Chapter 3: Recognizing unrecognized grief

How others may respond

I've been there
Dianne recalls how friends avoided talking about her husband who had died. (3:22)Video transcript

I don't feel like I really ever had a childhood because I always had to take care of my mom in a crisis. No one recognized the impact that it had on me. Even now, my mother will say, “Do you know how hard it is to see you like this?” It’s still all about her.

When my sister hears things I say, there’s a disconnect. So I don’t tell her a lot or confide in a deep way because she just doesn’t get it.

How others react and respond to you sharing about your grief can sometimes make you feel that they don’t understand or recognize what you are experiencing. When people don’t recognize your grief, their responses may be insensitive and can make you feel unsupported. This can make it feel harder for your grief.

People who don’t acknowledge your grief may question or minimize your feelings, or they may exclude you from information sharing or gathering. This can be unintentional at time, as people may not be aware or recognized how much the loss meant to you or the impacts it has had.

Below are some examples of how people might respond when they are not aware of or aren’t acknowledging or recognizing the grief you are experiencing.

Click on each statement below to see examples of what they might say.

They may say something like:


“We didn’t think you would be interested in coming; it’s not really your thing.”


“You left this family years ago. Why do you think you have the right to come back now?”


“He doesn’t want you there.”

What may help

  • Remind yourself that you’re entitled to your feelings, whatever they are.
  • Give yourself time to reflect honestly on the past and what you may or may not want to carry forward with you.
  • If family members are excluding you from events, you may be able to create a private or shared ceremony or observance that meets some of your needs.

​​ Helpful resources