Misconceptions about grief

Grief is universal and something everyone will experience at some point. However, there are some aspects that remain misunderstood. These misconceptions can end up being dangerous to some. Here we discuss what some of the most common misconceptions about grief are, and which elements of them are actually based on fact.

Everyone grieves in stages  

Although grief is a process, not everyone follows the same rules. Many people use the 5 stage process developed by Dr Kubler Ross. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although many people have been found to go through these stages, there is no particular order. People may even go through some of the stages several times. The stages were not initially written about the grief process but were in fact based on interviews undertaken by people who knew they were dying and were facing death. This is important for people to know as many feel like they need to experience all the stages in that order, which just isn’t the case for many.

Everyone grieves in a different way, so although many find it comforting to know there is a 5-stage process, they need to know that this doesn’t apply to everyone. Each individual who is grieving will feel different emotions at different stages and this is okay.

Women grieve more than men  

This misconception is based on the stereotype that men sometimes find it more difficult to express their emotions, so it is more likely for women to cry when grieving rather than men. People are individuals and regardless of gender, they will express their emotions in different ways.

You are not grieving if you are not crying  

This is a common thought however crying is not essential to grieving. Although many find it a natural part of the process, others will not. People cry due to many different emotions. Along with sadness, crying can be due to happiness, anger, exhaustion, frustration and more. Whereas some people cry more than others and will find this a common part of their grieving process, some may not cry at all. However, this does not mean they are not grieving, they are merely expressing it in different ways. In some cultures, crying is seen as something to be avoided, whereas others have learnt to not express their emotions through tears from an early age.

It is also common for people going through the grieving process to experience a feeling of numbness. This can sometimes mean the people are struggling to cry and express their emotions openly.

Ignoring the pain will help the grief go away  

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as simple as that. Just like physical trauma, ignoring emotional trauma will not mean that it goes away. Grief avoidance is counter-productive and should never be encouraged. Although it is understandable that sudden pain can seem overwhelming, it is important to address these emotions rather than trying to dampen them or numb the pain.

Grief has an end 

Many think that grief will eventually come to an end. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. The grief will remain, it will just change over time. Some may notice that the pain decreases in intensity over time but will not go away completely. Time does not guarantee to heal though. Every person will notice a different timescale and timeline.

Grief is often triggered by certain events such as birthdays and anniversaries and these triggers will keep occurring every year and the grief you feel during these days may never change.

People who are grieving need to get over it  

The words “get over it” are said a lot, unfortunately. However, they should never be said to someone who is grieving.  People never just get over grief. Like we say in the previous point, grief doesn’t go away, it only changes over time. Friends and family should never tell someone they should get over it. Everyone is different, and hearing these words can make them feel worse.

Although people cannot just get over grief, there are some things they can do to help move forward. These can include ensuring they get enough rest, get enough exercise, accept help from friends and family and stick to a routine where possible.

Someone who has experienced a similar loss knows exactly what you are going through 

Although it can help to share experiences, people should never compare. Each individual death is different, as they were a unique person, and in turn, each mourner will be different as well. Sharing experiences can be helpful but try not to compare.

The goal of grief is to “find closure” 

As we have mentioned before, there is no endpoint to grief. Therefore, there is not a final goal of grief. Grieving people can learn to carry on with their life in a healthy and meaningful way, however, this does not mean that they have found complete closure and therefore can move on and forget about the grief.

Children are resilient so you don’t need to worry about them as much 

Yes, children are resilient, however, they should never be ignored. Their grief may be different but you need to ensure that they are ok and ensure that they know exactly what is going on. Sometimes children struggle to express their emotions, especially if they are seeing their parents upset. If this is the case, it may be worth having another adult talk to them about how they are feeling. For many children, grief is completely new and the mix of emotions they are inevitably feeling can be extremely overwhelming.

You grieve less when the deceased was older when they died 

It is commonly said, “at least they reached a good age” or “they lived a long life” and although these comments are meant to be said to be positive, they rarely help. Despite the deceased’s age, grief will not be any less painful.

Grief and Mourning are the same  

Grief and mourning are often used simultaneously however they are in fact different. Whereas grieving is the emotions we feel after a loss and is very much internal, mourning describes the process of externally expressing our emotions of grief.

Mourning involves cultural rituals and traditions that people participate in and can include an outward expression of grief.

Whereas everyone feels grief, people wont necessarily outwardly mourn

Keeping a journal always helps  

Journalling after the death of a loved one can be extremely helpful. It can help people express the emotions that they are struggling to verbalise and share with others. Although the benefits of journalling have been seen by many, this doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Some may not find it useful at all. Others may find that a different creative outlet is better for them.

Going to a support group is always helpful  

This is similar to journalling. Although many find attending therapy or a support group helpful, some will not see the benefits. The important thing is to ensure those that are grieving know that the support is available and how they can access it. The choice is solely up to them whether they want to use this support.

If someone looks ok when grieving means they feel ok  

People are good at shielding their emotions from others so its impotrant never to take how they look as a signal of how they feel.

These misconceptions can negatively impact the griever as they may feel like they are not grieving in the correct way when that isn’t the case. Learning about these myths and misconceptions can help people focus on the facts that can help people through the grieving process. Misconceptions and myths may seem harmless, but they can, in fact, become hurdles to healing and make people feel like they are grieving wrong, which isn’t possible.

Just because we all go through grief doesn’t mean it is the same experience for everyone. Understanding the just behind these misconceptions that help break down the stereotypes surrounding grief.