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Myths and Misconceptions About Grief: Breaking Free from Negative Judgments

Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT


Grief can be one of the most difficult things to overcome and can make us feel like we’ve been thrown into an emotional storm.  Grief, at its core, is overwhelming sadness caused by the loss of someone or something we love.  Grief can take on many forms, such as anger, fear, loneliness, depression, and regret.  These forms have a way of holding us hostage in a sea of emotional despair for what feels like an eternity.


In truth, grief is a universal experience that touches us all at some point in our lives. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, a pet, a job, a relationship, or even a part of us, the pain and sadness that accompany grief can be overwhelming. Yet, for some reason, society often expects us to suppress our emotions and "get over it" quickly. However, there is no template to follow when we lose someone or something deeply meaningful to us. 


“We’re talking about loss as the real or perceived deprivation of something one considers meaningful,” says Keren Humphrey, a retired counseling professor and author of the book, “Counseling Strategies for Loss and Grief.”  Humphrey says, “If it’s meaningful for me and I lose it, then it’s loss, whether you think it is or not.”


This pressure to move on can lead to feelings of isolation and shame for those who are still grieving. They might feel like they are somehow failing or being judged for not being able to bounce back as easily as others. And this stigma surrounding grief only perpetuates the cycle of silence and suffering.


A woman sitting alone, her head bowed and hands clasped in apparent grief, representing the emotions and challenges associated with overcoming myths and misconceptions about grief

But the truth is, there is no timeline for dealing with grief. It is a deeply personal and individual process that looks different for everyone. By debunking the myths and misconceptions around grief, we can start to create a more supportive and understanding environment for ourselves and others who are going through difficult times.


In this blog, we will discuss some of the most common myths about grief and provide tips on how to navigate the healing journey with compassion and self-care. By showing empathy and understanding towards those who are grieving, we can break free from judgment and create a safe space for healing and growth. Let's shift the narrative around grief and support one another through the ups and downs of life's inevitable losses.


5 Most Common Myths About Grief and How to Overcome


Myth #1: Grief Has A Timeline

One of the most harmful myths about grief is that there is a specific timeline for how long it should last. Many people believe that grief should be over within a certain amount of time, and those who are still grieving after that period are seen as weak or unable to cope. In reality, grief is a highly individualized and complex process that can last for months, years, or even a lifetime. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone experiences it differently.


It is important to remember that healing from loss is not a linear process, and there may be ups and downs along the way. It is normal to feel a range of emotions, from sadness and anger to relief and guilt, and it is crucial to permit yourself to feel whatever comes up without judgment. 


Part of the healing process is accepting what you are feeling and allowing yourself to experience it to work your way to letting go and accepting this sorrowful change in your life.  Grieving takes time, and it is essential to be patient and compassionate with yourself as you navigate this difficult journey.


Myth #2: Grief Should Be Kept Private

Another common misconception about grief is that it should be kept private and not shared with others. Many people feel uncomfortable discussing their grief openly, fearing judgment, pity, or receiving unsolicited advice. However, keeping grief bottled up can be detrimental to one's mental and emotional well-being. It is essential to reach out for support and connect with others who can offer empathy, understanding, and comfort during this challenging time. 


Sometimes, during the grief process, we may isolate ourselves and feel as though nobody understands what we are going through.  Grief support groups help people to connect with others who have a shared experience or something similar that can offer comfort and perspective on finding ways to move forward in your life with this loss.


Sharing your feelings and experiences with trusted friends, family members, or a therapist can help you process your emotions and find solace in knowing that you are not alone in your grief. Talking about your loss can also help break the silence surrounding grief and raise awareness about its complexity and impact on individuals and communities. By opening up and seeking support, you can begin to heal and find meaning in your loss.


Myth #3: Grief Is A Sign Of Weakness

Some people believe that showing vulnerability and expressing emotions are signs of weakness, especially in a society that values strength, resilience, and productivity. This misconception can lead to shame, self-criticism, and a reluctance to seek help when grieving. It is essential to recognize that grieving is a natural and necessary part of the healing process, and it takes strength and courage to confront the pain and come to terms with the loss.


Allowing yourself to feel and express your emotions does not make you weak; it makes you human. Grief is a profound and transformative experience that can help you grow, learn, and ultimately find resilience and hope in adversity. By embracing your vulnerability and acknowledging your emotions, you can cultivate self-compassion, self-awareness, and emotional resilience that will serve you well in your journey through grief.


Myth #4: Grief Should Look A Certain Way

Another myth about grief is that it should look a certain way or follow a specific set of stages, as outlined in the popular model of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). While this model can help understand the different emotions that may arise during the grieving process, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Grief is a deeply personal and individual experience, and there is no "right" or "wrong" way to grieve


It is important to permit yourself to grieve in your own way, whether that means crying, screaming, laughing, or simply sitting in silence. Everyone expresses their grief differently, and your feelings and reactions are valid, no matter how they may differ from what others expect or perceive. By honoring your unique journey through grief and allowing yourself to grieve authentically, you can find healing, acceptance, and meaning in the aftermath of loss.


Myth #5: Grief Is Something To “Get Over”

One of the most harmful myths about grief is that it is something to "get over" or "move on" from quickly. This belief can put pressure on people who are grieving to suppress their emotions, put on a brave face, and return to their normal lives as if nothing has happened. In reality, grief is a lifelong process that evolves and changes over time, and the goal is not to "get over" it but to integrate it into your life in a way that feels meaningful and sustainable.


Instead of trying to rush the grieving process or avoid it altogether, it is important to give yourself time and space to mourn your loss fully. This may involve creating rituals, writing in a journal, seeking therapy, or participating in support groups to honor your grief and remember your loved one. By allowing yourself to grieve at your own pace and in your way, it can help you to learn ways to accept the loss by incorporating it in a new way into your life.


Conclusion

When we think about the expectations we put on ourselves after developing attachments to people only to see them leave our lives in different ways, causes unnecessary suffering.  Buddhist teachings tell us that it is through attachment that we experience unnecessary suffering. 


However, how does one learn to avoid attachment when we grow into it through our connections with people who play an important role in our lives? Oftentimes, these individuals provide meaning to us and offer us perspectives that allow us to engage in strong, heartfelt relationships.  The ability to detach from these important people is not easy. 


If we have someone who has shared relationships with us for many years, the means to detachment grows thin. The longer we know someone who plays an instrumental role in our lives, the harder it is not to attach.  We think of all the things we have done with these individuals and find life too different without them. 


This is where finding new interests, connections, support, and honoring those loved ones who are gone in meaningful ways all help in the healing process to allow our lives to be shaped in new yet dynamic ways.


By debunking these myths about grief, we can truly start to understand the healing process. Understanding that grief has no timeline, should not be kept private, does not make you weak, has no right or wrong, and is not something to “get over” will enable you to fully grasp the complexities of grief. It is time to break free of judgment and start your healing journey.


As a trusted therapist in Harrisburg, PA, our compassionate team is committed to being a source of hope and guidance, helping you navigate the complexities of grief and move toward a place of healing and growth. 


Let us support you in transforming your grief into a journey towards resilience. Reach out today, and let's take the first step on this healing journey together.

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