5 myths about grief
Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away, most experienced following the death of a loved one. Grief is an experience nearly everyone has or will go through in their lifetime. Despite being widespread, grief is often misunderstood. Learning more about the myths about grief and focusing on the facts may help you or someone you know during their grief.
Here are five myths and misconceptions about grief.
Myth 1: Grief has an endpoint
There is no timetable for how long grief lasts, or how you should feel after a particular time. Although for most people grief may lessen over time, their feelings of grief may feel intensified on certain occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays or in certain places, or around certain people.
Grief does not end, but instead changes over time as we learn to accept life without our loved one. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold. Healing will happen gradually, it can’t be forced or hurried.
Myth 2: Everyone grieves in linear stages
Some people say that when you are grieving, you move through different stages. A number of clinicians and psychiatrists have come up with different grief models which aim to explain the grieving process and stages. The most well-known model for understanding grief is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Kübler-Ross originally developed this model to explain the process terminally ill people go through after diagnosis, before it was applied to grieving as well.
In reality, grief is not as linear as this example and other models suggest. Whilst people may experience these stages, not all stages will occur for everyone and for those that do experience all stages they may not go through them in the prescribed order. Grief can be unpredictable. You might feel like your emotions switch back and forth between being upset and feeling more positive.
Myth 3: Women grieve more than men
Women and men may process and express grief differently, but that doesn’t mean one gender grieves more than the other.
In general, women are viewed as more demonstrative of emotion in all aspects of life, including bereavement and grief. It is often a lack of tears that gives people the misconception that men are not grieving or are less emotional than women.
In many cultures particularly in previous generations, men especially were expected not to cry, but to be strong for their family. Even though these expectations have gradually changed, many men will still struggle to show sadness through crying and will instead express their grief in a different way. Many men will feel more comfortable grieving in private.
Myth 4: If you don't cry, it means you aren't sorry about the loss
Crying is highly misunderstood when it comes to grieving. Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those people who don’t cry may feel grief just as deeply as others, they may simply have other ways of expressing it.
On the other hand, many people see crying as a sign of weakness. Grief is our reaction to loss, not an indication of strength or weakness. Crying that is associated with grief is not a weakness either.
If you feel like crying, you should. Suppressing your feelings and pretending you are okay when you are not will not make grief disappear. Tears help you to release some of the internal tension and heal but they are not a measure of your love for that special person whose loss you grieve. If do not cry, you should not consider this an issue or a sign you loved this person any less, you are probably expressing your grief in other ways.
Myth 5: There are right and wrong ways to grieve
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, as grief is a highly individual process. How you grieve depends on many factors including your relationship with the person who has died, the circumstances of their death and your own life experiences.
Some people feel the need to express their grief openly, expressing their emotions by crying or talking about their loss. Others may be more reluctant to talk about it, preferring to grieve in private instead. This doesn’t mean they’re not grieving; they’re just expressing their grief differently. Even within the same family, different family members expression of grief can vary; it’s important to be respectful of each individual’s way of processing their loss.
You should remember your relationship with the person who died was unique, so the way you grieve this person will be unique also.
Sometimes it helps to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. When experiencing grief, some people find it easier to talk to someone outside of their family and friendship group.
GriefChat is a free online service who connects you to a trained bereavement counsellor. Counsellors are available from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday.