Grief myths are self defense systems within our own mental and cognitive functioning where we utilize denial as a way to ward off pain or disturbing thoughts. Thoughts of death, or the reality of death can sometimes become overbearing and naturally denial seeps in. Denial is a natural reaction within the process of grief, but if we hold onto these myths of denial for too long a period, they can become pathological.
The first four myths listed here are personal and reflect how people attempt to dismiss pain when in grief.
1. I can handle this on my own
2. I do not need to talk about this to anyone
3. They cannot tell how upset I am
4. My pain, anger or fear will eventually go away on its own
As one can see, the person wishes to avoid the subject that causes the pain and over internalizes his/her problems thinking that eventually the grief will go away without having to face it. In this cases, counselors need to eventually and gently prod the person into talking about the loss in order for healing to begin.
The final two myths involve one’s own perception of death and is a universal human defense system that hopes to alienate one from the death and reality that thousands face everyday.
1. Bad things happen to other people, not me
2. If I do not think about it, nothing like that will ever happen to me
These myths obviously involve extreme denial and potential fear of death itself. They also lead to laxity when it comes to prevention of other possible future hardships. The man who experiences occasional heart pains will refuse to get checked out because he does not wish to acknowledge the potential problems that could cause death. In other areas natural disasters become distant stories with no true meaning. The one who watches the news and sees a person tragically loses his/her home to a tornado feels his/her home is protected from such disaster. These potential realities are merely too much for this person to accept and they ignore these things almost as if they are fairy tales. The truth is, they share the same temporal reality and a traumatic event can occur at any moment.
If you are interested in bereavement education, please review the program. If you would like to learn how to become trained in bereavement counseling.
(Information for this article was found in “Helping Grieving People-When Tears Are Not Enough by J. Shep Jeffreys)
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C