My name is Claire and I’m a Customer Experience Manager at Bare Cremation.
Two years ago, my husband was suddenly and traumatically taken from me. This ever-present fixture in my life was suddenly gone. After going through grief myself, I wanted to share my story. So I’ve put together this eight-part series about coping with loss and bereavement based on my personal experiences with grief.
As a society, we’re not great at dealing with death and grief. At Bare, we want to change this. In this first article of the Coping With Grief series, I’ll bust some of the biggest myths about grieving and bereavement.
The word bereaved comes from the Old English berēafian, meaning “deprived of,” so it’s the name we give to the period after a loss.
Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of something or someone in our life and is as unique as our fingerprint. It cannot be limited to a range of emotions or a five-step process – it is much more than that. It requires the acts of comprehending, allowing and adjusting in a period of transition.
As we start to explore grief in this series, I wanted to first bust the most common myths about grief and bereavement.
Myth 1: Grief is universal and feels the same for everyone
False. It’s important to highlight upfront that everyone grieves in their own way.
Grief is not just one feeling, it usually involves a range of different feelings and responses. It is not something that you experience and then get over. And it is not something that everyone experiences the same. Everyone feels grief differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Myth 2: Grief can only be felt in response to death
False. While this series talks about grief in the context of dying, it’s important to keep in mind that it can be felt across the lifespan in so many different ways.
We may also grieve over the loss of a pet, a job, a house, our youth, or the end of a relationship, marriage or friendship. It’s a strange fact that when we are exposed to grief in a very specific way – when someone dies – it’s like all the other grief from our life’s losses come rising to the surface. It goes to show how much grief wishes to be felt.
Myth 3: You will find ‘closure’ and go back to who you were before the loss
False. Grief changes us and shuts a door on the past. One theory of grief is that we go through a period of acute grief – that hugely overwhelming, painful period following a death – and then abiding grief, which is what we’ll carry forward for the rest of our life.
We can relate the emotional loss of someone we love, to the physical loss of an arm or a leg. Initially, we’re not sure how we’ll manage. Everything feels wrong and difficult and painful. Slowly though, we begin to adapt. How long adaptation takes, though, will vary from person to person and depends on the nature and circumstances surrounding the loss.
Myth 4: There are 5 Stages of Grief we must work through
False. Elizabeth Kubler Ross defined the 5 Stages of Grief as: shock, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance. I don’t believe though, that she meant it as a linear concept.
All of these stages certainly exist, but they don’t come and then go away forever. They will continue, morphing into different shades, getting smaller, getting bigger, as you keep moving through life. Grief is not something that has an end date.
Myth 5: Experiencing grief can be avoided
False. We can lock away the painful feelings that grief brings, but this won’t serve us in the long term.
Allowing ourselves to grieve is important. This experience can take many forms, but it means giving ourselves permission to feel the pain of our loss and all of the other emotions that come along with it – to integrate it so that we can move from the acute stage to the abiding stage.
We need to begin to remember and relate to the fact that grief is actually a friend and not a foe. It comes to guide us into who and what we are to become after this tragedy.
As the great Sufi poet Rumi says, “Through love, all pain will turn to medicine.” We cannot begin to comprehend our grief without in turn fully comprehending our love. Grief is the love we shared turned inside out.
In this eight-part series, I’m going to share with you what I learnt about having healthy conversations – with yourself, your friends, your kids. I share some advice for those on the other side of grief on how you can be a good friend, a good partner and a good human. Look out for the other articles in the series coming soon.
You can read my other articles in the series including The Day My World Changed Forever. Look out for the other articles in the series coming soon. We’ve also compiled a list of useful bereavement, grief counselling and other support services across Australia here.
All information provided is general in nature. For additional information relating to advance care planning, please speak to your health professional for advice about your specific circumstances. If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, call 000. For Lifeline’s Crisis Counselling service call 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636.
Want to see what our cremation service will cost in your area?To get a free quote, visit the Bare Cremation website or call 1800 531 672.