64 Myths About Grief That Just Need To STOP

Grief myths . . . they drive me crazy.  There are just so many of them, they come out in so many ways, and they make our grief so much more difficult.  Friends and family have unrealistic expectations about what our grief will look like because of these myths.  Heck, sometimes WE have unrealistic expectations because of these myths.  So today we are setting out to dispel the myths in one of our favorite types of post – a 64-things post!  64 myths about grief, to be exact.

In writing this post I had already come up with several dozen myths when I asked our fantastic readers on facebook for their two cents.  Within a couple of hours there were well over 100 more myths.  So, needless to say, this list is not exhaustive.  As a side note, many facebook fans noted things that were not exactly myths, but rather things that are NOT helpful to say to a griever.  We have a list of what not to say to someone grieving, so feel free to check that out too, and of course check out the illustrated version.

Disclaimer: what makes many of the things on this list myths is that they are not universally true.  This does not mean they are never true.  This is a very very important distinction, so keep it in mind as you read. Also, there are some common themes with these myths so, where applicable, I have clustered the myths by theme if it made sense to do so.

Okay, as Eleanor would say, let’s dive in! You’ll notice many of these are linked to articles that go in depth about the myth, so make sure to click the hyperlinks if you want to learn more.

1. Grief has an endpoint.

Sorry friends, grief is forever.  This isn’t a bad thing, though!  It just means that when we lose something we loved deeply, that loss will be with us in some way forever.  Grief may feel different or become more manageable, but it will always be there and that’s okay.  Too bad people often make us feel like we should have reached the “end” of our grief.

2. Once you are done grieving, life  will return to “normal”.

back to normal from photobucket

3. There is a consistent and predictable timeline for grief.

4. The first year is the worst.

5. Time heals all wounds.

time heals all wounds rose kennedy

6. You recover from grief like you recover from a cold, it gets a little better every day until it completely goes away.

Nope, not true either.  There are ups and downs, good days and bad days, good months and bad months.  No matter how much we wish it was, grief isn’t a straight line and the end point isn’t “all better”.

7.  If you are still talking about your loved one after ____ years it means you’re “stuck”.

8. If you still display photos of your loved one after ____ years it means you’re “stuck”.

9. If you haven’t gotten rid of your loved one’s belongings after ____years it means you’re “stuck”.

10.  If you still cry when you think/talk about your loved one after ____ years it means you’re “stuck”.

11. Women grieve more than men.

12. Men don’t want to talk about their grief.

13. You can only grieve a death.

14. You can’t grieve something you never had.

You can obviously click the link to learn more about this, but here is the gist because this one can sound a little confusing: we grieve things we never had all the time.  If I always thought I would have children, then learn I can’t get pregnant, that is a loss I will grieve.  If I always imagined my future would look a certain way and it doesn’t, I grieve what I imagined it would be.  You get the idea.

15. Your friends and family will always be the best support.

16.  Someone who experienced the same type of loss will definitely be supportive and understand what you’re going through.

Eeek, this one gets people into trouble A LOT.  Just because someone also lost a child, a spouse, a parent, a pet, whatever, it doesn’t mean your experiences will be the same.  Heck, they may not even be similar.  Sometimes people with similar losses end up being your best support, sometimes it is someone with a totally different kind of loss who you connect with.  You just never know.

17.  Grief follows a similar path and timeline for everyone.

18.  If you aren’t crying, then you aren’t grieving.

Some of us aren’t criers, get over.  It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with us.

19.  If you aren’t following “The 5 Stages of Grief” it is a problem.

MANY people don’t follow the 5 stages.  If they do, it is often not in order, they may skip steps, repeat steps, you get the idea.  This is just one theory about grief among many theories – you aren’t grieving wrong if your grief doesn’t fit in this box.

20.  The only grief theory is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages because everyone knows it’s accurate.

21.  Grieving is a problem.

Nope, it is a natural reaction to loss.  We all, sadly, go through it.  Just because something is painful doesn’t mean we should avoid or ignore it.

22. The goal of grief is to “move on”.

23. The goal of grief is to “get over it”.
get over your grief

24. The goal of grief is to “find closure”.

Ah, they myth of closure, moving on, and getting over it.  Didn’t we mention from the get go that there is no endpoint?  We never tie up our grief with a nice little bow and move on.   That just isn’t how it works.  What we do is learn to carry it with us in meaningful and healthy ways.  We use it to continue a connection with the person we loved, while moving forward.

25. Certain types of loss are inherently “better” or “worse” than other types of loss.

26. Young children don’t grieve.

27. Children should not attend funerals.

28. Children are resilient, you don’t need to worry about them.

The good news, children certainly can be very resilient.  They myth?  That is doesn’t take effort, work, or support.  I once heard someone (I wish I could remember who . . . leave a comment if you know the source of this!) compare resiliency in children to children’s ability to learn a language.  It is much easier for children to learn languages than adults, but this does not mean they will learn a language if we don’t teach, coach and support them.  I have always liked this analogy.  Research shows us that childhood trauma can impact us through adulthood in countless ways, psychological and physical.  We need to give children the appropriate time, attention and tools to cultivate that resiliency. 

29.  Not having a funeral will hinder your ability to grieve or “find closure”.

30.  You grieve less when you know in advance someone is going to die.

31. You grieve less when the person who died is older and “lived a long life”.


32. Your grief is easier when someone was suffering, because you are relieved they aren’t suffering anymore.

33. When someone dies by suicide it is their own fault or they were “selfish”.

34. When someone has a miscarriage, it was likely brought on by not taking care of themselves, stress, taking birth control, lifting something heavy, or some other ridiculous myth.

35. People don’t grieve after a miscarriage in the same way they grieve other deaths.

36. If something helped another grieving person, it will help you.

37. If something helped you while you were grieving, it will be helpful to most other people who are grieving.

38. Keeping a journal always helps.

39. Going to therapy or a support group is always helpful.

40. Art therapy always help, music therapy always help, etc.

41. You can get a prescription that will help your grief.

Nope, but wouldn’t that be nice if there was a magic pill to cure our grief?  Now, it is true that grief can exacerbate other underlying mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.  Those are things that absolutely can be treated with medication.  It is important if you are struggling to see a professional.

42.  Once you get through all the “firsts” (first anniversary, birthday, holiday season) they will get easier and easier.
just not even a little bit true

43. Grieving and mourning are the same thing.

44. Just because someone looks okay when they are grieving it means they feel okay.

45. When you lose a spouse, if you haven’t started dating after _____ years it means you’re stuck.

46. After losing a spouse you need to start dating in order to “move on”.

47. After the death of a child, having another child lessens your grief.

48.  Being reminded that your loved one “wouldn’t want you to be sad” is helpful.
please dont talk anymore

49. The best thing you can do is say something comforting, positive, or optimistic to a griever.

50. Grief is the same as sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, sadness is part of grief, but grief and sadness are not the same thing.  Grief is so much more than sadness, for so many reasons.

51. Grief is the same as depression.

52. Grief is a single emotion.

53. Once someone dies, you can no longer have a relationship with them.

54.  When someone dies you will always feel their presence if you are attuned to it.

55.  If you have faith in God it will lessen your grief.

56. Grief is, ultimately, always a transformative and positive experience that will eventually make you a better person.

Okay, this one is not me being a negative Nancy.  Sometimes grief really is positive and transformative and we can reflect on all the ways it has made us a better person.  That is a wonderful and amazing thing when it happens.    That said, not everyone finds or embraces transformation in grief.

57. You cannot grieve someone who is still alive.

58. People like faith leaders, teachers, doctors and counselors all have training in grief and understand what you’re going through.

Ahhh how we wish this were true.  Sadly, many professions listed above require NO formal training in grief!  None.  Zero. Zip.  Doctors?  Nope, not required. Counselors?  Unless they are specializing in grief, usually not required for them either.  Scary, we know!

59.  If you avoid grief and keep a stiff upper lip, it will eventually go away.

60.  If a widow or widower has photographs of their late husband or wife up around the house it means they aren’t ready to get involved in a new relationship.

61.  When kids are involved, it’s important to stay strong and focus all your attention on their grief.

62.  God never gives us more than we can handle


63.  After a death, you will always feel a rush of strong emotions.  

64.  Eventually you will stop noticing and/or being affected by grief triggers.

If you haven’t had enough of this topic, check out our podcast on grief misconceptions:

Alright, we did our best to shoehorn a lot of the common myths in this list, but we know we missed some.  Leave a comment below to keep the list going with your contributions!  And even if you never share any of our posts ever, consider sharing this one.  Because if we as grievers and grief professionals don’t squash some of these myths, who will??

March 28, 2017

59 responses on "64 Myths About Grief That Just Need To STOP"

  1. When i was about 15, the church we’d been heavily involved in for i dunno at least 7 years started spiraling into the beginnings of a cult. My mom and i were terrified, and begged my dad to let us leave. He said we weren’t allowed to split our family into two churches, and that he wasn’t leaving. So, he basically locked us in a metaphorical burning building. I developed extreme anxiety disorder, depression, and felt trapped, hopeless and scared. I love my dad, and i wasn’t mad or bitter, I was just deeply hurt by his abuse of power over my family. Soon after a stressful few months, and we finally left the church, I got sick and developed ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to the point that I am disabled. Around 2016, i was still well enough that I could kind of function, and fell in love with this guy, who kinda started liking me first. We were totally in love, but were both awkward shy kids who were scared to officially “date”, and he also worked for my dad at one point and later was my brother’s roommate. My family basically adopted him, due to his family living in China, and he would often stay at my house for days. I also started to realize that my best (girl) friend was kind of a…narcissistic sociopath with controlling tendencies? And that i had been putting up with absolute garbage for years and letting her slowly destroy me. So i ended our friendship of over a decade, and then the next day hung out with my crush. Then maybe a week later, we find out that this other girl who we used to joke about being my doppleganger pressured my crush into dating, cuz he has a hard time saying no. Then long story short we had him and her and one of my friends over for dinner? And his body language seemed to say that he liked me? but then he’d force himself to remember he was her boyfriend? and it was like totally the worst and then the next day I did a photoshoot with my brother for graduating high school and had to act like I wasn’t shattered inside. Then like that week? or the next? I had lower jaw surgery… And then they broke up and he moved to LA.

    Basically, no one in my life has died, but pretty much everything I loved and held dear crumbled or became something i couldn’t easily trust, and…I’m slowly still working through all this grief. I’m still disabled, can’t work a job, or get money, or get better, and my parents have spent a lot of money trying to get help from doctors. I’m the middle child, and my younger brother is about to go to college so that means I will be the only kid left at home. Im 20 and im exhausted and frustrated and sad cuz my life is kind of a massive dead end right now. I guess pray for me : >

    (A big oof)

  2. Grief varies so much. I believe this is one reason it is often so awkward to know how to behave or what to say or do around someone in grief. One wants to help, but sometimes one has no idea how. I suppose the best way is to gently offer, and again from time to time, and ask the griever what is best for them. Just knowing others even care can provide some solace.

    In my case, grief never ends. It’s a permanent change in worldview, or rather an affirmation of what was already my tragic worldview. I have lost faith in this world, this life, this reality, the point of it all, to the extent that I regret existing at all. And I don’t think this is a “disorder” to be cured (so-called “complicated grief”), but that I have come to see the world as it is: a path of suffering and loss, with some fortunate few who have a greater measure of experiences of beauty and pleasure.

  3. Been years….the pain is more each day.

  4. I describe my new normal as my world having lost its color. My son in law and I discussed grief when I spent time with him in October. Even though my daughter has been dead for three years, he is surprised by the depth of his grief. He remarried shortly after her death and confided in my that he probably married too soon. He asked me when things would get back to normal and I told him, “This is the new normal. We will always grieve “L” and while we have many good days along with some bad, our world has lost its color and we now see it in black and white”.

  5. #61 really hit home for me! I have been doing exactly that – trying to stay strong for my son. He’s 16 and was very close to his dad and has been taking his death really hard. I’m not sure what else to do, though.

  6. It took me exactly one visit to a grief group to realize that it was not for me. Perhaps it was the way it was conducted, I can’t say for sure. All I know is that it didn’t feel comfortable to share my grief with complete strangers. And there was no real communication between the people sharing their grief – just people sitting there, telling their stories, with nobody responding. I found that odd. People seemed afraid they would say the wrong thing. But what’s the point of sharing your story if all you are met with is silence in the air? I can get that at home – telling my story out loud, to myself. I also felt – rightly or wrongly – that people were paying attention to possible clues as to how well-off, (particularly a widow), might be. I saw what I took to be envy flash between one woman and another. I guess it was not enough for that women to have lost her husband – the envy I perceived on the part of the one woman seemed to send the message, “well, at least you’ve got the comfort of being left fairly well off, so your grief can’t possibly be as deep as mine.” With people like that, I’ll stay at home, talk out loud to myself, and probably find more comfort and less nonsense like this.

  7. Another myth is that to ‘just think of the good times ‘ you had with your loved one is going to lessen your grief and presumably help you to ‘get over it ‘.

    Sure, I think about the good times I had with my partner constantly. I can’t help it, but it doesn’t lessen my grief and certainly doesn’t help me to ‘get over it’.

    I cry every single day, sometimes several, sometimes many times a day every time I think of the good times I had with my partner. I miss him. It’s excruciating. Of course I’m going to think of the good times, but please don’t infer that doing this is going to somehow cure me of my grief.

    It’s funny how the people who tell you to think of the good times don’t actually want to LISTEN to you telling them about those good times. It’s all too hard for them. Better to leave the hard yards to YOU, NOT THEM!

    Sometwimes it seems I’m constantly crying, particularly if I have enough triggers. Even a change in the season brings a whole new set of triggers which remind me of what we did, what we talked about, what we ate, what we wore, etc, when the weather was hot.

    My partner passed away in the middle of winter and when the weather started to warm up again three months later (we live in Australia), I was reminded of when life was relatively sweet, before we got the diagnosis and he was in relative comfort. It also, of course, reminds me of times when he was healthy and life was full of plans and laughter and simple enjoyments.

    It also feels like I’m somehow leaving my partner ‘behind ‘, the more that time passes and the seasons change.

    Also as time passes, it appears that friends assume that I’m ‘all right now’ and I don’t need their support anymore, not even a phone call. Well, I’m not all right and I need friends (maybe not those friends!) more than ever.

    They also assume that, because we weren’t married, that my grief is a whole lot less or doesn’t really exist at all. Well, here’s a thing: love doesn’t depend on a piece of paper with a few signatures on it. I loved and still do love my partner with all my heart and I don’t believe I loved him any less just because I don’t have a marriage certificate in my hand.

    So I say to all my so-called friends and all my religious extended family members, please have a bit of respect for people who state that they are grieving and take their word for it that they are hurting. Give them time and attention and most of all, let them talk about their lost life with their loved one, WITHOUT telling them what to do!

    • Hi Fiona, Although you wrote on whatsyourgrief nearly a year ago, I found your piece very comforting – because it’s such a perfect description of what I am going through (after 10 months) – the daily crying & especially, the mistaken idea that thinking of the good times makes one feel better! I can’t think of the good times without crying & grieving for them. And with this, I will move forward as will you, carrying our grief with us as a part of our experience that will always be there.

