By: Rachel Goldsmith, AMFT, MS
When someone we love – a partner, friend, coworker, or family member – dies, the aftermath can be one of the most challenging experiences of our life. Indeed, when someone you care about it taken away, it can bring about a difficult grieving process that, although natural, can feel hopeless, scary, lonely, and painful.
Whether sudden or a long dying process, the death of a loved one can feel like one of the most overwhelming experiences we go through. Adding to the undeniably difficult emotional response we have to someone we love being gone, we do not live in a culture that provides a healthy, adaptive guidebook for what it means to grieve and mourn.
So, many of us feel as though we are not grieving correctly or that we should be doing it differently. This shrouds an already difficult process in feelings of doubt and shame that only exacerbate the pain we are already feeling and also perpetuates myths about the grieving process that many of us unwittingly cling to.
Here are seven myths about the grief that you can begin to reshape today. Everybody grieves differently and has different needs in the aftermath of a death of a loved one. Embracing your unique needs – and those of others – can help ease a difficult process and bring you more comfort.
- Time will heal all wounds. Believe it or not, time is not a very good indicator of how much or little pain you will feel about your loss. The painful emotions associated with the loss will likely wax and wane with time, and although the feelings are often more manageable as time passes, you may always have pangs of difficult feelings related to the loss. Focus on whether or not you are more able to tolerate the pain or sadness of the death as time progresses.
- You will “get over it.” The end result of mourning is not that you will “get over” the loss. Reframe this to understand that the goal is not to forget about it or not feel anything about it, but rather to integrate this experience into your life and life story in a way that makes sense and is meaningful to you. You will learn to live with the loss and with the painful feelings associated with it.
- Or, you “should be over it already.” Many people feel guilty or ashamed that they are still grappling with sadness and grief after a major loss. Try to let go of the feeling that you should be done grieving already. We all have a different process of grieving, and the goal is to honor your feelings and work to make sense of the situation the best you can.
- When you grieve, you are only grieving for the lost person. After a loss, you are not just mourning for the person who is gone, but you are also often mourning the loss of a future you wish you (and this person) could have and the loss of your assumptions about how the world works. Acknowledging the many kinds of loss you experience with the death of a loved one can help you fully integrate the death in a more meaningful way.
- You should just “be strong” in the face of a loss. It is natural and good to need help, cry, or need some time off of work to process the pain of the loss. Although it may feel like you need to put on a brave face and protect others around you from how you are feeling, being authentic may actually help you along in the grieving process and encourage others around you to mourn as well.
- If you do not acknowledge the pain, that means it isn’t there. Ignoring your feelings or the loneliness, fear, or anxiety you are experiencing in the face of a loss does not mean that these feelings are not there. One of the best ways to move forward in your life after a loss is to turn toward your feelings and get support as you process them.
- You will “get back to normal” eventually. Just as you will not necessarily “get over” the loss, when you are mourning, the goal should not really be to get back to your “normal” self. You need to acknowledge that the loss has changed you on a fundamental level and that you need to define a new normal for yourself. Although this seems like a tall order, people actually experience it as freeing.
If you are finding your grief difficult to cope with, talking to someone about it can really help. Contact us today to schedule a session with one of our grief experts.