The grief journey is fraught with emotions, doubts, regrets, and what-ifs. It only takes but a couple of judgements from a supporter to make us second guess how we are doing. People often expect the bereaved to be further along the grief journey than they are. This is a very difficult situation and certainly one that is quite common.
First of all, each of us grieves in our own way and in our own time. There is no cookie-cutter approach to getting through the journey. When people have high expectations for others to ‘get over’ their grief or to ‘get on with life’ it is often their inability to be present to your pain. Secondly, they are likely responding to you in the only way they know. They are not living what you are; therefore, it is difficult for them to understand why you are not doing better than you are. Moreover, people learn how to grieve and mourn from their families. How our parents and grandparents grieved and mourned a tragedy is often what we mimic. We learned from them and they learned from their parents and grandparents. That’s the bad news… our coping skills are often handed down to us. The good news is that we don’t have to do things the same way. When you see and understand it is not working, you can choose to do it differently.
Each person needs to explore their loss and find appropriate and safe ways to express their feelings of grief. The journey is complex. It feels like a lonely path; nobody understands what you are going through. That is true. No one can truly understand how another person feels; however, those who have walked this journey never forget what they felt or experienced. They can be a tremendous source of strength and courage to you.
There is no side-stepping the grief. It will continue to manifest in life in different ways. It’s important to choose to do the work; however, it is a process and it takes time to work through all the layers. I would encourage anyone to seek out the support of a counsellor or a group with similar experiences so that you can explore and work through your loss. The only way to the other side is to go through it.
In terms of how to deal with family and friends – you don’t owe them an explanation. They will see the difference in you when you have the opportunity to do the work. You need a safe, nurturing environment free of judgement or criticism so you can do that work. Having said that, you do have to choose and be committed to doing the work.