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Different Ways Of Grieving

Paul S

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I have a question. In all the grief counseling and in all the griefwork reading that I've done, one common theme is that we are all supposed to grieve in our own way.

But what happens when two styles of grieving are in conflict? Just to illustrate: my Mom died in November. My sister is the executor of the estate. After Mom's death she swooped into the house and took up shop and promptly assumed control. (I had lived with Ma for the past 10 years. She died at 89, and I was her caregiver for most of those 10 years.)

My darling sister's style of grieving was to do whatever she could to take her mind off of things, which meant that within hours of Ma's death my sister was going thru desk drawers and cabinets and commenced to sort and toss things out. Before Ma's funeral and burial 2 day later there were at least a dozen or so big, huge garbage bags of things tossed out.

I am a whole lot more sensitive and would have appreciated to have at least waited until Mom was buried before sorting and tossing. I would have liked to have waited a week. Just to absorb the loss, start mourning and figuring out all this grieving stuff. I never got the chance. I feel that something was stolen from me, no opportunity to just sit and reflect and take in the loss in familiar surroundings. The place was practically torn apart. One week later there was a dumpster in the drivway to finish off whatever else was left to discard.

So, back to the question: How do you reconcile two very different styles of grieving? My way excludes my sister's way, and her way definitly prevented mine. (I ended up going for long walks just to get out of there. This practice started a resentment from my sister and brother-in-law in that I never helped them in the sorting and tossing. I wasn't helpful and they're angry/disappointed with me. (tuff) This has evolved into a rift and we're not speaking. (Yippee) I do not apologize for anything for I've done what I needed to do and I actually sleep rather well, thanks! (Contrary to most reports on the bereaved, I've not suffered from insomnia. I do go to bed a few hours before I normally, so if anything I'm sleeping more).

Anyway, that's that. There seems to be a contradiction that I've not seen addressed, that being how can two people freely grieve in close quarters when their grieving style basically cancel each other out, like matter and anti-matter.

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Hi Paul,

You said, "I feel that something was stolen from me, no opportunity to just sit and reflect and take in the loss in familiar surroundings."

I feel the same way, with my own situation and grieve this loss every bit as much as the sold articles. So I, too, will be hoping someone has an answer to your/our dilemmas. Wish it could be me, but I'm just as stuck as you are with this one. Even my husband's way of grieving is different enough from mine to present problems, as when our fur-boy died, so I need answers, too, for when our fur-girl, or my husband's parents, go.

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In hopes that it may shed some light on the subject, let me offer the following:

Understanding Different Grieving Patterns in Your Family*

Grief Is a Family Affair

When one member of a family dies, the entire family is affected, as each person grieves their own personal loss in their own unique way. Roles and responsibilities shift; relationships change; communication and mutual support among family members may suffer. Over time, the family must identify what the roles and functions of the lost member were, decide whose job it will be to execute those duties now, and learn how to compensate for their absence.

Men, women and children are very different from one another, not just in personality patterns that affect how they think, feel and behave, but also in how they grieve. When someone dies, they will not experience or express their reactions in the same way. Failure to understand and accept these different ways of grieving can result in hurt feelings and conflict between partners and among family members during a very difficult time.

Differences in Personality

Differing personality patterns among family members will affect how each one individually expresses, experiences and deals with grief. While we all have the capacity to react to loss in a variety of ways, recent personality research shows that there are three basic styles or patterns of grieving: instrumental, intuitive, and dissonant. Typically a person trusts and prefers one pattern of response over the other two, and will behave accordingly.

Instrumental grievers experience and speak of their grief intellectually and physically. They are most comfortable with seeking accurate information, analyzing facts, making informed decisions and taking action to solve problems. Remaining strong, dispassionate and detached in the face of powerful emotions , they may speak of their grief in an intellectual way, thus appearing to others as cold and uncaring, or as having no feelings at all.

Intuitive grievers experience a full, rich range of emotions in response to grief. Comfortable with strong emotions and tears, they are sensitive to their own feelings and to the feelings of others as well. Since they feel strong emotions so deeply, they’re less able to rationalize and intellectualize the pain of grief, and more likely to appear overwhelmed and devastated by it.

Dissonant grievers encounter a conflict between the way they experience their grief internally and the way they express it outwardly, which produces a persistent discomfort and lack of harmony. The “dissonance” or conflict may be due to family, cultural or social traditions. Although their grief may be profound and strongly felt, they struggle to hide their true feelings, in order to preserve the image they wish to project to the public. Others may condemn themselves and feel very guilty for not feeling whatever they think is expected of them to feel.

Gender Differences

Men are more often instrumental grievers. They tend to put their feelings into action, experiencing their grief physically rather than emotionally. They deal with their loss by focusing on goal-oriented activities which activate thinking, doing and acting. Rather than endlessly talking about or crying over the person who died, for example, a man may throw himself into time-limited tasks such as planting a memorial garden or writing a poem or a eulogy. Such activities give a man not only a sense of potency and accomplishment as he enters his grief, but also a means of escaping it when the task is done. If a man relates the details of his loss to his closest male friends, it’s likely to be around activities like hunting, fishing, sporting events and card games. Although a man may let himself cry in his grief, he’ll usually do it alone, in secret or in the dark — which may lead some to conclude that he must not be grieving at all.

Women, on the other hand, tend to be intuitive grievers. They have been socialized to be more open with their feelings. They may feel a greater need to talk with others who are comfortable with strong emotions and willing to listen without judgment. Unfortunately, while it may be more acceptable for women in our culture to be expressive and emotional, all too often in grief they’re criticized for being too sentimental or overly sensitive.

Grieving in Children

Children grieve just as deeply as adults, but depending on their cognitive and emotional development, they will experience and express their grief differently from the grownups around them. Their response will depend on the knowledge and skills available to them at the time of the loss. More than anything else, children need their parents to be honest with them. They need accurate, factual information, freedom to ask questions and express their feelings, inclusion in decisions, discussions and family commemorative rituals, stable, consistent attention from their caretakers, and time to explore and come to terms with the meaning of their loss.

