Grief is something not many people understand, yet everyone experiences. And the way we grieve is changing, quickly. It seems that the old paradigm was seeing grief as a more linear process. There are many schools of thought about grief. One is the Continuing Bonds (CB) theory, which addresses many of the problematic aspects of other schools of thought around grief.
Myth #1: The journey of grief eventually brings you to closure.
Reality: The journey of grief is non-linear. There is no “end” to grief; grief is ongoing.
Many theories describe grief and its stages as having “closure”. The reality is grief is ongoing. It never ends. Grief isn’t something you go through. It’s something that becomes a part of you.
Secondly, there is no such thing as closure. We never truly “close the book” on our loved ones. It’s always with us, and they will always remain in our hearts.
Myth #2: We must eventually move on from the loss of a loved one.
Reality: It’s not necessary to detach from your grief, and it’s perfectly safe to have your grief.
Too often we feel pressured in modern society to move on from a loss when in reality we’re not ready to yet. According to the CB theory, we never actually detach from the ones we’ve lost. We still connect to them throughout our lives. And, there should be no pressure to leave them behind.
It’s important to recognize the way we relate to our loved ones changes over time. What once felt like an empty hole of sadness could feel like a gentle loving warmth in your heart after 10 years. Your grief changes throughout the years. There’s no need to avoid it like the plague or wish it away. It doesn’t always have to be painful. And it won’t always be. But it always will be.
Myth #3: Staying connected to your loved one after their passing makes you a little crazy.
Reality: Continuing a long-lasting connection to the deceased is necessary and healthy.
Connecting with our lost loved ones has been portrayed in the media as being creepy, eerie, and sometimes downright crazy. Many cultures around the world see connecting to their loved one through rituals, conversations, songs, and even keepsakes as sacred, healing, and incredibly helpful to help ease the pain of the loss. In fact, modern psychology tells us rituals around our deceased loved ones are one of the only things that makes death bearable for us to process. CB research says that “remaining connected seemed to facilitate the bereaved’s ability to cope with loss and accompanying changes in their lives."
Myth #4: Remembering a lost loved one means staying in the past.
Reality: Remembering a lost loved one can mean connecting them to new experiences in your life.
It can be so easy to think the only way you can remain connected to your loved one is to remember the times you spent with them. Our relationship with our passed loved ones is not meant to be static. According to the CB theory, our relationship "evolves and matures with us." A healthy way of grieving someone may be inviting their presence into new experiences you have, especially those they would have loved to experience themselves, but never did.
Myth #5: When someone we love passes on, we have lost them.
Reality: When someone we love passes on, their wisdom and goodness lives on through us.
How can we lose someone who we keep so dearly in our hearts? Their physical presence may no longer be, but their wisdom, their jokes, their goodness lives on through us.
One useful healing practice it to write down all of the thoughts and memories of our loved one so they have a permanent physical place to reside in addition to our heart and mind.