coping strategy to survive the pain of the loss.  Honor what you did to survive.  Then ask yourself what they’re protecting you from: what are you avoiding?  What fears do you have about addressing grief?  What emotions come up when you think about it?


Seek to learn how to sit with uncomfortable emotions.  This might involve getting out a journal and writing or getting together with a friend who can help you verbally process what you’re going through.  Prayer can be a helpful way to sit in challenging emotions, particularly if you couple it with the experience of reading Psalms of lament or writing your own.  These psalms are used to grieve the pain or suffering that exists in the world and can be used as a guide to help you express your own sorrow.

Set yourself a specific time on a regular basis to sit down and check in with your emotions.  It could be a daily, weekly, or monthly practice, depending on how intense your grief feels.  Try a tool like an emotions journal.  Use mindfulness strategies to help you connect to the experience of the present moment both before and after you enter into this space of active grieving.


Sometimes, simply naming an emotion or talking about an experience of grief can provide respite from the pain.  Reach out to safe friends or family members who are willing to sit with you in your grief.

If you don’t feel able to share in your current relationships, look for a grief support group at your local church, hospital, community center, or therapist’s office.  If you’re dealing with grief in the context of addiction, seek out a 12 Step group specific for your concern.


Be curious about what your grief is teaching you over time.  If you’ve journaled, go back over old notes.  If you spoke with a trusted friend or therapist, ask if they’ve seen any themes in what you’ve been sharing.

These learnings can help you approach your life with a different mindset.  You may consider changes you’d like to make in life or people you’d like to spend more time with as a result of this process.  Let this new knowledge and understanding affect your behaviors and choices to better reflect your values.


Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, addresses the importance of finding meaning in suffering and pain.  Similarly, consider how this pain and loss has shaped you or changed your perspective.  Psychologists call this concept post-traumatic growth, pointing out the benefits that come from opportunities for growth and change after surviving trauma or loss. Consider a vision for your future that includes these insights gained from the experience of grief.


by Elizabeth Jackson-Van Sickel

Maya Angelou on Mothers

“I think of mother often,” Maya Angelou told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. “I think of myself as mother. I think of men as mother—some men. My son has mothered his son, fathered his son. I don’t think you have to be a woman to mother.”

With these sentiments in mind, Angelou, arguably America’s most famous poet, wrote a book in honor of mothers, Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me.

“Yes. It is true. I was created in you,” she read from the book. “It is also true that you were created for me. I own your voice. It was shaped and tuned to sooth me. Your arms were molded into a cradle to hold me, to rock me. The scent of your body was the air perfumed for me to breathe.”

Angelou said a mother did not indulge but loved unconditionally in the deepest possible of ways.

“Love may be the matter that keeps the stars in the firmament. It may be. Love allows you to be tough and tender,” she said. “Love. It does not say you can get away with this and I’ll turn my—because you’re so cute—I’ll turn my back, to something that may harm you later on. No. Love affords you the ability to be courageous.”

In the book that made her famous, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou wrote, “My mother’s beauty literally assailed me. Her smile widened her mouth beyond her cheeks, beyond her years, and seemingly through the walls to the street outside.”

Her mother, she said, was her everything.

Yet her glamorous mother could not handle her small children, and Angelou’s grandmother raised her until she was in her teens. Rather than focus on her wounds, Angelou said she used “the scar to sharpen my pen to write a poem.”

When Angelou was 21 and a young mother, she was holding down two jobs and living on her own. One day, she went to her mother’s house and received some unexpected praise.

“She looked at me and she said, ‘Baby, you know at this minute I want to tell you something.’ She has fox furs on, silver fox furs, and diamond earrings,” Angelou said. “She said, ‘I think you’re the greatest woman I’ve ever met.’ She said, ‘There is of course Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary McLeod Bethune, and my mother. But you’re in that category.’”

“And I thought, ‘Suppose she’s right? Suppose I really am somebody?’ She used to say she was too mean to lie. And she was very intelligent. But maybe it’s about time for me to stop smoking and stop cursing, ’cause I may be somebody.”

Angelou was working on a cable car at the time, and was far from the famous woman she would become, but her mother’s words gave her a sense of her future.

“I have learned enough now, to know I have learned nearly nothing,” she read in another excerpt from her new book. “Only stay when mothers are being honored. Let me thank you, that my selfishness, ignorance and mockery did not bring you to describe me like a broken doll, which had lost its favor. I thank you that you still find something in me to cherish, to admire and to love.”

“I thank you, mother. I love you.”

Reprinted from the ABC article, “Maya Angelou on Mothers”

Grieving During Covid-19

Behind the Badge Foundation received this brief powerful video on grieving the loss of a loved one during these unprecedented times.  Thank you to Code4 NW and the Seattle Police Department for sharing this important message.

