Your grief and everyone else’s

5 min read

Balancing your well-being with the needs of others

  • Try not to judge your loved ones’ outward-facing reactions and emotions at this time.

  • Be honest with others about what you feel you can or cannot handle in the moment.

  • Remember that others’ comments are in no way a reflection of your grief.

  • Listen to your own emotions, so that you can be the best self you can be around others.

After someone close to you dies, you might feel surrounded by different ways of grieving. Here are some tips to cope. 

Grief is an experience that contains many emotions and aspects, like anger, insensitivity, sadness, and mood instability. It manifests to the external world a little bit different for everyone, every day (or even every moment), which can make it overwhelming to navigate. This alone would be enough for you to take on during hard times, but your emotional needs are often interacting with the emotional needs of those around you as well. 

Balancing your emotional well-being with what other important people in your life need from you, both emotionally and because of responsibilities or obligations, is delicate and takes figuring out. It’s a process that requires a lot of trial and error from all the parties involved, and you should expect to mess up sometimes along the way. That’s natural and normal, and our loved ones will hopefully be understanding in those moments. 

Expecting the unexpected can help you all in this unpredictable time, but there are a few strategies you can use to find your footing and eventually reach a more stable day-to-day.

A range of emotions

Within grief, people experience so much—there’s nostalgia, sadness, guilt, anger, and a whole other wealth of reactions. And they don’t always appear clearly, but are often tangled with one another, producing complex emotional states. This is true of you and true of those around you. It can make even the most uncomplicated relationships strained. 

While there are some relationships you can pull back from during this time, that’s not true of your bond with your children, your spouse, or others dealing with your loved one’s death. And all these people in the room of grief are often experiencing it differently. 

There isn’t really an “appropriate” or “normal” reaction to grief; no matter what, you’re going to be uncomfortable at times. Remember, mourning is personal and individual to each of us. Try not to judge your loved ones’ outward-facing reactions and emotions at this time. Ask them how you can support them, comfort them, and be honest with them about your emotions and what you feel you can handle in the moment. 

If you become worried about your own emotional state or concerned about someone close to you, however, do reach out to a professional for advice. Experts in grieving and mourning can help ease your mind about the process and tackle even the most difficult stages of it.

Dealing with insensitivity

It should be obvious, but as humans we often forget: not even those closest to us can read our minds. What we’re wrestling with internally is not always apparent to the people around us. In fact, it’s often masked—whether purposefully or not. 

Grief takes time, and it’s supposed to be a time of ups and downs.

For this reason, you might encounter what you experience as insensitive comments and behaviors that make it difficult to balance your emotional needs with the other person’s expectations in the moment. Often these types of platitudes are ones we’ve been taught to say to someone grieving; generally, these are meant less to comfort you and more for them to move on from an uncomfortable moment. 

You’re going to be angry or hurt in such an encounter with insensitivity, but you should try to remember that the person is speaking from their own complex relationship with your departed loved one or their own experience with death and loss. Their comments are in no way a reflection of your grief. 

If you feel the need to respond to such a comment, you can simply thank the person for their concern or use the moment to open a dialogue about your actual thoughts and emotions in the moment. Sometimes, being honest with your friends or family members about your complicated grief can help to balance their need to dismiss it.

Ease back in

Grief takes time, and it’s supposed to be a time of ups and downs. Some days you might feel like being completely alone, while other days you might feel up to hosting a dinner with friends. You want to listen to your own emotions, so that you can be the best self you can be around others. 

During this time, it’s 100% okay to let your friends, family, and coworkers know that you aren’t up to typical daily interactions. Ask for space when you need it. It will allow you to be a better communicator when you do feel up to it. 

It can also be beneficial to start small and test the waters. If you know you are particularly uplifted by a certain relationship, maybe with a best friend, or even by a workout class, you might want to start there. If you usually feel drained by an interaction, you can expect that exhaustion to feel amplified during this time of grief. 

Take note of how you feel as you tend to the emotional needs of others. When you start to feel overwhelmed, let the people you love know. 

Of course, balancing your emotional needs with those of the people around you is important to maintaining relationships that mean a lot to you. Even in the midst of grief, you shouldn’t push people away. Reaching out and being vulnerable and open will help strengthen those existing bonds ●