Our society tends to perpetuate a number of myths about grief and mourning. These myths may seem harmless, but I have found they can quickly become hurdles to healing.
Below are three of the most common myths about grief. I hope this information will help you overcome these myths and better understand how to help yourself or others heal.
Grief and Mourning are the Same Experience
Most people tend to use the words grief and mourning interchangeably. However, there is an important distinction between them. Simply stated, grief is the internal thoughts and feelings we experience when someone we loves dies. Mourning, on the other hand, is taking the internal experience of grief and expressing it outside ourselves.
In reality, many people in our culture grieve, but they do not mourn. Instead of being encouraged to express their grief outwardly, they are often greeted with messages such as “carry on,” or “keep busy.” So one ends up grieving within themselves in isolation, instead of mourning outside of themselves with the presence and support of family and friends.
It is Best To Move Away From Grief
Many grievers do not give themselves permission to mourn. Many people view grief as something to be overcome rather than experience. The result is that many of us run away from our grief.
People who express their grief are sometimes viewed as “weak” and the common message oftengiven to them is “it is only a pet.” Refusing to allow tears, suffering in silence, and “being strong” are thought to be admirable behaviors by society’s standards. Many people in grief have internalized this message that mourning should be done quietly, quickly, and efficiently.
Such messages encourage the repression of the grievers thoughts and feelings. The problem is that attempting to mask or move away from grief results in internal anxiety and confusion. In order to heal, one must move toward their grief through continued mourning, not away from it through repression and denial. Talking, remembering and writing are all useful tools for those in mourning.
The Goal is to “Get Over” Grief
We never get over grief but instead become reconciled to it. We do not resolve or recover from our grief. We have all heard people ask, “Are you ready to adopt another pet?” These terms suggest a total return to “normalcy” and yet we are all forever changed by the experience of grief and are working to achieve a new normal,
Mourners do however learn to reconcile their grief. We learn to integrate the new reality of moving forward in life without the physical presence of the pet who has died. As the process of reconciliation unfolds, we realize that life will be different without our beloved companion. At first we realize this with our head and then later come to realize it with our heart.
We also realize that reconciliation is a process, not an event. The sense of loss does not completely disappear, but softens, and the intense pangs of grief become less frequent. Hope for continued life emerges as we are able to make commitments to the future, realizing that the pet who passed away will never be forgotten, yet knowing that one’s own life can and will move forward.