Why Do People Expect Me to Be Over My Grief?

We live in a world and society that does not have the best grasp on what grief is, much less how and when to reach out to others in a supportive way. People often place unrealistic and even harmful expectations on grieving individuals because they believe that grief is something you “get over.” They believe it “heals” completely. This may be because many have been taught that grief is a disease, a sickness you should avoid feeling as much as possible. Some will tell you that because your person died two, ten, or even thirty years ago, you should not still be grieving for them. This could not be farther from the truth.

Does time heal all wounds?

Grief is a healthy response to loss. It is something you are SUPPOSED to feel when you lose someone or something that you valued and loved. Even if the grief brings with it intense or unwanted feelings, you still have a right, even a need, to grieve for what was or wasn’t. 

One of the unhealthy expectations that we place on grieving hearts is that the passage of time will make it all better. We say “time heals all wounds” which is untrue, cliche, and not helpful at all. What helps us heal is acknowledging and integrating the grieving process.

So why do people tell us to move on faster? The reality is that most people don’t know what else to say. Or they desperately want to be helpful and not see you in pain. They resort to what they have always heard or to things/words that on the surface, seem kind. They have good intentions.

But there is intention and there is impact. Their intentions might be honorable but the way that the words land can feel hurtful. Often what the grieving person wants most is just to be heard, seen and given the opportunity to acknowledge their emotions surrounding who or what they have lost.

So how can you respond when told to move on?

The best thing we can do is to manage our expectations, for ourselves and also for the person who is giving (unwanted) advice. 

Some expectations to hold for yourself: 

  •     You will most likely grieve longer than people think you should.
  •     Many changes, physically, emotionally and more, will take place for you over time as you engage your grief.
  •     Your grief will entail mourning the present loss as well as your unmet needs in the future that come as a result of the loss.
  •     Your grief will include all types of feelings and reactions, not only sadness.
  •     You may experience sudden and intense moments of grief that occur quickly and without warning.
  •     You may find that there are certain dates and events like birthdays and anniversaries that bring intense waves of grief. This is ok.
  •     Society will most likely have unrealistic expectations about your grief. They may respond in unhelpful ways but you have a responsibility to yourself first, not the expectations others place on you.

When you are able to understand, and even expect, that people may not always respond the way you want them to you while you are grieving, it may become easier for you to live within your own expectations and not those of others. Hold their words loosely; take what you need but grieve on your own timeline.

Some expectations to share with others:

And for the person asking you to get over your grief, kindly ask them to give you as much time and space you need to grieve because you are entitled to it. It is your right. Encourage them to listen to what you have to share. And if they will not do so, consider surrounding yourself with people who will.

Author Garrett EllisGarrett Drew Ellis is a volunteer counselor in Maryland with Experience Camps. An End of Life and Legacy Doula, Author and Writer, he is the owner of Beyond Morning LLC, a Story Studio + End of Life Doula service. Having written over 30 memoirs on behalf of the terminally ill and grieving and two of his own, Garrett believes that human beings are capable of increasingly beautiful levels of compassion and has dedicated his life to increasing his own. He can be found online at www.beyondmorning.org