Many people feel inadequate and uncomfortable when trying to help a bereaved family member, friend or loved one. Because of the lack of Grief Education Programs in our schools and institutions, we are most often forced to rely on our "common sense" in responding appropriately. However, to the grieving person, common sense is often the least helpful tact to take and can often irreparably damage relationships. Following are the nine most common myths associated with the grieving process and the bereaved individual.
As Barbara Meyers reminds us, “the human-animal bond is strong and resilient enough tolerate every human defect, alteration, and failure . . . (the bond) is not a substitute or a replacement for human companionship, rather, it is one of many relationships each of us is capable of enjoying.” Unfortunately, when we lose an animal companion, many people are unable to understand the depth of our grief, and we may be surprised to find that family and friends are not able to support us in the way we would hope.
You or your loved one may begin feeling the effects of loss and grief before a death actually occurs. These are normal reactions to current and future losses. Losses can include those associated with caring for someone with an illness, changes in relationships, and the anticipated loss of a loved one. This anticipatory grief may actually help you prepare for the losses and decrease the intensity of grief after the death occurs.
When someone dies, children react differently from adults. Preschool children usually see death as temporary and reversible, a belief reinforced by cartoon characters that die and come to life again. Children between five and nine begin to think more like adults about death, yet they still believe it will never happen to them or anyone they know.
Every loss brings sadness and sorrow. The loss of a pregnancy is no different. Ask any woman who has found herself ecstatic with the news of a planned pregnancy and then unexpectedly faced with the fact that her pregnancy has ended in miscarriage. Honoring the loss of a pregnancy can be challenging and lonely for a woman (or a couple). As a counselor I have sat in my office as women have spoken about their pregnancy losses. More often than not they are confused.
Coming to terms with the death of a loved one is one of life’s most challenging journeys. When the death is from suicide, family members and friends can experience an even more complex kind of grief. While trying to cope with the pain of their sudden loss, they are overwhelmed by feelings of blame, anger and incomprehension. Adding to their burden is the stigma that still surrounds suicide. Survivors of suicide and their friends can help each other and themselves by gaining an understanding of grief after suicide.
A question commonly asked by bereaved people at this time of year is, "How can I get through the holidays?" There is no single answer. One important guiding principle is: do what is comfortable. This advice comes from Hospice Foundation of America, a non-profit organization educating the public about loss and end-of-life care.
Whether they display it or not, a cluster of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, fear, anxiety, or apathy may occur when a teen has experienced a loss. Grieving is the process of experiencing the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual responses to loss or the perception of loss. The grief that teens experience often comes suddenly and unexpectedly. A parent may die of a sudden heart attack, a brother or sister may be killed in an auto accident, or a friend may commit suicide.
Everyone's grief is unique. We struggle to understand our thoughts and emotions as we grieve in the hope that we can control the pain we experience. Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was an early theorist who studied grief and loss by working with people who were terminally ill. She developed her Five Stage Model based on her observations of what a person typically experienced as they came to realize their own mortality. The model suggested that people go through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance as they faced death.
- Allow yourself to move in and out of whatever emotions and thoughts you have naturally. Emotions can range from disbelief, guilt, anger, sadness, to acceptance. Know that dealing with grief shortens its duration.
- Don't try to control or reshape your emotions out of the fear that you might hurt others, lose control over your emotions, or might be misunderstood or seen by others as vulnerable. Your grief belongs to you.
It is difficult to find the right words to comfort a grief-stricken friend or co-worker. Some things we say with the best intentions can make a grieving friend feel worse. Grief counselor Marta Felber, M.Ed., author of "Grief Expressed: When a Mate Dies" and herself a widow, offers the following "Do's and Don'ts" for conversing with someone who is grieving.
Recent thinking about the process of grief and mourning is moving away from a fixed stage model, in which everyone goes through the same stages of loss in a fixed order, to more flexible "phase" or "task" models.In these models, persons may move through tasks in different orders, or work on several at the same time, or even revisit tasks that felt "completed" earlier. Among the most well-known task models of mourning is that of J. William Worden.