As much as we wish it wasn’t, grief is something that’s inevitable for all of us. We all have people and things we care about, and unfortunately, that means we are all capable of feeling grief when we lose them. Grief, and other intense emotions, are still seen as somewhat taboo in everyday life, and we often feel uncomfortable when we are around someone else feeling them. Part of this is because there are things we still don’t understand as a culture about intense emotions. Even though we all feel grief at some point in our lives, there is still a lot of misinformation out there about grief and the grieving process. Myths about grief led to misunderstandings, loneliness, and a more difficult emotional experience, so it’s helpful to understand what is and isn’t true about grief.
First of all: what is grief?
According to dictionary.com, grief is: “something that causes keen distress or suffering.” This is a pretty good baseline definition for grief. Another good one is the Grief Recovery definition of grief: “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”
Most of us have felt grief at some point in our lives, and for those that haven’t they will at some point. Even though we all feel grief, we don’t all understand it.
Here are some myths bout grief that we need to stop believing:
Grief is a sign of weakness
Grief is an absolutely normal human emotion. It is devastating and hard to deal with, but it is a normal part of being a person who cares about people and things. Feeling intense emotions is not a sign of weakness, and anyone who says that it is is frankly not worth talking to when you’re grieving. Other people judging you for your grief says more about them than about you, and it is okay to set boundaries for people who aren’t kind or understanding to you in your grief process.
Grief is only caused by loss of life
Death isn’t the only thing that can cause grief. You can feel grief about a lot of things including:
- Loss of faith
- Changing jobs
- End of a friendship
- Pet loss
- Family estrangement
- Change in health status
- Change in financial status
- Missed opportunities
- Loss of home
As Grief Recovery defines grief, anything that causes a change in a pattern in your life can cause grief. Your grief is valid.
Grief lasts a year
Grief has no timeline, sadly. While a lot of people can’t comprehend feeling grief for over a year, that probably just means they have never felt grief before. Grief is intense. It might stay with you for your entire life in some way. Moving through grief is about learning how to live with your grief in a way that lets you live your life.
Everyone grieves the same way
While grief is a completely normal emotion, there is no ‘right way’ to feel grief. You may have heard of the five stages of grief, developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. These stages are:
While folks who are grieving do go through these stages of grief, there isn’t a correct way to move through these stages. You might feel more than one. You might move back and forth between a few stages and move quickly through others. It might take months, weeks, or years. There is no timeline, as we said above. The process of grief isn’t linear.
Your level of grief says something about you
Some people think that the intensity of your grief reflects how much you loved the person you lost, or that it somehow speaks to your character. This is not only not true, but it can add a whole new layer of grief for people who are worried they aren’t grieving “properly”. As we said above, there is no right way to grieve. There are stages to grief, but moving the stages of grief is not a linear process. You can move back and forth between stages and skip stages and that is perfectly normal. Grief is different for everyone and just because you grieve a certain way doesn’t say anything about what you are grieving.
If you’re grieving and need support, our clinicians can help you through this journey. Get in touch to find the perfect clinician for your needs.