Beware: grief shaming

Grief shaming can happen so easily, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

In hindsight, we all can see things we should-have, could-have, wish-we-would-have, but it doesn't change the outcome or the feelings the griever is experiencing now.

  • “You should have seen this coming.”

  • “You should have asked more questions at the hospital.”

  • “How could you not know she struggled with addiction?”

Statements or questions like these essentially blame the griever for the death. They can cause deep shame that the griever may already be feeling - we don't need to heap on an extra dose.

Minimizing

The griever is experiencing real pain from their loss. Your role as a support person is to support them and validate their experience. Not to dismiss their feelings. Not to rush their grief.

  • “You weren’t even married.”

  • “I thought you'd be over it by now.”

  • “Miscarriages happen all the time.”

Statements like these are dismissive and minimize the grievers’ feelings.

Grief shaming is sort of this new term that I use for when we make judgements or decisions about people's public face of mourning and whether we think that's acceptable and what we're really doing when we grief shaming somebody else is pointing out how deeply uncomfortable we are with our own emotions.

So, in a conversation, grief shaming might look like ‘why haven't you gotten rid of their clothes yet’?

I think it's especially when we come with that sort of therapist voice and that hushed tone and the tilt of the head. you're like shouldn't you really be doing blah blah blah that's grief shaming.

That is, "whatever you're doing right now is making me super uncomfortable and I need you to stop -- but I need you to be sure that I have your best interest at heart." And I think that’s the tricky thing - that we think, "But, I have good intentions!" right? And, "I wanna see my person not being sad anymore," and your intentions are awesome but if the way that you're clothing your intentions is shaming or with judgement or belittling somebody then your good intentions don't matter. Right?

We want to match your good intentions with your outward behavior.

Judgment

It is not our job to judge anyone else's expression of grief.

  • "I've never even seen you cry about this."

  • “You’re still wearing your wedding ring?”

  • “You already took your wedding ring off?”

  • "Why are you so upset? You didn't get along with your mom."

Statements like these are judgments about how the griever is expressing their grief. Our expressions of grief are as unique as we are. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Humans are complex. We don’t always have these idyllic, perfect relationships. When that person dies, I think we put this rosy spin on things that like, “Oh, here’s this, like, everything becomes beautiful after death …” No! Everything stays complicated. Everything stays messy. Because, that’s what humans are.

So, you can be very, very sad that your mom died and not really have enjoyed spending time with your mom when she was alive.

We can have conflicting emotions in death, after death, as we live forward grieving that person the same way that we have complex and messy relationships out in the world.”