Ep #266: Is This Normal in Grief?

The Widowed Mom Podcast Krista St-Germain | Is This Normal in Grief?

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked, “Is this normal in grief?” I would have a whole lot of nickels.

Grief is intense and complicated and completely unique to each and every person, so if you’re seeking reassurance that your experience is normal, you’re not alone… but it’s also not serving you.

Tune in this week to learn why we want to know if what we’re facing in grief is normal, how this question is unhelpful, and what you can ask instead.

Listen to the Full Episode:


It’s been long on my mind to make Mom Goes On more inclusive and accessible. That’s why I’m introducing a scholarship program aimed at encouraging diversity within our community. If you identify as a widow and feel marginalized or underrepresented, we know it can make loving life after loss more complicated. To find out more, apply for Mom Goes On, then email us here for more information on the scholarship program! 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why asking, “Is this normal in grief?” isn’t useful.
  • What we’re looking for when we ask, “Is this normal in grief?”
  • More useful questions you can ask yourself about your experience of grief.

Featured on the Show:

  • Leave me a review in Apple Podcasts.
  • Interested in small-group coaching? Join us in Mom Goes On. Click here for details and next steps.
  • Join my free Facebook group, The Widowed Mom Podcast Community.
  • Follow me on Instagram!
  • If you are a Life Coach School certified coach, I’m working on an Advanced Certification in Grief and Post-Traumatic Growth Coaching just for you. If this sounds like something you would love, email us to let us know you want in on the interest list to be notified when it launches!
  • I send out several pick-me-up emails each week including announcements and details for free live coaching sessions. Enter your email in the pop-up on my home page to sign up.
  • Watch the podcast on YouTube!
  • Email us here to share your thoughts on how we can help you if you’re in early grief!
  • Inside Out (movie)
  • Inside Out 2 (movie)
  • Your Honor (Netflix series)


Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 266, Is This Normal in Grief.

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.

Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. Okay, so on the last podcast I told you that I was hoping to watch Inside Out Two very soon and I did and I loved it. I won’t talk about it in case you haven’t seen it. I’ll probably do an episode on it later because there was so much good stuff in it and it was such a great extension from the first one. I think I still love the first one more because it just had such a powerful impact on me but I loved Inside Out Two as well. So go see it if you haven’t seen it, definitely watch Inside Out, the first one and then go check out Inside Out Two.

I also had a moment this past week. I am watching Your Honor on Netflix, which has Bryan Cranston in it. I think he actually is the executive producer of that as well. And I am somewhere in the early part of season two, but there was an episode that had me yelling at the TV where again, five stages of grief got brought up as though it is the only theory of grief that exists and I just, I don’t know when I’m ever going to get used to this. Maybe I’ll never get used to it. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I don’t know that I want to get used to hearing it but it just steeled my resolve to keep talking about other ways of thinking about grief. Anyway, shake it off, shake it off.

And then right now it will have already happened by the time this podcast airs but right now I am counting down the days to a coaching on the couch event at my house, where I have 11 Mom Goes On clients. They are either currently in the program or they have graduated from the program or maybe they’re in Mom Goes On Masters. It’s kind of a combination, but they’re all coming to my house And we’re going to coach all day long in comfy yoga pants, hopefully. And then later we’re going to go out to dinner and I’m just really looking forward to it.

And it’s partly because I’m selfish and I love it. And also, it’s because they are going to bond and those connections are going to stay with them and serve them and be amazing for them. And it’s been really fun for me to watch how other women who met through Mom Goes On continue to support one another. There’s something so amazing about being able to be with another woman who has a similar life experience and there’s so much that just goes unspoken about that. And so, I know that’s coming for them. And I’m just kind of counting down for that.

And then hopefully by the time you actually do hear this, I hope that if you listen to it on Monday when it releases, I am actually in the minivan driving to Colorado to go to my dad’s cabin. And my daughter is out there all summer working a job out there. And I will take the other kids and just me probably and we will head out there for a week. So that’s what’s happening in my neighborhood.

Okay, is this normal in grief? If I had a nickel for the amount of times I have been asked this question, I would have a lot of nickels. And so, I want to talk about why we ask this question, why it’s just not a very useful question. And I want to give you some ideas for more useful questions. I am guessing your brain has offered this question to you, is this normal in grief? It might have been something you wondered about, an experience you were having personally.

It might have been something you wondered after watching something that your kids are experiencing or someone that you care about is experiencing, but it’s a super common question to ask yourself, is this normal in grief? And it makes sense for a few reasons in my opinion. We’re all seeking reassurance. When we have the intense and sometimes startling emotions of grief, asking, is this normal is a way for us to find reassurance. We want to know that the way we are reacting or experiencing grief isn’t just us. It makes sense that we would be seeking reassurance.

It makes sense that we would look for validation because a lot of us have been taught that we’re supposed to deal with emotions alone. And we have, many of us bought into some of the most pervasive myths about grief which involve pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and handling it on our own. It can be really darn isolating. And in the case of most of the women that I work with, most of us don’t have a lot of other friends who have been through similar experiences. I definitely didn’t.

