Grief is universal and personal all at once. It’s a physical, emotional and spiritual experience, all mixed up in the worst recipe of all time. When you’re grieving, everything is backward, upside down and inside out all at once, and it seems like no one gets it.
And in a way, nobody does. Not really, at least. Because your grief is yours. Even if you’re grieving the same person, everyone is grieving their version of that person — their experience of them, their relationship to them, their future with them.
Here is my (non-exhaustive) list of completely normal grief things.
(In grief, everyone wants to know if they’re doing it right. If what they’re feeling — and how they react to those feelings — is normal.)
- Giving your dead person’s clothes away the day after they die
- Asking for those clothes back several months later
- Fighting over the wording of an obituary
- Fighting over who came to the funeral — or who didn’t
- Fighting about who sat where at the funeral
- Fighting about basically anything that you wouldn’t fight about in any other situation
- Balking at the cost of a funeral lunch and deciding to only offer light snacks instead
- Being sad that nobody ate the snacks, or someone ate too many of the snacks, or you didn’t get the snack you wanted
- Wearing your dead person’s socks… or underwear
- Seeing their face in every crowd, even years later
- Keeping anything (literally anything — Nora kept her husband’s nose hair trimmer!) your person may have touched
- Selling or donating anything the dead person might have touched
- Staying in your house
- Never staying anywhere near your house
- Spreading the ashes in a solemn ceremony
- Keeping the ashes for five years in the back of the closet until you finally dump some in the backyard
- Not sending thank-you cards for all the nice stuff that people did/are doing for you
- Celebrating your dead person’s birthday
- Celebrating their death day (I prefer to call it a death-aversary)
- Feeling like you will never love again
- Feeling like you could (and possibly did) fall in love with a body pillow
- Getting very into fitness
- Getting very into drinking (note: not advised)
- Getting very into staring at your phone for 12 hours a day
There are also other normal things you won’t find on this checklist, by the way.
Things I did after my dad and Aaron died, like:
- Yelling at my mom for burning the wrong candle, or
- Getting a lot of tattoos, or
- Dying my hair purple and then instantly regretting it
Maybe you did all of these, or none of these. Maybe your list is completely different. Great!
My friend Dr. Anna Roth, a licensed holistic psychologist and grief expert, recommends that we all stop asking if something is normal and instead ask, “Is this helpful?”
So forget normal. Your focus right now needs to be on what is helpful to you. And if that means you keep your husband’s nose hair trimmer in your makeup case? You do that. It’s your grief.
If you think six sessions with Dr. Anna and Nora could help you move forward with your grief, check out Still Kickin's newest e-course.