Celebrating comes to us naturally. Grieving is something we don’t know how to do. And yet, death is an inevitable part of the cycle of life. We will all face it at some point on this earthly journey. As we grapple with the loss of a loved one, we often embrace some common myths. Here are five of them–and the real truth behind each one.
1) “I don’t need help; I’ll get through this alone.”
There is truth in the saying there is strength in numbers. This is especially true when you’re grieving. Lean on friends, relatives and the community (hospice staff, a bereavement counselor or your priest) to get through this difficult time. Grief is a rite of passage. Holding the hand of a trusted other and sharing your feelings will ease your burden enormously. Don’t try to do grief alone; you were never meant to.
2) “I could’ve done something more to save him/her.”
Beating yourself up with a variety of “should’ve” and “could’ve” is of little value. Nonetheless, most of us indulge in “If only I’d done more…” or “If only I hadn’t said that…” or “If only I hadn’t left the room just then…” Survivor guilt strikes most of us. Remember, it’s never your fault. You did everything you could, given the knowledge you had at the time. Guilt is a normal part of the grieving process, but you don’t have to remain stuck there.
3) “I need a therapist.”
Getting professional help to ease the passage through grief is not a bad idea. Believing that you’re going out of your mind definitely is. Grief is a normal, natrual response to loss. If you can’t stop crying or you’re obsessing about the last moments of your loved one’s passing, take a deep breath. Now accept yourself as a caring human being who loved another with all your heart. Labeling grief as craziness is no reason to see a therapist. Acknowledging and moving through the emotions is a better way to do it.
4) “I have to get over it.”
Your grief is as unique as your DNA. No two people grieve alike. I have three siblings and each one of us grieved the passing of our parents very differently. Grief takes as long as it has to. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t rush it. Trying to run away from your feelings or hiding from them is just a short-term fix. As is eating your feelings away with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice-cream. Honor your feelings of sadness, anger and fear. And take as much time as you need.
5) “I’ll get really busy.”
As a hospice volunteer, I hear this from bereaved family members all the time. Some take on additional responsibilities at their job. Some dive headlong into a cleaning project. Others try to find a second job to kill the empty hours. Suppressing or denying grief only buries it deeper in your cells. Your mind may blank it out, but the body never forgets. Unexpressed emotions surface as physical ailments and demand your attention. Don’t try to stick a Band-Aid over a grieving heart. Nurture it with tender care.