Everybody grieves differently, and it’s important to understand, that’s okay! Despite a widely-held belief in stages of the grieving process, and predetermined notions of how we should all behave in mourning, the truth of the matter is, grieving is unique for everyone. We may experience common emotions, however, not in the same order, not within the same time period, and certainly not always in the same way.
Reactions also vary from person-to-person and can depend upon a number of factors. There is no right or wrong way to react, feel or grieve, and while some behaviors may seem abnormal or worrisome, most are quite normal and simply that particular person’s way of dealing with his or her loss.
For example, some people don’t cry right away. Although it’s expected that grief and crying go hand-in-hand, not shedding tears does not mean people aren’t sad or in pain. It could be that they are in shock or denial. They may be experiencing other emotions such as anger, or they might feel numb and unable to feel anything else. Many times, a person goes through trauma, reacting to the event that caused the death, before being able to experience grief and react to their loss. The expectation to cry can actually get in the way of the grieving process, since being judged by others, the person grieving may unfortunately wonder what’s wrong with his or herself. The answer is absolutely nothing.
Another good example is keeping items that belonged to a lost loved one for longer than others feel is “normal.” Society seems to put a timeframe on when it’s appropriate to go through personal belongings and donate or throw them away. However, this type of bereavement behavior is highly individualized. Someone may want to keep clothing as a reminder of a special time shared with the deceased. Others may not be at a point in their grieving that they feel ready to let go of certain items. Still others view the process as a final goodbye they don’t want to make, holding on to personal belongings as a way of keeping their loved one close.These are all perfectly acceptable and normal behaviors.
Of course, there are emotions and reactions that can be rightfully concerning, such as self-harm or deep and extended depression, and these should be brought to the attention of professionals who can help.
Remember, though: no matter what a person’s reactions are to a loved one’s death, there is only one true reaction we should have and that is to offer support and sympathy.
If you are struggling with a loss or concerned for a loved one who is grieving, we can help. Free resources are available on our website or you can contact Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services in Grand Haven by dialing 616-842-6100, and in Muskegon at 231-726-5210. You are not alone.