Allowing for Individual Differences

The way we grieve is as individual as we are, and our own gender biases may influence how we “read” another gender’s grieving. Some females may be instrumental in pattern and style, and will grieve in traditionally “masculine” ways, and some males may be more intuitive by nature, and therefore will grieve in traditionally “feminine” ways. Regardless of differences in personality, gender and age, however, the pressures of grief are still present for all family members, and the tasks of mourning are the same: to confront, endure and work through the emotional effects of the death so the loss can be dealt with successfully. Grief must be expressed and released in order to be resolved, and all family members need encouragement to identify and release emotions, to talk about and share their thoughts, and to accept help and support from others.

Suggestions for Coping with Different Grieving Patterns:

∙Understand that our own gender biases may influence how we “read” another gender’s grieving.

∙Although men and women grieve differently, neither way is inappropriate.

∙It is not helpful to take sides, supporting one way of grieving over another.

∙The way we grieve is as individual as we are: some men grieve in traditionally “feminine” ways and some women grieve in traditionally “masculine” ways.

∙What looks like inappropriate behavior may be a man’s way of avoiding feelings or displaying emotions publicly. A man should not be judged for how he is grieving.

∙If a man seems more angry than sad at the death of a loved one, he may just be angry at the situation — and anger may be the only way he knows to express his grief. It’s useful in such cases not to take the man’s anger personally, or to react defensively against it.

∙Some men turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to numb the pain of loss, or to lower their inhibitions so they can let loose their emotions. They need to know that, because alcohol is a depressant, it will only add to the sadness they’re already feeling.

∙Men are less likely to seek the support of others (either individually or in a group) in order to express (think, talk, cry, or write about) their feelings, especially if they don’t feel respected, or if they find certain aspects of grief to be embarrassing. A man needs encouragement to share his reactions and emotions, to explore what his loved one’s death means to him, and to acknowledge how the loss affects his life.

∙Men often appear to be further along in the grieving process than they actually are. Even if a man appears to be all right, it is unwise to make assumptions about what he is feeling. When in doubt, ask!

∙Death and loss are natural parts of living; shielding children from grief is futile and gives them no role models to learn healthy, normal coping behaviors.

∙Offer explanations that are age appropriate and at the child’s level of understanding. A child under age five needs comfort and support rather than detailed explanations, whereas a child over age five needs information that is simple, accurate, plain and direct.

∙Help children understand what “dead” means (that the body stops working and won’t work anymore) and that death is not the same as sleeping (that the sleeping body is still working, but just resting).

∙Be open and meticulously honest. If children discover that you’ve distorted the truth or lied to them, they’ll have a great deal of trouble trusting you again.

∙Don’t use confusing or misleading euphemisms such as “passed away” or “gone on”. Such phrases imply the person who died is on a trip and will return, leave children feeling rejected or abandoned, or encourage them to go searching for the person or hold out hope for his or her return.

∙Relieve the child of any feelings of responsibility for the death; magical thinking may lead a child to conclude that something s/he did, wished or imagined somehow caused the death.

∙Respect and encourage your children’s needs to express and share feelings of sadness. When you bring up the subject, you’re showing your own willingness to talk about it. When in doubt about your children’s thoughts and feelings, ask.

∙Don’t feel as if you must have all the answers; sometimes just listening is enough. Expect that young children will ask and need answers to the same questions over and over again.

∙Don’t cut off their feelings by noting how well your children are handling their grief or how brave or strong they are. Let them see you upset and crying, which implies that it’s all right to cry for those we love and lose.

∙Children and adolescents may be reluctant to express their thoughts and feelings verbally. Encourage them to express their grief and preserve their memories in a variety of ways, including art, music, journal writing, story telling and picture collecting.

∙Assure adolescents that conflict in relationships between teens and adults is a normal part of growing up, and they need not feel guilty or ambivalent about that.

∙Give teenagers permission not to be grieving all the time. If they’ve expressed their feelings and talked about the loss with others (family, friends, teachers and other helpers) it may not be useful for them to focus further on their loss. It’s not disloyal of them to want to put their grief aside and enjoy life again.

∙Let children and adolescents plan and participate in commemorative family rituals.

∙Children will cope only as well as the adults around them; helping yourself will help your children.

∙Alert significant adults in your child’s life (family doctor, teachers, school counselor, caretakers, relatives, friends) about the death in your family. Ask their help in keeping a watchful eye on your child, and ask for their additional support and understanding during this difficult time.

∙Find and read some of the many wonderful stories and books written especially for children to help them better understand death and grief. (See the Books for Children and Those Who Love Them section of my Articles and Books page for suggestions.)

∙Consider enrolling your child(ren) or adolescent(s) in the Children / Family Bereavement Support Group offered twice yearly at Hospice of The Valley. Please see the support group calendar or call the Bereavement Office for details.

*Source: Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year , © 1999 - 2006 by Marty Tousley, APRN, BC, CT


If you are interested, here are two excellent books that explore in greater depth the subject of male pattern grieving:

Men Don't Cry, Women Do, by Terry L. Martin and Kenneth J. Doka

Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, by Tom Golden.

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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While I've read that article here before, what I think it's missing is the 'How To' section on handling different styles between 2 or more people in the same circle. It's one thing to be educated about and recognize these different ways, but it's quite another to have to deal with them, especially when push comes to shove, so to speak. How would an 'intuitive' griever, for example, handle an 'instrumental' griever's lack of consideration &/or aggressive acts which are "interfering", as Paul said, with their own right to grieve in a different way? I don't think it's enough for only one party to know, and accept, that others may not grieve the same way because if someone is choosing to be and act detached, chances are they won't be open to a discussion of another person's feelings, those 'pesky' emotions that just get in the way of their detached style of grieving.