  8. Another myth : It’s crazy if you grieve over a celebrity’s death because you don’t even know that person. Who says I don’t even know him? Well, I don’t know him personally, but I know him and I feel connected to him. That’s why I grieve over him. He’s the only one who understand me through his music when nobody understand me, he’s always makes me happy when I’m sad, he’s the only one who always lift me up when I’m down. All through his music. That’s why when he died part of me died with him. This is a thing that only people who ever grieve over a celebrity’s death can understand. And btw I’ve gone through several family member’s death plus one celebrity’s death and none of my family’s death hits me but the death of this celebrity hits me really hard. I know what grieve is because of him. I know how it feels to lose someone you love because of him. I can understand people who are going through grieve because of him. R.I.P Chester Bennington 1976 — 2017

  9. Number 44 hit home especially for me. I suffered two major losses in the last 6 years, first my mother, now in May of this year, my younger sister, both to cancer. I have all I can do to get up and dressed and get to work on 2 or 3 hours sleep,. I’ve lost weight in the 6 weeks since my sisters death and some days I barely function. I have a co-worker who continues to say “I don’t know how you do it, but you look so good, I would be a mess if I lost my sister, or mother.” I find this dismissive of my pain, and by comparing how she would look during grief, sounds like a “one up” implying she would be grieving more because she would “be a mess.” She is a mental health professional and one would expect a deeper understanding of grief from her. This relates to the other myth, that because someone is not crying, they must be okay. The gaping wound we carry within cannot be measured by how we look, or how much we are crying. I find her repeated comments superficial and lacking in sensitivity. Feedback is welcomed.

  10. I was 5yrs old when my grandfather died, I am now 83yrs old and that trauma still lingers with me. People many times do not think children grieve as adults do, I can tell you that grief is very real for them even though they do not know what to call it. Mt grandfather was my world and I spent lots of time with him, all I did know was that he was gone and would never come back. At the funeral some adults ask my Mom why was I crying so much, they thought I was too young to understand. I remember thinking “adults are stupid” and that was a stupid question, for months after the funeral I would go behind our house and cry my heart out but no one ever did know that I did that. My heart was so broken and I remember every detail about his death.

  11. I think people are confused on the “5 stages of Grief” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Those were meant for someone diagnosed with a terminal illness – not the people left behind. Sure, we experience anger, denial, etc.. but that book was not meant for survivors so don’t be misled. Love this site, Lots of helpful comments.

  12. #33 – I lost my son to PTSD related suicide on 1/3/12. He was a proud Marine who had deployed three times to Iraq. He returned home a changed man and never really ever got his feet back on the “civilian” ground that he left. He was the light of everyone’s eye; a true blessing to everyone who knew him. I watched him struggle with his demons for five long years as he was passed from one clinician to another at the local VA hospital. I saw anger in him that I had never seen in another human being. I saw such sadness, remorse, anger, rage that tore me apart. No mother ever wants to see their child suffer from anything….ever. The invisible wounds of war never leave. He was 29 years old when he took his life. He wasn’t married, nor had any children. I wish he would have been able to experience “the good stuff” in life as maybe it would have made a difference in the choice he made.

    I had been married to his father for 31 years when my son deployed for the third time. Shortly after my son arrived in Iraq, I came home to my husband sitting at the kitchen table with a look of dread on his face. In that split second, I feared the worst….something had happened to our beautiful son. Instead, the man who was my high school sweetheart, the only man who really ever knew me, told me he had fallen in love with a coworker and was leaving me. SERIOUSLY? Who does that? Our daughter was out of high school attending a local college when all of this hit the fan. Her dad leaving and her brother’s situation in the war definitely took its toll on all of us. As I trudged through the bowels of the divorce, I thought to myself that this must be the worst thing I would ever endure in my life. It took me several years to even be able to put one foot in front of the other and five years later, I lost my son. To this day, I would join my son in Heaven in a heart beat if it wasn’t for my daughter. I could never leave her alone in this world (dad is MIA since the divorce living with his “new family”). As I read through “the list” above, I thought to myself, “I think I’ve heard and experienced every single one of these things. No, my husband didn’t physically die, but I grieved his loss in my life. My son taking his life has sent me into a tail spin that I will never recover from. You don’t. That’s all there is to it. A new normal? BS! There is nothing ever normal about your life again. I won’t ever see him marry the love of his life, hold his babies, hear his infectious smile, look into those beautiful green eyes, hear him say, “What’s up, Mama!”, feel those wonderful bear hugs he always greeted me with. There are tears streaming down my face as I write about him….both tears of pride that he was such a wonderful son and human being and, of course, for the horrible loss of losing him. I am so sick and tired of hearing folks tell me how strong I am. I’m not strong; not even in the most remote sense of the word. I’m a wreck. I’m broken beyond repair. I “exist” and don’t really live. I grieve the fact that I’m not a better mother to my beautiful daughter. She deserves so much more….
    Until I experienced these losses, I don’t think I ever really thought about grief and what it does to your mind, body and soul. And it IS indeed a journey. You never get to the other side of grief. It hangs around and rears its ugly head when you least expect it.
    Thanks to all of you who so eloquently spoke about your grief and loss. We joined a club that none of us ever requested membership to….but we are survivors. We are the toughest of the tough, the strongest of the strong….