To see the video, click HERE

Incredible News for Officer Wellness

We are living in an unprecedented time, a time of uncertainty and stress for all people, but especially for our law enforcement officers.  Acknowledging this reality, it is incredible news for Behind the Badge Foundation to announce the passage of two pieces of legislation specific to officer wellness which were enacted into law today by Governor Inslee today.  This collaborative work accomplished in the 2020 Legislative Session is vitally important to law enforcement officers across the state of Washington.  SB 6570 and HB 2926 will provide for the further development of programming directly supporting law enforcement officer mental health and wellness, as well as critical incident stress management.    

This important work could not have been accomplished with the support and partnership of the following people and organizations. Please help us in thanking the following: 

The Honorable Jay Inslee, Governor 

SB 6570 – Sponsors  

Concerning law enforcement officer mental health and wellness.  

Prime Sponsor: Sen. Curtis King  

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña  

Sen. Keith Wagoner  

Sen. Liz Lovelett  

Sen. Claire Wilson  

HB 2926 – Sponsors  

Expanding access to critical incident stress management programs.  

Prime Sponsor: Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber  

Rep. Brian Blake  

Rep. Joel Kretz  

Rep. Drew MacEwen  

Rep. Luanne Van Werven  

Rep. Gina Mosbrucker  

Rep. Jenny Graham  

Rep. Larry Hoff  

Rep. Dan Griffey  

Rep. Drew Stokesbary  

Rep. Kelly Chambers  

Rep. Alex Ybarra  

Rep. Tom Dent  

Rep. Andrew Barkis  

Rep. Keith Goehner  

Rep. Bruce Chandler  

Rep. Joel Kraft  

Rep. Roger Goodman  

Rep. John Lovick  

Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self  

Rep. Tana Senn  

Rep. Chris Gildon  

Rep. Mike Sells  

Rep. Matt Boehnke  

Rep. Lauren Davis  

Rep. Norma Smith  

Rep. Mary Dye  

Rep. Tina Orwall  

Rep. Carolyn Eslick  

Rep. Sharon Shewmake  

Rep. Gerry Pollet  

Rep. Marcus Riccelli  

Rep. Paul Harris  

Jennifer Ziegler   

Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS): Teresa Taylor and Jeff DeVere  

Council of Metropolitan Police & Sheriffs (COMPAS) : Renee Maher  

Pat Dunn    

Susan Dunn   

Washington State Patrol Troopers Association (WSPTA)  

Washington State Patrol Captains and Lieutenants Association (WSPLCA) 

Letter from the Executive Director…

To our friends.
We have all been affected by the current issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus and the measures that have been taken to reduce its spread. We want to let you know a few things. First, none of the services that we offer to our law enforcement community have been disrupted by COVID-19. We have taken appropriate precautions and will continue to fulfill our duties to the best of our ability into the foreseeable future. However, due to the ongoing public health crisis and the moratorium established by the State of Washington and the King County Health District as well as the recommendations published by the CDC, Behind the Badge Foundation has no other alternative than to cancel and/or re-schedule all events and trainings through April.

This includes:

  • GR/IN Critical Incident Stress Management, March 16-18, Bellingham Rescheduled Fall
  • Northwest Region Honor Guard Training, March 23-26, Yakima Reschedule October
  • 22nd Annual Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial Ball and Auction, April 4, SeaTac – Possible Reschedule, May 9
  • Fun with the Fuzz 5K, April 18, Bellingham – Canceled

We are working on rescheduling both of these trainings. Please look forward to them in the early fall.

22nd Annual Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial Ball and Auction

We have always seen the WSLEM Ball and Auction as an event not only to Fundraise but to also “Friend-raise”. For 22 years our supporters and friends from all over the region have come together to honor those that have gone before us and to be with each other in fellowship and celebrate the life and achievements of law enforcement officers and their families. This year we believed this celebration was especially necessary; emergency service workers are always on the front line in advance of the rest of the community when faced with the unknown or impending peril. We had hoped that we would be able to provide respite from the current crisis. When April cancellation became apparent, our committee worked very hard to come up with an alternate date. As of today, there is a possibility we will be capable of rescheduling for May 9th at our host hotel the Seattle Airport Hilton. This is dependent on several factors including the availability of certain vendors as well as updated health advisories.  Starting next week, we will be reaching out to every registered attendee and sponsor to process refunds and returns should you not be able to attend.

