Rationalizing Away Grief

Posted on March 16, 2021 by under Grief and Healing
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The word “loss” indicates that something is missing. We experience loss to varying degrees throughout our lives – from losing a sock, to the loss of a job; losing an ability or the immense loss of someone we love.

There are lots of coping strategies and approaches to loss, but one that is all too common is rationalization or justification. We tell ourselves it is okay, or someone else tells us it should be okay for one reason or another.

After the loss of a job, “Well I didn’t like that job anyway. My boss never appreciated me. It’s their loss really.”

Post break-up or divorce, “There are plenty of fish in the sea. We were never right for each other.”

When we lose a big game, “There’s always next year.”

After losing your hair to chemo, “It will grow back, and hey, less time blow drying!”

We get so used to explaining away our pain that it becomes almost taboo to hurt after a loss. In every one of these examples, some level of grief exists that no amount of rationalization can relieve.

As a funeral director, I often sit across from people who are crying and their immediate response to their own tears is, “I’m sorry, I was doing alright until now.” For goodness’ sake, they just lost someone they love, why should it be unacceptable to cry?

“Absolutely not,” is my immediate reply. “If there is one place it is okay to cry, it is here, sitting with me and an unlimited supply of tissues.”

Rationalization often follows these apologetic tears. People try to explain away their pain and grief. If only they can convince themselves that they shouldn’t be hurting, maybe they won’t. Here are a few examples of how I have heard people try to talk themselves out of grieving.

“She was 93. She had a good life and I had so much time with her, so it’s okay that she’s gone.”

“He was sick for years so I had plenty of time to prepare. I’m okay because he is out of pain now.”

“I shouldn’t be crying. She was ready to die and her faith was strong.”

“It was an early miscarriage and I have 2 healthy children to be thankful for so it’s okay.”

Are you kidding me?! At 93, you’ve had that much more time to be attached. Going through illness doesn’t mean death is all of the sudden easier. She may have been ready, but we can still miss her. And a miscarriage is often so overlooked by those around us despite the immense emotional distress it brings.

The thing is, loss is hard. It should be hard. Losing someone we love, no matter how old, how difficult the relationship, how ready they were, leaves a hole in our life as we know it. Next time you or someone you know loses something or someone, resist the urge to respond with logic, to explain away the hurt. Acknowledge the loss. Hug. Cry together. It will get better, but for now, it is okay to let it hurt.

To read about this topic more, take a look at the book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK

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