Generational Differences in Grief
Visit just about any news site on the internet today, and you will find plenty of articles about how the Baby Boomer generation and the Millennial generation differ. From the way they spend their money, to the age at which they are starting families, Millennials seem determined to do everything differently.
This includes their outlook on death, dying, funerals, and the process of grief. Some of these differences are the natural result of age (older generations have more experience losing loved ones and will therefore approach death differently), while other differences have more to do with the culture of the generation itself. For example, you will probably never see a sixty-something-year-old taking a selfie with a deceased loved one in an open casket, but this is a growing trend among teens and twenty-somethings. Likewise, Baby Boomers are much more likely to turn to religion and all of its rituals to help them in times of grief, while Millennials tend to avoid these more formal traditions.
When a death occurs in the family, these differences can sometimes cause friction. After all, you might be expecting your younger relatives to act and appear as somber as you feel. Although they might not be going through the exact same grief steps as you, their pain is real too, and should be handled with the same care.
Grieving Millennials are more likely than grieving Baby Boomers to:
- Wear bright colors or avoid traditional black clothes at a funeral
- Send eco-friendly or reusable gifts rather than funeral flowers
- Turn to their community of friends for comfort rather than church or family
- Focus on self-care, including yoga or meditation
- Rely on technology (apps, photos, websites, etc.) to distract from grief
- Shun traditional funeral traditions for more personalized, unique commemorations
- Avoid going into debt to pay for a more elaborate funeral for their loved one
Of course, this does not mean that there are no similarities in grief, especially in the weeks, months, and years going forward. Millennials and Baby Boomers both tend to seek help from support groups and online forums. They also have a profound need to discuss their loved ones with people who aren’t afraid to say their names or just listen when times are tough. Members of both generations can use a helping hand during holidays, anniversaries, and other milestones.
Most important, both Millennials and Baby Boomers need people in their lives who will be there for the good days and the bad days, and who will watch for warning signs that they may be struggling more than they are letting on. That is why it’s important to reach out to those who are grieving, even if it’s only to send a quick text (the preferred style for Millennials) or make a quick phone call (for Baby Boomers).