At 40 I really was one of the only widows that I knew, and definitely the only widow I knew in my close social circle. I knew of some, but I didn’t really know them well. And so, it makes sense that when we’re feeling isolated and questioning things that we would want others to validate us. We would want to be reassured and validated that we are normal. Also, I think we tend to want stability. We tend to want some sort of a map or a plan. We want, right, wrong, good, bad, black, white. We want a formula.

And so sometimes there is this normal question is coming from the desire that we have to believe that there is a way to deal with grief and that we’re doing it right. It sounds ridiculous when I think about it now, but I know back then there was a proving energy that I felt when I thought about the grief that I was going through. There was this, I’m going to do it right. I’m going to show people that I can handle this and I just need the formula. I just need the book. Where is the book that tells me how to do this? Because I can do it, if I have the book, I’ll just, I’ll know how to do it.

And I look back and I have so much grace and compassion for myself and for all of us who have thought thoughts like that and who have wanted to do it right, as though there is such a thing as wrong. But if we don’t know that, it makes sense that we would be asking, is this normal. And then I think for some of us either we have heard of prolonged grief disorder, which is what used to be called complicated grief or maybe someone we love has heard of prolonged grief disorder. And we have this fear that our grief will become complicated, will become prolonged, will become pathological, if you will.

And so sometimes we’re literally checking for signs about whether we need professional help. Are we doing grief in such a way that we’re going to be okay, or do we need some sort of additional support resource tool? Intervention is the word that’s coming to mind, but I don’t think that’s exactly the way that most of us, we’re not using that word, but that’s kind of what we’re thinking. Am I on track, am I off track? Somebody tell me, is this normal?

So, if this question is showing up in your brain, it is normal to ask is this normal. So, whether it’s about you or someone else, it’s totally normal to ask, is this normal? And I don’t think it’s a very useful question and let me tell you why. And then I’ll give you some questions that I think are more useful. I don’t think is this normal in grief is a very useful question because grief is highly variable. It is highly individual. I like to think about it like a fingerprint, just like no one else has fingerprints like you, your grief experience is going to be that unique.

You have so many different things that have happened to you up until this point of your life. You had a particular relationship with that person who died. You have individual coping styles. There’s so much variability and uniqueness in grief that the idea of normal, what even is that? Also, I think it risks dismissing, just because I may not have experienced grief in the same way that you are experiencing it, doesn’t make me right and you wrong or vice versa.

And if you begin to think that your experience is abnormal or unusual then I don’t think that serves you because you might end up dismissing what you perceive as not normal. And then if you do that, you lose the opportunity to see what’s there for you, to see what part of you needs attention, to see what you can learn from that. That kind of question, is this normal in grief can stifle your ability to be open to and explore the very unique experience that you are having. And your experience is not wrong, it’s just your experience and everyone has a different experience, so is it normal, not so useful.

Here’s what I think would be a little more useful. I’ll give you a few questions you might consider asking yourself. So, if your brain throws, is this normal at you, what if instead, you tell yourself something like, okay, if normal isn’t relevant because grief is different for everyone, if it’s impossible for me to do grief wrong, what are some ways I can support myself right now? What would be helpful to me right now? Instead of, is this normal what if you asked yourself what am I feeling right now? And what would help me have a better experience of this feeling?

Notice I didn’t say what would help me try to solve this feeling. Notice I didn’t say what would help make this feeling go away. I don’t believe that is the point of the feelings that we experience in grief, but what would help me have a better experience of this feeling? How can I support myself as this feeling flows through? And there are so many ways to do that.

I’ve been really enjoying teaching Grief Essentials, the eight week program that I put together for people who are kind of in the throes of early grief. And one of the things that we’re about to talk about is different ways of experiencing feelings, there are so many. But if we’re telling ourselves that our experience isn’t normal, we might not be open to finding what’s going to work best for us.

And then another question I want to offer for your consideration is, what do I want to learn from this part of my grief? What do I want to learn from this part of my grief? Not that you have to learn from grief, not that that is some goal and that you should always be looking for a lesson. But as opposed to, is this normal, what is here for me? What do I want to learn from this? Maybe you learn something about the types of support that work best for you. Maybe you learn something about your values.

Maybe you learn something about what you want to create going forward. I don’t know, but I believe there’s a lot of potential that can come from a curious question like that, so much more than the binary, is this normal.

So, in summation, totally fine, normal, if you will, for your brain to ask you the question, is this normal and also just not a useful question. So, so much love when your brain asks you this question and also then you get to be the one who decides what she asks herself and what she thinks about. Just because that question appears in your brain does not mean you have to give it any energy or space. You can literally pivot to the question of your choosing, what would be helpful to me right now?

Given that this is what I’m experiencing, what would be supportive next? Given that this is what’s going on for me, who do I want to be? Given that this is what’s going on for me, what am I feeling? What would help me have a better experience of that feeling? What do I want to learn from this part of my grief? Remember, I love you, you’ve got this. Take care and I’ll see you next week. Bye bye.

If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence. Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than what you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click Work With Me for details and next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.

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About your coach

I created a new life using small, manageable steps and techniques that made sense. The changes I experienced were so profound I became a Master Certified Life Coach and created a group coaching program for widows like us called Mom Goes On. It’s now my mission to show widowed moms exactly how to do what I’ve done and create a future they can look forward to.

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