No matter how much you read up online, there is truly nothing that can prepare you for the reality that hits you like grief does. The experience of grief is full of surprises, none of which that will excite you. As a natural reaction to loss and trauma, grief can get overwhelming and intense in unexpected ways. One thing can easily lead to many other things being felt.
However, the complete opposite can also happen. People might not appear to feel anything when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one. They might start to question themselves: why do they not feel any grief? Is there something wrong with them? Although it is seldom recognised and talked about, this pattern of complicated grief is not that uncommon. Indeed, there is a name for such a phenomenon.
Known as absent grief, it has been defined as a form of grief in which a person responds to the loss of a loved one with seemingly little to no distress. This form of grief is theorised to be an impaired reaction to loss, one that often stems from denial or avoidance. Framed or categorised under a complex type of grief, there are ultimately many different reasons why a person might not feel like they are grieving as much as they are expected to be. Absent grief is not necessarily always linked to or a result of avoidance or denial.
For instance, you might have gone through what is termed as affective forecasting. What does affective forecasting mean? It means that our minds have already imagined the possible future and prepared ourselves for how we should feel or think as if the future has already happened. Although it might be reasonable and possible to anticipate the passing of a loved one, we will not always be able to brace ourselves for the actual intensity and time length of emotions and responses. Expectations are bound to deviate from reality. However, just because the picture of grief does not line up with what you expected it to look like, it does not mean that your grief experience is wrong or invalid.
Similar to affective forecasting, you might have experienced anticipatory grief. This is especially the situation for someone who has been with a loved one that was dying and waiting for the inevitable. It is grief that happens before a loss and usually leads to the person experiencing grief more slowly and over time. Those with anticipatory grief might have contradictory feelings, like relief, which are truthfully normal and part of the grief response.
All in all, grief being absent or not feeling like what you expected it to be is relatively common and valid. Everyone experiences loss and trauma differently; everyone has their unique process of grief. After all, nothing can truly prepare us for something severely traumatising as death.
If you are in need of bereavement support, feel free to contact Embrace Funeral Services. Beyond providing funeral services in Singapore, we are dedicated to assisting those in mourning and in grief.