Grief is the process that we go through when we try to make sense of something we have lost. As discussed in my last blog, there are many different types of grief and loss. There is also a wide range of emotions associated with grief, and although many people experience similar emotions, everyone’s grief is unique to them. Some people try telling you how to grieve, how long you should grieve for or what is the best way to process your loss, based on their experiences. We all need to find our own pathway through our grief so we can integrate our loss into our lives moving forward. So, we need to ignore all the cliches and advice from well-meaning friends and relatives about our grief and make sense of it in our own way.
As part of this series of blogs on Grief and Loss, here are 5 of the most common myths about grief that you should be mindful of.
Grief happens in stages
You may have heard about the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They were developed by Dr Kubler-Ross in the late 1960’s but they were actually aimed at someone facing death, rather than overcoming loss. But that hasn’t stopped people using them to pigeonhole your feelings and your grief.
While some or all of these feelings about your loss may occur while you are grieving, there is no set path or order. Your grief is deeply personal, and while some people go through a period of denial or anger, others don’t. Accept that there are no stages, it will take as long as it takes. The emotions you are feeling are valid and just part of your individual grief.
Grief and mourning are the same
Some people use these two terms to refer to the same thing. However, mourning can be seen as the public face of your grief, your outward expression of your grief, whether that is wearing black, keeping a journal or following cultural rites. The other commonly used phrase when asked by people ‘How are you today?’, with the reply “I’m fine” often accompanied with a wry smile.
Grief is the term for the emotions that you feel as you attempt to come to terms with your loss, such as numbness, disbelief, anger or deep sadness. Unlike with mourning, you have less control over the emotions that you feel when you are grieving as they reflect what that person or thing meant to you and is part of your process of integrating your loss into your life.
Grief gets easier over time
Some people think there should be a set limit to how long you should be grieving and that over time, your grief should ease. 12 months appears to be a common default number. This is not the always the case. Grief takes as long as it takes, every person’s grief is unique to them. And from time to time, usually around significant dates, but also sometimes out of the blue, strong feelings of grief and sadness can come and go, ebbing and flowing like the tide.
Crying or getting angry doesn’t help
Some people feel that holding back tears of sadness when you are grieving or preventing yourself from being consumed by anger is the best way to deal with your grief. Some clients prefer to lockdown their grief similar to a Bank safe, however the grief safe isn’t really safe at all. Just like physical trauma, emotional trauma won’t go away just because you ignore it. Ignoring your feelings may lead to you finding different ways of coping with your grief, such as alcohol or substance abuse. What you must do is allow yourself time to grieve. And accept that you need to express the emotions you are feeling, so you can better understand them. Talking to a relative, friend or a professional therapist about these emotions will help you make sense of them.
After grieving, your life will return to normal
Some people think that grief is a linear process, after which, everything will get back to ‘normal’. The truth is, there is no end point to grief and after your loss, you have to establish a new ‘normal’ that integrates your loss into your life. Accept that your life will be different after you suffer a loss, but that doesn’t need to mean worse. You will find, after exploring your grief and coming to terms with your loss, that you can move forward in life in a positive way.
If you are struggling with any issues around grief or loss and want a safe, confidential space to talk them through, I am here to offer personalised counselling in Epsom, Surrey, and online. Please do get in touch at any time.
As I always say to my valued clients, it all starts with a conversation. Who knows where it will take you.