Don’t Fall for These Grief Myths!

Grief is an assault on the body, mind, and soul. You anticipated this. However, you may not have been prepared for the myths that surround grief. Despite research and anecdotal evidence, false myths persist. We can’t seem to avoid them and believing these myths can slow grief recovery.

In 2007 four family members died–my daughter (mother of my twin grandchildren), my father-in-law, my brother, and the twins’ father. Grief myths found me in record time. Be on the lookout for these myths. Don’t let repetition imprint them in your mind.

Myth: You will be over grief in a month or so. This myth is unrealistic and anyone who has experienced grief knows this. The death of a loved one causes a gap in your life and you will live with it for the rest of your days.

Myth: Grief has stages and you will experience all of them. Research has proven this myth to be false. When Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the five stages of grief–denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance–she didn’t intend for them to be absolute. Today, many grief experts think there are more stages of grief.

Myth: You will have to give up things you live to recover from grief. After the twins’ parents died in separate car crashes, the court appointed my husband and me as their guardians. Friends told me to give up writing so I could care for the twins. This was terrible advice. Writing about my losses helped me track my grief journey and stay on the recovery path.

Myth: Recovering from multiple losses is the same as recovering from one. This, too, is false. I know because I coped with multiple losses. Recovering from multiple losses takes longer and can get complicated. Your feelings bounce around from past, to present, to future, and may keep bouncing around.

Myth: Staying busy will speed recovery. The opposite is true. Trying to stay busy can be an avoidance response to grief. Unless it is addressed, postponed grief may become complicated grief, something you don’t need. Complicated grief can morph into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Myth: Grief experience lessens the pain of future grief. I wish this were true, but it isn’t. Every loss is devastating. If your losses are close together you are doubly devastated. I’ve found it best to process each loss as it comes and think about the joy the deceased person brought to my life. As I do this, I track and name my feelings.

Though myths can make us think about painful subjects and search for solutions, the myths I’ve cited may deplete your resilience. When you hear a myth, label it as such, and don’t give it room in your mind. You’re entitled to your feelings. Be patient with yourself. Take the time you need to get your bearings, come to terms with loss, and rebound from grief. Ask for help if you need it. Say your loved one’s name and create memorials in their honor. When you do these things, happiness becomes possible again.

Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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