Grief: myths that make you worse (part 1)

Grief is a complicated feeling that can’t be placed into one set pattern. We all grieve differently, and sometimes in ways that we did not imagine ourselves. Grief is a time when we may discover that we are more vulnerable than we imagined or the opposite, that there is a strength within us we did not know about.

Grief is a highly personal feeling that we experience in different ways, and it’s precisely this multi-faceted character of grief that makes it so hard to understand. We grow up observing other people’s grief or we see it represented in films and think this is the right way to cope with loss, when in fact there is a healthy and unhealthy way to grieve.

The many myths of grief make it not only more difficult to understand, but also more difficult to cope with. If we have a limited understanding of it, it will be harder to acknowledge our feelings and experience guilt, confusion and frustration instead of reaching a healthy conclusion.

The five stages of grief are linear

One of the longest standing myths of bereavement is that it follows these five stages in order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This is an old process of grief but one of the most well known.  This process provides a structure to grief, making it easier to comprehend, but it is extremely limited. It makes grieving an intellectual process as grievers try to work out what stage they are at!  When grieving is, in fact, an emotional journey not an intellectual one. People do not always go through these stages of emotions in the same order or for the same period of time. One person may feel anger at first, while another can start by feeling depressed. For some, the same stage can occur twice until reaching acceptance. Also, one stage can last for one week, while another can last for years. It also implies that you need to experience all of the stages to recovery.  Actually, this is simply not the case.  All of this is completely normal and you shouldn’t be worried if your thoughts and emotions oscillate.

Acceptance is the endpoint of grief

The second most common myth of loss is derived from the idea that loss follows a predictable pattern and implies that acceptance is the endpoint of grief. So, after coming to terms with the fact that a loved one is no longer with you, your life is back to the way it was before, and you will never experience the same feelings again. However, there is grieving after acceptance and this is totally normal.  Even if you do go back to your regular life, it’s normal to feel sad when looking back at photos or when talking about your loss. In a way, grief doesn’t go away, but it becomes more manageable.

Women grieve more than men

Because women tend to be more open about their feelings, there is a widespread misconception that men do not grieve or that they are less affected by the loss of a loved one. This is one of the most toxic myths of loss, especially among spouses, because wives may feel that their husbands don’t care, when in fact, they do. It all comes down to how much each of us is comfortable displaying their feelings. The intensity of grieving is no way determined by gender and both men and women can feel devasted by their loss. Because men feel pressured by society to appear strong and emotionless, they are often better at hiding their grief, but that doesn’t mean they grieve less.