Have you ever noticed a person who doesn’t seem to be acting appropriately after a life-changing event? People sometimes act out of character after being dealt a devastating blow. Many were incredulous when a father who had lost his child during the Sandy Hook shooting was laughing as he approached the podium for a news conference, only to turn serious and mournful in appearance when he started speaking. The conspiracy theorists claimed it was proof he was an actor and the whole event was faked. The truth is that his behavior is indeed bizarre, but also not abnormal for the situation. We have no idea all of the emotions that man was experiencing at the moment. His life was turned upside down by a death that was senseless.
I am reminded of episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in which one of their coworkers at the TV station, Chuckles the Clown, passed away in a bizarre accident. At the funeral something made Mary laugh and she couldn’t hold it back. The more she tried, the more she laughed. Although some were mortified, it may have been a fitting response for a man whose career was to make people laugh. This was a good portrayal of grief that may seem unusual, even unseemly, but is not inappropriate. There is nothing normal about the death of someone you love, losing your job, losing your home, or any catastrophic event. These are disruptions to the framework of your life that you use everyday to define normal. For that reason it is quite common for a person to act in ways that others might determine to be improper for the environment. Those concerned should allow the grieving person to express it in whatever way they want, within reason. People who are hurting truly don’t know how to act and may go through a variety of emotions, some of which may seem strange.
It is okay to express your grief through tears, anger, laughter or even solitude. Of course their are inappropriate ways to grieve including self-medication and risky behavior. These will not heal, but take you away from peace and normalcy you seek. Some people will not understand your expressions of grief. Some will criticize you. It is good to have people in your life who will watch over you but just let you express yourself, unless you are endangering yourself or others. They can be family members who are more removed from the severity of the loss, or friends, or support groups. Feel free to contact me with concerns about your own grief or that of someone you know at firstname.lastname@example.org.