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Is My Grief Normal?

My brother died 6 months ago. Some days are OK, but I still have days when I miss him so much I cry. Is that normal? People tell me I should be over it by now, so I usually keep my feelings to myself. I'm afraid if I get over my grief, my memories of my brother will fade. I also feel guilty about enjoying life when he can't. What should I do?
- Ryan*

Well-meaning friends and family might tell a grieving person they need to "move on" after a loss. Unfortunately, that type of advice can sometimes make people hesitant to talk about their loss or make them think they're grieving inappropriately or for too long, or that they're not normal. It can help to remember that the grieving process is very personal and individual — there's no right or wrong way to grieve. We all take our own time to heal.

It's important for grieving people not to drop out of life, though. If you don't like the idea of moving on, maybe the idea of "keeping on" seems like a better fit. Sometimes it helps to remind yourself to just keep on doing the best you can for now.

If you feel sad, let yourself have your feelings and try not to run away from your emotions. But also keep on doing things you normally would, such as being with friends, caring for a pet, working out, or doing your schoolwork.

Going forward and healing from grief doesn't mean forgetting about the person you lost. Getting back to enjoying your life doesn't mean you no longer miss your brother. And how long it takes until you start to feel better isn't a measure of how much you loved him. Probably your brother would want you to live your life as fully and happily as you can. Doing that can be a way to honor his memory.

Speaking of memories, some people find that creating a special memory box or folder helps them feel more confident that treasured memories will be preserved.

With time, the loving support of family and friends, and your own positive actions, you can find ways to cope with even the deepest loss.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: November 2013

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.