Grief is a universal experience — we all deal with it at some point in our lives.
But just because we all go through it doesn’t mean it’s the same experience for everybody. That’s what makes it so hard to define and discuss grief. What’s true for one person won’t be the same for another.
This leads to a lot of misunderstandings and myths about grief. It’s also why we’ve put together a list for you to share with your families to help break the stereotypes when it comes to grief.
Let’s take a look at a few of these common misconceptions:
Myth #1: Grief and Mourning Are the Same
Both are used interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. Grief consists of the emotions and thoughts we feel after a loss. It’s the internal sadness, loneliness, despair, shock, anger, and other feelings.
Mourning is the process of externally expressing our emotions of grief. Mourning involves the cultural rituals and traditions we participate in to help us cope with a loss. Mourning includes crying, praying, meditating, reminiscing, and other outward expressions of grief.
It’s been said that everyone will experience the inward emotions of grief, but not everyone will outwardly mourn.
Myth #2: Grief Is Only Psychological
Grief is made up of the internal emotions we experience when dealing with loss, but it doesn’t mean we are only affected psychologically. Grief causes physical symptoms, too, like digestive issues, high blood pressure, headaches, general fatigue, and soreness.
Dying of a broken heart is a real thing. According to the American Heart Association, sudden, high levels of emotional stress — such as the death of a loved one — can cause part of the heart to enlarge and causes symptoms similar to a heart attack.
Myth #3: Grief Occurs in Stages
The classic five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — are usually mentioned when discussing grief. It’s true that these emotional stages can be present in the grief process, but they don’t always occur in order nor do they all happen to everybody.
According to the American Cancer Society, grief can “feel more like a roller coaster, with ups and downs that make it hard for the bereaved person to feel any progress in dealing with the loss.”
Myth #4: The Goal Is to Get over Grief and Move On
It’s a common misconception that grief and mourning are part of a process and at the end, we will return to feeling normal. But the truth is, losing a loved one is a life-changing experience.
Grief isn’t an illness. It’s not like the flu or a cold where the goal is to get back to being “healthy.” In a Huffington Post article titled Solving the Problem of Grief: The Solution Is Not What You Think, the author explains that “We behave as though grief is something to get out of as soon as possible, an aberration that needs healing, rather than a natural response to loss — in short, we treat it as a problem.”
Grief is more of a transformation. It’s the process of adapting to a big change in our life.
Myth #5: There’s a Right and Wrong Way to Grieve
When someone we know is grieving, we tend to share what helped us during the process. But what works for some people won’t work for others. There’s really no perfect way to grieve.
There are traditional ways we grieve, such as therapy, meditation, or prayer. But people have found comfort in others ways. Some find it through art. Others through music.
The thing to remember is that while there are no right or wrong ways to grieve, there are healthy and unhealthy ways of coping.
Myth #6: There Is Only Normal and Complicated Grief
Grief isn’t black and white. It comes in several shades across a spectrum. And there are several distinct types of grief people experience. It all depends on the type of loss and the person.
A few types of grief include:
- Absent grief
- Anticipatory grief
- Acute grief
- Chronic grief
- Masked grief
- Delayed grief
To learn more about different types of grief, check out this article.