Love in the Midst of Grief

My latest article published by Elephant Journal.  :)


He found me out on the deck in the dark, crouched down to my knees in the pouring rain because my legs would no longer hold my weight.

Tears mixed with the raindrops on my face. My heart felt as though it was physically breaking in two. He crawled out of bed to come find me, and stood next to me shirtless in the rain. His shivering was the first signal to me that it was cold outside. It was November, after all.

He asked me what I was doing. I told him I couldn’t breathe inside the walls of our house.

And so he simply stood next to me. Holding space. Knowing there was nothing he could say to make this better.

My dad was dead. I was an adult orphan. And in that moment, I felt as alone and as vulnerable and as scared as infant orphans must feel. The sounds emitting from my raw, scratchy throat were not sounds I recognized. They were primal and haunting and wailed of pain.

The man standing beside me, my husband, had been through a lot with me over the previous decade. We have a long and complicated, yet amazing, story. It involves pigs flying and universes colliding—it’s that kind of story.

Defying Society's Standards of Grieving

Took some time off from writing, but I was just recently published by one of my favorite media websites.  :)  


My dad died last October. Six years and 11 days after my mom died. Safe to say I’m not a big fan of October.

As you probably know, the universe has a sense of humor. How that humor has been playing out in my life as of late is that I am grieving while practicing as a grief counselor.

So, go ahead, ask me about grief. I’ll say that it’s different for everyone. I’ll say there are no rules. I’ll say it’s not linear. I’ll say that all the feelings are important and valid. I’ll say you’ll never forget the people you lose. I’ll say that grief evolves. I’ll say that it won’t always hurt the way it does at the beginning, but that grief never truly ends.

I can give you quotes about grief.

I can give you books about grief.

I honor grief.

In a lot of ways, I’m almost friends with grief.

As a grief counselor, I understand the complexity of grief.

But let me be honest. The grieving part of me and the grief counselor part of me are in a bit of a battle of wits right now.

Anticipatory Grief

My latest guest post at The Caregiver Space.  :) 


In 2009, musician Mat Kearney released a song titled “Closer to Love”. I was pretty sure the first two verses were written exclusively for me:

She got the call today

One out of the gray

And when the smoke cleared

It took her breath away


She said she didn’t believe

It could happen to me

I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.


This was the same year I actually received that dreaded phone call which quite literally dropped me to my knees.  I sat in a crumbled heap on my kitchen floor, with tears pouring down my face, as I listened to my parents tell me that my mom had cancer.  Terminal cancer.  Three months to live.

In reality, Mat Kearney could write that verse because so many people have had the experience of that phone call.  If you’ve ever received the call…you know the feeling.  It could be cancer or multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease or congestive heart failure or insert any number of terrifying words that make it clear in one moment, that life, as we know it, has changed forever.

When the shock wears off, grief often settles in, although sometimes we don’t truly recognize it for what it is.  We tend to attribute grief to the loss we feel after losing someone we love.  However, anticipatory grief comes prior to the actual loss.  Without an understanding of anticipatory grief, it can be quite confusing.  When my mom was dying I couldn’t understand how I could grieve over her while she was still here.  All these years later, looking back, I wonder, how could one NOT grieve in anticipation of a loss they know is coming?

Kelli Barr-LylesComment
Caregiver Space Guest Blog Post

I occasionally guest blog over at The Caregiver Space. Here is my most recent blog on grief:


My mother would have turned 78 this week.

Her 73rd birthday was her last here on Earth. She was living with stage four ovarian cancer at the time and I was incredibly sick and couldn’t visit her. The chocolate cake I baked her sat uneaten on my kitchen counter. I didn’t get to celebrate her last birthday with her but I did hold her while she took her last breath a few months later. Cancer took her quickly, but it gave us just enough time to find peace with one another.

I’ve learned a lot about grief in the past several years. I knew about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. What I didn’t pay attention to was that those stages aren’t linear and that I would repeat the steps over and over in various order.