  13. I’m so glad I found this post. My dog died about eight months ago, and I’ve learned the hard way that most of these myths we’ve “learned” about grief are simply not true. Like the idea that all the “comforting” platitudes are helpful. I believe in Heaven. I believe my dog is there. I know she’s no longer suffering, that she’s happy, that she had a long, happy life, that she died peacefully, that it will get easier to live without her, that I’ll always have my memories, that she’ll always be with me, that I’ll see her again someday, but…the thing is…absolutely none of that ever made me feel any better. All it did was make me feel slightly guilty for continuing to cry and feel sad after I heard it, because I was supposed to be comforted and feel better, and things weren’t so bad after all, right? Those things did help a little after the first little while (especially if I said them to myself instead of having them said to me), but those first few days they helped not at all.

    Actually, what did help was this quote I found the night she died:

    “Believe me, it is no time for words when the wounds are fresh and bleeding; no time for homilies when the lightning’s shaft has smitten and the man lies stunned and stricken. Then let the comforter be silent; let him sustain by his presence, not by his preaching; by his sympathetic silence, not by his speech. ‘Afterward,’ when the storm is spent, he may venture to open his mouth; ‘afterward,’ when the morn has dawned, he may seek ‘to justify the ways of God to man;’ for ‘afterward’ the sufferer will be prepared to hear, and ‘afterward’ the sufferer himself may be able to extract sweetness from bitterness, music from mourning, songs from sorrow, and ‘the peaceable fruit of righteousness’ from the root of wretchedness and woe.”

    George C. Lorimer.

    It just helped me realize that what I was feeling was right and normal and it was okay to feel that way, and okay to feel as if none of what I was hearing helped because it didn’t.

    If you’ll permit me a long comment, I’d like to go through this post and comment on a “few” of these 🙂

    The first six are literally all things I naively thought were true before I actually experienced grief, and I’m only now beginning to realize that they’re not, and that that’s okay. I mean, I don’t intend to wallow in my grief and never ever come to accept anything or continue to live my life, but I’ve realized that it’s okay to keep grieving, however quietly. It’s also helped me realize that my continued grief over broken friendships, places I loved and had to move away from, and even well-loved broken toys or accidentally-deleted stories is not, in fact, a sign that I can’t let go, but a sign that I’m normal and grieving.

    7-10: May I insert “If you haven’t gotten a new pet after __ amount of years that means you are ‘stuck'”? People have brought up the idea of getting another dog to me (they brought it up to my parents the day after my dog died), and it’s just…she wasn’t a sofa. She wasn’t a household fixture you get another one of so the house keeps running smoothly. She was a living creature, and it hasn’t even been a year. I still turn into a weird emotional mess when I think about taking care of a dog, or if I pet a dog for too long. If I had another dog, I’d be comparing it to my old dog and constantly thinking about my old dog and feeling guilty that I was even giving any love to this new dog and worrying that it meant I loved my old dog less. Even if I wasn’t being considerate of my own feelings, I wouldn’t want to force feelings like that on some poor innocent puppy.

    13: As I said above, this is something I have actually learned through the process of grieving my dog. I began to realize that I was grieving other things and that that was normal, and how the human brain works, and once I did that, I actually started to take my own pain over those things a lot more seriously. Before I was just going, “Aw come on, really, it was just an old house.”

    18: I might add to this that “Everyone feels a lack of hunger, or pain, or desire to do anything, or has no sense of humor, or whatever.” I always assumed that that was true, but after my dog died, I could still feel hungry. My menstrual cramps were still there and insistently taking up a large part of my attention (which just made me feel worse, that I couldn’t focus all my attention onto my emotional pain). I still wanted to do things, just not necessarily the things I usually did, and I could still laugh. As a matter of fact, all I wanted to watch were comedies (though I didn’t want to listen to any upbeat music, and I didn’t want to read anything fun or light-hearted. I didn’t even really want to read fiction).

    19-20: I thought these were true too! I was so confused because I thought I kept jumping from denial to depression to acceptance to anger to bargaining and back to denial and depression at the same time. Wasn’t until I looked up the five stages on Wikipedia that I realized that they didn’t follow a nice linear path and that it was okay to jump back and forth, and okay to have not reached acceptance yet.

    21: You know, it wasn’t until everything happened with my dog (beginning with her long battle with cancer) that I finally realized that this wasn’t true, that grief is natural, normal, and – most important – acceptable. That you can accept the existence of grief in yourself, and that other people can too. It’s not something to be “made to go away”. It’s something to feel and to live with.

    22-24: Again, all things I believed, and that, in a way, I’m glad I know now aren’t true.

    25: Ah, yes, that one. The one that all pet owners, in particular, dread, I think, because eventually someone will come along who is astonished that you’re not “over” the death of your dog. It was just a dog, sheesh. Other people have lost parents and siblings and kids!

    Yes, that’s true. And I’m not comparing my dog to a parent or a sibling or a kid. But she was not a “just”, either, and it’s not fair to assume that because she was a dog, you’ll only be kinda sad for a week or two and then you’ll “get over it”.

    28: You know, I’ve wondered about how my little sister has taken this whole thing. She seems pretty happy (and once said that she was perfectly happy as long as nobody talked about it, so after that I tried not to talk about it in front of her), and she wasn’t as close to our dog as I was, but she still grew up with her in the house, and she had to see some pretty painful things, and she was definitely mourning our dog’s death. I don’t really know how to approach it with her, though, because I don’t want to upset her by bringing it up suddenly.

