Is there a right way to grieve?

Image: Is there a right way to grieve?

In this session of Caregiver Tip Tuesday we look at grieving and the myths that go along with grieving the "right way."

What is the "right" way to grieve? Is there a right way to grieve? What is it? We understand that when someone we love dies it is normal to grieve, it is a natural response to the loss. But what does it mean to grieve, how are we to do it and how do we know that we are doing it right? Many well-meaning people will tell us how to grieve but much of the advice we get from others is based upon myths.

1. There is a correct amount of time to grieve.

Depending on your job, you may get up to three days off for your grief. In rare cases, you may even have the opportunity for an extended period of time to grieve. For a while, our family and friends will often rally around us and support us. For the first year or so, there is some level of understanding.

At some point in the process, we are told we need to be "done with it". This may be done with actual words or with the actions of those in our lives.

Grief does not work that way. Happiness, joy and hope do return to our lives, but we will never be the same. The joy and the pain of missing our loved one will dance together in our hearts and emotions. When will this happen? When you want, when you are ready…in your own time.

There is a correct amount of time to grieve, and that is the amount of time you personally need.

2. There are designated stages of grief to be completed, then your grief will be over.

There is a great societal misunderstanding of Kübler-Ross 5 Stages of grief. These stages are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

When these were first written she was writing about the dying process. They were never meant to be taken as a formula to follow one right after another in a linear fashion with an end in sight. It is not a path were once you check in at all of the locations you are finished, rather it can help you understand that most of what you feel during grief is normal.

Grief is a combination of many feelings and emotions that come when they come. Feel what you feel, when you feel it.

3. If someone doesn't speak about your loved one, you will forget about missing them.

Actually, you will think of them all of the time. There are millions of things that can bring them to mind. Remembering may come from something as simple as walking down the isle in the grocery store and seeing a product that they regularly used; or driving by a place you went to together; or something as major as a wedding, a graduation, or the birth of a new family member.

When our loved ones were physically with us, they interacted with us in so many ways. Now that they are no longer physically here, they still live on in our hearts and in our souls. So they are always with us. We will always think of them.

When others do not speak of our loved ones, we may feel that something is wrong with us. Because we are thinking about them, we hope to hear others thinking about them sometimes too! One of the biggest gifts we can be given, is for someone to speak about our loved ones to us.

Thinking and talking about a person that we love is normal, even if they are not here.

4. You need to find something to do keep yourself busy.

Grief is work, but sometimes the work is just to exist in our world . But sometimes it is about crying, and sometimes it is about helping others. There is nothing wrong with having a brief escape, but we cannot "busy" ourselves away from grief, as it often will find its way back into our lives.

There is nothing wrong with keeping busy or with doing nothing , but neither of these are a requirement of grieving the "right way".

5. You can cry too much or too little.

Some people will cry all of the time, while others will never cry. Some will only cry in the car or the shower, while others will cry off and on at any time. Tears are not a measure of our love or sadness. They are not necessary for grief.

We are all different, with different personalities, therefore we all cry differently and at different times. Only you know the right amount of tears for you. Whether you are grieving or not, is not determined by your tears or lack of tears. Cry when you need to, and don't cry when you don't feel like crying.

The amount of tears we shed or do not shed does not measure the amount of love or pain felt.

6. We need to let go of our loved one's memories to heal.

We grieve because we love. So what is there to let go of? Do we let go of love? No. People understand this when people are alive but they seem to forget it when loved ones die.

There is nothing we need to let go of, as "love never dies"!

7. You are weak if you need support.

You are in charge of your grief journey, but that does not mean that you never need a guide in your grieving. Knowing that you are not alone is often very helpful in your grief journey. It is a sign of strength to be willing to do what is best for you in your journey.

For many in their grief journey, one of the biggest challenges is a feeling that you are all alone. This is where Grief Support Groups can be a tremendous help. There is no one better to understand where you are or what you are feeling, than someone who has also experienced grief.

If you feel stuck and believe that a professional can help guide you, than definitely find a qualified professional to walk beside you in your journey.

You are in charge of your grief journey and it is a sign of strength to allow others to walk with you if that is what is right for you.

8. You will grieve the same as others in your family.

No two people will grieve the same. It really is that simple. We do not all like the same food, we do not all like the same TV shows, we find our joys in different ways, so why would we grieve alike?

There are as many different ways of grieving as there are people!

Is there a right way to grieve? Yes there is a right way to grieve.

The right way to grieve is your way.

There are very few rules in grief.

  • In your grieving do not hurt yourself or others
  • You are the only one who knows your grief journey – That makes you in charge of your grief
  • In your grief, be compassionate with yourself and remember ----


©2013 The Grief Toolbox, Inc.

After the death of his son Noah, over 14 years ago, Glen Lord has been dedicating his life to illustrating that joy and sorrow can and do co-exist and life after the death of a loved one can be good again. As a member of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), a US organization supporting families who have lost children, Glen has been actively involved in a number of TCF chapters all over the United States and currently serves on the National Board of Directors. He is also the co-founder of The Grief Toolbox,, a website dedicated to providing those who have lost a loved one with a number of tools and resources to help them through their grief journey. Glen is also the executive producer of the Walking Through Grief® series and has been a keynote speaker and presenter at number of events throughout the United States. Glen will be blogging about strategies and resources to manage loss and grief. Glen can be contacted at