Our culture perpetuates many myths that undermine and judge the bereaved. The illusion that grief follows predictable, orderly stages or should resolve quickly leads far too many to bottle up emotions and chastise themselves when sorrow inevitably ebbs and flows.
In this post I examine some of the myths about grief, my aim is to liberate mourners to walk their own winding path through loss. No single trajectory exists. Honoring grief’s inherent messiness and fluctuation is vital to healing. With compassionate understanding, we can dismantle the myths impeding mourners from fully embracing their humanity while grieving.
Myth #1. The Myth of the Five Stages
The popular notion that grievers flow cleanly through five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – is more harmful fiction than fact. In truth,Introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross while studying the terminally ill, these stages capture some common experiences but oversimplify mourning’s nonlinear reality. Few proceed straight through these stages in fixed order. Most circle through them fluidly, even revisiting earlier stages as new waves of grief emerge. Other experiences like nostalgia, anxiety and loneliness are also deeply woven into mourning.
This myth can make mourners feel broken or delayed when their journey follows a far messier trajectory than the stages imply. But grieving cannot be summarized so formulaically. By releasing expectations of orderly progression, we make space for its ups and downs. Each journey is unique.
Myth #2. The Myth of Closure
An equally troubling fiction is the idea of closure – that grief should conclude tidily once the bereaved has sufficiently separated from the deceased. But those who have suffered loss know grief ebbs and flows throughout a lifetime. There is no clear finish line.
Mourning rituals and landmark dates like anniversaries often revive poignant memories and emotions around beloved figures who passed. This lifelong dance with grief is absolutely healthy. Letting go does not mean forgetting or shutting away the pain of a profound loss. Healing simply means searching out hope and purpose once more while still carrying the loss within one’s heart.
Myth #3. The Myth of Time Healing All
Many cling to this common platitude. Yet the passage of time alone does not guarantee resolution of grief. Nor should mourners have to justify prolonged grief based on how much time has elapsed. Healing unfolds at its own pace. For some it forms quickly, for others certain losses require years to fully process.
Rather than expecting time itself to smoothly deliver mourners from sorrow, compassion is the balm that helps mend wounded hearts. Grievers deserve unrushed space for grief, not pressure to comply with artificial schedules. With empathy, resilience grows.
Myth #4. The Myth of Moving On
Closely tied to time as a salve, the oft-repeated directive to “move on” after loss also discounts grief’s lasting imprint. The problem with moving on is it implies leaving the deceased and associated memories firmly in the past. But our lost loved ones often remain integral parts of our identity and narrative.
The goal need not be severing bonds with the past or one’s feelings entirely. Doing so severs a vital tie. What we must do is integrate the loss into our ever-changing lives, finding space for grief while forging new paths forward. Healing redefines our relationship to what was lost, but does not demand forgetfulness.
Myth #5. The Myth of Replacement
Some hold that new relationships or children can replace what was lost. The idea that finding new love or having a child substitutes for a deceased partner or baby denies the uniqueness of what – and who – was lost. It is ultimately a hurtful minimization of grief.
While new beginnings can bring joy, they do not replace singular losses. To believe otherwise dishonors the depth of mourning. Each life and relationship carries irreplaceable meaning. Those lost remain cherished parts of our story.
Myth #6. The Myth of Keeping Busy
Busyness should not be the default prescription for grief. Reflection and processing require space and time. Rushing back into productivity or filling voids solely with plans often temporarily distracts from the inner work grief demands. Avoidance prolongs mourning.
Nor should mourners feel guilty about not being functional. Honoring emotions is urgent and healing. Lost concentration, broken sleep, lack of motivation – these responses deserve self-compassion, not admonishment. Healing through grief means slowing down and turning inward, not speeding up in avoidance.
Myth #7. The Myth of Proceeding Alone
No one should endure grief alone. Yet social messages like “stay strong” deter sharing sorrow. Suppressing expression prolongs pain. Seeking support is never a sign of weakness, no matter cultural taboos.
Turning to others for a receptive ear, counseling or support groups can lessen isolation. Even joining an online grief forum lets mourners exchange stories and be heard without judgment. Pain shared lessens its weight.
Our shared humanity means loss will inevitably touch each life. In grief, may we offer compassion towards ourselves and others – understanding no single pathway or timeframe defines the mourning process. Shedding misconceptions about linear stages, rushed closure and stoic strength allows more authentic healing including grief counselling.
Grief flows and ebbs naturally. By releasing expectations that it ought follow predictable patterns, we can walk alongside mourners with wisdom and empathy as they chart their own course through sorrow. With openness and time, grief’s darkness softens. No one needs traverse it alone.
Busting the myths about grief. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.sane.org/information-and-resources/the-sane-blog/suicide-prevention/busting-the-myths-about-grief
Fletcher, J. (2022). Debunking Myths About Grief. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/health/myths-about-grief