Grief is not a singular process that everyone experiences in the same way. This is a critical point for you to remember, and since we do not experience grief in a predictable set of stages, there is no “one size fits all” way to cope with loss.
In this blog, we debunk some of the most common myths that are associated with grief. Read on to learn more about this complex experience.
Myth #1: There are different stages that make up the grieving process
Sure, life would certainly be easier if hard situations like grief were easier, more predictable. If we were able to pinpoint the ins and outs of it: How long will it last? How will it manifest? How will we experience it? These are all questions that we have when it comes to grief and the grieving process.
Thanks to pop psychology and popular culture, you’ve probably heard about the various stages of grief. The reality is that there is no science-backed evidence that supports the concept of the stages of grief. Grief is just as unpredictable as the very loss that brought on your grief.
The reality: grief is an individual, intensely personal process
Thanks to the different lives that we all lead, the different cultures, socio-economic statuses, and relationships, each individual experience of grief is different. Every loss, every experience will be different.
For example, the loss of a parent will undoubtedly differ from the death you will experience when you lose a child or spouse. And none are easier or harder than each other, but each come with their respective feelings, thoughts and grief. Each goodbye is different and your experience through it all will be unique depending on the circumstance. You are a unique individual, and your grief is just as individual and personal.
While yes, you may notice some basic patterns that come with grief: in the form of emotions or reactions to the scenarios that you are in, there are no explicit stages that you can and must follow to get past this period or to manage the loss that you have experienced. We can go through many emotions, from feeling anger and guilt to relief, grief influences every part of you - physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and mentally. If you try to align yourself with the popular stages of grief, you may possibly create more confusion and pain as you journey through the grief process.
In short: don’t expect a predictable set of stages. Simply expect to go through your own, individual experience and make sure that you have the resources and support that you need through the process.
Myth #2: There is a timetable to grief
We’ve all heard that time heals all wounds, or other maxims of the same effect. If we just carry on and get on with our lives, it’ll go back to normal in no time! These are all things that have been sold to us throughout our lives. We may even see others who have managed to get through devastating losses as if nothing has happened, back to normal and back to work and regular life with no pause or break. Just like with the stages of grief, there is no timetable to grief.
Reality: There is no timetable to grief
Grief is a complicated creature that may take months, years, even decades to journey through. Just like there are our own individual responses to grief, there is our own individual timing, our own respective process to managing loss. You may feel grief or the loss for prolonged time, or you could easily move through it - but the reality is that there is no set time to how long you may feel or live with grief.
Myth #3: Grief Is About Letting Go
There could be situations where you may feel that if you could just “let go” or “get over it” you’ll be back to normal, as you were before you experienced the loss. Often times, we may have notions of what is “right” or what is “normal” in our society, or even in our own lives. But that normal doesn’t always act out in the ways that you think. Simply “getting over” something like a loss is not always the best way to manage loss or grief.
Reality: We Retain a Continuing Bond with Those We Love
The reality is that you may never feel the way that you did before you experienced the loss. You continue to have a connection and a bond with those that you have lost. You continue to love and you continue to experience the feelings that you had before your loved one passed. This is not a bad thing and you are not “broken” by feeling the feelings that you experience.
While humans are resilient in experiencing loss, grief can be difficult and can even be disabling for many. The form that your loss and grief takes is unique to you, and through this entire process, it’s vital that you remember that, for your own process and for those around you.
Myth #4: After a Loss, We Need Closure
You’ve probably heard that with any ending of a relationship or with loss, closure can help you zip things right up and help set you back on the path to normalcy. Many people claim that closure can help make things right again. But, just like many other things that we believe are “right,” the concept of closure is not entirely possible when it comes to loss.
Reality: There Can Never Be “Closure”
Grief is not a door that can just simply be shut after experiencing a tragedy in our lives, losing a loved one or being witness to horrific events. While those in your life may ask "haven't you reached closure yet?" It’s key for you to remember that grief cannot be forced, pushed or closed off from our minds and our healing process.
There is no magic button that helps end grief. It must be expressed and dealt with and how you process it is entirely unique to you and your own needs and experiences.
Each and every one of us experiences and reacts to emotional scenarios, such as loss, in different ways depending on the event and our relationship with the deceased. Truly, our past experiences with loss can also impact our experience, as well as our health and emotional state. Grieving for a lost loved one can take years, sometimes a lifetime.
We love, so we grieve.
When it comes to grief, there may not be a magic formula to follow, or a way to simply find closure. But through working through it at your own pace, there will come a time where you may find a great deal of acceptance, even peace of mind, and are able to move on to a different frame of mind.
This frame of mind can help you remember those you have lost in a more positive light, supported by memories. There is no playbook for dealing with tragedy or loss, but there will come a time where you will be empowered to continue with your life knowing that you did all that you could to respect the person that you lost. It’s important to remember that grief will soften in the years after a loss, but the door to memories should always be open.
Grief is a natural and universal process. Far from being negative, grieving is the way we heal. It takes time and effort. We love, and so we grieve. The grieving process, when done in a healthy way, takes courage and internal strength, and remember to be patient with yourself.