    I’m also glad I read the article that linked to, because it helped me to realize that being frightened by things when I was a kid, and still not being quite over them to this day, is normal, again, and does not make me a gigantic sissy.

    29: Yeah, not burying her or keeping the ashes didn’t bother me. I won’t say that there’s no truth to the idea of “closure”, because there were definitely lingering questions about her death that I wanted answered and felt better when I had them answered, but not actually doing anything with her physical body didn’t bother me at all, and I had no desire to “see” her after she was dead.

    30-32: I’ll say that these weren’t altogether true or untrue for me. The thing is, after three years of living with her cancer and battling it day in and day out, I was tired, she was tired, we were all tired, and I was beginning to feel what you called anticipatory grief. I was beginning to be sure it was over and beginning to move towards acceptance of that, but then the vet said that amputation (the tumor was on her leg) would be the key, and we went ahead with it…but she never woke up.

    I’ve just always wondered if maybe we had made the choice instead to have her put to sleep, I might have been able to deal with it better; instead I got hit with the double whammy of expecting her to die, then turning around and expecting her to live, and getting hopeful about it, and then boom, she died anyway, and there were all those things I was supposed to say and do that I just never got to, and I wasn’t prepared at all for it..

    My point is that those three were feeling true for me, but they turned out to be untrue because of the circumstances. I doubt, however, that they’re universal for everyone, and it’s still not (as I noted at first) anything you should say to a person.

    38 and 40: I’m a writer and a musician, so writing about her and my feelings about everything did help, as did singing and playing and listening to songs that reminded me of her and my feelings. I might suggest it to someone, but yeah, I definitely wouldn’t expect it to always help. Heck, even within music, the ones I expected to help didn’t, always, and the ones I got the most help from weren’t necessarily the ones I was expecting!

    42: Darn. I’m not even past all the “firsts” yet. And you know, it’s incredible how many firsts there are. There’s first birthday and anniversary and all, but there’s also first night, first morning, first week, first time listening to a favorite song, first time listening to a new song, first time taking a walk, first time coming home, first time sitting down to write or practice…I mean, I counted everything. After a while they diminished, but yeah, it was not easy. It’s still not exactly easy.

    And what nobody ever talks about is the “lasts”. Nobody told me that I would start counting all the lasts, too – last time I saw her, last time I rinsed out her water bowl, last time I sang her a song, last time we took a walk, last time I fed her…nobody warned me that you count the lasts, too.

    43: So then…what is mourning, if not grieving? I’m just curious, I’ve never really heard a distinction before.

    44: Ugh, yes! YES! My grandmother thought I was feeling “free” and “excited” after my dog died because a few days later I was enthusiastically discussing novel ideas I had with my great-uncle and great-aunt. I mean, yeah, I was smiling, and laughing, and happy to talk about it, and I was having a good time, but that didn’t mean I was “all better now” or that I was glad my dog was dead! “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    48: Actually, this one did help me somewhat – not being told that, but reminding myself of it. It helped me with the guilt I was feeling over being even the least little bit happy – “She doesn’t want you to be sad or to stop living your life just because she died” – and it also helped because I’d remember how she used to smile when I would smile at her and that made me happy.

    49: Yeah, like I said, unfortunately found out the hard way that hearing optimistic, positive things does not in fact make the pain go away. Telling someone “Your broken arm will knit back together” doesn’t magically make the arm stop hurting or heal up, after all, even if it does help to know that the worst of the feeling will pass.

    50-52: This is something I’d never articulated before but found I understood when you said it, so thank you for sharing it with me. 🙂

    57: I left a comment on that article; suffice it to say that it brought me to tears but also made me feel a lot better.

    59: Wait, do people actually believe that? O.o (Also, I’m glad I read that article too, it helped me some more.)

    64: Oh my word, grief triggers. Just today I was standing at my window and watching a woman walking her dog – that used to punch me right in the gut, but now I just smile wistfully, right? Well…I do until the dog stops to sniff something and the woman stops walking abruptly with one leg in the air and turns back to the dog. Oh, I used to do that, she used to do that all the time, and the sight of it just made me choke right up. Sometimes I worry that I’m forcing myself to experience grief triggers as a way to remind myself that I still love my dog, but sometimes it just smacks me in the face out of nowhere and I know it wasn’t forced at all.

    Well, anyway, thank you for posting this and for creating this website, and thank you for reading all the way to the bottom, if you did. Much love! 🙂

  14. This site has helped so much. My husband died at age 51 of pancreatic cancer two & a half years after his diagnosis on December 15, 2017. He was diagnosed a couple months after then end of a murder trial for my dear cousin who was the family member I was closest to. I gave the Victims Impact Statement at the trial. He was terminal at diagnosis. We’ve lost someone we care about nearly every year for 10 years, it’s been awful, but my kids and I are surviving. One myth is that all deaths impact you the same- not only do they vary because of your relationship with the person who died, but the type of death impacts you differently. We’ve lost people to illness, murder and suicide and they all come with different emotions and different impact. We’re having my husband’s memorial service a week from now and I’m dreading the insensitive comments. One I’ve received often is “you’re so strong “. Actually I’m not at all, and I don’t like feeling pressure to be strong, it’s just that you don’t see me when I’m falling apart- I tend not go out in public on those days!

