4 Myths About Grief and Loss
Grieving is often defined by time. Employers may offer time off for awhile, many people will talk about grieving for a year, or even less. The truth is that the loss of a loved one or any other significant loss may result in grieving for a long time. In fact, most people experience grief in waves. There are reminders, anniversaries, etc. for years to come that will bring on a wave of grief. This is normal. Grieving does not look the same for any two individuals. It is important to allow yourself the time and space to grieve as you need to.
Myth #2 Grief is appropriate only when someone has passed away.
Grieving a loss of a loved one is very real and very significant. However, there are many other losses as well that send people into grieving. It can be the loss of health or finding out you have a serious illness. It can be the loss of a dream, such as having a baby or building a business. Grief also comes with the loss of a relationship. This may be a divorce, or it may be an estrangement of friends or family members. It is also common to grieve after a traumatic event. Grieving the loss of safety, or the loss of personal property is very common. It is healthy to grieve any kinds of losses that you have experienced.
Myth #3 If I just stay strong, I will get through the grief without a problem.
Some people cope with grief by ignoring it as much as possible, or just by continuing on with daily life in order to avoid the emotional pain. A common misconception is that avoiding emotional pain is a sign of strength. In fact, the opposite is true. Individuals who allow themselves to experience the feelings associated with a loss are more likely to feel better in the future. Those who avoid the emotional pain often end up carrying that pain for many, many years. This can sometimes evolve into complicated grief, which requires professional help. Allowing yourself to grieve as the emotions come is the healthiest path to get through the difficult time. And, of course, utilizing the support of friends and family can help make the pain more manageable.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross created a great model called, ‘The Stages of Grief’. These stages include, Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and Acceptance. Although this model is helpful to identify many of the different emotions and parts of grieving, many people have taken this to be a prescriptive path. It is nothing of the sort. People experience these stages at different times and in different orders. It is not meant to be a blueprint, it is simply meant to describe the different elements of grief. So, if you find yourself stuck in one stage of grief or going back to denial, that is all normal. The important thing to remember is that these are all common feelings to have while grieving a loss.
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Rachel Harrison, LPC, NCC is in private practice in Durango, CO