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 The Weirdness of Grief



Our world now seems so strange and


A while ago, someone asked me, What

different. The things we once took for


granted, such as eating, watching


is the most common way that bereaved

television, going out, or even sleeping,


individuals describe their experience of

now seem so far removed from how they


grief? I thought for a few moments. It

once were. It is like we have to learn


was not, as I reflected, the words one

everything, every experience anew.


would generally expect –sad, lonely, or


The very experience of grief


unhappy. The word that so many people

seems weird. We seem to be on a roller


use to describe their experience

coaster constantly going up and down.


of grief was weird.



Margaret Stroebe and Hans


It makes sense. So much of the

Schut, two researchers from the


experience of grief is so strange.

Netherlands, describe grief as a “dual


We may




process” –mourning a loss even


experience all sorts of


Grief is a strange

as we adjust to a new life. I see


reactions –strong, intense


experience. That is

that duality so frequently in my


emotions that seem to


why validation is so

grief groups as people experience


wash over us in waves.




these twin mandates of grief; for


There may be times that




example, the widow who at one


at the least provocation




moment describes her loneliness


we cry. Other times, we


Kenneth J. Doka

at the loss of her spouse even as


may wonder why we are




she celebrates the triumph of a






not weeping or why we have not burst

first driver’s license. When we grieve


into tears. We may feel that everything

we bounce back and forth between these


is surreal –that we are going through the

dual demands. That, too, seems weird.


motions but strangely unconnected to


Grief is a strange experience.


anything or anyone around us. We may

That is why validation is so important.


struggle to find some meaning and

As we share our grief with others –


purpose in our life. We may feel like we

confidants, family members, counselors,


are in some sort of a fog. It may be3

or in self-help groups or as we read


difficult to concentrate or focus. Even

about grief, we realize that we are not


physically we may feel different –

alone in our experiences. That


somehow aware of every ache and pain.

knowledge may not make the experience


We may even have weird

less strange, but we do know that it is


experiences. There may be moments we

normal to be weird. To live life without


feel the presence of the person who died.

someone we love –someone who was an


We may dream of the person or hear a

important part of our life is weird.


voice or sound that reminds us of that






Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, Mdiv, is Senior


We may find that others treat us

Consultant to HFA and a Professor of


differently. They may seem


Gerontology at the College of New Rochelle in


uncomfortable as they approach us, not

New York.






knowing what to say. They may feel




awkward around us wondering if we will




burst into tears at something said.