For another real-life example, I've just run into a "matter - anti-matter" type of problem with my husband, who claims, in advance, and for the second time in a few years, that if I died before him, his world would NOT be turned upside down, nor would he be devastated by my absence. Now while I KNOW he doesn't grieve like me, and is more 'instrumental', while I am 'intuitive'....hearing him say this really hurt, deeply!! And being one of those 'detached' types, much discussion about this is avoided by him like the plague. I initially found out that having videos of me would not "do anything for" him, should I not be around anymore, which led to this other re-discovery. I tried to tell him that my hurt reaction was a pretty natural response to such news from a spouse, and he tried to put it off to his different style of grieving, alone. But frankly, I'm not sure if, with some people, this is strictly a certain style of grieving, or if some people are just plain, cold fish!! Hence, just ONE of my needs for a 'How To' lesson!! Any suggestions would be more than welcome!

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hmmmmm, well, here's my two cents on this. while i truly despise categories and labels for people and behavior, what Marty wrote does make perfect sense. however, my innate and intense dislike for labels gives me a problem with it.

but, going along with what she wrote, which i agree with, and with what i went through with my own mom and sisters, perhaps i can shed some light on both paul and maylissa's questions.

i'm a female, yet, i fell into both categories of behavior ~ to other people's faces, and in public, and with friends, even friends who came to my house after my mom passed away, even to the funeral director who delivered her ashes to me a few days after she "left"............. i certainly did display the "instrumental" griever facade. which was not totally a facade, it was something i'd adapted to in the face of my mom's illness, as her caregiver, while at the same time trying to deal with trying to get the household back on it's feet, get the bills paid, try and run my business with some semblance of professionalism, care for my pets, deal with the death of my favorite pet, deal with the doctors, nurses, techies, who visited my home to check on my mom, deal with the damage done to my moms brain and hence personality and short circuiting damage done by the 7 successive grand mal seizures she'd had that were the beginning of the end. i think you'll all agree i had an enormous amount of responsibility and *stuff* on my plate which all had to be dealt with more or less *now*, (at the same time).

it was an adapted trait that i'd had to adapt in order to retain any semblance of sanity and competence. so when she passed, i displayed that "instrumental" face and behavior to a tee, and in a way, it served me extremely well. and in fact i displayed it for several months afterward, while dealing with the lawyer and settling her estate and trying to figure out so many things.

only and i do mean only after things were settled, did the "intuitive" grief behavior kick in, and i suspect it was just waiting in the wings, and also, i was finally able to stop "orbiting" enough to actually let myself really grieve. and boy, did i fall apart!!! crying, screaming sometimes, almost hysterical, bouts of crying in betw. feeling actually rather ok and all of a sudden where did that come from falling apart. awful, just awful. in fact the other day my sister was emailing me about her ex-husband who's journey is upon him, and i asked her why does she never speak of our mother to me?

her behavior is very extremely matter of fact, what's done is done, it's all water under the bridge, life goes on, blah blah blah. i really and truly could've gone off on her, (she used to call me "cold") and to me she is really cold about it all. but i looked at my mom's picture on my desk and realized, it's all personality differences. just because my sister is like that doesn't mean she may not truly be grieving inside, even if just a little bit. i cannot fathom behaving like that, but then, that's me.

behavior like that it really hard to accept. i, like paul, would have been really upset about the cleaning out taking place so fast, the dust hadn't even had time to settle, your mother's essence wasn't even gone long enough to justify that. your sister was dealing with your mom's passing in a way that sort of went along the lines of "out of sight, out of mind" which seems to help a particular type of person deal with an event of such finality.

i also think, maylissa, that your husband's comment about his world wouldn't be turned upside down should you leave b4 him......... he is not going to "allow" his world to be turned upside down....... inside, he may be falling apart, but he WILL NOT allow it to show. he's telling himself that, NOT YOU. he's telling himself that now, as a way of steeling himself, and in actuality, he doesn't know how he'll react. no one does.

he may sound uncaring, but he's not. i understand totally where he's coming from because i am the same way. i've been told by so many people for years through diff. situations that i have a very strong personality and am a strong woman. that well may be folks, but inside, none of those people know how much i've cried inside about different things. but i will NOT allow it to show. it's not ego. it's about carrying on in the face of adversity. but in my privacy, i cry like a baby. i'm not ashamed either. i deserve to cry and let it out. dollars to donuts, should you pass b4 your hubby, he may not let it show and he may carry on with life magnificently, but he'll be mourning you inside and in his private time. don't take his comments personally. he's not talking to you........ he's trying to convince himself.

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Wow, as usual, Maureen gave you such great advice I don't have much more to add. I know how hurtful your husbands comments are. My mom, who I love more than anyone in the world, has changed so much since my dad died. She seems to get angry so easily and takes it out on me, which I find so very, very hurtful. We are so close, and always have been, that it is confusing and downright heartbreaking to me, but I try to believe she is just grieving and upset and doesn't mean to be that way. I agree with Maureen that your husband is trying to convince himself. I have a very close (male) friend that always tries to act tough and blase about disasters, but I know him well enough to know that underneath he is hurting and crying. Just wish they could show it, huh? Would be much easier to deal with!

And Maureen, I know exactly what you are saying. I had to handle everything when my dad died and while he was dying, for that matter. I, too, had a mountain of responsibility thrown at me and it was hard. Like you, I stayed "tough", so to speak, to get through it.

We've all been through the ringer and had to deal with so many weird problems. I guess we are all stronger than we think.


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Well, lots to respond back to here, and thanks for your effort and time to help with this!

Overall, all I can say is - I just don't know. I can completely see 'adapting' when having to deal with the practicalities, but if that barrier to sadness remains, then I think there's a problem, for all concerned. In your case, it sounds more like you use this mode in order to deal with things, but then lay it by the wayside afterwards &/or in private, but the point being you DO have deep feelings of grief that end up coming out one way or another.