Fun with the Fuzz 5K

Due to the enormous undertaking, Fun with the Fuzz 5k in Bellingham will not be rescheduled at this time.  This event, like the WSLEM Ball and Auction, has a substantial following and we understand the disappointment of all our attendees on the cancellation of this substantial fun run. Information on refunds will be forthcoming.

I would like to take a moment and recognize the efforts and all the hard work done by our volunteers for both 22nd Annual Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial Ball and Auction and Fun with the Fuzz 5K. Both committees have worked tirelessly over the last 7 months to produce quality fun events with a purpose. To say this is a labor of love would be an understatement. Our existence and many of the broad range of services we are able to provide are available because of good hearted volunteer committee members.

We are keeping a close eye on the ongoing statistical information and the messaging coming from our governing officials and our health officials. In the next several days we will be examining that information along with our May calendar which also includes a Peace Officers Memorial/Medal of Honor on May 8th in Olympia as well as National Police Week in Washington DC.

In closing, we would like to thank all our emergency responders and our support entities within those agencies. Law enforcement officers, correctional officers, life safety firefighters, paramedics, physicians, nurses, dispatchers, support and administrative staff and so many others; we know that you don’t have the option to stay home. We know that you are working hard and that you continue to put yourselves at risk day in and day out. Know that we are forever in your debt.

In the coming days we will attempt to keep you informed and up to date as to our current status.


Brian Johnston

Executive Director


22nd Annual Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial Ball & Auction FAQ Page


We understand that in an unprecedented time of rapid change and so many unknowns, we thought it helpful to share with you some of the questions we have either posed ourselves or been asked over the last few weeks about this event.

State restrictions on events/groups have been extended through April 8th.

Date Change May 9th

We worked diligently with our host hotel and other vendors to move the date of the 22nd Annual Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial Ball and Auction to May 9th. The previously listed event schedule will remain in place for the weekend of May 9th.

 What happens to my ticket?

To ensure the most thorough accounting and customer service, the Ball and Auction Committee will be reaching out to ticket holders initially through email. You may also receive individual contact by telephone. New tickets will be reissued. If you are not able to join us on the new date, we will be process refunds in the coming weeks. Expect to hear from someone during the week few weeks.

You will need to contact the Seattle Airport Hilton in reference to your accommodations.

We have been able to create a block of rooms for the new date. Please contact the Seattle Airport Hilton Hotel directly to update your reservations. We do not have the ability to cancel, change or modify any individuals or groups reservations. You may reach the hotel at 206 244-4800  with the new reservation code LAWX20. Or you may book a new reservation online

I see other organizations running online auctions and/or other solutions. Why not adapt the event?

The committee felt very strongly about preserving this event exactly as it is. They have found the perfect balance of fundraising while honoring the officers we have lost and did not want either half to get muddled in a new event.

What is the financial impact on Behind the Badge Foundation?

Like you we are concerned about our organizational financial future. We rely on events like the Ball and Auction to help fund vital programs and initiatives across the entire Foundation. We also rely on these events to connect with the people that we serve and the people that who continually support us. While this this pandemic will significantly change manner in which we work in the short term, our pledge is that we will continue to support our Law Enforcement officers, families and agencies, especially in their time of need, to the fullest extent.

If you do not see the answer to your question, please refer your questions to event director Kevin Haistings and Tracy! at for more answers.

A day without Dad: Getting through grief on Father’s Day

Being fatherless at any time can be tough. But it’s interesting how a commercially-driven calendar event can hammer home feelings that may otherwise remain under the surface.

Greeting cards, TV ads and social media feeds tell us how we’re supposed to feel on Father’s Day. Happiness. Celebration. Togetherness. But if you’ve lost your father or you’re a father who’s lost a child, you might not be spending the day playing catch or wrapping up ties and socks. Instead, Father’s Day can be a harsh reminder of your grief.

When you’ve lost your father

As Father’s Day approaches, lots of people make plans to spend time with their father. Some families will meet up for a BBQ, others may decide to go camping and some will pay a visit to spend time with their dad. For those who are lucky enough to still have their fathers in their life, it can be a great day. But if your father has passed away, the day can be really hard.

Father’s Day can bring up a lot of feelings. Whether you’re young or old, single or married, a parent or not, losing your father is one of the most emotional experiences you’ll ever go through. Or you may have lost your father-in-law, grandfather or other father figure in your life.

If you’re struggling with grief this Father’s Day, know that you’re not alone. Here are some things you can do to help make coping with the day a little easier.

