The 6 Myths of Grief
We learned by many different methods and one of these is called influence learning. But I’d like to also call it generational learning because our parents tend to fall back on what they were taught and their parents and the parents before. And I can attest to that as well as I am a parent of three kids. And before grief recovery and before actually diving into my own grief, I did a lot of these things and said a lot of these things that I’m going to share with you today. And so when as you’re listening, there might be a knee-jerk reaction to feel bad to feel like you’ve been failing as a parent. I know when I was learning this myself and was going through certification and had to kind of dig into the error of my ways, I guess. I felt a lot of guilt, actually. And I will talk about the guilt word. But that’s for another conversation. But I did feel really bad about having the awareness as to how I was responding to my children’s emotional needs. I had never really dug into my own and had not addressed my own. Although I had tried for many years, even seeking therapy. At one point, I just had not really dealt with head-on what was emotionally and complete. And so when it came to my children’s needs emotional needs, that is. I responded much like I was taught and much as I will dive into today. So let’s get started.
Myth 1 | Don’t Feel Bad
The first myth of grief is don’t feel bad. Often this message is shared by Don’t cry because we are born into a family. And we are born into having the ability to learn by sight, hearing, and all of these things, the senses. And so we watch and we learn from watching and emulating what our parents do by 18 to 24 months when we start to gain verbal skills. And from that point forward. We also learn by what is said. Hearing the message don’t cry is basically meaning don’t feel bad. As a young child, I often was told if you wanna cry, go to your room. And I did I would go under my bed to cry. I often would hide in the linen closet to cry. At one time even a search party was sent out there was I mean like a search party but you know family had to go look for me because they couldn’t find me. And I do believe that time I was in the kitchen cupboard. And so I would hide to go cry because I didn’t feel safe obviously, sharing my emotion. And because I am who I am I you know about Pisces I’m An INFP on Myers Briggs. I’m also a highly sensitive person, I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. So you really do not usually have to guess how I’m feeling. I was really taught though early on to hide how I was feeling. Because expressing my sadness, or anger or anything like that was, was kind of unacceptable or it really wasn’t embraced. I do feel like because my mom had not addressed a lot of her own grief in her life and didn’t know how to respond to mine and often would respond in anger. And so when my children were young, I often did the same, I would respond and had a hair-trigger for anger. Grief recovery has caused a lot of reflection in my life, if I would have had this information that I have today, back then. I do feel like I would have been a very different parent. And that’s why I’m also very passionate about this work.
Myth 2 | Replace the Loss
But coming back to the myth of don’t feel bad, we then morph into another myth of replacing the loss. Because if we expand on that, let’s say, as a child when my father passed away, he was 44 and I was eight, I was the youngest. And my next sibling is he was 14 at the time. And so my mom really rather quickly replaced the loss of my father. And that message, obviously really has stuck with me because that’s what I was seeing. That’s what I was learning. And growing up, we lose someone, replace them, right? replace the loss. And a simple message like this is passed on, even just by a child losing a pet, don’t feel bad Victoria, we can get another dog tomorrow, right? Or friend moves away? Well, don’t be sad there’s plenty of other friends you can make and you can try to find other friends. It’s these, they’re unintentionally hurtful. But they are damaging, these messages are damaging. And this is what influence learning is, it’s this generational learning that is passed down to us. And so if we expand this on into teenagers fall in love for the first time, and end up breaking up or let’s say my son had a girlfriend, and he got ditched. And I would say, don’t feel bad, there is plenty of fish in the sea. How often do we say things like that, right? So we have one math Don’t feel bad, then we add on to it with replacing the loss. And, if you’re going to cry, go to your room. That’s okay. There’s plenty of fish in the sea.
Myth 3 | Grieve Alone
This expands to the next math, laugh and the whole world laughs with you. And I bet you can finish that sentence, right? Cry and you cry alone. And it’s heartbreaking to realize that when you’re sad and might really benefit from some emotional understanding that you were taught to be by yourself. And so this leads into the next myth of grief. And that is to grieve alone. We can remember all of these instances in our childhood. And I’m sure as you’re listening, you’re thinking of some things yourself, it would be sad enough if it ended with feeling dismissed and misunderstood as a child as I did. Unfortunately, though this kind of misinformation becomes the foundation of lifelong habits. Many of which directly interfere with our ability to be happy. It’s tragic, right? It is absolutely tragic. If I need to grieve alone, then you do too. We grow up feeling like these are the correct ways to respond, to grieve, to isolate, to grieve alone, to not feel bad. And if I’m growing up believing that this is how you deal with grief, right? then you should too. This is how you do it too. And so we pass this on and this is how we respond to society as well.
The day my dad died, I was in school, and my sister is the one that came to get me. And I just remember it was like this out, it’s like an out-of-body experience. I can see myself holding your hand and we’re walking down the hall. It’s like, a kid you not. It’s like this out-of-body experience, I can see it today. And I’m looking at the back of us. And she says to me, “Dad died.” And at that moment, I don’t know what I was thinking at that time. But the impact of that statement changed my entire life. I was not given the opportunity to share what I was feeling, to share what I was experiencing. I saw my father lying in his casket and there was no discussion, no conversation with me about what this meant. There was no support for me. The teachers didn’t even know how to respond, the school didn’t know how to respond. Obviously, my friends, my peers, my classmates, the same age as me, didn’t know how to respond. I just remember that being like a very lonely time for me. That I do remember, the one statement that sticks out in my brain is that at my dad’s funeral. I remember someone saying and talking about me, she doesn’t know what’s going on. Anyway, I looked at my children at the age of eight. And I thought about that scenario of where I was growing up, when I was eight, in that what was going on in my life at that time. And there is no doubt in my mind that if my children’s father had passed away when they were eight, that they would not have understood or known what was happening or going on, children understand far more than we give them credit for. I mean, if you can take a three-year-old and give them an iPad that they have never seen or touched, and they can figure it out, you can bet your bottom dollar that they understand the emotional connection. And when that’s lost.
