ReConceiving Preconceived Notions About Grief
~Thomas M. Ellis
Thomas M. Ellis is a therapist, clinical supervisor, and executive director of the Center for Grief, Loss, and Transition based in Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Death, loss, and grief are realities of life. But few of us feel comfortable openly conversing about these critical life experiences.
Talking about such realities (as Death, Loss, and Grief) is taboo in our society, and many preconceptions shape basic understandings of how the grief process should work.
Many generations of families, cultural traditions, religious and spiritual beliefs, gender expectations, literature, media interpretations, and other influences have given birth to the perceptions we share.
You almost certainly approach the grieving process with some preconceived notions that may inhibit your healing process.
Understanding what you bring to your grief and what may get in the way of your healing may be helpful. Use the following list to help you discover what grief might mean to you and your family.
ReConceptions of Commonly Preconceived Ideas:
- Grief is not about stages you go through and ultimately graduate from. Rather it is a dynamic process of ups and downs, fluctuating with painful and peaceful moments, hours, days, and weeks.
- Grief is not something you get over. Instead it is an experience you must go through directly, taking in all the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that you encounter along the way.
- Grief is not time-limited, nor does time heal all wounds. A common misconception is that you grieve for one year and on the anniversary of the loss you will return to "normal." This concept promotes a sense of failure and concern. In reality, grief demands the time it needs. Healing requires active participation in grieving.
- Everyone does not experience grief in the same manner everyone else does. Grief is unique to each individual and experience. Give yourself permission to be free of others' expectations, and grant that freedom to others to explore and heal in ways that are real to them. Comparing and judging the losses and grieving processes of others is divisive, unproductive.
- Grief cannot be avoided. It waits for you and eventually demands your attention. Approaching grief is often scary, and you may fear that it will upset you and others around you. But the pain is already there, and nothing can make it worse. Denial will not relieve the present anxiety--expression will. The open expression of grief is a challenge in our modern society.
- Children and adults do not experience and express grief in the same ways. Children tend to grieve in small doses, followed by periods of play and distraction. They do not always have the information and words to express themselves. But yes, they are grieving.
- Grief may isolate you from family and friends. Keeping it private and personal doesn't make it go away.
- At times, people who are grieving may feel like having fun or laughing. You may need this. Fear of being judged or of piling on more guilt may prevent this. It's okay to take breaks from the exhausting work of grief.
~Thomas M. Ellis
This Thing Called Grief: New Understandings of Loss