Whereas, with my husband, and more extremely, with my brother, I've observed that, if there are any feelings at all, they're displayed at the very beginning, but look to be extremely short-lived, if present at all, after which they disappear altogether, at least from what can be seen and sensed.

For my husband, I know that he certainly grieved, like I'd never seen him do before, when our furbaby first left us, and we were both crying all through the next few days, sighing heavily all the time, etc. However, despite how broken up he initially was, it only took him about 3-4 days to pull himself together and even upon returning home from work after that, it's not like he'd let it out then, as if he'd had to hold it in all day around his work peers. He was pretty much, and I use this phrase deliberately, "over it" within about 3 wks.....yet he DOES consider our furbabies our children; doesn't even like human children. Compare this to those, both female AND male, who lose their children, and how long it takes them to start reliving their lives, if they ever do. He always says, by way of explanation, that he's different, in that he simply accepts death, period. What I find frightening in that, even if it is ultimately healthier and easier on someone, is that it's so terribly easy for him to accept death, no matter how close to him it happens. I told him I then felt like I wasn't going to make a very big dent in anyone's life, further compounding the way I've felt ALL my life, because of the lack of concern and love from others, and the way no one ( except my furkids, and somewhat my Mom ) ever wanted to make an effort to hang onto me, and what I have to offer. So I don't know....doesn't it strike anyone else as odd that a spouse wouldn't want some videos of their partner to look back at, despite their unique style of grieving? He has picked up enough from my journey to admit he may be wrong about how he'll feel, but I don't know....I just can't even imagine NOT having my world turned upside down, even on just a practical level, for heaven 's sake, by my partner dying. It also terrifies me to think if I should be dying first, and it's not sudden, that this is the man who will be attempting to look after my health and dying needs....and showing no emotion about the fact that I'm on my way out! How would he possibly be able to deal with all the wild swings in emotion, or just anger, that the dying often dole out?! Frankly, I don't know which scenario is worse! While I DO depend on him to stay practical when I'm falling apart emotionally, to go to the other extreme isn't helpful, either....like when he didn't take Sabin's illness ( cancer ) seriously and sat there laughing at TV shows, while I cradled him in my lap, not daring to move in case I caused more pain, and certainly not feeling like laughing anyway! I don't know, Maureen...I just don't know WHAT to believe about him.

For my brother, I really think he's a sociopath, as the only things I've ever seen him get upset about losing were his babyhood bear ( the one time I held it 'hostage', cuz he'd taken my babyhood object ) and 2 male friends who he seemed to consider his 'property', each of whom walked away from him eventually. So I don't know that there would ever have been any way to deal with his lack of emotional response to our family losses. Sure, he uses 'business' as a method of distraction, but w/o an effective counter-measure for me to use, this MORE than disrupted my grief ~ it GAVE me much added grief, plus will likely cause my complete disinheritance. So in his case, I don't think there even IS any hidden grief. "Out of sight, out of mind" certainly seems to be his motto....but what to DO with people who are operating like this, especially to this extreme????


As I said, I don't really think my husband IS crying inside...I mean, in 20 years, you'd think I would have seen some of that, at least at times. It's not like he's totally heartless about things, people, events....just not very demonstrative. It's not like I've never seen him shed tears ( sometimes, he even weeps a bit at certain new ads that are touching, or stories that are both uplifting and sad ) but that even in the face of close deaths, his sadness doesn't last very long at all. And his apparent coldness here isn't stemming from his own grief over my Mom's and bro's deaths, as he didn't even LIKE them, much less love them, and so suffered NO grief; only some sympathy for mine. Plus, it just struck me....he seems to accept death far easier than he accepts the length and depth of my grief....so what does that say? I've been telling him all along, "When your own parents die, then you'll know what I've been talking about and how it really feels"...but he may very well just skip right through THAT, too, from what I'm seeing and hearing! I'm already the one who talks more to his mom than he does, so it's likely to affect me a lot, and what if I don't have his company in THAT loss, either, for more than a month at best? His father is emotionally distant ( his comment to my woes about my brother's doings - (chuckling)"Welcome to the REAL world!" ) and his mother uses laughter and busyness, and sometimes drinking, to avoid life's worst moments...so I'm the first person he's ever been exposed to, closely, who doesn't avoid pain those ways, but walks straight into it and allows it to be vented...but he hasn't picked up enough on my style to make me more comfortable.


I don't think we're getting to the heart yet of what you first asked for here, as if I'm not mistaken, you, like me, want to know what to do with those whose styles don't mesh, or even exacerbate our grief issues. I think we can all agree that what your sister did, and what my brother did, was terribly upsetting and inappropriate, but is/was the rift created mendable, and if so, how? I'm sorry to say, I got nothin' and am still stumped. I noticed that article makes mere mention of families who fall apart after a death...but that's all it says about that, as if there IS nothing that can be done...forevermore. So maybe that's the only answer there really is in certain situations...but that means we're a pretty pathetic lot, we humans, as far as advancement goes, which strikes me as quite pessimistic an outlook, so I don't LIKE that answer!

