Myths about grief

Our culture teaches myths about how we are supposed to grieve. When we believe these myths, we create unrealistic expectations and may criticize ourselves unfairly when they cannot be met. When others tell us that these myths are true, we may find this hurtful and confusing.

As you read the following statements, decide which ones you may need to let go of.

  • Everyone grieves in the same way.
  • Over time grief declines in a steady fashion.
  • It is better to tell bereaved people to “be brave” and “keep a stiff upper lip” because they will not have to experience as much pain.
  • It is not important for you to have support of other people in your grief.
  • All losses are the same.
  • If your grief is “resolved,” it never comes up again.
  • Losing someone to sudden death is the same as losing someone to anticipated death.
  • Being upset and angry means that you do not believe in God or trust your spiritual beliefs.
  • Rituals and funerals are not important in helping us deal with life and death.

Myths about Family Grief

  • Family members will always help their other grieving relatives.
  • You and your family will be the same after the death as before your loved one died.
  • There is something wrong with you if you do not always feel close to family members.
  • You will not be affected much if your parent dies when you are an adult.

Myths about Grief and Children

  • Children need to be protected from grief and death.
  • If someone has lost a spouse, she or he will understand what it means to lose

a child.

  • Children grieve in the same way as adults do.
  • Parents always divorce after a child dies.
  • Children best heal their grief by talking about it.
  • Babies don’t grieve.

Myths about Grief and Relationships

  • Once a loved one has died, it is better not to focus on her or him, but to put that person in the past and go on with your life.
  • You will have no relationship with your loved one after the death.
  • The intensity and length of your grief are a testimony to your love for the deceased.
  • If you are a widow or widower, you should grieve like other widows and widowers.

Myths about Personal Feelings When Grieving

  • Feeling sorry for yourself is a bad thing when you’re grieving.
  • You should not think about your deceased loved one during the holidays because it will make you too sad.
  • Bereaved individuals only need to express their feelings in order to resolve their grief.
  • Expressing feelings that are intense is the same thing as losing
  • There is no reason to be angry with your deceased loved one.
  • If you feel that you are going crazy, you are.
  • You should only feel sadness that your loved one has died.
  • You will be better if you put painful things out of your mind.
  • You have no reason to be angry with those who tried to do their best.
  • You must be a “sick” person if you have physical problems while you are grieving.
  • You should feel better because you still have others who are living.
  • If you are angry with your deceased loved one, it means that you didn’t love that person.

Adapted from: “Shattering Eight Myths about Grief” by the Hospice Foundation of America, “Helping Dispel Five Common Myths about Grief” by Alan Wolfelt, PhD

Provided by Gerard’s House, a grief support center for children, teenagers and their families in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For more information please contact us at (505) 424-1800 or 

This article was published in “The Grieving Heart,” written and edited by Bob Dorsett, LLC,

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