A major event happens in your life, maybe even to your family’s life, and while everyone is sharing their sympathy and support they are watching you…or at least that’s how it feels. Let’s be honest, there’s a little part of us that wants to see how people respond to challenges they face. Will they fall under the pressure, shave their heads and verbally attack everyone they come in contact with, recluse and stop showering, or rise like a phoenix to the occasion? It actually doesn’t matter what they do because they get the freedom to grieve how they need. The expectations on how to grieve can be exhausting and actually negatively impact the person grieving.
Boundaries & Family
I find that this issue occurs even more so in families. When one person reacts differently than the pack everyone gets upset. People begin to think that person is being unhealthy or stubborn. At first, these “outsiders” tend to be left alone, but the longer they don’t match the expectations of others, the more comments made. Even something as healthy as creating boundaries so a person can grieve the way they need to creates a belief that there is something wrong with them. Why would someone need to create a boundary with their family after all?
Well there are a lot of reasons. First of all, in all relationships (friendship, family, romantic, work), boundaries are healthy. It doesn’t mean the other person or people will like the boundary though. People typically take boundaries as rejection or punishment versus a healthy decision from the person placing the boundary. Sometimes a boundary isn’t about us but more about the person needing space to get healthier. Sadly, people still make it about them.
Here’s a little secret: It’s because the person is grieving the loss of closeness with the other person and instead of saying “I miss you, and I don’t understand why you’ve placed a boundary between us. Can you explain?” the person gets reactive and points the finger.
Going Against the Pack
Back to our discussion about expectations on how to grieve and when you grieve differently than others:
I want to speak to YOU, the person who grieves differently than the pack or needs to separate yourself from how others grieve because they are actually unhealthy in their methods. YOU get to decide how you grieve no matter what others say. You won’t hear this from too many other people, but at the end of the day, you have to look yourself in the mirror and be happy with your choices. That applies to everything in life, not just grief.
The expectations on how to grieve have divided families, marriages, and friends largely because there are a wide variety of ways to grieve. Unfortunately, most people believe their way is the best or “normal” way. But how do you as the “abnormal” griever of the group keep moving forward? By finding support from those who believe you are allowed to grieve the way you need. They may not always like your decisions, but they need to be able to accept them. You may even find support groups in person or online to be helpful during these times as well.
I truly believe communication is the key. It’s not about people pleasing or putting your wishes to the side. Be honest and upfront that you must be allowed to grieve the way you need. Let them know if they are grief shaming you, so they understand that what they are saying or doing isn’t actually helping. Make sure you show them the same respect in their own process if you are grieving together. Release them of the need to fix your grief and find support that is healthy and safe for you. The expectations of how to grieve will take time to release, but once they are gone, we are free to have a healthier grief healing experience.