3 Misconceptions About Grief
I was having a conversation with a friend the other day that was experiencing a loss on the heels of the one-year anniversary of losing her mother. In talking with her I was reminded of the misconceptions about grief many experience when going through the grieving process.
1. After the first year you will be fine
I remember when I lost Dave, the man that I was going to grow old with. I expected the first year to be hard. Why not? It would be a year of firsts without him. First birthday, first anniversary, first holiday, etc. Most people expect you to be sad that first year. It is as if you have permission to grieve in year one. I really thought that after the first year I would move on and start living life again. I actually even said that to a friend, ” It has been a year now, I am good. ” I had no idea what was ahead of me. What I didn’t expect was that the second year would be even more difficult.
I believe it was more difficult because the feeling of loss became unexpected and random. I could go days without crying and then out of the blue I would hear a song, a smell, a food, an activity, anything that could trigger the memory that I have lost him forever. It seemed to be random. This was not what I had anticipated. In year one, I could rely on the “expected” reasons for mourning but these unexpected ones seemed too much for me to handle. I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t like it.
The first year is hard, really hard, but it doesn’t end there. I had spent a year of grieving, crying pretty much all the time. Wasn’t that enough??? Wasn’t it time to move forward? Surely there is a time limit on this. I couldn’t live like this forever. Well, you don’t. It does get easier. Easier in the sense that the tears do start to slow down and are not an everyday or even weekly occurrence. Easier in the sense that the loss doesn’t take over your thoughts every waking minute. It does take time to heal. That time is different for everyone and you can’t put a timeframe on it.
2. I am crying too much
Just when I thought I couldn’t cry anymore, something would happen and I found myself crying again. I once heard someone say, “How can you put a number on the amount of tears you shed for a loved one? Aren’t they worth the tears that you shed?” When I heard it put that way it changed the way I thought about crying. It is true. How can you put a number or a limit on it? We are each affected differently by loss. Every relationship is different. We should not compare ourselves to others or even another loss we have experienced. Each person touches our lives differently. So each loss will affect us differently.
3. My life is over
Don’t confuse this with “My life will never be the same.” Your life will be different. There is now a void in your life. What do you do with that? That is a decision every one experiencing loss has to make. You must remember that you are still here. Allow time to grieve but there does come a time when you need to move forward with your life. That is one of the most difficult challenges for people. Grief, guilt, and fear can come into play and affect our ability to move forward.
Grief is a process. It changes as time goes on. How you feel in year one is different than year three or year six or even year ten. You will never forget that person and sometimes you may be sad when you think of them. That is ok. What we need to be careful is that we don’t get stuck in the grief. As people we are very adaptable and we can get comfortable in our grief.
Experiencing grief is a part of life. Navigating through it can be challenging. I would encourage you to not do it alone. Finding a great support group, grief counselor, or grief coach is an invaluable tool to help you move forward. Life does go on and it is up to you to decide what that looks like for you.