This content was written by our sponsor Brenda J. DeMotte.
You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair. -Old Chinese Proverb
As you make your way through the chaos of grief, it can be helpful to recognize common misconceptions about grief. Your own lived experience will teach you more than anything you have heard about what grief is supposed to look like or feel and how long it is supposed to last. If you can bring a questioning mind to all you hear about grief, you may more easily surrender to its turbulence.
For instance, here are a few of the more common myths: Grief follows and orderly path. Grief is a smooth progression upward, back to normal. Grief ends. You will get over your loss. Time will heal. All loss brings sadness. If you avoid direct experience of the death, your grief will be less. If you saw the loss coming, your grief will be shorter and easier.
It can be helpful to recognize the many myths about grief for what they are: culturally convenient ways to create distance from the unruly nature of grief and loss. So many factors alter, intensify or mitigate an experience of loss. Because loss and grief are so difficult, new theories constantly pop up, aimed at fixing difficulties. Maybe if you scoff at your emotions, they’ll disappear. Maybe if you eat seaweed or chew gum, the grief will go away. But I don’t think so. And although it may be impossible to see any good in the pain you are undergoing, you may be surprised at what you learn and what you gain as you move along through your unavoidable loss.
Loss is painful and grief work is hard. Redefining your own identity, discovering a new normal and recreating a sense of purpose and meaning bring enormous physical, social, emotional and spiritual challenges. Having accurate information to work with makes this work a bit less confusing. I invite you to become vigilant to the myths of grief and bring your questioning mind to their message.
Read more about the myths of grief in Brenda’s book “Grief Demystified, A Companion Through Change”, available at: amazon.com and at Brenda’s website www.griefdemystified.com.
By: Brenda J. DeMotte, MSW, LICSW An excerpt from her book: Grief Demystified, A Companion Through Change For more information or to purchase the book visit: www.griefdemystified.com
Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power…that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more. – Marcel Proust
No Loss Without Gain
In the early days of bereavement, it’s hard to believe that anything good can come from your loss. But things are different now, and you may notice a silver lining or two. You may have or foresee more time to yourself, or more freedom of one kind or another. Your mind may protest that you can’t possibly want more time or freedom at such a cost. But these freedoms remain real enough. The gains from bereavement can be major gains in the way you remake your new identity (our definition of grief, remember, is nothing less than a redefinition of self) and also small, practical gains.
Small, Practical Gains
We’ll start with the small gains. If you are newly bereaved, you will likely be noticing already that some things in your life are a little easier. If you have lost a mate, for example, you no longer have to cope with his snoring, or wait while she looks for her car keys for the millionth time. Hold on, you may say, I’d cope with any amount of snoring or key hunting if I could just have my mate back. No doubt you would, if death or divorce could be undone by wishing. But that’s not the way it goes.
Grounding Yourself Through Small Gains
It’s a positive step in your grief work to dare to admit that it can be kind of nice to have sole control of the TV remote, to watch action flicks or soppy romantic movies that your late spouse or ex deplored, or to crank the type of music that you love but he or she hated. Such thoughts, far from being disloyal, as baby steps in accepting your loss. It is helpful and healthy to admit what is real. And because daily life is full of small, practical realities, grounding oneself by attention to these realities is a way to forge a new connection to life. All of this is the way things are, whether you like it or not, so why not find small things to like? People need permission to accept the practical gains that come with loss. Whether or not you wanted it, there’s simply more freedom. Options open and there may be room now for surprise and serendipity.
New Strengths And Paying It Forward
Gains are unavoidable from losses. If you think you’re doing something wrong by gaining from death or divorce, you haven’t yet grasped the full implications of your loss. For everything that was taken there’s a corresponding something given, a very real possibility that you are gaining new strengths from coping. Though you didn’t ask for or deserve the suffering, it’s here. It can crush you, or you can, over time, develop resilience. It seasons you and make you wise. Eventually, you can come to fully accept what happened, to the point that you turn naturally toward comforting others who will inevitably be in your shoes – because all of us go through this. We’re all in this together. There is no deeper wisdom than that.