Are you there yet? The pressure to get over grief

Don’t you guys just love taking road trips with little kids?  Without kids, who would make you stop to go to the bathroom every hour?  Who would loudly argue just two feet behind your head as you drive?  Who would eat sticky snacks and get french fries lodged in between your seats?  I’m telling you, you haven’t road tripped until you’ve road tripped with a child.

One universal truth about kids and road trips is that they have absolutely no concept of time and zero appreciation for how long it takes to reach their destination.  At around hour one they begin asking things like “How much loooooonger?” and “Are we there yet?”.  As depicted in the graph below, the number of times a child asks a question like “When are we going to get theeeeere?” doubles with every hour spent in the car.  This pattern continues until the child finally falls asleep, at which point they (mostly) stop asking.


On longer trips, parents know their tiny passengers are going to start asking these questions early and often. It’s annoying as all heck, but it’s also expected and understood.  Kids only see the end point of a journey and they can’t conceptualize the miles and miles one has to trek to get there.

If grief we’re a road trip, it would be one with a backseat full of children saying ‘are you theeerrrre yet?’, ‘are you close?’, ‘this is taking too looooong!’. A pretty consistent truth about grief is that people will subtly and not-so-subtly pressure you to ‘feel better’ well before you’re ready.  You yourself may wonder whether you’re doing grief right, so other people’s opinions can cause you to question yourself and prevent you from asking for the patience and understanding you need.  If you feel like you’re being pressured to move on well before you’re ready, we recommend thinking through the situation in the following way.


1.  Ask: “What are my personal attitudes about grief?”

Explicit attitudes are attitudes that one holds consciously and can be readily described.  These are the attitudes you might believe are socially acceptable, preferable, true, or correct. As someone experiencing grief, your explicit attitudes might include thoughts like…

“Grief is emotionally and physically exhausting, grief takes time, grieving people should be patient with themselves”

On the other hand, implicit attitudes are attitudes that lie just below the surface of consciousness and are expressed in more subtle and automatic responses. These attitudes are learned through past experiences and they hold within them biases, beliefs, and judgments one has learned through observing and interacting with the world. To some extent, implicit attitudes about grief will likely reflect familial attitudes and norms, the attitudes of those around you on a day-to-day basis, and the norms and expectations of society on a whole. They might include thoughts like…

“I am wallowing, I should be coping better, I should pick myself up, I should be stronger, I should be back to normal by now, my loss isn’t important”

It is important to evaluate how you truly feel about how you’re coping with grief before taking the thoughts of others into consideration.  And by truly, I mean you need to take stock of your negative personal evaluations and how you internalize the pressures of others. At the end of the day, how you believe you are coping will mediate how you respond to the pressure of others. If you feel conflicted about how well and how fast you should be coping, you are more likely to respond to the pressures of others with shame and self-doubt.  

2.  Remember, there is no right way to grieve

Grief is really confusing.  It’s one of those experiences you don’t fully understand until you’ve experienced it. Though many people think they know what it’s like from personal but peripheral death experiences and overdramatized television and movie vignettes. Once in a while, you may need to remind yourself that there is no right way to grieve.  This reality may be frustrating for perfectionists and people who don’t like ambiguity, but it’s just true.  There are no timelines, there are a million different ways to cope, and grief is different for everyone.  If you believe this, then you will be more tolerant of variability and better insulated against the judgments of other people.


3. Communicate and be honest

If a person is making you feel pressured to move on, it might serve you well to communicate with them about how they made you feel.  As someone who turns the television channel over even fictional confrontation, I understand it sometimes feels easier to keep your mouth shut.  However, if you don’t speak up you can’t expect the situation to change.

You don’t need to have a long and drawn out confrontation, you can simply tell the person they are making you feel bad and that it isn’t helpful. If it doesn’t stop, at least you will know you tried.  Bonus, it can also be incredibly empowering to stick up for yourself and to insist that people respect your needs.

How do you handle the pressure to get over grief?  Let us know in the comments below.

Subscribe over there on the top right

April 4, 2018

22 responses on "Are you there yet? The pressure to get over grief"

  1. I found everyone’s words helpful. I am coming up on three years since my sweetheart, love of my life, my second husband died suddenly at home. He had blood clots, this was not “totally” unexpected, but his toughness and prior open heart surgery, broken ribs that punctured his lung, led me to believe he was Superman. I miss him more all the time. My family of origin is notable only for its dysfunction, so the less said, the better. My sibs were shockingly rude to my sweetheart while he was alive.

