Myths about grief

Myth 3 – We are all different, but we grieve in a similar way


Do we all grieve in the same way? We see movies and news reports showing grief-stricken people from around the world – no matter our race, culture, religion, geography, age and gender – we all seem to express sorrow and pain in a similar way when we lose someone. Is this truly the case in the real world?

Elizabeth Kubler Ross described the five-stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Is it as simple as working through the five stages of grief? Is the experience of grieving the same for everyone? What do we need to learn about grief to support and assist someone who is grieving?

The truth is that grief is unique, and nobody can fully understand another person’s grief. We grieve because we love, and we all love and experience loss uniquely. There are so many circumstances that lead up to the death of a loved one and these circumstances have a huge effect on the grief we experience. A sudden and traumatic death adds layers of complexity of pain and loss.  A long-drawn-out death, watching someone’s life drain away, is also complex – even though death is expected.

Loss is always intense, no matter how much you prepare or fail to prepare for it.  Each experience is fraught with trauma and requires a specific personal intercession that is designed with care and support.  When offering advice (albeit with good intentions), you may do more harm than good if you do not truly understand how uniquely people experience loss and grief.

Remarks like “You should get out more” or “This too shall pass” provide no comfort to a person who is suffering as they may have no idea when they will begin to feel better, if ever.

What you can say is: “I care” or “I am here for you”. Listening helps.  Sometimes just sitting quietly with your family, friend or colleague can also help.

Each religion and culture have different traditions and norms to process grief, but it is more important to treat each person according to their individual needs.  Never shut down a person’s grief because it makes you feel uncomfortable. Let them grieve in their way.  Allow them to express their sorrow, discuss the loss of their loved one, and slowly re-enter society, at their own pace.

There is no standard formula for grief.

All you can offer is kindness, compassion and understanding. Each person’s grief journey is unique and unpredictable. We are all human, but we grieve in our own unique way. Finding our new normal is a personal transformation that takes place when we are ready, not in line with grief timeline, theory or formula.

Grieve in your own way. Find peace and acceptance when you are ready.

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