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You Can't 'Should' Your Way Out of Grieving

grief grief support non-linear journey Feb 15, 2022
Person holding up hand to stop others.

by Ilana Shapiro Yahdav

You can’t ‘should’ yourself out of grieving. 
You can’t ‘should’ yourself out of being human. 

As humans, we are both blessed and cursed with emotions. We get to feel things - not always welcomed, but real nonetheless.

Grief is not always a welcomed emotion. In fact, in most cases, it’s not. But, grief and loss are part of the human experience. Just like going to the bathroom, eating, sleeping, and passing gas (gastroenterologist's daughter here). All humans take part in these experiences to survive. Literally. Without sleep and fuel, our bodies would shut down. (My teething baby is currently giving me a modified taste of sleep torture and really inadvertently showing me just how much lack of sleep affects EVERYTHING from cognition, to mood, to weight loss, to grief!)

This is not to say that grieving is fun or doesn’t suck. Yes, it sucks. Grieving hurts and we want it to go away. Oh, does it hurt?!

But, why would we want to add a layer to that pain by ‘shoulding’ ourselves to feel a certain way? And who is to say that we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ feel a certain way when we are grieving?

No one. In fact, not even us. 

Grief is the NORMAL and NATURAL reaction to the loss of any kind. Let me repeat that. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. Just as people’s reactions to a myriad of things vary, so too do people’s reactions to loss. 

When my dad died, the tears would not stop coming. I think the only time that I didn’t cry during my dad’s Shiva week was for the 10 or so minutes it took me to read my eulogy, or when I was sleeping. Honestly, I think that I likely cried in my sleep. 

But why is that a problem? It’s not. That was how I grieved. 

My mother, my grandparents, my brothers, all grieved in very different ways. Why is that a problem? It’s not. That was how they grieved. 

To this day, while it has morphed, we all are still grieving differently. Why is that a problem? It’s not. It’s how we grieve. 

There is no one way that we should grieve. Each and every relationship is unique. So wouldn't it make sense that each and every one of us grieves our unique experience differently? Why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t that be okay? 

Sometimes our emotions can feel too much for someone else. We may feel that we ‘should’ tone it down to protect them. Or they may tell us to tone it down (in reality because it’s very emotional for them - which is their issue to work through - not yours). 

I can’t even tell you how many times during my dad’s cancer journey, and during Shiva week that I was told to stop crying, or that I was ‘too much’, too dramatic, too whatever ‘insert strong negative emotion.” 

I think I was literally born wearing my emotions on my sleeves (I’m sure my family and close friends can attest to that). But you know what, it’s what makes me ‘me’. 

I wish that I didn’t internalize all those voices that told me I was grieving wrong. That told me I was crying over my dead father too much. Crying over my dead grandparents. Crying over my dead cats. Crying over broken relationships. Crying over something that meant a lot o me.

I wish that I knew then what I know now that all those times I was told to feel differently or grieve differently, it had NOTHING to do with me and everything to do with THAT person. 

I wish I knew that my feelings were (ARE) valid and normal and all those experiences are grieving experiences. All of them meant something to me and thus deserve to be grieved in the way that I needed (need) to grieve. 

Now, I do NOT fault anyone. Just as there was so much that I did not know, there is so much that those around me didn’t know. We all have so much to learn, and that’s part of the non-linear journey of life.

Let’s start by watching the words we choose to say to ourselves. Let's watch the words we choose to say to others.

Let’s not torture ourselves with all the ‘should’s’. 

Let’s examine how we feel, really truly feel, and not how we think we ‘should’ feel.

This is another way to work on honing your building awareness skill.* 

The skill of building awareness is so powerful in so many facets of our lives, especially in grief. 

So today, when a feeling arises, please don’t tell yourself how you ‘should’ feel.

Acknowledge with loving curiosity how you feel. 

Experience what happens. 

When we don’t try to fight or change a feeling, it can flow through us easier. 

Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself. Please let us know how your experience is.

There is no one way it ‘should’ be.


* For more information, download our free Grief Awareness Worksheet or review tool 1 in our Grief & Gratitude Workbook.