Translating: “Normal” Grief – Part I

nor·mal   adjective

  1. 1.   conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

[This definition is from]

Hmmm…’Conforming to the standard’?  ‘Common type?  Usual?  In relation to grief?  Nope.  Grief is at times messy, chaotic, overwhelming, enlightening, educational, relieving, painful, etc. etc. etc.  There is nothing standard about it!  Natural?  Yep.  It is natural.  If you are alive (and I’m assuming you are), you will experience grief at least once in your life.  The issue with the concept of “normal grief” is that people think they know exactly what grief should be, how you should grieve, for how long you should grieve.  Here is how it really works:  every individual grieves differently, even if they are grieving the same loss, and for different lengths of time.  Not abnormally – differently.  These differences in experiencing grief depend on a number of factors, including your personality, your experience with and your knowledge of grief, your gender, your age, your strengths, your weaknesses, etc.  Your grief will be as unique as you are.

Let’s back up just a bit.  Grief is the response to a loss, any loss.  We could be talking about a job loss, a move, a divorce, a break-up, etc., but this blog is primarily about death and dying so I’ll focus on that.  When we are faced with a terminal diagnosis or when a person or pet we love dies, we grieve.  What does that mean?  To grieve?  Essentially, grief is what happens on the inside.  It is a full-body experience:  body, mind and spirit.  Not one bit of us is unaffected.  Depending on the impact that person or pet had on your daily life, your grief may be more or less intense.  If your partner, with whom you’ve lived for 40 years, dies, every minute of your day will be effected and reminders are constant.  When an uncle who lived across the country, but who was important in your childhood, dies, the impact is different to your daily life.  You may grieve for both, but the intensity will be different.

(Mourning is the outward expression of that grief.  The rituals, the crying, the memorializing, etc. are examples of mourning.  These are very, very, VERY (note the emphasis!) important to the healing process.  More on this at a later time…)

Translation:  there is no such thing as ‘normal’ (standard, common) grief, but there is grief that affects each of us differently and naturally. But HOW does it affect us?  What can you expect during the grieving process?  How long does grieving last?  Let’s look at each one of these over the course of the next few posts…

Copyright 2013 Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW

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2 Responses to Translating: “Normal” Grief – Part I

  1. Lorry Wolfe says:

    Needs to be said, over and over and over. I just read a book about a woman grieving who took in troubled teenagers and mentored them as a way of working through her grief. Wonderful story!

  2. Juliet says:

    I adore that you addressed “normal.” And “should.” Truly enlightened information. I’ve invited scores of friends to read this, as it will serve all. Thanks so much for sharing!

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