CEMETERY MANAGEMENT & CELEBRATION OF LIFE SOFTWARE
Breaking Down the Myths and Facts About Grief
As the holidays draw near, it is important to remember that this is not a time of joy for everyone. Many people are missing a loved one who has passed away while others are feeling nostalgic for simpler times. Regardless of why a person is feeling sorrowful, it is necessary to understand what grief is and how to comfort those who are experiencing this strong emotion.
According to the Mayo Clinic, grief is a natural reaction to loss. It is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion that leaves people feeling numb and removed from daily life. They are often unable to carry on with regular duties.
When a person is grief-stricken, it is often due to the death of a loved one, the ending of an important relationship, job loss, loss through theft, or the loss of independence through disability.
As many of us will experience grief at some point in our lives, it is important to break down the misconceptions surrounding this powerful emotion.
Myth: Everyone grieves in stages.
Fact: Grief has no rules.
What is believed to be the five stages of grief, which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, were never intended to describe the grieving process. These feelings are only experienced by a person facing their own death. In the 1968 book On Death and Dying, author Dr. Kubler-Ross interviewed people who were facing death and recognized this emotional pattern. He then documented the five stages within his book to explain how people cope with their impending death.
Myth: There is no difference between grief and mourning.
Fact: Mourning is a behavior induced by grief.
A person cannot be mourning unless they are grieving because mourning is an expression of grief. Examples of mourning include wearing black clothing, preparing a funeral, participating in a candlelight vigil, and crying or wailing. How a person mourns is often determined by their religious and cultural beliefs.
Myth: Women grieve more than men.
Fact: Everyone grieves differently.
Grief is no stranger to stereotypes. In popular culture, women are viewed as more emotional, so it is deemed acceptable when a woman is openly mourning a loss. Men are taught to hide their emotions, so their displays of emotion are frowned upon. However, mourning is expressed by everyone experiencing grief because it is part of the healing process. Men and women both mourn and express it in different ways.
Myth: If you’re not crying, you’re not really grieving.
Fact: Crying is not essential to grieving.
This is a popular misconception because people confuse grieving with mourning. It cannot be reiterated enough that mourning is expressed on an individual level and is unique to everyone.
Myth: Ignoring the pain of grief will help it go away.
Fact: Ignoring the pain is only a temporary solution.
The pain of losing someone is caused by a mixture of feelings that not only involve sadness, but also anger and guilt. Bottling up these emotions impedes the healing process. When a person is grief-stricken and chooses to ignore their emotional pain, they can become self-destructive by turning to drugs and alcohol. The healthy way to deal with these feelings is to talk to a trusted friend or relative or seek counseling through a church or medical professional. Only through these means will healing commence.
Myth: The first year is the hardest.
Fact: Grief has no time frame.
When someone tells a grieving person that the first year is the worst, they are trying to be comforting. However, this statement is unintentionally misleading because the grieving process can last for a few weeks to a few years. It all depends on how the person deals with their grief and learns to live with the loss. Grief can also return anytime throughout a person’s life, especially during anniversaries and holidays.
Ways to Ease a Loved One’s Grief
When a friend or relative is grieving, there is a strong desire to comfort them. However, people often worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, so they end up doing nothing at all. Do not allow these fears stop you from reaching out.
The best ways to comfort a loved one who is suffering a loss include:
Being there for a grief-stricken person is a huge part in helping them heal from the pain of loss simply by letting them know they are not alone. If a holiday or important date is approaching such as an anniversary or the decedent’s birthday, make sure the grieving person is not alone on this day.
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