grief shaming

“Most of what passes for grief support these days is less than useful. Because we don’t talk about loss, most people—and many professionals—think of grief and loss as aberrations, detours from a normal, happy life.

“We believe that the goal of grief support, personal or professional, is to get out of grief, to stop feeling pain. Grief is something to ge through as quickly as possible. An unfortunate, but fleeting, experience that is best sorted and put behind you.

“It’s that faulty belief that leaves so many grieving people feeling and alone and abandoned on top of their grief. There’s so much correction and judgment inside grief; many feel it’s just easier not to talk about what hurts…

“There is nothing wrong with grief. It’s a natural extension of love. It’s a healthy and sane response to loss. That grief feels bad doesn’t make it bad; that you feel crazy doesn’t mean you are crazy.

“Grief is part of love. Love for life, love for self, love for others. What you are living, painful as it is, is love. And love is really hard. Excruciating at times.

“If you’re going to feel this experience as part of love, we need to start talking about it in real terms, not as pathology, and not with some false hope of everything working out alright in the end.”

Megan Devine, It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay

The Jesuit Steps, Dubrovnik, Croatia: site of the Cersei Lannister “shame” scene in  Game of Thrones

The Jesuit Steps, Dubrovnik, Croatia: site of the Cersei Lannister “shame” scene in Game of Thrones

When I was finishing up my masters in counseling, I did my final practicum hours at a church counseling center. The center director wanted to me to lead a depression support group and suggested a certain book by a well-known Christian psychiatrist. As I was reading the book, I came across a chapter on grief in which this Christian psychiatrist said that for the loss of a spouse, people should be better in six weeks.


So I went to the director and I said, “Hey, this book says that if your spouse dies, you should be better in six weeks.”

And the guy was like, “Okay, yeah, that sounds about right.”

I was left thinking, wow, if this the kind of relationships these men have, their wives are probably going to be okay the next day.

(I never did the group.)

I was thinking about that six-weeks-okay-crazy-talk because after my last post, I got a letter from a licensed professional counselor, a man who’s the dean of a Christian graduate program in counseling. I think he must have read that same book, as he attempted to correct my experience.

You don’t have enough hope, you need more faith. Your life shouldn’t be diminished in any way by Libby’s absence. You have to be able to help Michelle through her grief, and you won’t be able to do that if you don’t grieve right.




Here’s the thing.

I’ve been shamed by Christian counselors in the past.

The minute shame enters the room, I smell it like dog poop on a shoe.

I’m calling this grief-shaming for what it is because many, many people will face this kind of narrative from their counselors, and from the general public, and they will be too grief-stricken and overcome to recognize the grief-shaming, or to be able to push back as I was able to do.

If this happens to you, recognize that it is the other person’s inability to deal with their own anxiety. It is the other person’s need to control you so that they can feel safe. It is the other person’s work to do, not yours.

Put your boundaries in place, leave them to their work, love and grieve on.

Here’s what I know for sure:

I loved my daughter with all my heart.

I grieve with all my heart.

The price of the worst imaginable grief

is infinitely worth paying for the beauty that was Libby.

I will continue to love my family with all my heart.

I will accept all the joy and all the grief that comes with Love.

Because it is absolutely and completely worth it.

Love wins.

This is the only way I know to live,

this is the only way I want to live:

heart wide open to everything.

All the Love.

That includes all of the grief.

And none of the shame.

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