What does grief look like to you? “People sitting around in black, crying and looking bleak” says one website. “Crying is just one part of grief. Crying in public may freak people out.”
While crying is one way to express your grief, you may find yourself stuffing the tears away because somewhere along the way, someone told you to grief alone, or big boys don’t cry.
We are a society surrounded by myths around grief. These myths exists to give us a container to put the grief in, to make sense of when nothing else may seem to.
These myths can be dangerous to our own healing journey. If you begin compare your grief to others, you may set up yourself for failure. You may put your grief away in a box because you think that is what someone would want for you. Or you should be “over it already”.
For those who have lost a pet, some may even say “It was just a dog. You can get another one.”
Below are examples of myths around grief. I believe that grief is not only about life and death, but is about every disappointment we’ve ever held onto. We carry it with us like a big bag of rocks. It weighs us down and over time becomes the limiting beliefs we tell ourselves. If you believe you shouldn’t feel angry or sad after a certain point, you are just adding to that bag of rocks.
There are countless other rocks. For example, if you never got a chance to grief over a relationship you had when you were young and you were made to feel you were unlovable. You may find yourself in other relationships down the line that are similar. Or you felt disappointed in the past by something but were not given a voice to express how you felt. Over time, you may end up telling yourself “what’s the point, no one listens anyway.”
Myth/lie #1: Everyone grieves the same way
Myth/lie #2: Grief is linear, like in the 5 stages of grief.
Try instead: Elizabeth Kubler Ross pioneered the stages of grief for the dying in her book “On Death and Dying”. She speaks about how dying patients may cope at the end stage of a terminal illness (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). She never meant for it to be linear, as all grief experiences are unique.
How we grieve depends on a variety of factors. How we were taught to grief, what other transformative life experiences we may have had leading up to this moment, as well as the nature of the loss.
Spend some time with the disappointment/grief. Try not to compare or judge any feelings that may surface. Not all losses are the same. No loss is too small. If you find yourself disappointed in someone, or something, it is best to spend some time looking at the underlying symptoms to manage it. Has this happened before? If so, is your reaction/response similar? Perhaps there is a pattern in how you handle loss. Ask yourself: do you talk about your emotions? Do you sweep it under the rug? Look and see if these reactions/responses are yours or something you inherited along the way.
Myth/lie#3: Give it time. Time will heal.
Try instead: Grief is not going to “get better” or decline over a period of time. The intensity of your loss does not correlate to the depth of the love you had for the person, event or pet.
You will never “forget” the person. Grieving is active, not passive. Grief is not something we are “cured” from. When we are hurt, sometimes our heart close itself up, keeping the hurts, the anger, the pain stored. This pain doesn’t go away on its own.
There is a saying “what we resist persists”. But if we can keep our heart open to the loss, the emotions have a place to move through the mind, body and soul.
It does take time to process our grief. Each person’s timeline is unique. For some it may be when we wake, one morning the intensity of our grief will not the first thing that comes to our mind. For others, it will be the day we can smile at a memory vs. tears. We learn to integrate it into our daily life.
Myth/lie #4: Stay busy.
Myth/lie #5: Replace the loss.
Try instead: Allow yourself to feel any emotions that comes up vs. putting a lid on it. We try to distract to not go to that sad place, the empty feeling place. A way of rebuilding would be to allow those emotions to come into the empty pit that may be inside so it can travel through and out. When we stay busy, we are only momentarily snuffing out the grief. We temporarily cope by burying ourselves in our work, the comfort emotional eating can bring, retail therapy, other coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol to numb. If this sounds familiar, don’t beat yourself up. Just for today, see if you make friends with your disappointment, or stretch and do one thing that could shift it to the opposite. Otherwise, it is like a kettle you’ve put on the stove. Sooner or later, it will come to a boil.
There is good news—it is never too late to begin your healing journey. 🙂 Take as little as 5 minutes out at the end of each night to review anything that may have been triggering for you and find ways to release what no longer serves you. Journal, talk to a friend, hug your pet, something so it doesn’t stay stored and stuck. These are just some thoughts that come to mind.
I would love to hear below what has worked for you!