Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Myths about Grief - You DON'T need to "let it all out"
In the wake of the Tucson shootings, TIME magazine has an interesting article "Good News About Grief" that debunks some popular myths espoused since Kubler-Ross's "On Death and Dying" (sorry you can't read the article on line)
Without a doubt Kubler-Ross did wonderful work and helped us at least talk about grief, death and dying. But it also tended to stuff people in a box and tell people how to grieve.
I was happy to read one of the myths debunked - the idea that you HAVE to express your grief. In fact studies have showed than expressing negative emotions can actually prolong your distress. Nor is there any evidence that people who get counseling or go to grief groups are helped any more than those who do not.
I know people worried about me when my husband died because I did not emote publicly. Or even privately. I really did resist crying much because I was afraid once I started crying I would never stop. And I did believe that I was doing something "wrong" by "repressing" my emotions; I half believed that something terrible would happen, that maybe some day I'd go crazy or something, but I didn't care, to me giving in to the the emotion would take me down a dark hole I feared I would never get out of - a prospect so frightening that I was more than willing to risk the danger of "repression"
Nor did I go to counseling. Nor did I go to grief groups. Despite the grief I got from others who thought I should. I was part of an email grief group for a little while but I found it depressing. I did not find sitting around talking and thinking about how unhappy I was helpful. I had young children to raise. I had a job. I had other people who needed me. I got on with life.
And I didn't go crazy. I got better. After a while.
The only thing that helps grief is time. It's horrible for a while. Nothing can make it better. And then time passes and it gets better. So just let people grieve how they want to grieve. If they want to emote, let them emote. If they don't want to emote, don't press them to do it. Because it doesn't matter. Grief is horrible. Nothing makes it better. Except time.
Posted by Pastor Joelle at 11:07 AM