Look on the bright side! Count your blessings! I’m sure everything happens for a reason. These are some of the things we hear from well-meaning folk with regards to grieving.
Grief happens to everyone at one point or another, and yet, it’s not something that we like to talk about or look at directly.
Grief makes us uncomfortable. It makes us deal with difficult, confusing emotions. Feelings related to grief can cling like a wet blanket and like a wet bathing suit, get all rolled up and become uncomfortable and “stuck” to us.
The following items are commonly held myths about grief.
Myth: There are Defined Stages of the Grief Process
Hospice researcher, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, developed the stages of grief model. These five stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
However, this model was developed for patients in hospice experiencing anticipatory grief. Patients with terminal illness feel these various feelings as they experience the terminal disease process.
However, these stages do not work in neat order. They also do not neatly apply to someone going through bereavement, a person who is the survivor of someone who has died.
Myth: There is Such as Thing as “Normal” Grief
The grief process is unique and individual. Ironically, dealing with the death of someone important to you is something that everyone will experience at some point.
The grief process you may experience at 20 may be completely different from experiencing the loss of someone at age 60.
On the other hand, a current loss may unearth grief from a previous loss.
There is no “right way” to go about your grief journey. There are no set stages and no recommended timeline.
Grief is, however, a normal part of life.
Myth: Everybody Needs to Move Past Grief
For some instances for some people, grief is something intensely felt at the time of loss. They may cry at the funeral, and feel down for a couple of weeks. Afterward, they may immerse themselves in the activities of daily life and be okay.
For others, the loss of an important loved one, relationship, or even life role, may permanently alter their life. For these cases, the bereaved may continue to tend their relationship with their deceased internally. These people may find that keeping the deceased’s memory alive is a nurturing way for the bereaved to honor them and feel loved in return.
Art therapy is a great way to create memorializing projects. It helps you create objects that represent your feelings and symbolize your ongoing story and relationships.
Like photos and momentos, art therapy can make a place to hold you and your grief.
Myth: There is a point where you have been grieving for too long
As I mentioned before, there is no right or wrong way to go about a grief journey. There is no “appropriate” length of time for grieving.
Grief can be a process where we redefine ourselves, our lives, and our values.
Like the journey of a lifetime, a grief journey is a unique story. The appropriate length of time is the number of pages it takes to tell the story.
You get the picture.
Myth: Grief is “feeling sad”
Grief can include feelings of sadness, numbness, joy, nostalgia, anger, confusion, regret…the possible shades of emotion are endless. You can feel many things all at once or fluctuate between different feelings.
Like the weather, grief is dynamic and changes over time.
Myth: You shouldn’t have to feel sad or miss someone who you had a tumultuous relationship with
Processing grief in therapy may be even more important for situations where the individual had a complicated relationship with the deceased. There may be a difficult history, estrangement, unfinished business, trauma, or regret that makes grief even more difficult to navigate. However, this is an opportunity! Complicated or traumatic grief gives the griever a chance to heal old wounds, and learn.
Myth: Clinical depression and grief have different symptoms
Going through a grief process can look, act, and feel just like depression. Grief and depression can happen at the same time. Feeling tired, apathetic, sad, crying, sleeping, and so many symptoms of grief may look and feel like depression. Worried? It’s time to reach out to a skilled grief therapist to help you.
Grief is often understood and society upholds many myths about grief. Death, grief, and change can make us uncomfortable. The grief process doesn’t have proscribed steps, time lengths, or specific emotions; the process is unique to each griever. Grief is a natural process that also can be an opportunity for reevaluation and deepening of values. It can open doors for healing and understanding.
I have a special place in my heart for the grief process. I am always deeply touched when I have the opportunity to witness and share that journey with my clients in grief therapy. For example, here’s a video I made while I was processing my response to a client’s grief.