The Scary G Word

There is a word I use all the time that scares people.  I wish I could say it right now, but I’m afraid that if I even hint at it you will run away.  I know, because I’ve seen people freak out when I say it.  I watch them turn pale and get those deer-in-the-headlight eyes.  I can see that they’re looking for an escape route.  But I have to say it, so here goes.  Stay calm and keep reading.  It’s not nearly as scary as you think.


There, I said it.  Still here?  How are you feeling?  Heart beating a little faster?  Don’t worry, it will calm down again.

So what’s the big deal about grief that freaks people out?  We usually associate grief with death, but it’s actually a normal and natural reaction to loss.  And we have all kinds of losses in our lives, not just the death of someone.

So why is grief so scary?

Maybe because it’s painful.  It reminds us of our own mortality, or our own divorce, or our own unfulfilled dreams of a successful career.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s scary because we’ve been taught all kinds of bogus ideas about grief.  We are taught things like you can’t talk about grief.  We refer to it in hushed terms.  When I ask people about their childhood and how their family handled the death of a loved one, they almost always say they didn’t handle it.  You went to the wake.  You went to the funeral.  And then you didn’t talk about it again.

We don’t know how to respond when things change in our lives.  We’re taught to take it deep inside of ourselves, to be private with our feelings, to be stoic.  Crying makes people uncomfortable.

I’m going to be talking about the grief myths in an upcoming post, and about all the types of losses we can go through in our lives.  The whole point of this is to strip the word of it’s scariness.  We experience loss.  We grieve.  And we can recover from that grief.  We’ll be talking about how…

Question:  How did your family deal with death and grief?  What did they teach you about grieving?


9 Replies to “The Scary G Word”

  1. You are absolutely right about not dealing with it. We did have the wake, funeral…and then nothing. And I think that might be why I don’t think about death in people…the way I should? It’s not a stone-heart feeling, rather it’s just non-handling it…for lack of a better word. But the death of my furry friends. I get a lump in my throat and the tears come freely just thinking about them. Gosh, Chris, this sounds weird to read, but I never had pets growing up so they are that much more special to me now. Thanks for listening!


    1. Just the fact that you have two different reactions to grief is telling, isn’t it? You were taught to stuff grief of people, but since you didn’t have pets growing up, you weren’t taught how to handle that grief. We carry that training from childhood forward with us and it affects us greatly, without us even being aware of it. I am going out on a limb here and guessing that there are people in your life you need to be able to cry over, just like you do your furry loved ones.


  2. You do what you have to do to get through. When my parents died the burden fell on me. I lost a lot of weight and refused to eat yet I kept going. Yes at the time my Aunts were alive and they did their best to help me but for all the practical things associated with death, funeral preparation, buying clothes for the deceased, getting the right amount of death certificates, sorting through and giving away their belongings, handling the finances, paperwork, taxes, Yes just because a person dies somebody still has to fill out their tax forms, legal that was up to me. You have to notify Social Security, their job, banks, credit card companies, etc.. You have to be strong and you’re expected to be strong. Jobs only give you five days of funeral leave if you are lucky. Your job does not care about your feelings or emotions. You gotta get back to work. You are expected to go on and move forward no matter how you feel. Your friends, family and co-workers expect you to keep it moving. Yes I cried but at night and by myself. I never put my grief on somebody else. It is not something to be shared except maybe in Pastoral counseling. I cried when my pets have died but No I did not share that. People think you’re crazy.

    Of course this has after effects. Since my parents died I don’t celebrate Christmas. I don’t like most holidays especially those that fall at the end of the year because it reminds me of what I no longer have. Much of the grieving process is also cultural. Depending on your culture and your religion is how you handle grief. For me as I get closer to the age that my parents died I spend more and more time with my Bible. That gives me comfort of Heaven where I know that I will be reunited with them plus my many friends who have passed away. I definitely have a sense of my mortality because usually after 50 is when people start to die. I’ve been to more funerals and wakes than weddings or births. Every few months somebody I know is dying from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, etc…..

    All I can say is what you need and what you get are two different things.


  3. Grief and death of people you don’t know also affects you adversely. For example 9/11. I’m a New Yorker. None of my family was affected but I’ve never written about and rarely discussed my feelings for that day. However one of my co-workers father was killed in the fall of the Twin Towers.

    At the time I worked at a non profit and I went back to work almost immediately. Part of my job was to process donations for victims families. Each person who called had a story. I listened a lot but I never spoke of how I felt or my emotions. Everything went into work. I have images in my mind that will never go away. It took me years before I could go to downtown lower Manhattan. Also though many bloggers write about Sept 11th that’s one blog post you will never see from me.

    Same thing with any instance of suicide. Last year Jan. 2017 a man stepped or jumped in front of the subway train I was on. It was horrible. We riders were trained underground with the smell of burning flesh. We had to be evacuated by the police and fire fighters. My job still expected me to come to work however I was so badly shaken up I wound up returning home. Even though I never knew the poor man who killed himself his spirit stayed with me until I wound up burning sage. I was dreaming that his burnt body was in my bedroom. Only my cat Sylvester understood and he did his best to protect me. Burning sage was key.


  4. DeBorah, I have been reading your blog for years and know what an incredible, beautiful, intelligent and loving amazon woman you are. You always amaze me. If I could be there with you now, I’d hold your hands, look into your eyes and tell you how very, very sorry I am for all that you have gone through. And you would know in your heart how sincere I would be. It’s hard to convey that with words over the internet.

    Having said that, I also know that will only give you the tiniest bit of relief from the burdens you carry. If there is one thing I know about grief, it’s about how isolating it can be. Yes, what you need and what you get are most of the time quite different. We are taught to run away from grief, to stuff it down, so stop feeling. But we can’t stop feeling. All that stuffing grows and rumbles and festers until we feel like we’re going to explode.

    You don’t have to be alone, but finding the right person to talk to can seem like an impossible task. Feel free to contact me and we can talk about it.

    Many hugs, and prayers of peace for you.


  5. I sometimes think grief is a scary word because of other people’s reactions. Grief still has so much stigma associated and people think there is a set amount of time you are allowed to mourn loss, also the way you should grieve. If you exceed that time people start judging and saying you should be over things, if you publicly mourn then folks say you need help when the reality is that grief is just a natural progress.


  6. In answer to your questions. My family taught me nothing positive and if they can make a funeral hard they will. I have been to two on my dad’s side of the family. When he died there were five of us turned up on time. His sister, her husband and son, me and my sister. Just as his coffin went behind the curtain to be cremated the remaining 6 children turned up angry for starting without them. There was a punch up outside the crematorium. The next death in the family caused even more heartbreak. My brother didn’t tell us he had cancer so when he died it was a terrible shock. The arguments over the funeral have left me unsure if I want to attend the scattering of his ashes. I really don’t want to. I already said goodbye to him.


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