As a probate and estate planning law firm, we necessarily deal with many families who have recently lost a loved one. We do our best to make things easier and less stressful for them by helping them handle the details of administering their loved one’s estate. Though we deal with the business aspects of a loss, we never forget that at the heart of things is a real person who was loved, and the very real grief of the people who are left behind.
Probate involves the gathering, inventory, valuation and transfer of assets. In that sense it is a financial transaction. Unlike most financial transactions, however, there is a great deal of emotion involved. Having to deal with the business aspects of a loss can complicate grieving, and grief can make it more difficult to take care of necessary probate business.
Grief is Different for Different People
We all have an image in our heads of what grief looks like. That is how we experience grief, but the truth is that grief feels different, and looks different, for everyone. A common source of stress when grieving the loss of a loved one is the perception that other people in the family aren’t grieving, or are grieving inappropriately. Because grief is often such a private thing, we may not have ready access to the variety of grief reactions that fall in the range of “normal,” and may find these other reactions upsetting.
It may be easiest to understand when people cry and act sad. But many people who are grieving deeply may appear outwardly not to have any reaction at all. Grief may also manifest itself as irritability rather than sadness. Some grieving people may withdraw from social activity, while others throw themselves into a flurry of activity. When someone grieves in a way that is markedly different from what we experience, we may feel angry that they are not grieving in what we feel is an appropriate way, or that they appear not to be grieving at all in any way that we recognize.
In addition to looking different, the grief process may be longer or shorter for different people. Some experts say that normal grieving lasts up to two years. In reality, some people move through the process more quickly and some more slowly. If the deceased was ill for a long time before dying, caregivers may have come to terms with their pending loss during the long, slow letting go at the deceased’s bedside. Family members who have unresolved issues with the deceased may have trouble letting go of grief. Remember, just because someone appears to have “gotten over” a loss quickly, or appears to be mired in grief longer than we think reasonable, doesn’t mean that their reaction is inappropriate. Everyone must grieve in their own way and at their own pace.
Be Gentle With Yourself and Others
Once you understand that different grief reactions are normal, and that others’ reactions do not mean they are not grieving or showing proper respect to the deceased, it becomes easier to allow yourself and others the freedom to grieve in a way that feels right.
In American culture, people are often uncomfortable talking about grief or hearing others do so. However, talking about our losses can be essential to resolving our grief. As much as we might wish otherwise, ignoring grief or attempting to distract ourselves from it does not make it go away; it will simply keep coming up in different ways until it is faced. Don’t be embarrassed to seek out a therapist or a support group so that you can talk about your feelings with supportive people who understand what you are going through.
We invite you to contact the experienced estate planning and probate attorneys at Davis Schilken at 303-670-9855 to arrange a consultation at one of our two locations in The Denver Tech Center and Golden, Colorado, to learn how we can help you with the support you during this difficult time.