    One solution that really helped me was blogging over the first year after his death. It was an oddly healing element in the evolution of my grief process. Also, it connected me to others grieving many types of losses and, who, like me, sought refuge in the written word. I learned that I had just as much writing talent as my wonderfully gifted husband, who wrote two books with my encouragement, my editing, typing, cooking and cleaning skills, and my ceaseless caregiving for his medical, emotional and social/creative needs. He was a wonderful, creative, intelligent, boisterous, sweet and loving man, sometimes moody as a Leo, and tons of fun. The best man I’ve ever met, hands down.

    I miss talking, laughing, singing and snuggling with him. Most of all I miss his big bear hugs, and the way he drew my arm into his and squeezed my hand when we walked together. He wrote me a completely beautiful love letter on Valentine’s Day, 2016, three days before he died. He said “I hope I give half as much as you do.” You did, beloved. I dreamed of him again last night, and it’s bittersweet. I wish us all some peace today.

  2. Today my brother and sister-in-law told me that I need to “move on” regarding the death of my oldest daughter (she died in active duty (U.S. Army) 16 years ago) adding that because of my grief/seasonal depression I have ruined my younger daughter’s Holiday celebrations.
    They told me “enough is enough” and my daughter would never expect me to grieve this long.
    YES – I am still in grief’s quick sand. However, when Julieanne died, NO ONE was around to support my younger daughter and me. I think it may have been different if there was a support system for us.
    My love and prayers to all of you….

  3. When my husband died in January 2016, I had a standard answer when people rushed me – to learn to drive, to clean his clutter, and whatever they thought should be at the top of MY list. I said, I’ll deal with that when the snow melts! That was good for a laugh and a gentle “back off” message. I must admit, I was glad everytime a new snow fell.
    But I didn’t really mean it. After the spring thaw, I still just made my own list, my own priorities; I got to things when I was ready to face them.

  4. 100% love this! I actually did this before I read this and at first I felt guilt that I could no longer do the things these people wanted me to! Take the kids to visit have people in my home etc…. I wasneing rushed! I was getting worse! Even the early days of a couple of weeks after I was expected to be doing all these normal things!!!

    I had to stop it all! Things were traumatic for me as it was.

  5. I tell people I have good and bad days. He passed on 8/10/2017. It is lonely even with people around although I often did things on my own due to his job but when we retired we did all our adventures together and I miss it. I’ll have 2-5 good days then need to withdraw for a couple quiet days. I enjoy my grandchildren and children but there are times that I don’t want to live, I’d just as soon join him. Not that I’d hurt myself, but there just doesn’t seem any reason or purpose to continue. And it is exhausting to have this deep grief all the time. I’m so tired most the time. I don’t care if I shower (but I do!) or eat (again I do eat but don’t care about it). I force myself to see people and do things. I don’t want to cause my children more grief than they already are suffering over loss of their father.
    One friend who was bugging me about “what are you going to do?” I finally told point blank that I didn’t know what I was going to do and to not pressure me. She finally backed off. I just have to be as honest as possible and go on as best I can. It’s just tough. It’s only been 8 months and we had 48 years married and knew each other 52 years. Huge chunk of my life.

    • “I enjoy my grandchildren and children but there are times that I don’t want to live, I’d just as soon join him. Not that I’d hurt myself, but there just doesn’t seem any reason or purpose to continue. “
      Thank you so much for putting this into words!

  6. Bette,you said everything that I was going to say! We had been married 30years and my first husband that died suddenly,10 years! We have 4 children but they have their life! They think I’m too stuck right now but I am just lost! It’s been 16 months! Prayers to You!🌷

  7. Well to be honest i dont know what i do ..i dont know how to handle my grief.
    My girlfriend died 7weeks back suddenly and its been hell. I think what iv been doing is analysing everything she said to me in last few weeks of her life trying to find an answer ..a conclusion. .anything that might make sense of anything . We had planned a weekend away and when she first passed i said thats it im not going but then later changed my mind and went anyway and made the weekend all about her…it was a torturis weekend but in the end i came away with the realisation that she told me she loved me just before she died and that was the most beautiful gift she could’ve given me.
    I hang onto that now…it does seem to have calmed me down a bit.

  8. Like the post stated, there is no timeline for grief.

    My mother (56) passed away unexpectedly 6 months ago. I was at my bible study with my husband last night and again, for the umtenth week in a row, asked for prayer because it seemed to be getting harder and harder. I apologized and stated that I didnt want to sound like a broken record but I just needed help.

