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Dear Annie: Painless grief – am I in denial?

a woman looks out of a rainy window

Picture: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Dear Annie: I had a very close relationship with my grandmother. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I sat by her bedside every day to look after her and make her feel comfortable.

Now that she’s died, the pain and grief hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. Is this wrong? Or am I in denial? – CH

Annie says: What a gift you were for your grandmother… to accompany her on the final part of her journey of life. I imagine it must have been very hard at times, to witness someone so important to you dying. And yet I wonder if it is also partly this experience that has meant the pain of your grief isn’t as acute as you thought it would be.

You see, in being with your grandmother in her final days and weeks, you made a choice to be confronted with the reality of her death and therefore your loss.

Which means you will have been grieving for some time before she died… processing the difficult tension of everything you love about her and your memories together – along with the pain of everything you will miss. This is what it means to attend to a loss consciously.

Having said all of this, it doesn’t mean that you’ll never feel in pain about her death. Grief tends to come in waves – and it may be that because of the nature of your experience of loss, being in such close contact with it, there needs to be some time before you experience a wave.

Either way, it’s important you know that whatever you experience isn’t wrong – and if is a bit of denial, that’s also OK. Denial is an important part of the process.

If you’ve lost someone close to you, or been affected by a bereavement, psychotherapist Annie Broadbent is here to help. If you have a question for her to answer in this column, write to her at

About Annie

Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.

She is the author of bestselling book Speaking of Death (What the Bereaved Really Need), inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.

Regretfully, Annie cannot enter into personal correspondence

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