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excellent point made by Maylissa.

what to do about these vastly differing styles of grief, and are the rifts mendable?

this is simply my personal feeling from my own experience. i'm no counselor or pro at this. so, take my two cents the way i lay it on the table. heads up.

no the rift is most distinctly not mend-able, and what to do about the differing styles? keep a polite distance.

since my mother's passing, i have not been able to stomach the idea of talking to my sister, and firmly made up my mind, as each month went by, that i was correct in keeping a very distant politeness.

she came to my home an hour and a half after my mom passed. i had already arranged to have my mom removed from the home......... because my sister had promised time and again to give me relief from caregiving and never once followed through on it. never once even put her mom on the commode. nothing. so when my mom passed, she had such the look of angelic peace on her face, the hospice lady asked me did i want to wait for my sister and i said "no, she did not contribute once to the peace on that face, so i will deprive her of ever seeing her mother at total and complete peace." the lady from hospice totally agreed with me, called the funeral director, and they came and got my mom within the hour. she was gone about 15 minutes and my sister came.

my sister was totally and visibly creeped out when she came into the bedroom. visibly creeped. she never once spoke a word about my mom, never shed a tear, in fact told jokes and laughed. in fact had the gall to speak about our father, who'd abused my mom badly and they'd gotten divorced so many years ago. she talks about 'her' father as though he were gold.

my neighbors were even appalled at her behavior. i was just so taken aback. not one tear, word, hug, nothing. well it's been that way for six months now. i've gotten precisely 2 phone calls from her in six months, and both times she talked about herself. whenever i'd mention mom, she'd cut me off in mid-conversation, so i'd keep on talking about mom. then i'd get a "yeah, whatever" answer.

my point here is, my grief, which yes, i hid behind a barrier so that i could get things done in a competent manner, and then behind my own closed doors in my privacy with either myself, my birdies, or close friends, my grief was raw and real.

is that rift mendable? h*ll no! i've thought and thought about it. analyzed it. tried to understand how anyone could behave like so. analyzed whether i had become too emotional. tried desperately to see things from her point of view. well i can't. end of story. i am not sorry for my behavior, and i cannot understand hers. the gulf created by the opposing behaviors is too big to just say hey let's put it aside.

what to do about it? again, from my own viewpoint........... keep a polite distance. if it were ever discussed, it would become one unpleasand scene of major proportions. as far as i am concerned, i refuse to discuss it with her, i refuse to back down from how i feel, and i do not call her, i do not email her. other than those two phone calls when she just talked about herself, she emailed me once about would i care to go on an outing with her, as though nothing had happened. i told her no and that was that. if her ex-husband hadn't taken ill so tragically and so suddenly, we would not have had any communication yet.

i don't choose to surround myself with people who deal with grief like that. while i respect everyone's right to deal with it as they see fit, i don't have to surround myself with such coldness.

so from my perspective, it is NOT mendable and the best thing to do is to avoid a confrontation as it will not change a thing.

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it sounds to me like you have been put in a position by your family in your formative years that makes you feel somewhat worthless (i use the term lightly because i don't know another word for what you are portraying) and that the totally insensitive comments of your husband are further compounding and re-inforcing that feeling of feeling as though your self worth is really de-valuating.

i agree you husband (forget your brother!) but your husband, while he may be able to *accept* death has been completely and utterly insensitive to you and your needs. without question. good thing he's not my husband because we would've had one good go around about that.

to be the practical, steady partner is one thing. to "accept" death is another, all good and enviably valid qualities. to express it SO insensitively is tacky beyond belief. if you don't feel that inside he'd be suffering, or did suffer with your furkids, or found it that easy to "get over" it, i'd say he's got some hefty emotional baggage of his own he's totin' around.

namely, denial, avoidance, and intolerance to the very things that warm the core of the human being. the love of a beloved pet, the unconditional devotion, love and larger than life care that our pets bestow on us humans is something that cuts out a piece of your heart when they are dying or are taken from us suddenly, whichever way they go, the void left in our hearts is equivalent to a piece of our heart being cut out. the night Miss Pea was taken from me, a piece of me died that night. a big piece of the old Maureen died that night. never to return. i mourn her to this day, 2 yrs. and change later, no i don't cry too much, because Snugs would hear me, and he cries then.

so to not mourn a wife, a husband, a parent, a human that you love, life with and care about and to really mean it wouldn't turn your world upside down, as you seem to think he REALLY means it, to me is inconceivable. but you know what? i've always been of the opinion then, that that sort of behavior is THAT PERSON'S problem, and i've always resolved not to make it mine.

this does NOT minimize the hurt inflicted by any means. but you have to try to be stronger and be the bigger person here..... don't let his inadequacy of truly dealing with emotion and death become your downfall, don't let it influence your self worth!!! i don't even know you beyond this forum and you are certainly too far away for us to visit, but i wouldn't hesitate to have you in my home as my friend. i wouldn't hesitate to let you come over whenever you wanted and play with my birds and visit. you are worth far more to me, just little old me, than various members of my own supposed family. you are a very valuable human being.

sometimes those closest to a special person simply do not see the forest for the trees and do not see their value. i think that is what is happening with your husband. he's got himself in an "out of sight, out of mind" mode and that's that. how do you deal with that? look at him in a new light....... he's missing out on some great stuff because he's in a rut that is insensitive and unemotional. he's giving you an example of how not to be. learn by it.

do you think this attitude of his is going to cause a rift betw. you two of any sizable proportion?

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Ya know, I hate to say this, but it seems to me (from my own experiences and reading all of yours) that men just don't care as much as women. I know there are exceptions to the rule and that the men on this board are certainly the exceptions and they give me hope. But I was thinking about this subject and going over all the men I've known that had someone die and realized most of them just got on with their lives very quickly! I envy them in a way. Must make things a lot easier, but then again I would rather be "emotional" than as cold as they seem. I think it's a form of selfishness myself, but that's just my view on it. Maybe they hide it better than we do, but I'm not convinced that's it. I just don't know. I know most men just hate having to deal with anything "emotional". Like we love it!


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Hi all, thanks for all the input. Sorry, but I've been away and out of touch.

Maylissa's been speaking for me anyway B) at least with regard to what to do about certain cold types and whether the rift is mendable.

Identifying the problem with behavioral terms may help objectify and quantify the situation, and can help me and others cope with it in the long-term, ("information and knowledge" being power. Power over what? Maybe the recovery process and the re-establishment of one's life if the loss is significant to cause someone the need to seek out grief counseling and support groups and discussion forums like this. I'm the only one in the family who's doing this.) but the near-term crisis is not addressed.

