Grief Expectations


The yearly path for those in grief is often scattered with emotional mine fields. Whether these days include the deceased one’s birthday, certain holidays, anniversaries or their departure date, the calendar can become a map of dangerous territory.

Every year is different. Every experience of these days will be different. Some people find that they feel certain emotions during specific grief days but not other emotions. For example, the birthday of the loved one who died may bring with it feelings of love, positive remembrances and a bittersweet mixture. Other days like anniversaries and departure dates may be colored with sadness, anger and despair.

What is Normal? 

There is no right or wrong way one should feel on these days. There are so many variables that can influence how we feel. It will change if we are physically sick. It will change if we have other memories associated with the day. Expecting to feel a particular way can also influence it. If we think we will be sad, we may dread the day which will impact how we feel that day.

What if I Feel Nothing? 

Sometimes, the day comes and goes without recognition or remembrance. Does this mean you have forgotten about the person? Do you no longer love them? Absolutely not! Life can really interfere by causing us to juggle many things including those special days. We might notice feeling sad or grumpy or distracted around those days but not know way. Sometimes, anticipating the day can be a more intense feeling that what is experienced on the day. All of that is normal and okay.

Choosing Your Grief

There are people who decide to only commemorate the birthday of the person. They might take flowers to the grave, light a candle, go to church or bring together family and friends. It is a form of celebration. This is how they choose to honor the person who died. When the day marking their sister’s or father’s or spouse’s death comes around, they may ignore it or not do anything special for the day outwardly. It could be that the day brings sadness and is a negative reminder which is not how they wish to remember the deceased.

When You Can’t Choose

Angry that others would be able to choose how they experience grief? You are not alone. For many, the grief days crash upon them like waves. There is no option as to how or in what way the day is spent, it is simply a matter of survival. This is also a natural and normal experience. Not every grief day will be like this. Focusing on self care for those days can be the most important focus.

Grief Expectations…Continued

The first year of grief is known for its challenges as the first of the grief days are experienced. It can be hard not to anticipate the negative emotions. It can be hard not to dread them. And, yet, grief is such a trickster! It tends to surprise us at every corner. So, what would it be like to simply wonder what the next grief day will be like, without expecting anything from it? Would it be easier or worse? Or, would it simply be different? Only you can find that out.


Whatever grief day is close to you on your calendar, please treat yourself with compassion and some self-care to help you get through it. And, always remember, you don’t have to journey alone.

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