    I’ve attended two grief share classes at my church, but during that time, we were still unsure as to what killed her. I didnt know how to feel, what I was supposed to feel or how to cope. Now that we know, I might go back. I know I need to talk with someone because it is hard and frustrating.

    My mother and I did not have a great relationship after my husband and I got married. She battled with depression and turned to abusing her medication. I hate the fact that I can’t remember the last legit conversation we had. My dad would always facetime and point the camera to her and we would say hello, but I dont know when our last legit conversation was. I dont like that.

    I appreciated all the support I got when it first happened and the friends checking in on me from time to time, but now that its been 6 months, no one really does that checking, and I wish they still did occasionally.

    My husband made a great point last night. When we are in conversation with others and the “how are you?” comes up, its not typically that they actually wanna know how your doing, its just another way of saying hello. When you answer with something other than good or fine, more likely than not, you catch them off guard.

  9. I can only say that in my brokenness, I am at the same time more empathetic and much less patient. I cry for and with others who are in pain and have no time for selfish/self centered individuals. Time is too precious and life is too short. It will be 4 months 2/23 that I lost my precious boy by his own hand and today was a “good” day. Most days, I just long to be with him, despite my deep love for my 4 living children and wonderful husband. I will never, ever “get over” this, despite what others tell me. I will go on, however, until God calls me home. I grieve with and pray for you all.

  10. I lost my husband 3 weeks ago tomorrow. It was fairly sudden. We were at a church function. He was giving his testimony. During the last 5 minutes of a 20-minute testimony he began sweating badly, his nose was running, & he also sounded a bit different. As soon as he finished he came down from the stage & said to me “we need to go please… Now!”

    He would not go in an ambulance, so I drove, very fast, to our Hospital. I knew it was bad, I just didn’t know how bad. When we arrived they did a CT scan and found that he had a brain bleed… He was taking Xarelto. They tried using a reversal drug. It was unsuccessful. By morning they had to put him on a vent. Within about 8 hours I never heard his voice again. I brought him in January 2nd 2018 at 8:15 p.m. and he was pronounced dead on January 5th at 1:57 p.m. .

    Before being vented he told me many times how much he loved me.
    He was a hero in life and a hero in death. He saved two people at MUSC in Charleston SC & one person at Duke in NC.

    He spent nearly 27 years in the Army & retired as a Colonel. He toured overseas many times, twice in Iraq.
    The two of us traveled extensively and were able to participate in several mission trips. During our travels we went to places such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Kosova, Mexico, Turkey, El Salvador, & more. We also traveled extensively in the United States. Much of that travel was done on one of the four motorcycles we owned together. The last motorcycle we purchased was a beautiful 2017 purple Harley Ultra Limited… We had to go halfway across the u.s. to pick it up in Lewiston Idaho. There wasn’t another one like it anywhere else. We only owned it for 5 months before he passed, however, we were able to make a beautiful 1600 mile trip together. It’s something I will never forget. I will never forget my husband, who woke up each morning praying, with a smile on his face and his main goal each and every day, being how he could make my life more blessed & more wonderful.

    In 2010 we were able to renew our vows on the Mount of Olives and be re-baptized where Jesus was, in the River Jordan.
    This year we were going back for our anniversary…

  11. I am getting used to managing my response to the “How are you?” question by saying “Like the weather. Some days fine.” This leaves the other person free to fill in the other days. It helps that I live in the UK, an island unity where the weather is, to say the least, “changeable”. I do want to say more a lot of the time but who’s going to choose to stick around when I’m so needy?

  12. My mum was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer the day before I found out I was expecting my first child, and her first grandchild. We begged and pleaded with god to let her hang on until my daughters birth, but she could not.

    She passed a month before my daughters birth, and I gave a eulogy at 36 weeks pregnant. I thought I was going to lose the baby due to stress but she was fine.

    Even now 9 months later I feel sad and angry at god.
    I rang my dad the other dad upset and he told me it wasn’t normal, there was something wrong with me and I should be over it by now. He declared himself over it after two months and has been looking for a new wife ever since.

    The worst pressure to get over it has been from my biological family, who will never be the same again.

    I feel like I have lost my dad as well.

    • Jane,

      I’m so sorry for everything that you’ve experienced. Feeling sad and angry 9 months later is totally normal. I’m sorry that you can’t connect with the rest of your family in your grief. I imagine this must feel very isolating. I don’t know your family at all, but it sounds like they maybe aren’t very comfortable with emotion? When this is the case people sometimes say they are “over it” as a way to avoid. Either way…I’m sorry for what you are experiencing. I hope that you are able to find the space to grieve and honor your mother despite the family’s insistence that you move on.


