There Is No Right or Wrong When it Comes to Grief

‘I Feel Angry and Guilty’

A woman rests her hand on a man's shoulder as he grieves

“I’ve felt awful since my mother died, but I couldn’t go to a grief support group; I didn’t think I’d fit in. My mother was very critical of me my whole life. I tried to please her, but nothing I did mattered. Despite this, I took care of her when she was sick, because I felt it was my duty.

“When she died, I actually felt relief. Then other feelings began to appear. I felt angry at her for the way she treated me all those years! Then I felt guilty that I could not make things right with her. Lately, I’ve felt like a black hole has opened around me and I'm not sure how to get myself out of it.

“I thought I’d feel better after she died. Instead, I feel empty and ashamed. I wish I could go to a support group and talk, but I’m afraid I’d hear how wonderful other mothers were and I’d just feel worse.”

Grief can be very hard when you lose someone close to you. But it can be even more challenging when your relationship with someone who died was strained or, worse, non-existent. You might isolate yourself from others, afraid to share the range of emotions you feel.

  • Perhaps you feel guilty because you longed for relief from caregiving.
  • Maybe others do not know what your relationship was like, and you cannot tell them.
  • Perhaps he changed from the person you once knew.
  • Maybe she acted better in front of others than when you two were alone.
  • Maybe he was unpredictable, moody, impossible to please, or angry and demanding.
  • Perhaps she was verbally/emotionally abusive or physically threatening.
  • Maybe you covered things up for so long that it’s now difficult or impossible to tell the truth.

Your Grief Is Right for You

If things were bad before, you might wonder, why don’t you feel better now? Why can’t you just leave the past behind and dance into the sunshine? Did you forget how to dance— or never learn how?

  • Maybe you are so used to caregiving that you don’t know what to do with yourself.
  • Perhaps you kept hoping you could make things right with just the right formula or circumstance. Now it’s too late—and you fear you’ll never have a chance to get it right!
  • Maybe you’re sad that you never tasted what you longed for; you worry that you’ve given up hope.
  • Maybe you’re so angry over how things ended that you can’t get past “the past” to enjoy anything new.

No one is truly comfortable with grief. You might feel self-conscious or think you’re not “doing it right.” However awkward, you need to trust that your grief is perfectly tailored to you: your history, personality, relationship with the deceased and circumstances.

No one size fits all…. at all! If your relationship was mostly good, your grief is shaped by what you had and what you miss now. If your relationship was troubled, your grief is shaped by what you wanted but never got. It’s possible you might feel more confused and conflicted than sad.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or with your grief. Even if your grief is different, it’s still grief, and you have a right to grieve. You have a right to feel better eventually.

The most important thing you can do is be honest with yourself and others about how we are feeling. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and no right amount of time. Grief manifests in very personal ways.

Find out if hospice care could help your loved one.