Niamh Mitchell Life Coach

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Busting Grief Myths- don´t believe everything you hear!

In our fast-paced, grief-avoidant society we rush to tick the task of grieving off our to-do list as quickly as possible. We don’t want to embrace pain or suffering or confront the reality of our own mortality and many misconceptions about grief and grieving are born from this.  Everybody experiences grief yet nobody wants to talk about it which has resulted in a lot of misconceptions forming. Grief myths can create obstacles to mourning and add to the anguish and confusion of the bereaved.

This 2-part myth-busting series aims to challenge these fallacies and normalise the grief experience by honouring the uniqueness of each loss and the individuality of the responses to them.

Myth #1
Grief is only something you experience when someone you love dies

Let’s get clear on this once and for all-grief is a response to loss, not just to death. While death is one of the greatest losses we encounter in our lives it does not mean it is the only significant loss that we grieve and if you are experiencing grief because of a loss or transition other than death your feelings are valid and you need to honour them. We also grieve(among other things);
​The loss of a child in pregnancy through stillbirth or miscarriage
The loss of a job through unemployment or retirement
The loss of a pet
The loss of youth
Illness and disease
The loss of a loved one through dementia or Alzheimer’s
The loss of a home
The loss of a loved one through suicide, imprisonment or absence
The loss of an important role we identify with.

Myth #2
Grief is an emotional response to loss

Yes, it is an emotional response to loss, but it is so much more than that. It also has cognitive, physical, social and spiritual elements.

To say it is only emotional is to undermine its multifaceted nature leaving us perplexed and frightened when we experience things heart palpitations, tightness in our chest, sleep and digestive disturbances, dizziness or nausea, while it is always advisable to get these symptoms checked out by a medical professional they are commonly experienced by the bereaved as a normal part of grief.

The cognitive effects of grief include things like forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty making decisions and even auditory hallucinations, you’re grieving you’re not going mad.

​Social withdrawal, and questioning the meaning of life, and its fairness (or lack of) is also to be expected, go with it, you need to slow down and turn inward, and learn to embrace your grief in order to heal.

Myth #3
Time heals all wounds

Grief doesn’t fit neatly into a time-frame. When someone tells you that healing takes a year, two years or any specific amount of time remember that you don’t ‘get over’ grief you learn to live with it, to integrate it into your life and each person grieves in their own way and in their own time. Even when you think you have healed a sudden wave of grief may knock you over and leave you gasping for air. Be gentle with yourself and the process, there is no end date by which you should ‘complete’ grieving.

Myth #4
​If you aren´t crying you´re repressing your grief.

​Your grief is as individual as you are and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. This is one of the biggest concerns I hear from my clients, the fear that they are ´doing it wrong´and it comes from a limited idea of what healthy grief looks like. Not everyone experiences great waves of emotions and that does not mean you are not grieving or not ´grieving properly´. Grief and bereavement researcher Kenneth Doka, in an attempt to understand the difference between how men and women grieve, identified 2 different styles of grieving; Intuitive grieving and instrumental grieving. Intuitive grieving is more emotion based and experienced as tears and the feelings of sadness that grief brings, instrumental grief is cognitive with the mental separation being the most pressing sensation. In reality, we do not neatly fall into one style or the other but somewhere along a continuum. So if you find yourself moving through your grief by actions such as getting stuck into work or a new project rather than processing your emotions and expressing or talking about your feelings know that this is a perfectly normal, healthy response to grief.

Myth #5
​You only grieve the loss

Unfortunately, few losses come alone they bring with them what are known as secondary losses. These include such things as the loss of your planned or desired future,  your sense of security, your circle of friends financial losses, the loss of hope, the loss of your identity as a mother, wife, sister or boss, and the loss of confidence. This is only a small smattering of possible secondary losses, and each one must be acknowledged and grieved as part of our healing journey.
The most important thing to remember when you´re grieving is that the range for what constitutes normal grief  is probably wider than you think. See part 2 for some more myth busting around grief and mourning.

If you are struggling to understand your grief and feel like you could do with some extra support contact me to set up a complementary consultation.

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Niamh Mitchell

Life Coach

Helping you make big changes in small steps.

Spiritual life coach