Grief isn’t something you ‘get over’
Grief is an ongoing experience. It is not something that you can tick off on a ‘to do’ list and never revisit. It is not something to be solved or fixed. It is what makes us human. Grief can be triggered at different points in your life even many years down the track. You never get over grief – you just learn to live with it.
Getting help doesn’t mean you are weak
The death of a child is a massive life changing experience and sometimes people need help to cope with the strong emotions and feelings that arise. It takes a lot to acknowledge that you may need help and to reach out for it.
Sudden bursts of emotion are normal
Grief can be associated with very intense emotions that can feel overwhelming at times and can seem to come out of nowhere. It is perfectly normal to experience many and varied emotions and it is healthy to express them rather than try to supress them.
Grief doesn’t come in 5 neat stages
Grief is often referred to as having stages and a common misconception is that you move neatly through each stage to an endpoint. Not everyone goes through all the stages of grief and they may not go through them in the same order as someone else. Grief is very individual.
It’s ok not to cry
Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it is not the only response. Grief doesn’t look the same for everyone. Traditionally we often associate grief with crying, but some people do not present this way. If a person does not cry this does not mean that they aren’t grieving. Sadness and grief can be felt just as deeply and powerfully whether you cry or don’t cry.
You won’t go back to your old self
The death of a child is life changing and as such it tends to change you. It can often challenge your belief system, what you thought you knew about life and can allow you to learn new things about yourself. You will find a new “normal’ you who might be more empathetic, anxious, sensitive or anything else. But the one thing we know is that you will not be the same person as you were before your loss.
Smiling or finding joy in life is ok
Our preconceived idea of how grief can look usually involves people crying, being sad or withdrawing. While these things can happen during grief it is absolutely ok to still find joy or beauty in life or to experience laughter. Do not feel guilty about experiencing these other emotions. Grieving doesn’t mean that you have to be sad 24/7.
Grief is a perfectly normal response to loss
Grief is not an illness. It is a human response to the loss of someone that we loved and is our bodies way of processing this enormous life experience.
Grief can last much longer than most people expect
A grief journey may take many months or even years and the length of grief is something that people who haven’t experienced it will not necessarily understand. This can result in the expectation that you should ‘be over it’. There is no normal time frame for grief. The length of time that you grieve is very individual and can be affected by, but not limited to, your personality, life experiences, previous losses, your faith and the type of loss.
Grief can be a physical pain
Grief can cause physical as well as emotional distress. Grief can be exhausting and can cause a person to have no energy or feel drained. Grief may also cause fatigue, lowered immunity, weight loss/gain, aches and pains, digestive issues and insomnia.
Well-meaning people can say silly things or nothing at all
As a society we aren’t good with death and speaking about it can make people feel really uncomfortable, so they may say silly things or choose not to say anything and avoid the topic. Phrases like “Life only gives you what you can cope with” or “Heaven needed another angel’ or “You can always have another baby” are commonly expressed to newly bereaved parents. If a person chooses to not acknowledge the death by saying nothing it may be because the person doesn’t want to say anything for fear of upsetting you. This is well meaning but the bereaved parent is already upset. Asking about their child will not upset them further.
A grief journey doesn’t progress in one direction.
There is a common misconception that grief moves along progressively in one direction. This is not the case. Grief can be messy and unpredictable. You may feel like you are making real progress on your grief journey and then fall back in a heap or you revisit a ‘stage’ you thought you had moved through. Your grief journey is unique to you.