But anyway, back to my need, here. I guess the answer to "What to do?" is to basically do nothing. When there are disparate, conflicting ways of responding to the same problem, a rift is inevitable, especially, when for one's own sake of surviving one must attend to one's own needs. This was kind of the basis for my post, it just seems so selfish to do that. Yet in any program of recovery, members are told that they have "to be selfish before you can be selfless." Before tending to others' needs, you have to be able to cope with the problem on your own, otherwise you'll be useless to aid others. I guess its kind of like what they tell you on airplanes about the oxygen masks, you put it on yourself first before you can put them on your kids. Which, if I was still a kid, would probably send me to therapy years later.

Anyway, I had asked about this because it was a puzzle for me, this seemingly irreconcilable notion that we have the right to grieve in our own way versus the problem of the differing ways that others cope. Maybe it was just a naive and plaintive wail on my part that families should just come together when the matriarch (or patriarch) dies, or any other important family member. "We all suffered a loss, we all are in pain, therefore how dare you disrespect me and defecate on my pain?" That is what I'd like to scream at my darling sister. But she wouldn't get it, she would just say that I'm too sensitive, or something that would imply that 'coming together' means submitting to her style and subordinating to her agenda. It is a complicated issue (well, duh!) and naturally pain is a result. There ain't no formal training in our culture, this is a response to the crisis after it happens, with no prior preparation. Hence, problems.

Are they mendable? Depends, for me, the door to reconciliation remains open, but only after my sister is aware of and addresses the pain she's caused. Never gonna happen unless she has a breakdown of some sort. She's the executor of Mom's estate, and those responsibilities keep her mind off things (her explanation to my bro-in-law about her need for speedy action). What may happen after the estate is through probate, when state law permits the disbursement of whatever proceeds are left to the heirs and she has nothing official to do? What will she do to keep her mind off of Mom's death? Or can she?

I don't know, but right now I just plan to duck and cover. Let the others in the family who've tried to play nice-nice with the two of us deal with THAT nuclear time-bomb. I do know, from my own greifwork, that if she doesn't address the loss in some beneficial way, there will be a breakdown. (Hence my ducking and covering). Or she may end up being colder and harder, in which case the rift will never be mended. So be it. I think I told somebody that I plan to distance myself from the family. Not that I would never speak to them again, but just keep my distance until I've gone thru sufficient griefwork and my new life is more solid. I will have carved out and marked my spiritual/philosophical territory and have ample munitions with which to defend it.

I do not know what to make of Maylissa's husband's statement that his life wouldn't be overturned if she were to die before him. I am not now, nor ever have been, married (still lookin' for ***her***) so I still have this sweet, gauzy image of the whole institution (or how I relate to it, as there have been plenty of divorces among my family and friends), but I'd like to think that the loss of my Other would be like a nova going off in my solar system. We'll see, maybe someday. Perhaps M's hubby does have a rather scary amount of the acceptance of death, or maybe it was just a clumsy way of him telling her that she shouldn't worry about how he'd handle it.

I dunno. Maybe some people are just irrational about these things. I mean, they always say that Death and Taxes are unavoidable. Well, some people avoid Taxes, but they risk only temporal punishment for doing so. The Great Equalizer, Death, just makes a alot of us wiggy.

Upon rereading my first post, I guess there's no way to reconcile two disparate styles of grieving, when the two people are in close quarters. The emotional sensitivity of the issue, combined with an inherent need to take care of oneself, leads to combustability.

I just don't like that.

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i totally 150% agree with Paul's last post. the entire post. yes, the combustability is simply not worth it. and it's scary. which is why the topic will not ever be discussed in my family ever unless my sister should have a revelation of some sort.

the absolute best thing to do as Paul said, is "duck and cover" and distance oneself from the rest of the pack who just ain't dealin' with it similarly to yourself. i made that decision and i'm glad i did.

Paul's initial question is a very important and very exceedingly difficult one to answer. perhaps there is no correct, right answer. you need to be true to yourself as he said, to be able to handle yourself and your feelings before you can possibly be of service to others.

i wish family would be able to put differences aside and come together, but i don't think that will ever happen, it's a fond wish, but not a realistic one in terms of varying personalities, culture, viewpoints. such a shame.

for my part i wish paul the best of luck in this difficult situation and i for one, admire his sensitivity to the issue and applaud his decision.

maylissa, come on over for lunch............ :D

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Maureen, Paul and Shell - ALL you guys!!,

OOOoooohhhh.....I'm gonna be here for hours, I see! :lol: Right off the top, I just have to say that all of you are simply GREAT!! Thank-you all so very much for showing such attention to me and my problem, and to each other, too! It honestly warms the cockles of my heart - you have no idea....So what's for lunch?!! :D I've already had some wild fantasies this morning of us all getting together! ( it's a much nicer head-space to be in compared to where I usually am, of late ) Since I seem to live the farthest away from the rest of you....I think you should all come to my place! :lol:

I'm going to lump all my replies in the same pot here - it'll be a bit easier, I think. Maureen, I liked the way you put it, re: your sister - not being "able to stomach the idea of talking to" her. Exactly how I feel about my brother, but most folks don't like to hear us say things like that; after all, it's that sacrosanct family thing. <_< I hadn't realized your sister had acted so shamefully and I think you decided rightly and fairly and are also to be commended for not hauling right off on her to boot! I also hadn't realized we had an abusive father in common and that, like my one brother ( but not my dead one ), your sister favoured your father. And BTW, my brother also talked all about himself, as far as he could help it, the last times I spoke to him. They sound scarily similar....and I'm sure they'd hate each other equally! :lol: Another woman on another board I sometimes visit said I had real "grit", and Maureen, I'm happy to say I think you do, too! I like the way you stand by your own assessments and don't apologize for your choices after having given things due consideration. ( we need a 'proud' smilie here! ) So I think you and Paul are right. With some people, no matter who they are to us, it's best to just stay away from them unless they start singin' a different tune. In my case, though, I'm still looking into the legal route, hoping to keep everything at arm's length throughout.

