We all deal with unfortunate events in our lives - the passing of a loved one, the end of a friendship, the loss of a professional opportunity - and it’s important to learn how to process these things properly.
In this Q&A, Frame Therapist Hunter Michael breaks down questions about understanding grief so you can better cope with it in your own life.
Q: Is it possible to experience grief for reasons other than death? I recently ended a friendship and I'm feeling so devastated by it, even though it was the right decision.
Hunter: Yes. I would say even though death and dying and the loss of a human being is the most typical presentation for something like grief, I would say life circumstances are much more common only because they happen much more commonly to us.
A lot of people maybe don't think about losing or leaving a job as being something that you might grieve, especially if you were the one that quit or you decided that it was a really good idea. And in this case, ending a friendship also is kind of a unique circumstance and it's not really clear how we're supposed to do that, and it's not always even clear when the end is. So in making a decision, like not being friends with somebody anymore, or changing your lifestyle or changing your life circumstances, you will be grieving all of the changes associated with that.
It doesn't mean that things are necessarily worse, it just means that they're going to be different. And so in my opinion, it's okay to look back at the past and maybe give yourself a little bit of grieving time to adjust to the future.
Q: What do you do if you don't know how to react to a death. Recently, a friend passed away and I haven't cried about it yet even though all of my other friends have been so emotional. Is there something wrong with me?
Hunter: I wouldn't say something is wrong with somebody especially with a delayed grief response. It's really not clear how we're supposed to grieve. There's not a rule book or a set of prescriptions. If someone is not yet grieving the way that they might've expected to then maybe they can explore that a little bit more. In fact sometimes people are still thinking about, or adjusting to what they might have lost in a person or a set of circumstances. The grief process is going to first look very different for everybody.
The way somebody reacts is also going to reveal maybe what the connection was to that thing. It's also very normal for someone to be a little bit surprised. Maybe they are realizing that they felt a lot more or less strongly about a person or a circumstance than they even realized. I would say from a clinical perspective take your time with it. I wouldn't suggest that somebody ignore a recent loss and to invite the grieving process, but to also know that it can come and go in waves and that it will be highly individualized.
Q: Is it weird to grieve the death of someone I don't actually know, like a celebrity or childhood hero?
Hunter: Absolutely not, I don't think that's weird at all. In fact, grief will often be proportionate to whatever the person or the event meant to us. And very often while we might not know somebody personally like a celebrity we can absolutely grieve the loss of that influence in our life. A lot of us will have a reaction to a time in our life or a set of memories or some sort of meaning that someone carried. It can be inspiration or hope and to know that that person is not with us anymore, absolutely can affect us. And of course this is also flexible, everyone grieves in different ways. And depending on what one's relationship was to the to the figure people will have probably a proportionate reaction.
For additional resources and education around Grief & other topics, browse Frame's content library of coping skills.
Interested in exploring therapy? Create your (free!) Frame profile today to browse your therapist matches.