Common Myths Around Grieving

Myth # 1: You are supposed to have certain feelings and you are not supposed to have certain other feelings.

So what do we do with the feelings we shouldn’t have and what happens when we don’t have the feelings we should?

The bigger issue is, we don’t control our feelings
Our opinions about our feelings are like our opinions about the weather.

The antidote to the shoulds and shouldn’ts is back to “acceptance.” There is excellent reason for the way things are, the way we feel. It’s best to approach people and their feelings like a meteorologist approaches the weather. If it’s happening we’re quite certain it should be happening. We may not be able to explain it all, it may not be what we predicted but come with certainty that the feelings are there for very good reasons.

Myth #2: Loyalty to the lost loved one demands that we not engage too quickly in enjoyable activities or relationships.

I would offer that our task in times of the process of grieving is the same as in other challenges in our life – to pursue our health and wellbeing within the boundaries of the commitments we have made. We are not benefiting anyone by purposely being poor stewards of our resources remaining in a state of ill health in order to fulfill some image that we or others have for us.

Myth #3: Our constant, longstanding and severe misery after a loss is a measure of the love in the relationship. The quicker our recovery, the less the relationship meant.

There is something reasonable sounding about this as we think about our relationships. It’s easy to say goodbye to the neighbor we hardly knew and hard to say goodbye to the one who was part of our lives. But in intimate relationship, the opposite could be argued. A relationship so filled with love and support causes us to be quite self-sufficient, freer of the “How can I go on?”

Of course the more critical issue is that the relationship was what it was and purposely suffering after the loss doesn’t change that. Once again, our task is to pursue health and wellbeing at a pace that works for us.

Myth #4: My friends & loved ones know what is good for me better than I do.

While it is true that we are somewhat impaired in our perceptions, insights and judgment in a time of shock and grieving, we are not disabled. We do well to listen to well-meaning people in our lives but not be controlled by them.

We do best in an environment in which we have room to cry inconsolably then laugh hilariously; where we can engage with people at one time and choose to be left alone at another. Others will be most helpful to us when they allow us to have a wide berth to drift and change.

Well-intentioned advice can push us to speed up or judge us for being too fast.

Myth #5: You shouldn’t think or speak ill of the dead.

The truth is that not everybody who dies is a saint. The church has a whole process to determine which of our dear departed are eligible for sainthood. Then there are the rest of us with, “The good, the bad and the ugly.”

When we stifle our negative feelings and perceptions toward a loved one who died, we are left unchanged in these feelings and perceptions but pre-empted from consciously, openly addressing them and seeking resolution. When that happens, regardless of the reason, we’re left stuck and guilty and/or ashamed.