MYTH # 1:
Grief is a negative experience which must be gotten over quickly. Life must go on. Truth: Grief is a normal, appropriate reaction to loss. Grief gives the individual time to do self-evaluation and to reconcile themselves to the change in the relationship with the person who has died. The only way to get through grief is to experience and cope with it. Embracing grief and its painful emotions leads to healing. In grief and loss, emotions are neither good nor bad. They just exist.
MYTH # 2:
Grievers are best left alone to grieve. Truth: Occasional solitude can be helpful for mourners. To be alone with your thoughts now and then can be helpful. Mourners need opportunities to share their memories and receive comfort from others. Community and support systems play an important part in a healthy grief journey.
MYTH # 3:
Giving into grief and its emotions shows weakness, a lack of faith or spiritual strength. Truth: All people, whatever their religious or spiritual beliefs or practices, experience grief at the loss of a valued loved one. Spiritual and religious beliefs can be a comfort and can provide additional resources to ease mourning, but they cannot eliminate completely grief or the pain of loss.
MYTH # 4:
Grief is a predictable process and takes place in successive stages. Truth: Although common emotions and grief tasks toward healing are experienced by all mourners. grief is not a linear, predictable process. Grief is a progressive, individualized journey to healing.
The often cited grief stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance have led mourners and many caregivers to think of grief as following a set pattern or predictable steps that must be followed exactly toward healing. These stages were developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kubhler-Ross, a death education pioneer, originally as five stages experienced by dying patients. Although mourners go through similar experiences in grief, there is no one blueprint or map for the path through grief.
MYTH # 5:
Grief can finally end. Truth: Time gives people an opportunity to heal and to learn new coping skills, but the process and pain of grief can last a life time. The good news is that the intense mourning period immediately following the loss does not have to last a lifetime. Grief and the mourner change over time.
The closeness of the relationship with the person lost determines the difficulty of the grieving process. We grieve for lost loved ones in direct proportion to the love and emotional investment we have in our relationship with them.
MYTH # 6:
Individuals must grieve in appropriate ways and places. Truth: When I hear this myth I think people are actually advising mourners to grieve as quietly as possible and far away from them. Sometimes the “comforters” surrounding the mourner are uncomfortable with outward signs of grief. “Comforters” are many times pained at seeing mourners hurt and at a loss for what to do. Out of their discomfort with the mourner, they may suggest that more appropriate grief expressions and places might work out better.
Often grief and its accompanying emotions are uncontrollable and demand to be expressed. Mourners are advised to grieve in places where they feel safe and with people who make them feel comfortable and supported.
MYTH # 7:
Grief is an emotional reaction. Truth: Grief is a process involving the entire person. Therefore, grief has physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspects. Mourning meets deep needs of the person in all these areas. It is exhausting work demanding the full resources of the mourner.
MYTH # 8:
Grievers must “let go” or “detach” from their lost loved one. Truth: Mourners cannot let go of the people they love. They can learn to accept the reality of the death, its impact on their lives and the loss of their relationship with the loved one as it was. They can maintain a loving, healthy and healing relationship with the one who died.
MYTH # 9:
Only family members and close friends grieve. Truth: Everyone who feels an attachment to the deceased experiences loss.
MYTH # 10: People just grieve loss caused by deaths. Truth: All losses are grieved. In fact, we spend our a good portion of our lives mourning what psychologists call “small deaths,” losses caused by crises and life changes.
MYTH # 11:
Loss is a perfect opportunity to teach important lessons about life and death, sin and punishment, faith and eternal rewards. Truth: Loss provides us an opportunity to minister to people’s most intimate needs. A mourner can always learn throughout the grief process, but a good lesson about life and death is not what they most often need initially. In their darkest times of grief, mourners need support, encouragement, comfort and hope.
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on Amazon.com.
Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.
FOR INFORMATION ON SCHEDULING COUNSELING SERVICES WITH LARRY BARBER Click here.