As individual as grief is, there are some common questions I hear often pertaining to behavior having to do with the grieving person.  People have come to me questioning their crying, whether they should cry more or less, some feeling guilt over not crying at all.  There is a question if it is OK to laugh or have enjoyable moments, others wonder if they will ever laugh again.  Some think if they have thoughts or experiences where they are not thinking of the loved one they are somehow betraying the deceased.  I have people thinking that they should be “over” grief in a certain time period (insert month or year) or tell me they didn’t mourn the death properly at the time, or at all.  There is a preconception of what grief “should” look like, how mourning people act, or don’t act.

It often accompanies all the “shoulds”

  • I should go visit the cemetery more
  • I should cry more/less
  • I should pray more
  • I should get rid of the loves one’s belongings
  • I should date
  • I should go out
  • I should stay in
  • I should work
  • I should take off work

Everyone has their own way of dealing with loss.  It is as unique as a fingerprint.  Your body/mind can only handle what it can, and often demands time to figure it out.   So, if you couldn’t cry at the funeral, that is completely ok.  Crying can be a way some people express their feelings over the loss but for some it is not familiar or does not come easy.  Also, if taking anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication it can be harder to cry, as the chemicals in the medication work to stabilize the mood.

In addition, responses to grief can shift. It is a process that transforms over time. The early months and years after the loss have thoughts and feelings that have a certain frequency and intensity that may and sometimes don’t diminish as the years go by.  People will have different experiences depending on the relationship, the loss itself, other losses in the person’s life, the personality and personal history…so many factors.  Some folks start grieving after news of a terminal illness.  Others do not.

What is helpful is to allow expression of your thoughts and feelings about the loss in one way or another.  Avoiding the loss altogether has consequences. The timing and environment for the expression has to be comfortable for you.  For example, if you are in a business meeting and a thought or feeling arises, acknowledging the feeling and then gently shifting your focus from the loss to something in the present, like a tactile sensation, can be the path to lead you back to the meeting.  You can then have the freedom to choose a better time and place after the meeting to explore the feelings.  These thoughts require revisiting for as long as they do. No number can be given here.

No matter where you are in the grief journey, seeking support is helpful in the grieving process.  It can come from different sources.  Friends and family, spiritual, environmental resources have brought comfort to those who experience loss.  Finding that source of support can be a challenge and it may also transform over time.  Support can look like

  • Taking a walk in nature setting
  • Embracing a fond memory of past experience
  • Eating nourishing food
  • Talking or being with others
  • Embracing a spiritual ritual
  • Moving the body
  • Creating/making something
  • Reading literature
  • Watching a movie, series

Finding a way to be compassionate, with yourself and others, is key.  I’m not sure why there is so much judgment about how one should grieve. Maybe it’s because others do not want to see you in pain, and you don’t want to be in pain. It’s hard enough bearing the difficulty of loss much less adhering to expectations of yourself and others.  Remind yourself that it’s important to give yourself a break, taking time for yourself to find your ground.  Allow your thoughts and feelings to emerge. Permit yourself the space to care for yourself.  Try new things.  Use familiar comforts.  As David Kessler would say, treat yourself as you would a best friend.

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Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 941-2257

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