Unfortunately, all of us will grieve the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. Despite the fact that loss is a universal experience, grief is something that most of our society is uncomfortable engaging, allowing myths to flourish. From the “stages of grief” to wondering why someone isn’t “acting sad” after a death, these myths are part of our culture, and can make it hard for those who are grieving to feel understood and supported.
As a Bereavement Coordinator for Hospice of the South Shore, I have seen and worked with many people as they process their grief. This means that I also hear a lot of the common myths about the process of grieving, including what is and isn’t the “right way” to grieve. Here are three myths that I hear most often:
Myth 1: Grieving operates on a linear schedule.
Fact: There is no “normal” timetable for grief. Nor are there clear “stages” of grief that will lead to the end of the grieving process. Grieving is a lifelong process.
Many people experience Sudden Temporary Upsurges of Grief, or STUGs, throughout their lives after a loss. For example, individuals who lose a parent as a child may experience a STUG while walking down the aisle on his or her wedding day, or reaching the age at which his or her parent died. For others, it may be the whiff of a familiar aftershave or a favorite song on the radio. As life goes on, the emotional reaction may be different each time—from disbelief to anger to sadness.
Myth 2: Grief is the same for everyone.
Fact: There are so many variables in grieving, even within families grieving the same person.
When an elderly patriarch passes away, his wife will grieve the loss much differently than his granddaughter. When you consider this, as well as how different personalities can grieve differently, it can feel alienating for family members who can’t understand why someone else isn’t grieving the “right way.” Grief has many individual nuances. Try to understand the perspective of the person who is grieving.
Myth 3: Grief is only experienced emotionally.
Fact: Many people assume that if they don’t see someone “acting sad”, he or she is in denial of the loss. This is frequently said of men.
Grief can be experienced in many ways. Some people react physically and feel exhausted. Others feel the effects mentally—like they’re “losing their minds” and forgetting how to get to familiar places. Still others may withdraw socially or drastically change their spiritual beliefs by questioning their long-held faith—or embracing faith vigorously.
Another fact about grieving: You don’t have to go it alone.
Support groups are a great resource for those who’ve experienced a loss. Many of them are geared toward those grieving a specific relationship loss or circumstances of death, such as the loss of a spouse, or a death by suicide. These opportunities can connect you with people who may better understand what you’re going through, and help to support you in your grief.
Hospice of the South Shore will host its Annual Memorial Service on Sunday, October 15 at 2 p.m. at 30 Reservoir Park Drive in Rockland. Click here for more details or call Aubrie Hills, Bereavement Coordinator, at 781-624-7046 for more information or to register.