  • Compile your memories. What are your first memories of your father? What are you grateful for? Ask your family for their memories too. Write them down.
  • Take some quiet time. Carve out some time for peace and quiet. Don’t force your thoughts or emotions. Just observe them, letting them come and go as they will. Let yourself enjoy a moment of peace.
  • Write a letter. Take the time to write some words to your father. Think about a favourite time. Recall an important life lesson he left you with. Pour out your feelings on paper or in front of the computer and be honest about everything you’re feeling.
  • Pay tribute. Do an activity your dad loved. Eat his favourite meal. Visit that special place you used to go to together. Remembering times spent together can help you cope with the day.
  • Make plans. Try planning an activity or schedule some quality time with family and friends. Staying busy can help you make it through the day.
  • Ask for help. If you start to feel overwhelmed by sadness and grief, reach out to a family member, friend or counsellor. Help and support can make all the difference.

When you’ve lost a child

Losing a child is one of the most devastating types of losses anyone can experience. No parent expects to outlive their children. It feels unnatural and wrong. Grieving the loss of a child is an experience that colours the rest of a parent’s life. You can’t escape it and on days like Father’s Day, the grief may seem too much to handle. Time won’t heal the hurt, but it will become more bearable.

For a father, facing Father’s Day after the loss of a child can be extremely upsetting. This is especially true when the loss is new, but the pain of the day may continue year after year. If you’re grieving the loss of your child, here are some tips to help you get through the day.

  • Spend time with your kids. If you have other children, spend the day with them. It may hurt to be with them and without the child you have lost, but finding joy in the children still with you is a powerful way to cope with those negative emotions of loss.
  • Surround yourself with loved ones. You may want to hide away and be alone, but resist the urge. Spending time with people who care about you will be more helpful.
  • Keep busy. Living in a state of distraction from your grief is not necessarily healthy, but on difficult days like Father’s Day it can help.
  • Remember you’re still a father. Just because you’ve lost a child doesn’t mean that you’re not still a father to them. Never forget that. You are your child’s father forever.

When kids lose their dad

Father’s Day is often a challenging time for children who have suffered a loss in their life. If you’re supporting a child who has lost their father, grandfather or a father figure, use Father’s Day to help them learn more about who the person was in life.

  • Talk about their Dad. Father’s Day is a great time to talk about the person they’ve lost. Share happy thoughts. Discuss good times. It will help ensure their father remains a real presence in their lives.
  • Listen and validate. It’s important for children to learn how to express grief and adults need to validate their feelings. Help them communicate their feelings and remind them it’s OK to feel sad, mad, afraid, confused or lonely. And help them realise that it’s because of great love that we grieve in the first place.
  • Make a memory box. Put keepsakes and other special items into a box. Tangible, visible items can help children feel connected to the person who has gone. It can be pulled out and cherished year round on birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions.
  • Create a scrapbook or photo album. Young children may not have a large bank of memories of their dad. Family photos and keepsakes can help them remember and reflect on the good times. Having a scrapbook or photo album in memory of their father is a great way to keep memories alive.
  • Build a memorial website. If you’re feeling high tech, you can build a website with pictures, stories, videos and other memories. Depending on your age and the age of your children, they may be 100% better at the project than you!

Supporting others through the day

While you may not have experienced the loss of your father, some of your friends may have. There are lots of things you can do to reach out and make their day a little brighter. Here are some ideas.

  • Send a card or make a call. It’s a small gesture that means so much. All you need to do is remind them that you’re thinking of them.
  • Be a source of comfort. Be there to listen to them and provide support.
  • Avoid platitudes. Don’t try to rush your friend through the process of grief. This only invalidates what they’re feeling. Be patient.
  • Be mindful of their feelings. If they don’t feel up to visitors, you should understand and respect that. Offer them a rain check.

Treasure good memories

Fathers play an irreplaceable role in life. If you had a good dad, then Father’s Day can be sorrowful and maybe even bittersweet as you remember good times. If you had a more difficult relationship, the day can bring up feelings of loneliness and sadness. Or if you’re a father suffering the loss of a child, it can amplify those feelings of loss and bereavement.

Focus on what your father meant to you and what you learnt from him. What is your father’s legacy? Why was he important to you? And remember, Father’s Day is a special day for celebrating and remembering fathers, grandfathers and others, whether they’re living or not. Take advantage of the day.


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Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, May 10, and many of you are shopping for gifts for Mom. This is a great opportunity to support Behind the Badge Foundation and shop for mom. 

Planting a garden can be full of peace and healing

March 19 is the first day of spring. Planting a garden can be full of peace and healing…”You can “dig for victory” but I have discovered you can also dig for mental health. Creating a new garden by hand, working in step with nature and the seasons, has enabled me to unpack my feelings in a more deliberate way than I might otherwise have done. A garden forces emotional patience. Plants can’t be hurried but they have a definite constancy.” –Charlie Hart


Digging through tears: how gardening helped me to grieve for my parents