As for my h, you don't know what a relief it is to hear others' opinions echo my own feelings about this. Yes, my family's dynamics made at least 3 of us ( me, my dead brother and my Mother - tho she could also be a culprit as well ) feel less than valuable, so naturally, that adds to my reaction...but my h knows this about me, so indeed, should be more sensitive, in my opinion. While I prefer people to be as honest as possible, there often are better ways to express certain things, and he's certainly not very adept or conscientious that way. And yes, of course he's carrying around alot of his own family baggage, but I've pointed those things out to him before and that's exactly when the denial, stubbornness and pride kick in. Because MY family members are such losers, overall, he seems to think he and his own are above reproach, by comparison. He refuses to see the similarities that remain, regardless of the comparison.

"Tacky", "insensitive" and a "rather scary amount of acceptance of death" are bang-on ( thanks, guys ) descriptions of his behaviour around this, that's for sure! While I remember a former girlfriend telling us that she was so happy that her ( 2nd) husband had said he would get on with his life in fairly short order, should she die ( she'd lost her first husband 20 yrs before, so had known grief herself ), I was also quite sure, knowing him, that he didn't put his view forward in the above-descriptive way, either. And it's not like I'm hoping my h would waste the rest of his days grieving over me...however...to say it this way, when he's more fully aware than anybody of what I've just been through with my family and my background and how I already feel less-than others, because of family AND friends ignoring my needs....let's just say, it was far from a Hallmark moment!! Who would have thought, that after all our years together, I'd find out something like THIS, at a time like this!? Call me romantic, but I much prefer your "nova", Paul, over this far-too-pragmatic, emotionless black hole of a response to my existence, or lack thereof!! :ph34r: By now, I'm so used to hearing, on these forums, about how dreadful an experience it is to lose one's life partner, that THIS just strikes me as a completely alien way of thinking, and most importantly, feeling. And it's also not like I've gotten any apology, or flowers, or anything since that cut-short discussion, so nothing's been redeemed, resolved, reconciled, OR forgiven. Oh, and no, Paul, it wasn't just a clumsy attempt at alleviating MY feelings...far from it... as it arose when I asked if he'd LIKE some videos of me to watch, should I predecease him ( someone on a site had suggested I do this ahead of time, for MY family - HA! If she now knew where this has gone! ). My h clearly stated that videos wouldn't help him in the least bit and that he DIDN'T particularly want any. I mean, really, WHAT?!?!?! Maybe they wouldn't help everybody, but to out-and-out just not WANT any! Shall I just throw away all the pictures of me now, too, and save him some bother afterwards? Of course, I'm sure the maid who replaces me can handle that chore. :angry: Methinks my h should be doing the "duck and cover" thing himself! 'Funny', I woke up with a honkin' big sty on one eye this morning and looked up the connection, mind-body-wise, in Louise Hay's book, "Heal Your Body": "Looking at life through angry eyes. Angry at someone." Well! Big surprise! So now this insensitive, selfish remark/attitude has also added insult to injury by making me, the receiver, look hideous! -->my sty ;) and smirk.

And I think your assessment is right, too, Shell. I know my h will literally roll his eyes --> :rolleyes: if I get all "emotional" about this WHEN I bring it up again. Thanks be to God, Paul isn't cut from the same cloth as too many other men are...and this is from a woman who even has quite a hefty male-side to her persona.

Will this cause a big rift? I think the question is already more like, can it be mended? ( see, we're right back where Paul started! ) If it were only up to me, I'd say "yes", but of course, I have to also deal with Mr. Indifference ( can we all tell I'm REALLY hurt and angry and my sty is growing larger by the second? ), too, so I don't know. The ball's in his court, it seems, but I don't think he wants to play. Thank-you, Maureen, for saying I'm so valuable. I truly wish those closest to me, whether by blood or relation, would look at me the same way. I know my h's mother does, and I've managed, since my own Mother died, to knock down some of her walls, but I don't think her son has valued that as much as I'd hoped, either. No, I could NEVER be so closed off to feelings - I'm just not built that way, but there is a certain allure to not being quite as sensitive. ( and I really think this is the key to the rash I've been suffering with since last fall, too ) But when one person is very sensitive and the other one is the other extreme, it's hard to know where the most balanced reactions should fall. Frankly, I've always believed being more sensitive is still better than not, so there's no danger of me crossing to the Darker Side, but you'd never convince my husband about that, as he's seen me suffer because of how I am. So I know that part of his nonsense is his protective mechanism at work, but he goes WAAAYYY too far at times, and doesn't seem to realize when those times are too inappropriate for his, and my, own good. Of course, he'd probably say the same thing about me, but from the other perspective.

And I just HAVE to comment on Paul's remarks :

"I guess its kind of like what they tell you on airplanes about the oxygen masks, you put it on yourself first before you can put them on your kids. Which, if I was still a kid, would probably send me to therapy years later." Oh, :lol::lol::lol: Paul, you ARE a hoot! AND you come up with GREAT analogies! I know I've said something similar before, but I'm so glad you're here to make me laugh! There's nothing like a good point, followed by a good joke!

And later you said, "Upon rereading my first post, I guess there's no way to reconcile two disparate styles of grieving, when the two people are in close quarters. The emotional sensitivity of the issue, combined with an inherent need to take care of oneself, leads to combustability."

Since I've been reading everything here with an eye towards both my family and now my husband, too, I'd say that this statement covers both quite well! Maybe you should have this published in Psychology Ptoday or something, as it could equally be applied to relationships in marriages as well! Summed up, it looks like me and Mr. Left are gonna have a big, ol' bonfire soon, and if we can't find an extinguisher....that oxygen mask is MINE! :P

There WAS even more I was going to say, but forget lunch...it's almost time for dinner! So whose house is it gonna be, and can we have pizza?

