A very interesting phenomenon that I used to observe in bereaved family members during my years working in hospice palliative care is the range of personal grieving styles, and the resulting conflicts over the “right way” to grieve.
Let’s take the example of two grown daughters whose mother has died. One daughter may be emotionally incapacitated and fragile, needing to tearfully tell the story of her mother’s illness and death over and over again to help herself deal with the loss.
But another daughter copes with her own sorrow by trying to make life as “normal” as possible - throwing herself into tasks like organizing the funeral, writing the obituary, going back to work right away, and keeping very busy.
She may feel impatient and frustrated with her emotional sister, urging her:
“Pull yourself together! Mum would not want you to be turning into such a weepy mess like this!”
The first daughter, meanwhile, might respond in horror:
“Look at you! You’ve gone back to work, you’re throwing dinner parties and making vacation plans. Don’t you even care that our mother has died?”
Each sister is convinced that the other is doing it wrong.
The same response to differing coping perspectives can happen in families when heart disease strikes one member. Continue reading