Myth 4 | It Just Takes Time
So up to this point, we’ve talked about not feeling bad, replacing the loss, and grieving alone. And next, we’re going to talk about the next myth is just give it time. Because why? Time heals all wounds. Or does it? I’m here to tell you, it absolutely does nothing that passes the two messages that replacing a loss and just give it time do not go together. Because if replacing the loss would have fixed my mother, she wouldn’t have to wait for time to heal her. And on the other hand, if time were to heal her, then maybe she wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to replace the loss. The concept that time heals is probably responsible for more heartache than any other single wrong idea our society has about dealing with grief. Because the terrible part is that it isn’t true. It’s one of those falsehoods that’s been passed down from generation to generation. And the mistaken idea that after enough time passes, something will magically change to make us whole again, is really preposterous. If we were dealing with any other human pain, no one would say just give it time. If you came across a person with a broken arm, you wouldn’t say just give it time. Just as broken bones should be properly set to heal and ultimately function again, so must the emotional heart. And I can tell you after 30 plus years of grieving the loss of my father, the time has done nothing for me but it is the action I’ve taken within that time that has mattered. So time heals is absolutely false. And we need to quit buying into it as a society. If you discovered that your car had a flat tire, would you pull up a chair next to the car and sit and wait for the air to somehow get back into the tire? No, it’s silly. Why would you do that? So time itself does not heal. It is what you do within time that will help you complete the pain caused by loss and I’m a testament to this. So far, we’ve covered four of the six myths. Don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, and just give it time.
Myth 5 | Be Strong (For Yourself & Others)
Next, we’ll talk about being strong for others. There are no specific instructions on how to do that. It’s one of those expressions that sounds good but has no real value. And it has to be one of the most confusing ideas relating to the loss. And it’s confusing because it is undoable. Truly, if you think about it, be strong for others. What does that even look like? You can be strong or you can be human. And you know what, we’re all human. So I’m not even sure what being strong means. And when I think about being strong for others, or for yourself. It’s like a passage that we put on the show of I got this, this is gonna get me down. When really inside, we’re probably crumbling a little. We don’t have that support. And we know we don’t have that support we need because of these myths I’m talking about that society has taught us that our parents and their parents have taught. We apply these myths that don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, just give it time, because of how society responds to us. And because of what we’ve learned, we attempt to be strong, we attempt to have broad shoulders and a strong back, because we don’t have the support to do anything but that right?
Myth 6 | Keep Busy
Another myth that is common that most people believe to be true and helpful yet it is neither is to keep busy, that you must stay active or keep busy are two clichés that we all have heard following any kind of significant loss. And here’s one important question, Does keeping busy discover and complete the pain caused by loss? The obvious answer is no. Well, then what does keeping busy accomplish if anything, it distracts you. And it makes one more day go by keeping busy buries the pain of the loss under an avalanche of activity. Every griever can attest to doing something to distract themselves from what they are feeling. And this is absolutely exhausting. And there are other dangers to and keeping busy. I have defined grief as the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or a change in a familiar pattern of behavior. So a death, a divorce, or any other major loss produces massive changes in all things that are familiar. And it is very difficult to adapt to life after loss. If you were never a busy person before a loss, keeping busy would add yet another major change to what was familiar. The most dangerous flaw of keeping busy is the idea that it will make you feel better. Busyness is just a distraction. It does not alter the fact that you have to take direct actions to complete the pain caused by the loss. So we have discussed six pieces of information, miss information about dealing with loss. Don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, just give it time, be strong for others, and keeping busy.
None of these ideas lead us to the actions of discovering and completing the unfinished emotions that accrue in all relationships. And I can tell you, I identify with every single one. And I would bet if you’re listening to this, and you’re thinking about your losses, you resonate with this too. Earlier I talked about you know the grave and alone myth and how it teaches us to isolate ourselves. Since isolation is one of the problems confronting grievers in our society then participation is clearly part of the solution. So I encourage you to participate in your own recovery and suggest that you start right now. Using the list of the six incorrect ideas as a guide. See if you can think of any other ideas that you were taught or that influenced your beliefs about dealing with sad, painful, or negative feelings. All of these myths I’ve shared with you today cause us to have an indifference about our own losses. And lead to us pretending to put on an Academy Award recovery front to pretend that we’re happier than we are, to put on a brave smile, to really almost avoid even talking about our loss. Because other people have been taught these very same things and reflect on us based on their perspective and their lens of their loss. How we should be responding. Either we’re grieving too long, or not long enough, or talking about it too much or not enough. Right?
We can never satisfy society and how we express our grief. But when it comes down to it, we are all a little uncomfortable around other people’s losses, because we are incredibly uncomfortable facing our own. From my heart to yours, thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural.
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