Thanks, all...this has turned into one of the best convo's I've ever seen on boards, and I'm just very thankful you're all here. :) I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say after I dare to talk more about my f..e..e..l..i..n..g..s around here....

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They say that "Time heals all wounds." Also, "Time wounds all heels." Maybe after a fashion bring it up and say how hurt you are. Maybe ask why he doesn't want videos of you.

Again, I've never been married, so this is all speculation and conjecture, but I'm not certain I'd be too interested in videos of my wife to help after her pre-deceasing me. Maybe because they're moving pictures and would remind me of her being alive too much and bring up pain more easily. Still photos, while preserving her likeness, don't move, and therefore less lifelike.

I dunno. Or maybe he's just dense. Been there.

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Good news, all! Last evening I brought the subject up with my husband, starting in a roundabout and joking fashion, to keep the mood lighter whilst still expressing my total dissatisfaction with his attitude. Maybe he was in a better mood, too, but we seem to have cleared the air and the subject. YEAH! It seems that he didn't even really hear me ask if he even wanted videos of me, but only heard the part where I asked if he thought they'd help him...just another example of him not listening ( hey, I'm sorry, you men out there, but it's a stereotype that too often IS true! ;) ) well enough. And as for the not being devastated - he admits now that he might be, but also that he really doesn't know how he'll react...especially given that I've set such a fine example myself already as to being so unpleasantly surprised by the intensity and extent of grief. <_< He did say he'd likely not grieve quite as hard, or at least not in the same way as me, and probably not as long as I classically do ( and I'd agree, that he probably wouldn't ), BUT...he added that he actually ***might***be***WRONG about that, too, for all he knows! So that sounds like progress to me! I DID also get an apology for his insensitivity and an offer of brunch instead of flowers....but I'm still debating over that one...

I thank you all again for lending me support and being there for me in this additional hurdle surrounding this 'wonderous' area called Grief Issues. Things might not have gone as smoothly, or come to this better conclusion had you not all been here for me to turn to. I truly appreciate it. You provided me with real friendship here, even if I couldn't just call you all up and vent on the phone, or at your homes. And thanks, Paul, for adding your input about videos at the last, even if it is just conjecture....or denseness! :lol: You're all priceless people, and you should be darn proud of it! ( I'd put that cute, little 'hearts' emoticon here, IF I could access that "Show All" section like I should be able to! )

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See, I'm such a guy.

(I'm in the middle of writing a looooooong email to an old college friend who needs to be brought up-to-date. Contact has been sporadic these past few years and she's trying to rectify that. She heard about my Mom's death and I'm re-hashing it all, kinda condensed, but complete. Yuck.)

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Okay, I'm jealous, envious, green!......but happy for YOU! That an old friend heard about your mom and is actually doing something about it.....another one of my own, fond but fruitless fantasies.

My husband had emailed a few of my old friends when my Mom died. One, who I've known since Grade 8 tackily, and somewhat belatedly wrote an email, but never even sent a lousy card ( she's even stayed at our house before, so it's not like she didn't have the address ), and another one re-asked for my phone # so she could call me directly....then never did. Another one lost her own mother about 3 months after mine. She was one of my bridesmaids in my first marriage and we'd known each other since Kindergarten. I didn't know where she was then, but we found her, back in our home city, so I emailed her. While she emailed back, briefly, she never even offered her own condolences on my Mother's death ( which of course, I'd mentioned more than once ). I ended up telling my other friend about this one being back in our hometown, they got together promptly, then left ME right out of the picture! They wouldn't have even found each other if not for me. So am I pissed???? I ended up telling my husband, " I can't believe this! Now my friends are treating me just like my stupid family is!!!" It has NOT been a helpful experience!

So....you're very fortunate to have a 'NORMAL' friend, Paul! And I certainly hope you get the kind of response from her that you want and need. It's my opinion that we NEED certain people, caring people, to somewhat fill those gaping holes that are left after our loved ones cross.....and so much nicer when they come to you!

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Oh, I wouldn't call her "normal" :P . She heard thru another, and inquired. Contact with her and the other was a casualty of my alcoholism, there was a break for about 6 years. The other (a guy in Boston) sent me a cryptic Xmas card in '03, I googled him to locate him, & thus re-established contact. (They I think, had kept in touch.) He may be going thru this grieving at some point, last I heard his father was'nt doing too well.

This whole day has been a reminder of the past few months. I go home after I posted this AM to have lunch. I had a tuna fish sandwich. Not that that's anything special, but as I made it I was reminded that the last time I made one was way back in October, for my Mom and I. :(

(The wasn't too good, put too much mayo on it. :angry: Made me think that she would be disappointed. :( )

Went to Church for my custoding (a new word). Found that the head custodian had already snowblowed the place. I hate snowshoveling so was grateful, but I had this melancholic attitude (I only have the job cuz Mom died). So I come back here.

This is all so pathetic, but I guess I am having what one of my grief counselors would say is a "grief attack."

I miss my Mom, life sux, and my feelings are my feelings and just accept them and ride them out.

Quoting Maylissa: "I ended up telling my husband, " I can't believe this! Now my friends are treating me just like my stupid family is!!!" It has NOT been a helpful experience!"

For whatever its worth, I never felt a part of any group that I've been a member of, whether work, school, church, FAMILY, AA, friends, etc. Friendshhips have rarely transcended the venue in which the were established. In other words, I've never associated with friends outside of work, school, etc. Even online, chances are rare that I'll ever meet anyone I talk to. I dunno, but for some of us, there seems to be a commonality amongst the people we know. Just don't fit in.

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I too am pleased to learn that you were able to “clear the air” in the talk you had with your husband yesterday, Maylissa.

It so happens that I've just finished reading Joan Didion's new book, The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she explores her feelings and reactions in the months following the sudden, unexpected death of her husband from a massive heart attack. When I read this particular passage, Maylissa, I thought of you and the discussions you've been having with your husband:

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself. [pp. 188-9]

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