  15. Thank you for all the work you do giving voice to what it means to live with grief and loss. I hope that not only people who are grieving take the time to read articles like this, but also those who have not yet experienced a profound loss. It seems like grief and death aren’t topics that we take time to read about, educate ourselves about and really understand until we have no choice but to face them because they have shown up in our lives… no more time to wait, no escape. I know that was the case for me. I hope that one day we can talk so openly and candidly about grief and death everywhere and with everyone that most of these myths will cease to exist. More understanding and compassion from people who are not grieving does not make my loss any less painful – nothing will; it just is what it is. But it does lessen the feelings of isolation, alienation, guilt and shame, which can make the pain of loss even more difficult to bear.

    My soulmate, my husband, died on January 29, 2017 at the age of 34. There is never not a moment in my day when I am not acutely aware that he is not here. My thoughts are always connected to my husband and grief in some way… it’s difficult to articulate this to people who aren’t grieving. I can’t really say that the insensity of my heartache has decreased at all. My husband was my world, and now this grief is my world… although I am trying to take steps now to see that there may be more to me and my life.

    A myth from my experience: When you are silent or are not actively reaching out for help that means you are okay, want to be left alone, and don’t need help.
    – Sometimes when my brain feels like it is going crazy with despair I have no idea what to do, or who to call, or what to say. There have been so many times when I have stared at my cell phone for hours with the complete inability to compose a text message. My insides are screaming too loud. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see or talk to people.
    – Sometimes I am just too exhausted to reach out. I am so tired. I wish that people would reach in instead of waiting for me to reach out and tell them what to do.

    Thanks again for this articles and this site.

  16. I grieved the loss of my husband more before he died as he was in a nursing home for several years and became rather hateful. His personality changed because of his illness and he accused me of things I never would have done! I don’t say much about it to anyone as most would deny that is possible but it was almost like a relief! What I missed was the fun and good life we had before his mind became clouded and I had to fight with doctors and nursing homes to get the care he needed! Si don’t feel like there is something wrong with you, if that’s the way it happens for you!!

  17. #62 God never gives us more than we can handle
    The comic made me laugh – thank you.
    I haven’t laughed in a while & I always feel better for it.
    My children were 4, 6 & 7 when my husband died. It astounds me that people hold this belief. My family still being clothed & feed proves it to them – in their minds…. It really is comical.
    My sense of humour has become quite black & it helps me get through the day.

  18. the mind, stress and loves and family member too work employed concerns over losses and structure ,
    worth and government control ,////???!!!!!!., where,what,why thanks you,.

  19. One of the lessons I incorporate into a session deals with your #48 point. The reality is that no one who you have loved and who loved you would want you to be sad over their passing. When mourners actually come to that realization, it seems to alleviate some of their pain. I agree, just telling someone that is NOT helpful. Helping them to realize that through grief work I believe is helpful.

  20. “Just quit dwelling on it”

  21. I’ve learned that losing a parent is so much different then losing a child. My mom passed 25 yrsago this past June 19th we buried my daughters ashes with my mom on that date she passed 5 months ago . When my mom passed I thought I would never get through a day without her she was my best friend but in time things went back to day to day living but now with my daughter gone there hasn’t been a day that I can get through without thinking of her and crying trying to deal without her being here talking to me or laughing with me. Raising her two children lucas who turned 16 the day after she passed and emily who is 12 is a blessing in disguise. Emily is a spitting image of her Mom so I think God sent them to us for a reason because Kelli knew we would raise them like she would of. I will never ever get over losing her she was the best part of me. There will never be back to normal. What’s normal after losing a child? NOT A THING . Things will never be easier as long as she is not here maybe once I’m reunited with my darling daughter things will get easier .

  22. Going to work will make you feel better, take your mind off things. Going to work made me WORSE

  23. This site is fantastic, thank you for it.
    As someone who experienced a bunch of student deaths in high school the worst one, especially perpetuated by adults talking to youth, is that talking about grief will only make things worse, or drag it out, or create copycats when it comes to suicide. It still bothers we when I see schools not deal with a death in the school community openly. It’s been almost ten years and we’re much more open about mental health now, why are we not more open about death and grief?

    • Ah, this is so true Tori. Change is, sadly, slow. There is more education that is starting to happen for teachers and school administrators so I am hoping this will slowly change. I am so sorry for what you have had to cope with and glad you found our little corner of the internet!

  24. I lost my brother 4 months ago at age 43 of a heart attack. I’ve struggled with responses of “why do you think you’re taking this so hard” and “at least he didn’t have children”.

  25. Thank you. My sister thinks my mom and I need to get over my brother’s passing. It’s been 50 days. ?

  26. I am so glad that I saw this post. A majority of the myths posted have been said to me and it just made me want to scream. I don’t understand how people seem to think losing your fiancee isn’t as devastating as losing a spouse, parent or child. I suddenly found myself being a caregiver to my fiancee and within a very short time losing him to cancer. It’s barely been two months since he’s passed away and even my family seems I should be past it by now. If anyone who reads this could share how to handle insensitive people (suggestions as to what to say) I would appreciate it.

