Myths about grief are so widespread they frequently appear even as guidance for mental health professionals. A new study looked at textbooks given to trainee nurses and found that all had a least one unsupported claim about the grieving process and few had advice drawn from actual research.
Handily, the research paper, authored by nurse and psychologist E. Alison Holman and colleagues, has a fantastic table which lists the common myths about grief and compares them to what we actually know from studies on people who have experienced loss.
- There are stages or a predictable course of grief that individuals should or typically will experience
- There is a specific timeline for when grieving processes will occur
Emotional experience myths
- Negative emotions such as distress, depression, sadness, disorganization, loss of functioning,
anger, guilt, fear or emotional pain ARE INEVITABLE following a loss
- Emotions need to be ‘‘processed’’: expressed, worked through, acknowledged, dealt with, experienced, attended to, focused on, made sense of
- Lack of experiencing or expression of emotions (e.g., denial, absent grief, delayed grief, inhibited grief) indicates pathology or negative consequences
- Recovery, acceptance, reorganization or resolution should be reached in ‘‘normal’’ grief
- Failure to find resolution indicates unhealthy, dysfunctional, pathological, or complicated grief
- Not all people experience grief in the same way
- Some grieving people do not report feeling distressed or depressed
- Some people experience high levels of distress for the rest of their lives without pathology
- Repressive coping may promote resilience in some people
- Resilience, growth, and/or positive emotions may be associated with loss