Gaslighting the Grieving Part 1

G. Scott Graham
5 min readDec 18, 2022

”It’s your journey — everyone is different.”

Photo by Amaury Gutierrez on Unsplash

It was inevitable that in writing the book, “Come As You Are: Meditation & Grief,” and the subsequent articles on grief and loss over the past couple of years, I would piss off my friends.

After all, I am writing about grief and loss, and I am using my own experiences to demonstrate the notions that are so messed up in the world that we live in today.

That is what my writing is about — how the way we approach grief in society is totally fucked up.

My writing is meant to create a connection point with other people who are grieving — for them to say — I feel that too — for them to say I thought that too. For them to feel not alone.

It is important for me to validate the experiences of others since I believe that our society does not do so. We are encouraged to “get over it” and “move on with our lives.” The ignorant often hurl platitudes in our direction. We are told there is some magical process we must move through to find some light at the end of the tunnel.

It is all bullshit.

My strategy for shining light on these and other fucked up messages the world tells us about grief is to use my life as an example.

This includes interactions with people in my life whose behaviors or comments illustrate society’s fucked up perspective on grief and loss.

Because of this, a significant number of the people in my inner circle will unavoidably be mentioned in my writings about grief.

The previous week, a friend of mine who had read about herself in a couple of my posts attempted to convince me that I was somehow being intolerant of others by expecting them to not be clueless about grief and communicate about grief in specific ways.

She told me that everyone grieves differently, and it’s my journey, and everybody’s journey is different.


Her attempts to gaslight my message and invalidate the truth about grief so she can somehow feel better about her grief alexithymia. It is her attempt to take no responsibility so she can feel better about herself.

Let me be clear — while there is some content in my book and subsequent articles about grief that is about my “journey,” it is a very small part of my writing. Much of my writing is a critique of society’s fucked up approach to grief and loss, and my “journey” simply provides a context for telling a story that exposes those myths.

It is not “my journey.” It is the truth.

It is interesting to note that the same person who is ready to discard the notions and concepts that I am challenging is also a person with very specific criteria for communication. She is a member of the speech police. You better not say “girl” when talking about any female of any age. And you better be clear on gender language using inclusive “theys.”

Her criteria for effective communication are very specific, and she has little tolerance for those who fail to adhere to them. At the same time, she is absolutely resistant when it comes to confronting the realities of the grieving process.

If you are experiencing loss, it is almost certain that you have people in your life like this. People who are unwilling to accept responsibility for their own lack of understanding and empathy in the world around them. Their response when you point out the truth of grieving is to gaslight you instead of changing their behavior.

Do not give such individuals the satisfaction of seeing their efforts to minimize the reality of loss succeed. Don’t let people like this push you and your grief into the closet. Don’t give them the satisfaction of trying to downplay how little they understand.

That is where I was. It wasn’t until the death of my husband of 31 years that I truly understood it. As a therapist, I preached the myth about the stages of grief. As a friend, I sent flowers and platitudes as a response to a person who had a loss. As a support, it never ever occurred to me that grief continues on and on.

I am now aware of the truth. And I will continue to speak it, write about it and expect those around me to respect the truth.

A few weeks ago, Serena, who recently lost her spouse of 38 years, called me on the phone.

Serena started our conversation by saying, “I’m really sorry.”

I responded, “For what?!”

She said, “I didn’t know — I thought I knew — but I didn’t.”

Like Serena, I owe many apologies to grieving people who I, just like my friend, gaslighted, minimized, and outright ignored.

At some point in the future, people will know that grief is not a problem to be fixed or healed, people will know that grief is not something to be used to make you strong or some gateway to spiritual enlightenment, people will know that grief doesn’t have a timeframe. At some point in the future, people will stop with the platitudes and show true empathy, stop saying I’m sorry for your loss but ask, “how’s your grief” and not just extend support during the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries but show true awareness of a simultaneously complex and simple emotion that most everyone will experience in their life.

Until that time comes, I will continue to point out the lack of awareness, lack of empathy, and self-centeredness of those around me, of the professions who propose to “treat” grief, and the society that continues to perpetuate the myths about grief.

That is my journey.

These articles, as well as my book, “Come As You Are: Meditation & Grief,” expose the truth about grief. I am blunt. I don’t sugar-coat what I have discovered about grief and how we deal (and don’t deal) with it. Grief is too important of a topic for me to beat around the bush.

I want you to know that until Brian died and I directly experienced powerful personal grief and loss on a level that completely rocked my world, I had my head up my ass just like some of you reading this article probably do. And I was a therapist. I hurt a lot of people because I didn’t have enough self-awareness and I didn’t have enough empathy. I thoughtlessly bought into the lie that we are told about grieving.

When I wrote the book “Come As You Are: Meditation & Grief,” I thought that my understanding was complete. I was wrong. That is why I continue to share my insights in these articles. Thank you for reading this, and I invite you to learn more about what grief truly is. You can read other posts right here on Medium, and you can get my book in digital, audio, and print versions.



G. Scott Graham

G. Scott Graham is an author, a career coach, a business coach, and a psychedelic support coach in Boston, Massachusetts. http://BostonBusiness.Coach