“If she can do it, why can’t I?”
Sheryl Sandberg‘s new book, Option B, is one widow’s story of how she manages her own grief. It is important to be cautious when you read her book or hear about Sheryl Sandberg’s style of grieving. It is tempting to compare your grief, asking yourself, ‘If she can do it, why can’t I?” Or “What is wrong with the way I’m doing this grieving thing?”
Have you found yourself asking those questions? Do you compare your grief with those around you?
The Trap When You Compare Your Grief
Sharing your grief journey with another widow is often very helpful. It can create a bond between the two of you and help you not feel isolated or odd, but the danger begins when you begin to compare your grief. You wonder, “What is wrong with my grief process” or think, “I must be doing this wrong because I am still living in the grief fog. What is wrong with me?”
The one sure thing about the mourning process is that everyone does it differently. It is so varied because of the complexities of life itself. So many factors dominate how your journey will look and feel. You’ll notice this when you compare your grief with someone else’s.
* The relationship between your spouse. Was it close and dependent or somewhat distant?
* How did your spouse die? Was it sudden or did you have time to prepare for it?
* How do you normally manage major stress? Do you surround yourself with friends and talk or cry? Do you formulate a plan and get moving towards it?
* What is your support network? Some widows have lots of help, while you might be doing it alone.
Every widow has a different personality, background, and past, which will influence the way she grieves. Please do not compare what you are doing with another widow’s way. Every person’s mourning process is different; there is no right or wrong way. And there is no simple recipe for making it easier or ‘getting out of grief-land free’ card.
A More Common Type of Grief
“Throughout Sandberg’s book, she uses terms like ‘overcome adversity’, ‘triumph over sadness’, ‘recover from grief’, ‘regain control’, ‘build resilience’, ‘find joy’. Even though this perspective has helped her bear the unbearable, these terms set my teeth on edge. Why? Because I find them all subtly disempowering and potentially shaming for regular people experiencing normal grief reactions.
“I’m worried that the 21st century bandwagon of resilience is becoming a new hurtful grief myth that grievers will have to fight against in order to heal; a myth that will make grievers feel ashamed, crazy, and isolated if they cannot quickly bounce back, if they cannot return to a self they once were, if they cannot strive toward joy when they are slogging through. Yet in truth, grievers who cannot accomplish these feats are normal.
“It is important to build resilience and to find joy while you are mourning. Resilience is being able to walk through the mourning process while actually doing the work of mourning. Resilience is walking through the sadness and the pain, not skipping over it quickly and moving on as fast as possible. True resilience building takes time, several repetitions of moving from grief to taking steps forward, then swinging back to grief and then taking steps forward. It’s a constant back and forth, ‘two steps forward, three steps back’ kind of process.”
* Don’t compare your grief. Remember that each person grieves in different ways, often influenced by various factors
* There is no Time Table on grief. One widow may look like she is moving on faster than you, or maybe looks more ‘stuck’ than you. Each widow has her own way and time.
* If you have questions, doubts or concerns about how you are living with the death of your spouse, please seek the help from a professional grief counselor. Not every counselor is a trained grief counselor. To find a grief counselor look here: ADEC.org
About the Author:
Grief Counselor Karen Liebold, L.C.P.C., M.A. is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor committed to grief education. Karen has worked with clients in a variety of settings and has presented professional education workshops and seminars at both the national and international levels.
Disclaimer: This blog post provides general educational information from a mental health professional, but you should not substitute information on this blog for individual professional advice. If you are thinking of hurting yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or visit your local hospital Emergency Room. Karen Liebold is not a licensed representative of Royal Alliance Associates or Phase 3 Advisory Services.