All about the mind

Grief is different for everyone

grief and loss

In the last year, I have had a couple of clients who have had a parent who died either when they were a toddler or before their birth. Quite obviously, these clients grieve. But for some reason, others around them don’t seem to understand it. They have been at the receiving end of comments like “Oh but you wouldn’t have known your mother/father much anyway so what does it matter?” Or I have heard staff questioning why the student would want to attend a grief program and thinks they are lying about the grief because “they didn’t know their [parent].

The thing is, they do hurt. Irrespective of whether they knew their parent or not, it does matter.

It matters because while they probably didn’t know their parent, it makes grieving more complicated as they are aware of the loss but have nothing to hold on to in order to grieve. It matters because of how they perceive things ‘could have been’. And not knowing that parent or person makes it harder because they can envision all the different positive ways they could have shared their lives with that person.

Invalidating this grief and invalidating the experience that these individuals go through is probably one of the most harmful things people can do. There are times I want to ask these adults how they would feel if someone told them it was pointless to grieve for someone they’d never met. Or known only for a few days or months. Just to give them some perspective. At the end of the day, there is no one recipe for grief. Just as there is no one way to grieve, similarly there are no rules around how long you must have known someone in order to grieve their loss.

I won’t lie and say I know what it feels like to grieve — to be perfectly honest, I don’t. I haven’t really lost anyone that close. Sure, I have lost two grandfathers and one grandmother but I wasn’t all that close to my paternal grandfather {who died when I was 11}, hated my paternal grandmother and probably because I wasn’t around for the death of my maternal grandfather, some days it feels like he will still be around when I go back to visit Bombay. I haven’t felt that emptiness. Or that vacant hole filled with pain at the loss of someone I love. It doesn’t mean the fear doesn’t exist. It is there. All the time. Especially as I know I am going to have to face it some day.

I hope that the day I face this, my feelings will be validated. That there won’t be people telling my how I should feel. Or how I should grieve.

In the end, we are all human. We have feelings. And we express them differently.

As long as we are not hurting someone else, what gives anyone else the right to tell us how to express ourselves?

So if you are grieving, whether it is for someone you knew or someone you didn’t but wished you knew or for a loved pet or friend, grieve your way. I hope you get the love and support you need to do so.

Have you ever been told how to grieve? Or how not to?

Do share.

***Linking with Grace for FYBF***

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

Until next time,



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  • Anastasia Amour
    24 October 2014 at 9:26 am

    Wowzers, I find it quite shocking that people would invalidate their grief! Of course it matters – losing a key figure of your life is a horrible thing, regardless of what age you were when they passed. I’m fortunate enough to have not experienced much death but from what I have experienced, I know that the grieving process is complicated – and if we can grieve for our best friend’s mum’s sister (purely because we know our best friend is hurting) then surely we can understand someone losing a parent. Empathy is a wonderful thing and sometimes I think we all need to remind ourselves to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – suddenly, the emotions aren’t that hard to fathom.

    Great post! xx
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  • Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy
    24 October 2014 at 2:48 pm

    I haven’t lost a parent or know anyone that has been in that situation so the only way I can relate is through my miscarriages. I found that sometimes people in a way tried to invalidate the grief because I wasn’t ‘that far along’. I had one at 9 weeks and 5 weeks and the grief was still there. Although I never met my child, I grieve for the ‘what could have been’, for the life that was taken, for the world they missed out on. I guess this would be the same for people losing a parent.
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  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    24 October 2014 at 7:00 pm

    The sooner we start telling others how to live their lives the better. I think grieving is a very personal thing and we all do it so differently. I have lost two men I loved and years on I still grieve. Great post x
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  • Kylie Purtell - A Study in Contradictions
    24 October 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I can’t believe that someone would say they shouldn’t grieve! I’m gobsmacked actually! I think what people don’t understand about grief is that grief is not only related to or triggered by the death of someone. There are many things which people grieve over, and for someone that has lost a parent that they didn’t or barely knew, they are not only grieving the loss of that person, but they are grieving the loss of the relationship they would have had, and that is a very real thing.

    After my Mum had her accident in May there was a very real process that she went through in coming to terms with what had happened to her and part of that involved grief and grieving for the aspects of her life that she has lost as a result of the accident. I have grieved over things that had nothing to do with a person dying but everything to do with the loss of something or someone that was very important to me.

    When it comes to grieving for a loved one who has died, I don’t think there will ever be an end to it, it just changes with time. I was extremely close to my Grandmother & Grandfather. Grandma died over 13 years ago, Grandpa over 7, yet there are still some days when I feel this sudden shock of grief and sadness as keenly as I did the day they died. Both my Aunty and Uncle passed away within 3 months of each other last year and I was talking to a friend on the weekend and it came up and even though I haven’t thought about them for months, this sudden remembrance bought up so many emotions and I found myself in tears yet again. My sister had a miscarriage earlier in the year. The baby would have been been born this week and I know it’s going to be hard for her, because even for me, whose baby it wasn’t, I grieve for my lost niece of nephew who never even drew breath, so I can’t imagine what it feels like for her. If someone was to tell me that I was silly for grieving the loss of a baby that wasn’t even my own I would smack them upside the head. It is no one else’s business how someone else grieves, and to put limits on a persons grief is to put limits on a persons soul, I feel.

    Wow, obviously I have strong feelings about this topic, sorry for hijacking your comments section!
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  • Ankita
    25 October 2014 at 5:00 am

    that is a nice post. I believe too much grieving makes one -ve from inside out and it is point less also for if someone leaves you (for any reason) it means the end of his/her part in ur life and not the end of your life.
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  • Tegan
    26 October 2014 at 11:57 am

    I can’t believe that people think someone can’t grieve a parent because they didn’t know them! What a horrible thing to say to someone. As you’ve said, grief is such a personal thing and I think it’s up to the individual how they process that grief.
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  • Zita
    26 October 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I think you are so right when you say no-one has the right to tell us how to feel.
    I remember the upteen messages and remarks I got from people when my sister died about it getting better with time and she’d want you to be happy etc etc… I wanted to yell at these people so much!
    A friend sent me a message at the time saying that time wouldn’t heal the pain it would just take me further away from the time my life turned to sh*t… now that all sounds very melodramatic but at the time it was what I needed to hear.
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  • Grace
    27 October 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Luckily no one’s told me how to grieve.
    I do worry for my cousin’s children who have now lost both their parents. I have this awful feeling that they’re not going to be given time to grieve properly or don’t have the appropriate people to help them through. I hope so much I’m wrong.
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  • Lisa Wood
    28 October 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Grief is different for everyone, and everyone griefs differently. But everyone seems to have an opinion on what others are doing 🙂
    I think that everyone should be allowed to be who they are no matter what, and to think their own thoughts. I did get told not to take our boys to their Dad’s Sister Funeral many years ago, and that hurt all of us.
    But we are now okay with it….now I miss Late Grandma so much, wished she was here for my boys.
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