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Am I Grieving Properly?

Am I doing this right? Is this what grief is supposed to feel like? Am I normal?

We all have a picture of what grief looks like, but in the middle of our own loss, we ask questions like these. Because grief is more complex than the image society gave us.

If we are laughing, we feel we are dishonoring our loved one. Or we may wonder if we harbor some sort of callousness. What kind of person am I?

While our inner voices beat us up, external ones may, too.

We hear the judgment:

“How can she be laughing? Her husband (mother, father, sister, child) died six weeks ago.”

“She’s finished grieving. Look at her smile.”

Maybe we feel relief. Maybe we haven’t cried. Or maybe we don’t think we cry enough. Or maybe we fixate on some project like cleaning the house or conquering a marathon.

Guess what – if you felt any of those emotions or all of them, you are normal. Kick all the internal and external judgment to the curb.

I’ll say it again – You Are Normal.                             

My Story: Relief

What I felt that didn’t fit the stereotypical picture of grief was relief.

I awoke feeling “lighter” the morning after we buried my mother. That’s the only word I had to describe the strange, unfamiliar sensation over my whole body.

Within the hour, I realized what was happening.

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

The constant, underlying anxiety and stress I’d been carrying for three years as a caregiver was gone. I had not realized it’s pervasive existence until that morning.

I had studied grief. I knew relief was normal, especially considering the circumstances. And yet, I was ill at ease with Relief.

To be clear, I was not glad my mother was gone. I had to affirm that to myself because with the sensation came guilt. I was relieved because I did not have to carry the weight of caregiving and the emotional turmoil of seeing her slowly decline. That heartache of losing her a little at a time.

Joy While Mourning

But it was joy that was a greater companion in the year after Mom’s death. After all, I had married four months earlier. I was still a newlywed. Married for the first time.

That gave me great joy.

I felt like two people. One moment I was an orphan, trying to wrap my head around the absence of someone who’d always been there. The other moment I was a wife oozing with gratitude over the good fortune of a good man.

But I did not have to give myself one label, and neither do you. After all, we are complex beings. We can feel many emotions at once.

The brew of grief cooks up a load of contrasting emotions. Honestly, our emotions will chart from one end of the spectrum to the other over the years.

Uniqueness of Grief

Each individual’s relationship with another individual is unique, and for that reason, the minutiae of grief is going to look different for everyone.

There will be similarities, yes, but no identical twins. And thus, no one can point to you and say you are not doing it right.

What matters is what is going on inside of you and allowing your individual loss to be part of what guides you to a place of a sense of healing.

Cry. Don’t cry. Be depressed. Be happy. Don’t socialize. Get out to a party. It’s all good. You Are Normal.

How has your image of grief evolved in the face of personal loss? How has that evolution helped you better navigate your grief journey?

Copyright © 2021 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. http://www.tonilepeska.com

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. janecoln #

    This one is so timely. I have forwarded to a close friend who buried her beloved husband yesterday. Thank you! Jane

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    Like

    March 17, 2021
    • Hi, Jane, I’m sorry about your friend. So hard to lose a life companion. You are good to be so caring for her. I am delighted that the post arrived at a time that you needed it. Blessings to you and your friend.

      Like

      March 17, 2021
  2. Thank you so much for sharing this… Could relate to it… Liked this one, so that I could come back at times of grief and motivate myself that it is okay to have different sorts of emotions when you are supposed to cry… And moving on is the only option we will be having.

    Like

    March 18, 2021
    • Thxs so much for writing and letting me know it resonated with you! To make matters more interesting for us, we may express ourselves and feel differently in one life season compared to another!!! Just taking it as it comes and being gentle with myself are my survivor tactics. How long has it been for you? Are you finding other emotions – like pandemic related – triggering or changing ones related to your loss?

      Liked by 1 person

      March 18, 2021
      • Yes, we express ourselves otherwise, maybe because we are not sure of the reaction from the opposite side. Recently, in the pandemic, I found time for myself and started writing a blog. When friends around me were sighing due to the condition around us…I found it contrarily and was happy to write.
        I read your post and got to know that actually, I was not happy, but trying to divert myself by writing. That’s how I realised that moaning doesn’t indicate that you are happy…maybe you are smiling on your desk, or eating a cake..but that’s the inner happiness that counts!
        But now everything is hoped to get back on the track. Lovely work dear💐,, wishing you luck for future!!

        Like

        March 22, 2021
      • Thanks so much for sharing yoyr thoughts and process. You are so right – it is the inner self that counts. Is joy there? Is peace thete? The struggle is obtaining both while the world around us is chaotic. That’s something I’m looking to God for very much right now. Delighted you are blogging. What topics are you writing about and where can I read your stuff?

        Like

        March 22, 2021
  3. So true! It takes more efforts to make peace with ourselves than to compete with others. It is we who have a lot of expectations and aspirations which are the major causes of dismay. But let us accept what is already written in our fate and work for our betterment…
    Oh yeah, I write poetry and you can read them on my site..hope you’ll find them engaging!!
    http://www.thehouseholderthestar.wordpress.com

    Like

    March 22, 2021

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