Six myths about grief
Six myths about grief
By Tamara Richardson
Grief is the most misunderstood emotion in our society. In our society, we are taught to acquire things, but we are not taught or prepared on what to do when we lose them. Many people find it difficult to cope with grief when experiencing a loss and find it difficult to find the right words or be around a griever. The truth is that we are all 100 percent grievers. According to The Grief Recovery Institute®, grief is the normal and natural reaction to significant emotional loss of any kind. The problem is that most of the information taught in our society about dealing with grief is not normal, natural, or helpful, which leads to incomplete healing. While a death of a loved one and divorce are obvious painful losses, there are over forty types of loss people may experience. Some losses include: retirement, relocation, loss of innocence due to abuse, loss of independence, major health challenges, loss of trust, loss of security, financial loss, empty nester, and many others. Grief is the conflicting emotions caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Grief is individual and unique and the range of emotions associated with grief varies depending on the person.
Grief is an emotional response. Grief is about a broken heart and we are taught to deal with grief intellectually. You cannot heal a broken heart with your head. We may have good intentions when making intellectual comments to a griever, however, these comments can leave the griever confused, frustrated, and feeling isolated.
Here are six myths about grief taught in our society, while these statements may be intellectually accurate, they are not appropriate to use when one is grieving.
1. Time Heals all Wounds: The myth of “time heals” creates the idea that people have to just wait and they will feel better in a matter of time. The truth is that people have grieved for 10, 20, 40 or more years after their loss and never felt better. Time alone does not heal a broken heart; it is what you do during the time that will lead to emotional healing.
2. Grieve Alone: We are taught to believe that it is appropriate for us to “isolate ourselves” or “grieve alone.” We often hear statements or say “Give her some space” or “He needs to be alone.” When someone experiences the death of a loved one, often times, people are present until after the funeral then the griever is left alone. Some people may prefer to grieve alone, but to automatically believe that it is the norm for everyone is a misconception.
3. Be Strong: “Be strong” or “Be strong for others”. This is a statement that may sound good, but has no real value and is very difficult for the griever. How can one be strong for others when they are hurting? But, society forces us to pretend we are strong and not in pain, especially if we are the head of the household or male. We are required to go back to our normal routine (job, school, etc) within days after experiencing a loss of a loved one.
4. Don’t Feel Bad: People often feel uncomfortable when a griever is tearful and the only statement that may come to mind is “Don’t Feel Bad or “Don’t cry, everything will be okay.” Many people are taught that it is not okay to cry from early childhood, for example, when we lost a pet or a favorite toy. Even hearing the statement as a child “If you’re going to cry go to your room.” The truth is that grief is an emotional response to loss and we will feel bad. Crying is a healthy response and is needed to move toward healing. Often times, these statements tend to be more for the person and not the griever because we are conditioned to feel uncomfortable when one is grieving.
5. Replace the Loss: How many times have we said or hear statements such as “there are plenty fish in the sea” or “just move on?” These statements are common with divorce or ending a romantic relationship. Replacing pets after pet loss is also common. Replacing the loss without emotional healing will lead to emptiness. Jumping into another relationship immediately after a divorce or romantic breakup may lead to repeating the same mistakes.
6. Keep Busy: I fell victim to this statement after my divorce and the loss of my father. I immediately began working two jobs and went back to college, not to mention while being a single parent. This lead to burnout and incomplete emotional healing. Keeping busy after experiencing a loss only keeps you distracted and buries the pain of the loss. Keeping busy will only make you feel worse not better.
Grief is an emotional response to loss and is normal and natural. Grievers need and want to talk about their loss and want loved ones present. Listening is very important when supporting a griever. Remember, you cannot heal a broken heart with your head and these myths can cause more harm than good.