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5 common myths about grief

Grieving woman visiting loved one's grave

There’s nothing quite like grief. It’s complicated, messy, and very difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It doesn’t help that there are so many misconceptions about how it affects a person. Here we take a look at the top five most common myths about grief that need to be dispelled.

5. Grief means you feel sad all the time

Sadness can be a large part of grieving. You might cry a lot, or feel depressed, but that definitely isn’t the only emotion involved in grief.

Losing someone you love can make you feel all sorts of complex emotions. Anger, jealousy, guilt, relief, regret – these are all emotions associated with grief that can happen at the same time. No wonder grief is so tiring.

4. You just need to keep busy

For some people, keeping busy with household chores or work can genuinely help them find stability during bereavement. However, beware of advice to ‘just keep busy’ or ‘find something to distract yourself’, as ignoring powerful emotions rarely makes them go away.

If you need to sit and reflect on your loss, if you need to be alone and cry, this is absolutely normal and okay. Don’t pressure yourself to keep working at all waking hours to keep those feelings of grief at bay – that could even make it worse in the long run.

3. It’s easier if the person was elderly

People who have never been bereaved often imagine that if someone has ‘lived a good life’ it must be easier to lose them. Logically, it is not as sad because they have had a long and happy life with plenty of opportunities to live life to the fullest.

But grief is not at all logical or reasonable. Even though you know that they had a good life, there’s no guarantee that your pain will be less – and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be grieving, or shouldn’t be grieving so much. There’s no right way to feel at this time.

2. Grief moves in stages

Many people refer to Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief when they talk about bereavement. But what they often don’t understand is that these stages are not in any way a set of rules or reliable timeline of grief, and Kubler Ross never intended them to be used this way.

Everyone’s grief is different and you can never predict how it will affect you or someone you know. Though you might experience certain emotions similar to those talked about in the five stages, you probably won’t go through them in order. You may dip in and out of them, miss stages out, return to earlier stages, or not experience certain stages at all.

1. Grief has a time limit

“That was two years ago. Haven’t you got over it yet?” Sadly, comments like these are still all too common when people have lost a loved one. Sometimes people just don’t understand that grief doesn’t disappear with time – you simply learn to cope with it.

It’s normal to still have feelings of grief a long time after the funeral. Even 10, 20 or 30 years after the death of a loved one, you may have moments where the sadness and longing comes back. You won’t ever forget that special person and what they meant to you and that means that people shouldn’t expect time to heal all wounds.

For more information on coping with bereavement, visit our bereavement support page.

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