Myths about Grief

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Myths About Grief

After years of studying grief and loss, I still find it amazing how many myths there are about grief floating out there in the general populous.. I am not sure who is spreading these rumors, but here are some of these myths dispelled. I am quite sure this list could go on for pages, but I am hoping to highlight the ones that tend to surprise people the most. If you find them informative it may be helpful to follow this link, print off a handout to share with family and friends.

Myths:

  • If you don’t talk about your feelings they will go away!
    • Truth: Whether people say this out loud or not, many people cling to this hope. This is probably one of the biggest myths out there and not just about grief. The myth that feelings will go away, stuffing them down deep is the best place for them, go right back to normal routine it helps you forget, the list goes on and on. The reality is: feelings need to be experienced, learned from and resolved. There is a study that estimates that 80% of all people in the emergency at any time are there because of repressed feelings of grief. How many people each year: commit suicide because of unresolved grief? Have a heart attack because of repressed feelings? Suffer from anxiety or depression because of unresolved grief? Feelings that are stuffed are eating away at your power to be healed and your ability to feel happiness. Just like how bacteria grows best in dark, warm, moist, places. Mental illness grows best when stuffed deep down, not talked about and not acknowledged.
  • Sadness is the most common feeling that people experience during grief.
    • Truth: Studies actually show that although sadness is the feeling that most people who have NEVER experienced grief associate with a grieving person. The feeling that people in grief identify as feeling the most is actually: Anger!
  • Having a baby with an Unexpected Outcome shouldn’t involve grief.
    • Truth: It is not for us to decide what experience could or should cause someone grief. Grief is oftentimes associated with the loss of a dream or the loss of a function. Both of which things a parent may deal with when coping with a child experiencing medical, physical or cognitive challenges.
  • Everyone experiences grief in the same way.
    • Truth: Actually there are countless studies showing the exact opposite. Children experience grief very differently than adults, men often experience grief differently from women, and the list goes on. Everyone copes with their grief in different ways. Everyone externally shows their grief in different ways and everyone works through their grief in unique and individual ways. Your coping skills are based upon the same things that make you an individual: your values, your life experiences, your faith, your family, your personality, your gender, your age and your cultural background.
  • Grief can be avoided.
    • Truth: If your goal is strong mental health, resiliency and usable coping skills, grief is not something that you should avoid. Grief, when it comes knocking at our doors needs to be experienced, overcome and successfully navigated through to resolution.
  • Grief has a prescribed path
    • Truth: There are several wonderful clinical researchers in the grief arena, one of the oldest and most well-known was Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She sited 5 stages of grief, which sometimes gets misquoted as if you systematically progress through them like a predictable course of recovery. Actually in her writings she specifically notes that these stages can happen in any order and can be moved through at any rate of time. The stages she sites are: shock, anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
  • ‘Caring people’ should know the ‘right things’ to say.
    • Truth: It truly isn’t a matter of whether someone is caring or not to determine if they can say something that you find that resonates and comforts you. There are so many factors that affects: the words, the meaning interpreted, the feelings elicited and the meaning received. Depending upon how you feel as a grieving person, where your mind and heart is at when you hear the comment and how you interpret the information once it is received. But to put it simply: lead with grace. Understand that it is very intimidating for a person to approach someone in acute grief and oftentimes people simply don’t know what to say…or more aptly, there really isn’t any right thing you could say sometimes.
  • Support Groups always help.
    • Truth: Support groups are as individual as the people who attend them. So if you go to one group and find that after a few times attending you don’t feel a sense of ‘fit’ find a group that better suits your values and wants. Sometimes it takes several times before you begin to really know the others in the group and feel a connection. Remember that in the depths of grief you oftentimes have trouble connecting with anyone at first even friends and family, so give it time. Some people find that the simple shared experiences in a support group is very comforting and life affirming.
  • Seeking out people who have experienced similar loss is always nurturing.
    • Truth: Actually the exact opposite can be true. Two people who are newly, deeply into grief are both struggling and unsure. Putting two people who both need support and comfort may not be a great fit. Grief is a very hard time in your life to navigate and there can be people who really struggle during that period of time, so many times two people experiencing the same loss may not share the same healing path.
  • Putting aside your memories is the only way to heal.
    • Truth: Here is another one where the opposite is closer to the truth. It is important for you to determine what works best for you as an individual. However in most cases finding a healthy way to incorporate your memories into your life and honor them is usually the smoother path to healing.
  • If you don’t talk about it, it won’t hurt.
    • Truth: Here is another case that the opposite is far closer to the truth. One study actually states that you must share your story with at least 21 new people for healing to begin. I am not sure that I believe there is an exact science to how many people or who you should talk to. I do know, however that talking, about your feelings, your story, your fears, your doubts, and your experiences is probably universally agreed to be THE main way to heal your grief. This is one of those cases where: although talking may hurt more in the short term it is the one main thing that may work you towards far less pain in the long run. By all means talk, share, and then when you begin to heal..Listen to others and return the gift.