Can't grieve


Can't grieve


your avatar   "What to do," 18-year-old woman

Three years ago, my brother and a good friend of mine died in a plane crash and since then I have cried only three times. I cannot show my emotion to my parents because I feel I have to be the rock to carry them through. My mom has become very passive and my dad started drinking more. I have started smoking and my other brother lives in the States now. Only one of my friends talks to me about it and tries to get me to show my emotions, but it is too hard for me to express how I feel. I am always mad or upset and I take it out on my parents or close friends. I broke up with my boyfriend a little while ago and it was for no real reason at all either, other than he was mad that I could not tell him how I really felt. I want to let out my emotions, but every time I try, I feel like I am just going to get hurt so I bottle them up and push them down even further. What can I do? I feel like I am going crazy.


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear "What to do'',

It is terrible when a person is bursting with unhappiness, but can't relieve it! For three whole years, you have carried around the great boulder of your grief, and it is weighing you down, destroying everything you touch.

It seems hopeless. It seems to you that you will be in this awful state for the rest of your life. You see grief destroying your mother and father too, and you feel powerless to help.

My friend, the loss will indeed be with you for the rest of your life, but the grief needn't be. You CAN grow through it.

As a first step, track down a wonderful book by Elizabeth Harper Neeld: Seven Choices: Seven Choices: Taking steps to new life after losing someone you love.

I suspect that bottling up emotion instead of showing it is part of your family's culture. Both your mother and father have responded in a way that is similar to yours. Intellectually, 'in the head', you know that it would be good for you to cry, to let it out. But you can't, they can't, because of a lifetime of training in 'being tough'.

This way of thinking is a habit, just like eating chocolates, or chewing your fingernails. Habits are hard to give up, and habits of emotion are much stronger than habits of action because they have been with us longer. However, it IS possible to get rid of any habit if you are determined enough. While you are at my web site, find the page 'How to change a habit, any habit'.

Mainly, you have to decide how you would like to act, and then do it, even if it feels unnatural, wrong, false. Be an actress, acting the part you want to become.

Here is another suggestion, one that has worked for many of my clients. Write your brother a letter. He is dead, but within you he lives on. Write the letter to your brother as he lives on within you. Make it long, honest and passionate. Ask his help with your current ongoing problem.

He will help you. He can be your ally in moving forward in your grief, and getting on with the rest of your life.

All the best,

Bob Rich

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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