There are expectations of how a woman should grieve appropriately and amicably. Those expectations are garbage.
A few things I was told when different family members had died, ranging from when I was a little kid to 19 years old:
“Your aunt just died, why aren’t you crying? Don’t you care?”
“Stop making a scene. This isn’t about you.”
“You’re embarrassing me.”
“You should stop bringing it up if you want to get over it.”
“Sorry I don’t have a dead dad! What do you want me to do?”
This is common language that the grieving girl will hear. Less about love and support, more about how to make this whole thing easier on everyone, even though you’re suddenly the teenage girl without a dad. Your grief doesn’t really matter. Keeping things safe and easy is what matters. A performance matters.
Grief, in the eyes of the ungrieving or those superior grievers, has a lot more to do with them than it does with you. It must be copacetic and not messy. Especially when it comes to women. We are the sensitive monsters that get the rolled eyes and you’re just overreacting and just calm down. This is experienced tenfold if you are a neurodivergent woman or a woman with a mental illness. On an average day your emotions and reactions are taken with a grain of salt from those around you. In a place of grief, that invalidation is a lot harsher.
Whether death has followed us our entire lives, or we are experiencing the ugliness of loss for the first time, there are societal guidelines for who we must be. We must be put together. Visibly sad, but not weepy. That would make things awkward for everybody. But you can’t have obvious moments of happiness either, you will look fake. How can she be laughing? Her best friend just died. You must be clean and put together, even on the days where you physically can’t stop staring at the wall while you’re laying in bed. You can ask for help, but be prepared to be patronized, told you’re doing everything wrong, given the same vapid advice over and over (Time heals everything! At least you had the time you had with them, don’t be selfish!), and receive at least one obligatory “You could have gotten serious issues from this and become a stripper, you know. You’re doing something right.”
An illusory stone wall has taken place where your desire for help once was. Congratulations! You have successfully leveled up to “strong grieving woman”. Not-grieving people don’t have to feel weird about being around you and having you blow up and start crying or some shit. She’s finally over the whole thing! She’s safe and not ugly to be around. Life is normal again.
But the walls are made of Titans, and eventually what protected you can become what kills you.
This is the experience of the woman. The man can grieve however the hell he wants, and get a masculinity pass for his vulnerability and tears. But the woman cannot get a pass. We can be sad, but not too sad. Fucked up, but not too fucked up. Easy to be around, but not too easy. We can ask for help, but we have to take whatever worthless advice we’re given. And so, this censorship of your grief drives your very human self to self destruct. There’s simply nothing else to do. You bury all your unwanted emotions in the people you’re having sex with. You start smoking. Maybe you start drinking a lot or doing a lot of drugs. Maybe you run away and move to the desert. Maybe you lose your kindness and become an aggressive crazy girl. Either way, we want our grieving body to stop feeling so much damn pain. So we hurt it, or numb it. You are suddenly the girl with daddy issues. Whether your dad caused your issues or not. You have been told that you can’t be too ridiculous because of this death, so you express your pain in unhealthy ways.
How does one escape this cycle?
Self Destruct, But Come Out Alive
This is probably a majorly unpopular opinion, but I don’t believe the grieving woman can avoid the self destruction. She might do it in a palatable way — the housewife that drinks a small bottle of wine every night, the girl who picks at her skin every day. She might be outlandish — the deeply troubled alcoholic, the cutter, the girl who wants her body to be used, if only to have the painful thing taken away from her sometimes.
I love women and I don’t want women to do this. But when you do, trust your instincts when it is time to stop. Too much time spent in the hole and suddenly all you know is the hole. This can easily become your whole life. A couple weeks to a couple years of it is necessary, really. But a lifetime of self harm is a wasted life. Your life matters. You don’t have to settle for it.
I know I said that all the shit about time healing all is terrible advice. Well, it is. If a grieving person needs help now, in this moment, the last thing they want to hear is how in an imperceptible future they might not want to break their chest cavity open and rip out their heart. What a nice sentiment, guy! Time may not heal you, either. Time might hurt you, really, as I stated in the first point. But time will make the triggers get a little better, even if just a little bit.
The way you’ve been treated is unacceptable. Even if other people were grieving too. Your feelings, your sadness, and your loss matters. If you can’t get anything but the same invalidating cycle from them, find other people. Find people as beaten up as you are. Compare stories. Break the cycle of performance and blame and be grieving people together, even if it is just a one-time thing. Knowing more people with this darkness can do a lot for your loneliness; just knowing that they exist can really validate your humanity. You’re not a girl with daddy issues. You’re a human being with human emotions living in a sexist system.