Grief: myths that make you worse (part 2)

There are so many myths and misconceptions about loss and grieving that it can be difficult to trace a line between what is normal and what is not. But, psychologists say, most of the things we imagine to be uncommon are actually quite widespread and you should learn to be more forgiving of yourself. Take the time to heal, don’t let others dictate how you should cope with loss and don’t put pressure on yourself, because instead of healing, your grief will only make you worse.

There is no grief without crying

Because the loss of a loved one brings with it sadness, people expect you to cry – it’s one of the myths of bereavement that just doesn’t seem to go away. But not all people feel better if they cry. And not all of them cope with sadness by crying. It’s normal to not cry at all after a loved one passes away and it’s also normal to burst out crying a few weeks after their death.

The best support comes from the family

The saying goes that family is with you no matter what and if you lose someone, they are the best ones to turn to. In reality, your family may not always be supportive and understanding and you might feel better in someone else’s company. Remember that people will react or tell you how to grieve based on their own history of dealing with sadness, grief and distress.  For example, if your parent was born in the 1960s they could have been raised with a belief that you need to carry on and be strong, men often grow up with a belief that crying is a weakness etc.  This is why sometimes it helps to talk to someone outside of your family and to speak freely without worrying about upsetting someone. If you need to take time away from your family while grieving, don’t feel bad for doing it.

All types of grief are the same

Coping with the loss of someone who was dear to us is generally labelled as “grief”, but there are many types of grief under this umbrella term and they all appear different. For example, grieving after a miscarriage and grieving after losing a parent triggers grief and sadness but may include different triggers. It’s simply not fair to say that some losses are less important than others. For example, many people expect you to suffer less if a grandparent who “lived a good life” passes away and even less if you lose a pet. In reality, you can’t dictate the intensity of grief and you should never be ashamed or have to explain your grief to an outsider.  Each person’s grief is unique, their relationship was unique and any unfinished communication is unique.

Time heals all wounds

This is a big myth that time heals all wounds.  Sorry, but it doesn’t!  What time does do is help someone to get used to feeling the way they do.  So it appears as though time has healed wounds.  But in fact, the emotions haven’t disappeared at all they have just become hidden away, which in the long term can cause problems with mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.  Another factor here is that it’s not helpful to think that after the first year or two years you simply “get over it”. Time does not erase a loved one from your life, nor does it make your wounds go away. In some cases, people have trouble getting rid of a loved one’s belonging years after they pass away, but that doesn’t mean that they are living in the past. Acceptance means cherishing the loved one’s memory after their passing while at the same time moving forward with your life.

You shouldn’t let your children see you mourn

Another frequent myth of grief is that you shouldn’t express your feelings in front of children in order to protect them, but this attitude is wrong for three reasons. Firstly, children can sense when something isn’t right.  So if the parent appears ok and strong but the child senses something different, this can teach a child to distrust their intuition and feelings.  This can be a problem, particularly in later life when intuition/gut feelings help us to make decisions.  A child seeing a parent or caregiver cry won’t cause childhood trauma.  That’s just another myth! And thirdly, repressing grief will instil the idea that grieving is wrong and it should be bottled up, that tears are wrong and they should be bottled up. It’s important for children to learn and understand that emotions are a part of life, that expressing and talking about emotions is health.