Why can't I be sad

"Many think that they must be sad when they are sad"

SZ-Magazin: You accompanied a woman in her grief, whose daughter was murdered. What do you remember in particular?
Monika Müller: On the woman's face. She looked petrified, only her cheek muscles were, if you looked closely, in motion, as if she was biting something. Petrified grief is not constructive and can lead to depression. Healthy grief, on the other hand, is in motion, it complains, is angry, weeps and shows itself. This was not the case here.

For what reason did the woman originally come to you?
She said that she came because of her husband as he was unable to cope with the situation. I quickly suspected that she was either blaming her husband or that she wasn't even aware that she needed support herself.

How was the accompaniment designed?
She had found her daughter dead at the bus stop herself. What it looked like and what feelings it triggered in her took up a lot of space. She later said that she would love to cry but couldn't. The mother developed an interesting strategy on her own: she watched maudlin films on television until they made her cry. Once she got into the river, she cried for hours.

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What was your role in bereavement counseling?
I basically see my job as allowing people to have feelings. Many think they must be sad when they grieve. Mourning is also expressed in powerlessness, anger, fear and despair. Often mourners receive advice such as "Don't go to the cemetery so often, it's not good for you", "You have to look after the grave better", "Take a vacation" or "It will get better after a year." Neighbors and colleagues also often say you should let go, implying that you should leave your grief behind. But I say that you can mourn as long as you want and need it.

What happened next?
The mother long insisted that her husband was the real reason for the therapy. He also came with me two or three times. It struck me that neither of them mourned in unison. This is typical: the two had false expectations and thought they had to accompany each other. On top of that, they had a younger daughter, whom they both pounced on with incredible care. And there was a big misunderstanding: the mother complained that her husband sought too much sexual closeness. When I asked the man, he said, shocked, that he was trying to show closeness. As grief counselors, we are sometimes also interpreters. It was important for the mother to understand that her husband is not a permanent monster, but that he tries to express security.

"People grow while they experience grief and gain a different understanding of life"

How did the mother develop?
After a year, the legal process was opened. It was a difficult time because most of the trial was open to the public. One big topic came up in our sessions: revenge. The mother wanted most of all to kill the young man. But she went through an incredible development and realized that that would not bring her daughter to life either. I was amazed because she was still young, in her late thirties. After two to three years, there is often a deepening of life in the grieving. People grow as they go through grief and gain a different understanding of life.

When is grief counseling completed?
Imagine you are accompanying a friend on a hike. You decide in advance how long you will hike and where. We think in a similar way with the mourners, where we should accompany them. If we have the feeling that the missing and the longing are not gone, but manageable, we make the offer to end the accompaniment. In this case, the support extended over two and a half years. At first we met weekly, then every 14 days and finally only once a month.

Why was this accompaniment the case of your life?
At first, the case terrified me. I thought that I could not afford this accompaniment. Because back then I had daughters of a similar age myself. But this woman had already been turned away by an unbelievable number of institutions and people, so that in the end I consented. At first I took the story home with me, slept badly and sometimes woke up in the middle of the night. During this accompaniment, however, I learned that the cause of mourning can still be so terrible that the mourning is still similar to other cases. And I realized how important it is to face challenging stories with fearlessness. It makes me very happy to be able to help other people. That gives meaning to my life.