Is It OK to Not Talk about Grief?
My family always tries to talk about grief, but I don't want to.
I have a family member who brings up my dad every time I see her. I’ll go over to her house, chat about life for a few minutes, and then she’ll start talking about grief. While I don’t mind her doing this (at least, not anymore - it was difficult at first), whenever she starts talking about it, I feel the need to contribute and share my grief as well.
I don’t want to, though.
While I talk about my grief a lot online, I rarely have serious conversations about it with those around me. I make jokes and answer non-emotional questions but tend to shy away from anything further than that. It has absolutely nothing to do with my friends and family - it’s just me.
With most people, I feel comfortable limiting what I share about grief. Since they aren’t also grieving my dad, I can easily avoid conversations about him or change the topic when he does come up. It gets tough with family, though. My dad’s death was their loss, just as much as mine, so I can’t avoid the topic entirely. When they talk about grief, I feel pressure to do the same, to show them that I miss him too, even though doing that makes me feel uncomfortable.
Even though I feel that pressure, I’ve had to work on saying no. Not out loud, but to myself.
Grief is an incredibly personal thing, and I don’t have to talk about it unless I feel comfortable doing so. Just because someone else is okay with talking about what they’re going through doesn’t mean that I have to do the same.
Whenever I consider sharing more than I feel comfortable with, I tell myself no, and think of another way I can contribute to the conversation. I’ve started replying with something like, “I miss him too” or “I understand.” It lets them know that they’re not the only one in pain but doesn’t force me to be vulnerable.
You don’t have to talk about grief when you don’t want to. Even with those who are also experiencing it. When you share your grief and who you share it with is completely up to you.
Outside of this website, I only have serious conversations about grief with two or three of my friends. It’s what makes me the most comfortable, and that's okay.
Note: If you know a grieving teen and want to talk about grief with them, maybe ask them beforehand if they're comfortable doing so. Or, if you're mentioning grief around a teen, make sure not to pressure them into sharing anything. Grief is hard to talk about, and some teens just don't feel comfortable with it.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.