Q: My parents died in an accident a year and a half ago. I grieve for them every day and still find it difficult to talk about them without tears. I see a grief counselor and have been screened by my doctor for depression, and both said what I was feeling was normal.
I have close friends who have lost their parents and have said they’re fine, my sibling is doing OK, so why am I so stuck? I think about my parents multiple times a day, I just hurt.
I work, I exercise, I can still enjoy stuff. But I want to stop thinking about them constantly, and I want to be like my friends and family who have moved on. Feels like I’m doing grief wrong. Suggestions?
A: There is no "doing grief wrong." It’s too personal a process for that, too subject to subtle variables, too nonlinear.
You and your sibling suffered the same loss by title and number, but what each of you lost emotionally is completely different. We talk about it here all the time: Kids can grow up in the same family in the same home with the same parents and have completely different experiences. This variation in experience extends into your eventual reactions to leaving the nest, creating your own families, and, as now, grieving inevitable losses.
Your parents formed a large part of your emotional core. It’s quite possible your sibling or other people you’ve talked to were less influenced by their parents. Both can be normal and healthy, merely different, and both can profoundly affect how you feel now.
Remember, too, we don’t just grieve on our own schedules — we set our own pace for everything. Think of babies. They learn to walk and talk and grasp things at general milestone points, but individually each does it when good and ready. Processing emotions as adults is no different. We do things when we’re Grieready.
Please keep up the grief counseling, but also be patient with yourself.