I once worked with a client I’ll call Madison who was grieving the death of her daughter. She was reeling emotionally, and the pain of her loss was made worse by members of her church and her workplace, who’d seemingly gone out of their way to let her know that her grief was unwelcome. Her sadness, her focus on her daughter’s death, and her interest in talking about loss were “too much” for these people and institutions, and Madison felt isolated inside of her grief. On top of that, she believed she was grieving wrong or excessively because places and people that used to feel safe no longer felt that way.
This happens to so many grievers after loss, myself included. Friend groups, family members, religious organizations, volunteer groups, and coworkers pull away because we are “too sad,” “too dark,” “too negative,” “too emotional,” “too unreliable,” or “too [insert your own here].” Outside forces—spaces we used to call home, people we used to belong to—in so many words tell us that grief has made it so that we no longer fit with them. We are emotionally, energetically, and sometimes even physically ousted from circles that were meaningful touchstones to us in life before loss.
Said another way: while we are wrestling deeply with surviving after the very worst happens, we are often simultaneously ejected from or abandoned by spaces and people we used to associate with.
I will not downplay the massive amount of grief this piles on top of already-difficult loss. Experiencing a death, divorce, diagnosis, or other life-altering transition is hard enough—being told we no longer fit in a place we used to call home or no longer belong to a group that we used to align with heaps more searing grief onto an already-roaring fire of loss.
It is worth taking time to mourn the spaces and relationships that grief disqualifies us from continuing—the ways that grief has made us “too much” so we no longer fit where we used to.