“Each persons grief journey is as unique as a fingerprint or snowflake.” ~ Earl Grollman.
Grief can be an excruciatingly painful and lonely experience. This can be further compounded by grief myths that suggest your reactions and behaviors aren't normal. My hope is this article will extinguish some of the shame or fear these myths generate so you can be free to grieve in your own way and in your own time.
HERE ARE 5 OF THE MOST COMMON MYTHS
1. Your grief experience will follow five predictable stages – Not true!
Whilst there are a number of useful models identifying various stages of grief, these are not fixed progressive patterns, just common experiences for some bereaved people. Grief is in reality a messy, disorganized experience that simply can't be put into a box.
2. You should be over your grief within a year – Not true!
There is no normal, no right or wrong length of time to grieve. Whilst you, or meaningful family and friends might want some sort of closure, an end. The reality is your grief can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, or it could turn up periodically throughout your life. The grief process is not static, it's always evolving.
3. Healthy grieving requires you to behave in a certain way – Not true!
There is no correct way to respond. You might cry, and feel overwhelmed with sadness. You might want to spend more to time on your own or surrounded by people. You might feel guilt, anger, fear, relief or a mix of emotions. In fact your emotions are likely to be constantly changing as you ride the wave of grief. There are no shoulds. There is no right way, only your experience of grief.
4. Real grief is only experienced when someone you love dies – Not true!
If you perceive any event to be negative, and it causes long-term changes to your social situations, relationships, and how you see yourself in the world, then you will experience grief. The list of challenging life changes is endless. From relationship changes, business or job loss, illness and chronic pain, moving house, children leaving home, and menopause to name a few.
5. If you hold onto memorabilia, or continue talking about the person or experience, then you are stuck in the grieving process – Not true!
You need to be able to remember and talk about your loved one, they are in a sense both present and absent in your life. Healthy grieving is about meaning making – creating a narrative of who they have been in your life and taking the essence of this into your life moving forward.
MOVING FORWARD WITH GRIEF
Your grief experience is unique to you. Like waves of the ocean there will be times when your emotions overwhelm you, and times of relative calm and peace. Here are some ways to help you ride these waves more easily:
Look after your health – The emotional distress you are experiencing can take a toll on your physical well-being. Be careful to get adequate sleep, and if this is difficult take daytime naps, or just rest. Eat healthy food and plenty of water. Go for short walks, outdoors if you can, the fresh air and movement will lift your spirits. Avoid excess alcohol or medications to numb the pain – avoiding your emotions in the long term will exasperate your grief experience.
Talk – Don't keep your thoughts and emotions bottled up inside. They need to be voiced for you to begin the healing process. If you don't have someone you feel comfortable sharing with then see a counsellor.
Reach out – Initially you might need some to yourself. But eventually you will need to connect with others. So be careful about the temptation to isolate yourself. Catch-up with a friend for coffee or a movie, or invite a family member over dinner.
Nurture yourself – Treat yourself with the compassion you deserve. A long hot bath, a massage, playing with your dog, or spending time with a close friend. What have you done in the past to look after yourself?
Honor your loved one – How can you do this in away that is meaningful to you? Maybe you could you create an album, frame a special photo, have a memory box of significant pieces, make a quilt from their shirt or dress, or plant a tree.
Prepare for significant dates – Birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas can be very emotional times. Talk to family and friends in advance so they know your concerns and can support you on these dates. You might like to start a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
Most important of all is that you reach out when you know you need to. Life was never meant to be done alone, especially when you are experiencing grief.
It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward. ~ Patti Davis.
If you are feeling stuck in your grief, please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.