  13. I lost both my children thirteen months apart. Jen was taken by diabetes and John was killed by a drunk driver.
    People often say”I can’t imagine how you must feel”. I tell them not to try. Nobody needs to borrow that kind of grief.
    When asked how I’m doing,I reply”I’m alive.
    I don’t invest time in rude people. Someone tells me how I should feel,I cut them loose. How can anyone understand how I feel when I don’t understand myself. All I want to do is be with my kids.

  14. How am I doing I usually answer hanging in there…wth am I suppose to say, the truth? I think I am more selfish now – I don’t care what others think, somedays I feel like doing very little and I don’t go out as much as I use to. I lost my 25 year old daughter to drugs One year and 8 months ago. I had adopted her children prior who are now 8 & 9. Honestly, raising them working and grieving are about all I can do on any given day. I find comfort in my grands, husband and 4 dogs most days. I am also the first to reach out to anyone who has lost a child. I do feel I am suppose to help others with this lose.

  15. RePlying, not relying

    • I just talked to my husband this morning about what does he say when people ask, “How are you?” Not people you know, but when the grocery clerk or another anonymous person asks you that question as you check out. He agreed it hurts every time. No way either one of says “fine” or “good.” We have both retreated to the word, “Okay.” Although even that is really questionable most of the time.
      I agree with you that your old friend is not going to ever understand grief until she experiences a devastating loss of her own. Time to move on.
      We are at 11 months just.. one month shy of my son’s birthday on the 14th and death day on the 26th. I know at 22 months I will still be struggling. I know in 22 years I will still be heartbroken.
      I was going to erase this post because I didn’t know how helpful it was to you. But since I am crying for us both, it is helpful for me.

  16. When I replied to my “favorite” question, ” How are you doing”, I thought I was relying to someone “safe” because in the same email, she apologized for not being in communication more, etc. so, silly me opened up and told her that the past 22 months have been horrible. Well, she threw everything at me, including telling me I’m weak and need to get a grip on reality. My reply to her was honest, heartfelt, and flat out angry. I figured I’d never hear from her again, so why not just say everything, including there’s no time frame for grief nor right or wrong way to do it.

  17. They told me in 2003 I should’ve been over my grief a long time ago bc “that happened clear back in 2001.”
    In 2003 half the time I still didn’t really believe he was dead. There were no remains, no physical evidence to match with the DNA sample we supplied. They never found a match, and the only thing that made me believe it really happened was when they found the main person responsible for doing it and that wasn’t until May 2, 2011. Technically May 1 but it was May 2 here.
    I don’t know why that help so well but it did. Until that day I had dreams every single night about the person who had died. About a month after it happened the dreams stopped on their own and except for a few times have never become regular again.
    Most people would call that closure, even the president called the finding of Osama bin Laden closure when he addressed the families of 9/11 victims directly, but I don’t feel like it’s total closure. If you want to call it that in terms of that one aspect then I guess it was but almost nothing else feels complete.

  18. Hi Bette, believe me you are doing a good job. It is totally rubbish when someone dies. We cannot comprehend it. There seems to be a confusing paradox in someone dying. We, the surviving have to come through it, but the person who died cannot. for them and for us there is a full stop. Most other things we can resolve. This stops us in our tracks. I felt strange still being in love with someone who had died. I tried to stop my grief by marrying quite quickly again. My eldest son told me that he thought, in a way that I had always been unfaithful to my second husband because I was still in love with his Dad (Baba). While this may have been his way of reconciling my marrying again, his thoughts have made me think. With love, Mary

  19. It is really one day at a time, its been three years and two months and I can tell you there are lots of ups and downs, I never did many things around the house and now I stack wood and mow the lawn an snow blow,open and shut the pool. Feeling like I am a third wheel with couples that use to be our friends, it is very hard to do family things without my husband. My adult children try to do things together and it is always very hard as my husband is missing. Weekends are very lonely. I have had to stay busy. Walk the dog and do different things then what we use to do as a couple. 39 1/2 years. Hard to change. But I have to go on and I still wonder what is my purpose. I so wish I could hear his voice. I still talk about him alot.

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


WYG provides general educational information from mental health professionals, but you should not substitute information on the What’s Your Grief website for professional advice.

See our terms and conditions here

See our privacy policy here

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255


Share Your Snapshot

Grief In 6 Words

Submit a Story to Us

What's Your Grief Podcast

Listen to our podcast