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August 20, 2007

GRIEF: SHOULDN’T I FEEL MORE SAD?

After the initial tears at my father’s bedside and gravesite, I was struck by how much I didn’t feel. I kept hearing from so many people how the grief will come in waves; one moment I’ll be fine and the next moment I’ll be overcome by a wave of sadness.

For several months after my father’s death, I kept waiting for these so-called waves. My husband felt them when his brother died, my friend felt them when her mother died…why wasn’t I feeling it when my father died? I wondered if I was just an unfeeling person; perhaps something was wrong with me.

I began to inquire about this with my siblings, friends, and others who had lost close family members. What I found out was quite interesting: Many of them had the same experience as me.

Grief comes in all shapes and sizes. There is no “absolute” when it comes to grieving. The impact someone’s death has on you is often related to many factors including: the quality of your relationship, the ties you had (i.e., family member, neighbor, friend), the type of death, the opportunity to say goodbye, the chance to clean up unfinished business, etc.

Many people talk about the pain of grief, yet few discuss the lack of pain. Although this may be taboo, it’s a reality. I believe that we often feel pain in response to a loved one’s death, to the degree that we felt closeness to that loved one in life.

I loved my father and--he was of a generation that worked a lot, ruled the house, and had few conversations with children. I felt pain to a degree that was consistent with this philosophy.

For those of you who have been feeling guilty for the lack of grief you’ve felt, see this as a gift. Check in with those around you to see if they think you are stand-offish or unfeeling. If others say you are distant, then now’s your time to fix it so your children, friends, and loved ones will get the best part of you—while you’re alive.

If your friends and loved ones say you’re not distant, then know that your lack of intense sadness may just be a sign of your relationship with that individual, and/or it may just be the way you grieve. Either way, know that you’re okay, normal, and in good company with many others.

My father passed away this past November and I finally stopped waiting for the wave. Perhaps it’s time for you to stop waiting for it too.

Challenge: If you’ve gone through the loss of a loved one and wondered why your grief has looked different than what others say--relax. There is no right way to grieve. If you’re worried that you’re shut down emotionally then check this out with loved ones and trust their report (go to two or three different sources). Make any necessary changes as a result of their feedback including cutting yourself a break if they say you’re not shut down.


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