Common Misconceptions About Grief and Loss

emotion grief health therapy Mar 08, 2022

By Kimberlee Bow, MA, LPC, R-DMT, CT, ACS, CFE/T, RSME/T, RYT500


Our journey continues with the second post in this series on grief. Our next step is to look at some of the misconceptions that have been shared about grief and mourning. While reading, check-in with yourself, notice what comes up, and no matter what comes up hold it with compassion and care. And once again, while there is a bit more emphasis on death loss, there is much that is applicable to other losses.


Grief and mourning come in predictable, orderly stages.


Chances are many have heard about the “stages” of grief. Many text books and articles have been written discussing the “stages” of grief based on the 1969 publication of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ landmark text On Death and Dying. Dr. Kübler-Ross’ book stemmed from her heart to work with terminally ill patients and their experiences in the face of their own impending deaths. What came out of these experiences was the following - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Dr. Kübler-Ross did not intend for what happened next. People began to believe these were the orderly stages of grief that people went through.


Then what is the reality?


Grief is not orderly and, in fact, tends to be messy. Emotions and feelings do not come in a specific order. Some or all may be felt simultaneously. And there may be many more feelings and emotions, not just anger or the feeling of depression. Feelings like relief, guilt, and confusion are just a few others. The different feelings and emotions and combinations thereof will be unique to each person. Furthermore, people may return to the same feelings months later or numerous times over the course of time.


You should try to get over grief as quickly as possible.


Many Western cultures hold the belief that unhappiness is a bad thing and we should only be focused on the positive and what feels comfortable. This type of thinking may come from the idea that suffering should be avoided, and if encountered it’s our right and need to put it behind us ASAP. Then there are other cultures who embrace grief and acknowledge its important role in the human experience.


Then what is reality?


Grief is normal and necessary. There is reason and purpose for grief as part of being human. Grief is not something that we get over. Rather, we learn to reconcile ourselves to grief. Nor is grief something that one can go around. When a person attempts to avoid grief, it will find a way to reveal itself. Sometimes in unexpected ways. The best way to work with grief is to take the journey and experience it fully.


Grief is highly personal, and nobody else can help you with it.


While it is true that a person’s grief is internal and unique. Everyone's an expert on their own grief. No one can know exactly how a person feels in grief. However, the belief that nobody else can help people in grief is rather more of an isolating belief to people who are in grief.


Then what is reality?


People need others for support when they are in grief. Humans are not meant to grieve alone. While people will experience highly personal thoughts and feelings, they also need to be able to express many of these thoughts and feelings with trusted people in their life. While there is no study to backup this Rule of Thirds, it does seem to hold true. A third of the people in someone’s life will be supportive and be the people that will stand with that person in their grief journey. Another third of people will be neutral. They will not be helpful or harmful. Then there is the last third who will be harmful and not supportive. Finding the first third who will be supportive is essential.


When someone dies, the mourner only grieves and mourns for the physical loss of the person.


Yes, people will grieve the physical loss of a person they care about in their lives. However, there is more to a loss than just the loss of someone’s physical presence.


Then what is the reality?


While the list that follows is not all inclusive, here are a few other types of losses:

  • Loss of self (identity, self-confidence, etc.)
  • Loss of security (emotional, physical, fiscal, lifestyle)
  • Loss of meaning (goals and dreams, faith, will/desire to live, joy)


People in our lives are like mirrors. They reflect back to us a lot of information both implicitly and explicitly. For example, the roles we hold. Think about the parent-child relationship. As a child with parents, people can define themselves as a son or daughter because there are parents. In the event of the death of parents, the question may arise, “Am I still a son or daughter?” Looking at an example that is not based on death loss but job loss something similar can happen. After the loss of a job, “Am I still a professional or a provider for my family?”


When grief and mourning are finally reconciled, they never come up again.


Many hope that there is a discrete endpoint to a grief journey. That one day one will wake up and be done grieving nor do people “recover” or “get over” grief. As much as that would be nice, it just isn’t the case. Grief is really a life journey without a discreet end.


Then what is the reality?


Griefbursts will happen. These are moments where one’s grief will emerge usually unexpectedly. It is a normal part of the process. Rather than “getting over” their grief, people reconcile their grief in their lives as they fully realize the reality of the loss. A new normal comes alive in healing rather than going back to the old normal. Take heart, grief does soften over time as it is explored, embraced, and expressed on the journey. As people actively grieve, mourn, and attend to the six needs of mourning, meaning and love eventually find their way into the journey.


Thank you for your time in reading this post and continuing this journey. The journey continues next month with another blog post that will continue to build upon everything we have learned thus far. 



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