There Is No “Right” or “Wrong” When it Comes to Grief
‘I Feel Angry and Guilty’
“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.”
With the loss of a close relationship, grief can be very hard. But grief can be especially hard when the relationship with the deceased was strained or, worse yet, non-existent. These mourners often find themselves isolating from others, afraid to share the range of emotions they feel.
- Perhaps you feel guilty because you longed for relief from caregiving.
- Maybe others don’t know what your relationship was like, and you can’t 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, suffered mood changes, was impossible to please, or was angry and demanding.
- Perhaps she was verbally or emotionally abusive, or physically threatening.
- Maybe you covered things up so long, you don’t know how to tell the truth now.
Your Grief Is Right for You
How come, you may wonder, if things were bad before, you don’t feel better now? Why can’t you just leave the past behind and dance into the sunshine? Maybe you forgot how to dance — or you never learned 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, if you could just find the right formula. Now it’s too late—you’ll never have a chance to get it right!
- Maybe you’re so sad that you never tasted what you longed for, that you can no longer hope.
- Maybe you’re so angry about how things were before, that you can’t get past “the past” to enjoy anything new.
None of us is truly comfortable with grief. We feel self-conscious- believing we are not “doing it right.” However awkward, we need to trust that our grief is perfectly tailored to suit us — our history, our personality, our relationship with the deceased, our circumstances. No one size fits all…. at all! If our relationship was mostly good, our grief is shaped by what we had and now miss. If our relationship was troubled, our grief is shaped by what we wanted but never got. In this case, we may feel more confused and conflicted than sad.
That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us or with our grief. Our grief may be different, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t grief. We all have a right to grieve. And a right to eventually feel better. So the most important thing we can do is be honest with ourselves and with other trusted human beings about exactly 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.