Grief, particularly in the United States, is often fraught with myths and misunderstanding. When a significant loss occurs, you are likely to hear or sense that there is a “right” way to handle your grief. You may even feel obligated to rush the process or to “get over it” sooner rather than later.
When it comes to your individual grieving process, it is healthy and vital to understand that you set the pace for recovery and moving forward. There is a wealth of study and research on the topic. There are ideas about timelines and stages. Still, your history, your emotions, and the specific circumstances are unique to you.
As people grieve, it might be easy for people to get sidetracked by myths about what is or isn’t “normal.” Consider the following myths about grief that could hinder true healing and future happiness.
“It’s Been Long Enough”… & Other Myths to Stop Believing About Grief
Grief Myth #1: “It’s Been Long Enough”
There is no grief timeline. Take the time you need. Otherwise, your emotions will manifest in unhelpful and unproductive ways.
Grief Myth #2: Grief After Death is “Real” Grief
Loss after death is often very painful. But don’t feel guilty if other types of loss trigger grief as well. For instance, loss of mobility due to illness, getting fired from your job, family separation and even divorce can feel like death to your heart and mind. Experiencing a loss is experiencing the loss of life and/or the future life you anticipated.
In addition, many people don’t consider how significant change triggers similar bereavement. You needn’t feel guilty if graduation, welcoming a new baby, or even accepting a career advancement inspires grief. The resulting shift isn’t negative, but it does require leaving a way of life, relationships, or certain comforts behind. Time to grieve is often necessary to fully embrace your next life phase.
Grief Myth #2: Some of Your Grief Emotions are “Wrong”
Beliefs about grief are powerful. If your feelings don’t fit in your belief system about grief, your pain may be compounded by shame. This could lead to unhelpful anxiety and depression.
As an example, let’s say you are navigating the death of a family member who hurt you or with whom you had a complicated relationship. If you feel obligated to mourn that person in a particular way, authentic healing is difficult. Your grief process may not look like others. You may worry about how your grief looks or whether it is right. You may beat yourself up for not being able to release the pain of the relationship at the same time you release the person themselves.
Understanding, honoring, and coping with your varied emotions is beneficial and healthy. Whatever you feel deserves to be acknowledged, allowed, and accepted as valid and deserving of attention.
Grief Myth #3: Grief “Stages” are the Blueprint for Your Bereavement
You may be familiar with the five stages of grief (first devised by Doctors Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler). You may also be operating under the idea that your grief must follow these stages to be valid or resolved. These stages include:
Each stage is relatively self-explanatory. However, it is essential to recognize again, that your grief process is your own. Grief rules don’t exist, guidelines and emotional markers are merely helpful when you need them.
More importantly, do understand that while these stages are usual, you may not experience all of them. Or, you may experience them out of order. You may even experience one or more of them multiple times.
Grief Myth #4: Processed Grief Means You’re “Over” It
Grief evolves. Time passes and we can heal, the negativity and pain can lessen. Your expression of grief shifts. But the loss still happened. Improved ability to cope and grow is the goal, not to forget and bury the past.
It’s okay to honor the person, relationship, or season that passed away. The primary point is not to be over it or to pretend to be over it. You want to learn how to leave the door open for honest expression of your feelings regarding the loss whenever and however is best for you. Healthy processing will ensure your expression is beneficial as well.
Grief Myth #5: Grief is “Weak”
When most people think of grieving, they think of sadness and tears. Unfortunately, sadness and tears are too often associated with weakness. So, many people stuff their pain. Or they defer to anger or isolation. This can be counterproductive and deprive you of key support systems. Even if you initially need time alone to reach a point of acceptance after a loss, the release of negativity and difficult emotions is crucial. It is a point of strength to recognize that you need to connect with safe, compassionate care when you are in emotional pain.
Reaching Out Is A Key Way of Finding Relief
If you’re experiencing grief and need help navigating this difficult time, you don’t have to do so on your own. Grief is not a shameful or solitary journey. Loss is natural and you are worthy of support as you move through it. Please read more about grief treatment and contact me. We are here to help.