by Chaplain Julia Rajtar, MAPS, BCC
How do I know I’m grieving right? How do I know I’m getting better? When should I seek additional help? These are great questions! There is no “one size fits all” answer to these questions. Well-intentioned friends and family try to give us the answers, based upon their experiences. However, your own experience is the best teacher.
We tend to know, by the way we think, feel and behave, that there are certain untruths about grief, such as, “It takes two months to get over your grief.” This statement is not true. In fact, if you love someone, you carry that grief with you forever. Usually, the intensity of the pain of that loss, decreases over time, so that you are able to live with and integrate that death into your life. There is no timetable for grief. False information can affect your self-expectations about your recovery and grief.
Therese A. Rando, Ph.D, in her book, How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, provides a list of myths about grief. This list is intended to help you as you consider what standards you may use to measure how well you are doing, and help you explore what other support you might need. Consider this list and decide how many of these items you believe.
Myths About Grief
• All losses are the same.
• It takes two months to get over your grief.
• All bereaved people grieve in the same way.
• Grief always declines over time in a steadily decreasing way.
• When grief is resolved, it never comes up again.
• Family members will always help grievers.
• Children grieve like adults.
• Feeling sorry for yourself is not allowable.
• It is better to put painful things out of your mind.
• You should not think about your deceased loved one at the holidays because it will make you
• Bereaved individuals only need to express their feelings and they will resolve their grief.
• Expressing feelings that are intense is the same as losing control.
• There is no reason to be angry at people who tried to do their best for your deceased loved
• There is no reason to be angry at your deceased loved one.
• Only sick individuals have physical problems in grief.
• Because you feel crazy, you are going crazy.
• Infant death shouldn’t be too difficult to resolve because you didn’t know the child that well.
• Children need to be protected from grief and death.
• Rituals and funerals are unimportant in helping us deal with life and death in contemporary
• Being upset and grieving means that you do not believe in God or trust your religion.
• You will have no relationship with your loved one after the death.
• The intensity and length of your grief are testimony to your love for the deceased.
• There is something wrong if you do not always feel close to your other family members since
you should be happy they are still alive.
• There is something wrong with you if you think that part of you has died with your loved one.
• If someone has lost a spouse he or she knows what it is like to lose a child.
• It is better to tell bereaved people to "be brave" and "keep a stiff upper lip" because then they
will not have to experience as much pain.
• Grief will affect you psychologically but in no other way.
• Losing someone to sudden death is the same as losing someone to an anticipated death.
• You will not be affected much if your parent dies when you are an adult.
• It is not important to have social support in your grief.
• Once your loved one has died it is better not to focus on him or her but to put him or her in
the past and go on.
• You can find ways to avoid the pain of your grief and still resolve it successfully.
All of these statements are FALSE. If you would like to learn more, read Rando’s book, consider joining
a grief group or discussion group about grief.
Source: Rando, Therese A., Ph.D., How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, Bantam Books, 1988, New York, New York, pp. 6-9.