Grief Series: The Misconceptions of Grief
Updated: Jun 6, 2022
“Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. Therefore the feelings you are having are also normal and natural for you. The problem is that we have all been socialized to believe that these feelings are abnormal and unnatural.” (1)
There is no doubt that grieving can be an uncomfortable process - for the one grieving and for those who are trying to know how to respond to someone else’s grief. As a result, the process of grief is not talked about as much as it should be, resulting in some common misconceptions we may find ourselves believing. Here are just a few:
Misconception #1 - Everyone grieves in stages.
Grief doesn’t follow rules or predictable patterns. Everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and sometimes we will revisit old feelings that we need to process in new ways. This misconception tends to be the result of how people have applied some insights from a Psychiatrist who specialized in helping people who are dying. In 1960 Elisabeth Kuhbler Ross wrote a book, On Death and Dying, and in that book she outlined 5 stages that people commonly experience when they receive catastrophic news, such as a terminal illness. While her work has been extremely helpful in understanding grief, people have since applied those 5 stages to all forms of grief, which was not her intent, nor an exacting picture of how grief is experienced by all people in all situations.
Misconception #2 - Women grieve more than men.
“Some people, due to personality, gender or cultural norms may grieve in a more expressive way, while others may grieve in a more cognitive way through problem-solving and taking action...In many cultures, men especially are expected not to cry, but to be strong and bear heavy burdens. For this reason, many men don’t show sadness through crying.” (2)
Misconception #3 - If you’re not crying, you’re not really grieving.
People express and process emotions in different ways, and many process emotions in multiple ways. An absence of tears should not be equated with an absence of emotions. That is an unfair and inaccurate conclusion most of the time. “There are many reasons why a grieving person may not cry. In some cultures, crying is considered to be something embarrassing that should be avoided. Some may have learned from an early age to not express their emotions with tears.” (3)
Misconception #4 - Whatever the loss, the goal of grief is to ‘get over it’.
What many grieving people face is a pressure to ‘move on’, to ‘get over it’, and just ‘be strong’. The problem is that this misconception fails to recognize what needs to happen internally for a grieving person to recover. “Recovery means ‘discovering and completing’ what was unfinished for you in your unique relationship.” (4) Recovery requires processing the emotions and the loss in order to come to accept it and make the needed adjustments. Let me close with this reminder that inviting people into our story is good for our soul…
“Joy shared is joy increased; grief shared is grief diminished.”
Grief Counselling Resources:
Sometimes grief can become chronic and introduce other health problems that make it impossible to function, even after many months. Grief treatment and grief counseling can be an option for someone struggling to overcome grief on their own. No one should be ashamed to seek professional help for grief. Physicians and therapists can offer suggestions to improve coping skills and evaluate an individual for secondary health problems stemming from grief.
Lutherwood Family Counselling Services: https://www.lutherwood.ca/ (519) 623-9380
Coping Bereavement Groups of Ontario: https://www.copingcentre.com/ 519-650-0852
Bereaved Families of Ontario: https://bfomidwest.org/ (519) 603-0196
1. John James and Russell Friedman. The Grief Recovery Handbook Expanded Edition. (Harper-Collins, 2009), p. 3.
4. James and Friedman, p. 41.
The information on this website is intended for general education purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional and/or medical advice.