This week’s Touchpoint centers primarily around dispelling some myths and sharing some truths about grief. When you enter a state of grief, in whatever circumstance that may be, you will face new challenges. One challenge is to “wade through” what people will say to you, usually out of a caring heart, but which may or may not be helpful for you. I will highlight those I find to be the most helpful to think about. Tomorrow, during our Zoom group, I invite you to share during our conversation what you have discovered about myths and truths surrounding grief. Scroll to the bottom for a longer list we can use as additional discussion points tomorrow.
Grief is emotionally, spiritually, and physically painful. Your body will want to avoid feeling this way, so the advice to “be strong and ignore it” may at first, sound appealing. Strength is often associated with the idea of fortitude, being strong enough to withstand something challenging. But strength in grief is not found in walls of isolation and avoidance, it is found in the process of gently engaging and naming this pain you are feeling. To go down into your grief, when you feel safe enough to explore it (and with help from others) takes so much more strength than avoiding it altogether. Do not grieve quietly, or quickly, take the time you need, and explore how you’re feeling. Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely are all normal reactions.
Everyone grieves differently. There is not a path, there is no normal. Crying tends to be something people will talk about in their attempts to define what “normal” grief looks like. However, crying may not happen for some, for days, months, years, or ever in some cases, and that can be normal. The deep sadness that comes with grief brings about so many physical responses. Crying is only one of those responses. I have heard people say they don’t know how they could possibly cry anymore tears. Yet others show their sadness without crying, but the expression is just as deep and just as genuine. What is important here is that you explore what you need, and not that you feel compelled to follow a path of grief someone has defined for you.
People around you love you, and want to help you. They will offer you all sorts of advice. Some of this advice is very much needed in a practical sense. But what is important, when giving or receiving advice, is that it is never used to push someone to “move on” or to diminish how they feel. Advice and comments like “I know just how you feel” can make you feel like your grief is trivial. But it is not. Everyone’s grief experience is deeply painful for them, and not comparable to another’s experience. For those grieving, do not feel an obligation to take anyone’s advice. Find a trusted friend or counselor who will offer more of themselves in service of listening to you and not trying to fix you. Grief cannot be fixed, it can only be integrated into who you are now.
Finally, the last myth I will share with you today is that grief has a “timeline.” Maybe someone has given you a timeline saying, “you will feel better in a year.” Or maybe they have set up expectations on when you should take an action, such as clean out a closet, or cry, or return to church, or book club, or whatever they think would indicate your grief is over. There is no set timeline, because grief becomes a part of your entire being. But time does help. It helps by offering you the space you need to process at your own pace. Take all the time you need.
Tomorrow, I invite you to join us at 2PM to share in a discussion about our experiences in grief, and in this challenging time of isolation. We will discuss these topics and also have time for those who did not share their story last week to share if they wish to do so. Comment on this blog if you wish to share thoughts on this topic.
Click this link below to learn about how to connect to our Zoom meeting, every Tuesday from 2pm-3:30pm. It is free, and open to all, no registration required.
MYTHS AND TRUTHS ABOUT GRIEF
MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
TRUTH: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. Our society tends to encourage us to grieve quickly and quietly. Facing your grief and dealing with it actively is necessary for the process to unfold.
MYTH: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
TRUTH: Feeling sad, frightened or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
TRUTH: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.
MYTH: Moving on with your life means you’re forgetting the one you lost.
TRUTH: Moving on is not the same as forgetting. You can create a new life and still keep your loved one’s memory a part of you.
MYTH: Friends can help by not bringing up the subject.
TRUTH: People who are grieving usually want and need to talk about their loss. Bringing up the subject can make it easier to talk about.
MYTH: Comments such as “I know just how you feel” or “You need to get on with your life” are helpful to one who is mourning.
TRUTH: Everyone feels grief in a different way and comments such as these tend to trivialize the grief experience. It is important not to make light of individuals’ grief experiences.
MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
TRUTH: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person. It takes as long as it takes.