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One death, different grievings

Even suffering for the loss of the same person, people in the same family have different reactions. This can generate difficult and sad situations in a family. It is essential to understand that this diversity is common and natural

Image: Siyan Ren


In most of the cultures crying is one of the most common ways  of expressing pain and suffering. But how about the ones who don’t cry? Does it mean they are not suffering? Common sense defends the idea that the ones who cry feel the pain with so much intensity, however the ones who don’t cry may not be feeling the same way, is not sad. Besides this not beign true it generates a lot of guilt for thse who can’t expose their pain and suffering for a beloved one’s death.

Different reactions to someone’s death are perfectly common and normal.

For  particular reasons, many times linked to the life story and personality features, people have different ways of expressing their feelings. Some people show happiness, sadness, and concerns in a very clear way. Others are discrete when showing feelings but even so can let these feelings go. There are those who have difficulty in showing what they are really feeling. This doesn’t mean they are not feeling.

Showing the pain doesn’t measure necessarily it’s size. But it is very usual comments such as:                      “doesn’t he feel anything?”                                                                                                                                            “It seems that he didn’t feel mom’s death, I never saw him crying”                                                                            “He didn’t want to go to the cemitery, he doesn’t care for his beloved one”

To go through the grieving process it is important that each person finds his-her own way of expressing the pain of losing someone and it isn’t necessaryly similar to someonelse in the family. If for some people, going to the cemitery is a way of finding some releave and remember someone who is already gone, for others , this visit may be highly stressing, tense and of no releave whatsoever. The family must be a space for each one to show and express feelings freely and the way they can.

What makes people express in different ways.

Psychology has been studying differences in many fields including the grieving process. It is known that even identical twins have completely different personalities, because each human beign is unique in thinking, acting and feeling. So there are many factors that determine the way each person will react to losing a beloved one; such as life story, childhood, previous losses, hability to stabilish a connection, the relationship with the person who passed away, age, sex, culture among other variables. Beign so, the same loss can cause different reactions in the same family.

The way children express their pain is different from older people. The time of life we lose someone can be relevant too. Teenagers for instance, go through a phase in which they feel omnipotent- “I can live dangerously because nothing will ever happen to me”- and their grieving process may be highly influenced by this posture, causing denial when someone they love passes away.

In general, men and women are very different, specially because our culture imposes strict values related to their feelings. The famous concept “boys don’t cry” is heard by men since theis childhood and can  contribute to a emotions restriction process. Women seem to have more social authorization for expressing feelings, while men must be the ones responsible for restoring family, for they believe they must get back to regular life as soon as possible.These cultural standards  may be strong complicating factors for those who don’t fit. It is relevant that the family understands different ways of grieving so it doesn’t cause more pain. We are unique because our history is unique and that’s why we have a very individual way of expressing our feelings.

Lélia de Cássia Faleiros Oliveira – Psicóloga Clínica, Master and Doctorate at USP, recycling course at LEM – USP (Lab. of Studies on Death). She has worked with bereaved and develops projects for Grieving Support at institutions.