Grief is not a topic any of us really like to focus on as it brings up feelings, thoughts, and memories associated with heartache and pain. Grief can be messy, ugly, and complicated. However, the one thing we all have to face is that it is a universal experience we will endure at one point or another in our lifetime. Whether it’s the death of a partner or a pet, grief is a harsh reality of life.
But in spite of this, it is not something we usually prepare for. It simply hits us and we are left to deal with the emotional aftermath, affecting both ourselves and our loved ones. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions surrounding grief too, so when it does come our way, we’re usually expecting an entirely different experience to the reality of it.
Here are 5 myths about grief which will show you what the grieving process really looks like.
Myth 1. Grief Follows a Linear Process
One of the greatest misconceptions about grief is that it occurs in a step by step process, as defined by the 5 Stages of Grief model. This model may provide us with a useful understanding of the variety of emotions that grief may induce; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, it suggests that grieving is a linear process as we move through each stage.
In reality, it is not that simple. We all grieve differently. There is certainly no need to think there is something wrong with you if you feel yourself moving three steps forward and two steps back. You may feel calm and assured that your loved one is at peace for example, and then revert to a sense of anger at the circumstances that have brought about their loss. Allow yourself to grieve your way.
Myth 2. Grieving Means Breaking Down and Crying
We are a diverse bunch of individuals, with complex personalities, experiences, and environments. Thankfully, it is our differences that make us unique and special. Some of us express emotion outwardly and others don’t.
Just because you find you are not crying because of your grief, it doesn’t mean you are not feeling the pain of loss. Never let anyone tell you that you are not grieving because they can’t see the evidence is there. Grief is personal and unique to you.
Myth 3. There Comes A Time to Move On
There is no specific end date when it comes to grief. It is not necessary to have an expectation that you must ignore feelings of sadness that linger months and years after the experience of death. You may find as time passes that the emotions that coincide with grief become less intense, but that is not to say they won’t remain in the depths of your heart. Love and connection to your loved ones may never dwindle, but you can find ways to transform the pain as a result of their absence, into a sense of peace and reflection. Commemorating your loved ones with a cremation urn is a beautiful option to promote an everlasting memory to have close by.
Myth 4. Staying Busy Heals Grief
Family and friends may suggest that keeping busy will distract you from your feelings of grief and help you to move on. Akin to the old adage that ‘time heals all wounds’, this advice, although well-intentioned can be quite harmful.
Pushing yourself to do things you are not ready for can be emotionally and physically exhausting and actually detrimental to your well being. It may serve as a distraction for a time, however ultimately is it more beneficial to move through your feelings of pain and loss. Seek the support of a professional counselor, family member or friend to help you face your grief head-on.
Myth 5. Grief Begins with Death
Grief can begin long before death occurs. In instances where you are witness to a loved one suffering from illness, you begin the process of coming to terms with their inevitable passing. Anticipatory grief begins to induce emotions of sadness, fear, denial, anger, and depression that go hand in hand with the reality of grieving.
You may begin to grieve the loss of the person’s planned future endeavors, relationships, goals, and achievements. You may begin to grieve the loss of shared time, you will never be able to recover with your loved one.
Remember that this type of grief features all the same hallmarks of regular grief and may creep up on you when you least expect it. Although you may want to remain stoic and supportive for your loved one up until their passing, it is important you take time for yourself to ensure your own well-being is comforted too.
What is grieving & bereavement according to Psychology?
Cognition Today likes to put things in a scientific context. So how does psychology align itself with the real-world experience of loss and coping with loss?
Researchers Margaret Stroebe & Henk Schut outline a dual-process theory of grief and bereavement. Building on previous theories and the behavior of people, they propose that people oscillate between 2 types of modes: Loss-oriented & restoration oriented.
According to their theory, people demonstrate 2 sets of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The first set is focused on loss – focusing on the deceased, thinking about past experiences, denial about why it happened, bargaining about what one can do to bring someone back, focusing on the lost relationship, etc. The second set is focused on restoration – distracting themselves, not dealing with the loss to avoid emotional distress, forming new relationships, doing activities because of changing social dynamics, etc.
People jump back-and-forth between these 2 sets of thoughts and behaviors. As the oscillation continues, they experience a reappraisal of circumstances. That means they go through a thought changing process which involves positive emotions and negative emotions. They also experience acceptance and avoidance. Going through both is considered a healthy way to cope with the stress of grief. Some of the negative emotions are repeatedly fixating on memories and “what if” scenarios. These grief thoughts are a part of a healthy grieving process when they are coupled with coping efforts like doing new & necessary activities, accepting changes, and taking on new social and personal goals. Their model suggests that people shouldn’t be only loss-oriented or only restoration oriented. The oscillation is as natural as it is important.
Showing and expressing your emotions about your loss is as important as showing love for the ones who are alive and affected by the loss. A part of moving on is relocating the emotions and thoughts attached to the deceased. This relocation happens with forming new bonds, holding on to objects, ceremonies, and giving additional meaning to their possessions or influence. Moving on goes hand-in-hand with adjusting to the now-changed environment which doesn’t include the dead (any life-form).
The activities people do after the death of a loved one generate their own stress making the grieving process harder. It is useful and healthier to regulate emotions and manage negative thoughts associated with these additional stressors.
Grieving is, essentially, a social and personal process with many gear-shifts and the process becomes easier to live with over time.
Nat Juchems is the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat helps those grieving the loss of a loved find the right memorial to cherish.
Before becoming the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat worked for six years in the memorials ecommerce industry as a Marketing Director and Ecommerce Director, using his skill set to manage powerful paid search and organic search campaigns as well as implement merchandising strategies and manage the software development teams that made everything work.