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We Are All Grieving – Beware of These 7 Dangerous Myths

grieving process; 5 stages of grief; grief recovery method
grieving process; 5 stages of grief; grief recovery method; death, loss, passing of loved one
We Are All Grieving. Beware of These 7 Dangerous Myths

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the 7 dangerous myths that surround grieving.

First a quick update:

The Breakup Test
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How To Overcome Anxiety Now
Every one of us is facing great challenges during this crisis. Anxiety is one of them! Watch my video for simple but effective strategies to overcome anxiety

Now, let’s talk about the 7 dangerous myths about loss and grieving.

Have you been experiencing sadness during this pandemic? Do you realize that you are actually grieving right now? We all are.

Sadness is triggered by a sense of loss – having lost something you had or something you thought you were going to have such as an opportunity. Sadness is only one of a vast range of emotions that form grief.

Grief is our emotional response to loss or change.

The pandemic has resulted in huge losses and major changes for all of us – lifestyle, work, job, career, finances, routine, stability, security, the former sense of safety & control, freedom, independence, human interactions, human connection & touch, meaning and purpose, dreams, ambitions, and life goals.

We all are experiencing some form of grief and at various intensities.

Grief can include feelings of being alone & unsupported, numbness, heaviness, guilt, sadness, confusion, anger, loneliness, relief, disconnection, hopelessness, and meaninglessness.

Grief can result in behaviors such as deliberate isolation, addictive or obsessive behaviors designed to escape pain, overindulgence in alcohol, food or exercise (again designed to escape pain), anti-social behavior, temper outbursts or fits of anger, inability to concentrate or make decisions, physical fatigue, nightmares, and insomnia.

With the intention to help you through the grieving process, I would like to share 7 myths about loss and grieving which are harmful and undermine the necessary and natural process of grieving. In my next newsletter, I will offer specific action steps to help you with recovery from loss and grieving.

1. There are 5 stages to grieving (there is an absolute process to grieving)
You have probably heard about this as being the steps to grieving: “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.” Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying postulated that this is the model of emotional progression for people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Unfortunately, many institutions and even experts accepted this as a universal model for all grieving without researching its application and origin. I, too, made that mistake and incorrectly referred to it many years ago. The truth is that there is no linear process to grieving and no absolutes regarding grieving and loss; everyone grieves differently and the emotions can be conflicting and diverse for each person dealing with loss or change. (Read about grieving over divorce)

2 Time Heals All Wounds (do nothing)
People have good intentions when they say this to you. However, it is false; if time did heal all wounds, you would not have any negative emotions regarding anything that happened in the past. In fact, if time healed all, the older we get the more emotionally healthy we would be. And yet, who do you know that is still bitter, angry or sad over things that happened decades ago? The truth is that right action and processes are required to heal wounds.

3 Cheer up; don’t feel bad (repress what you feel)
This is a Western cultural phenomenon: you are supposed to be happy 24 hours a day, and you are not allowed to feel bad. I teach “You are allowed to feel whatever you feel.” The way you respond to those feelings is critical to the outcome and to your emotional wellbeing. The truth is that it is natural to feel pain when there is loss or major change; it is critical that you do not deny or suppress those emotions, otherwise, you will engage in addictive and harmful behaviors to escape the pain and/or the pain will manifest as illness in your body.

4 Let him grieve alone (don’t ask/talk about it)
“Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1883.) Did you grow up with this phrase and teaching? It implies that you should not feel bad, and if you do, do not show it in public because people won’t like you if you do. Accordingly, when people are grieving, friends will say things such as “Give him time and space…He needs to be alone for a while.” The truth is that isolation and separation are not antidotes to grieving, they are enablers. People who are grieving need comfort, support, understanding and compassion! They need to share their feelings and remain connected to friends,  and not to be separated from them.

5 It’s not that serious (ignore the loss – it can be replaced)
“Don’t worry; you’ll get another job…you’ll find another career…everything happens for a reason.” These are common responses (with good intentions.) However, they diminish the loss. The truth is that you cannot replace real loss; You can mourn it, resolve it, and find new meaning. You do not replace loved ones, pets or special friendships or relationships (many people are mourning work friendships, companionships and routines.)

6 Be strong (ignore/repress your feelings, be fake)
We praise people for being strong when there has been loss. What we are actually saying is, “See. He is showing no pain; he is over it.” That is the expectation we have created for each one of us. The truth is that he/she is hiding the pain to make you feel more comfortable and to get your approval. The truth is that he actually needs to express the emotions and resolve them as well as receive support and understanding from you. Worse, we establish and send contradictory and hypocritical messages: “He is so strong” and then we say, “He has another girlfriend and it’s only been X months since his wife’s death.” Furthermore, what do we expect of our partners, colleagues and friends? Authenticity, transparency and vulnerability. If you want those qualities and behaviors, then encourage those things!

7 Keep busy (you can overcome pain and loss simply by distracting yourself)
John W. James and Russell Friedman, in The Grief Recovery Handbook reveal that people fool themselves into thinking that by constantly distracting oneself, you will get through each day and then, voila, you will one day suddenly feel happy and joyful. The truth is that keeping busy without meaning is just another dangerous way of repressing or denying the painful emotions. It simply avoids the reality.

Remember, it is okay to feel whatever you feel. Admit to yourself that you are grieving and mourning. Notice what your thoughts are emotions are; ask for help and support; turn to friends for understanding and compassion (not advice unless you really believe you need it and ask for it); speak from your heart and pain; articulate what you feel and allow others to be there for you. Remember, when you are authentic and vulnerable, you will build greater trust and deeper bonds with the people who matter in your life.

In my next newsletter, I will offer specific action steps to help you with recovery from loss and grieving.

If you need help to resolve the grief and overcome challenging emotions and thoughts, trauma, or the past, book a one-on-one session with me. 

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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