There are some common myths surrounding grief that we use to make sense of our experiences, but these myths can be unhelpful or even harmful to our mental health when taken as fact.Grief is an incredibly complicated emotional experience, and one that can be nearly impossible to prepare for. We might experience grief only a handful of times in our life, and when we do, it can come as a complete surprise. As you try to cope with grief and loss, you might find yourself or others in your life repeating these common myths, and it’s important to know the truth behind them.
The goal of grief is to “get over” your loss.
Moving on means something different to everyone, but it doesn’t mean forgetting about your loss or the person you lost. Erasing your prior memories and experiences isn’t just unhealthy, it’s impossible. While you might have lost that person’s physical presence, one of the most comforting and important things to know is that you’ll always hold onto their memory. That person will always be with you, occupying a permanent space in your mind and your life through the memories and reminders you’ll learn to cherish.
You can’t be angry at the person you lost.
Death does not erase the interactions you’ve had with a person who’s passed on. Erasing your negative experiences and memories of that person can delay your progress in coping with loss. You’re losing the physical presence of the whole person, good and bad. You can be sad and angry at the same time. Being angry at that person for what they did or who they were doesn’t erase your genuine sense of sadness and loss. In fact, anger is a very common, healthy, and normal, part of the grieving process, and one of the nine stages of grief our therapists identify in grieving clients.
If you don’t cry after losing a loved one, you really don’t care.
Everyone copes with loss differently, and our outward response to loss isn’t always a mirror image of what we’re feeling on the inside. Some people cry more than others, and that’s ok. You know and understand the way you’re feeling, and it’s important to just give yourself time to think and feel. Don’t worry about whether or not you cry, or what others will think if you don’t. You know that what you’re feeling is real.
Grief lasts a few months to a year.
The unsettling truth about grief is that there’s no set timeline for when you’ll be ready to “move on.” While most people will go through the same stages of grief that characterize the grieving process, the time at which you move through those stages is different for nearly everyone. Some people are able to process grief very quicky, but we often see clients who are struggling with grief years after losing a loved one. If you want to process grief more efficiently, talking it out with a therapist can help.
Women grieve more than men.
Our society has different social expectations for the way men and women show emotion, but this does not mean that men and women grieve more or less than one another. No person grieves in the same way, and someone’s gender isn’t a good predictor of the way someone will cope with loss. Like we said earlier, try not to worry about what your outward expression of emotion means for your inner feelings and experiences.
Many of our clients come to us believing these myths to be true, and clearing up these misconceptions is so important in helping our clients live their best life and resolve grief. Just remember that grieving is different for everyone, and you shouldn’t hold yourself to fixed standards and ideals. Give yourself the space to feel, think, and heal as you move through the grieving process. And if you need it, we’re here to help.