  27. Expressing your emotions or flowing tears is a sign of weakness. I feel it is the absolute opposite. Being vulnerable and authentic whether alone or in front of people take a great deal of courage. Brené Brown Ph.D. has made that point with her research and in her books.

  28. I was working as a therapist intern when my son died suddenly in a car accident. I had my licensed therapist supervisor ask me at about three months if I had “found my ‘new normal’ yet?” I had no idea how to respond. Of course I hadn’t! The world stopped turning. Even now, coming up on two years On September 29th, I can’t say I have found this (or if a “new normal” exists at all).

    • Wow, Anastacia that story is both terrible and terrifying! I am so sorry for the unimaginable loss of your son. It is staggering that a therapist could have said something like that- still so much education to be done!

  29. My wife died on April 10, 2016. I have been an emotional basket case since then and only recently have I been able to eat at all. I am on the fence about the different kinds of loss. I agree now it does not help anyone to compare. But when I first went to a grief group I was mad because no one else had lost a spouse. And my wife died completely unexpectedly. She was happy as can be one day and the next morning she had a seizure and died. I found her naked body in a sleep clinic bathroom where she was having sleep test to find out why she was having trouble staying asleep.
    For me it is harder for losing my spouse suddenly than any other loss I have experienced. My best friend died of cancer in 2013 after a year long battle. My father died when I was a child. Nothing, for me, even compares to the loss of my spouse. She was everything to me. I lived to make her happy and for our marriage to work. Was that healthy? I don’t know, but it is a fact. So for me, losing my spouse has caused me to lose my reason to live. No other loss I have experienced made me feel like this. So even though there is a debate here on this topic, I do feel there is different levels of loss. Losing your spouse for me with having the kind of terrific happy deeply in love relationship my wife and I had is a very personal and deeply complete heartbreaking loss.

    • Marc, we fully agree that some losses are experienced more deeply than others. What is important is that there are no universals. We have had grievers who all lost a lost a parent, a spouse, and a child and who each experienced a different one as the “worst”. So much depends on each person’s relationship with the person who died, the moment in their life, the secondary losses, and countless other factors. So though each person can compare their own losses to one another, comparing losses between people is where things get complicated. You just never know what someone else is going through.

    • Hi Marc, I am so sorry for the loss of your wife. My husband died of cancer in Nov 2016, and for me, it’s certainly the worst loss I’ve ever experienced. I hope you have good supports.

  30. I loved this article and want to comment on several points. 14.cant grieve something you never had-I had a beautiful full term daughter only to find out she was severely disabled. Did I love her less? Absolutely not! But you better believe I grieved the baby I expected and never got! 30 & 32-you grieve less when you know in advance & it’s easier when they have suffered-we had to watch this same daughter’s health fail for 1 1/2 years before she passed. It is NOT easier when you know in advance or if they have suffered! Anyone who thinks that has apparently not watched someone slowly dying over a long span of time. 57-can’t grieve someone still living- you think we weren’t already grieving the loss of her during that 1 1/2 years?! We absolutely were already grieving and passing through some of those famous “stages of grief” before she was ever gone. And 16 & 39 go hand in hand in our case. We did go to a support group just for parents who had lost children. Our daughter lived 23 years. We took care of her every day of her life. Some of those other parents who had lost younger children were resentful towards us because we were lucky enough to have our daughter longer. It was not helpful, it was hurtful. We never went back.
    I had the misconception that grief was something you endured and eventually at some point passed through. Now, since our daughter died a year ago, I know, you never finish or pass through your grief. I have felt like I not only lost my daughter but my own identity as well.

  31. To all of you who have lost someone that you loved, I am so sorry for your loss! My mom died nearly 16 years ago from ovarian cancer. She fought the good fight. She was our shining light all the while we were growing up! Even as adults, she was our soft place to falI, our loving comfort. I miss her every single day. She was the first one to show us God’s love. If one cannot think of anything to say to a person who has had a death of a loved one, just say “I am sorry for your loss”. That is ALL. I think people want to say more, thinking it will help and comfort. They don’t even realize what they’re saying!

  32. It’s been almost 4 years that we lost a 24 year old family member who had two children of his on and our family has not been the same and never will, the same year we also lost both of our grandmothers at the age of 92. They both lived long lives and my grandmother Wina said she was ready to go to Heaven so I think of her as my sweet little angel looking over us. I will never get over losing Bradley because he was so young and had so much to live for!!! Sometimes I can laugh thinking about him but most of the time I still lose it and ball like a baby! Bradley Marc Smith we miss you so much and one day I will see you again, I believe this with all my heart!!! Xoxo

  33. I just found this site today after almost 15 months in from my husband’s sudden death. I wish I had found it sooner. Thank you so much for putting this together.

  34. Losing a sibling. Spouse. Relative. Friend. Cannot be compared to losing a child either so please don’t say that to me.
    How about just don’t compare anyone’s grief at all !
    Regardless of who died.

    The death of a child is the worse loss a person can suffer.

    To say that is to state my pain is bearable. My loss less devastating. No, it isn’t.

  35. “It’s all part of God’s Plan.” Can you believe someone said this to me after my beautiful 20 year old son took his own life? Who’s God is this? This same person also said, “He just didn’t want to disappoint anyone”. People are better off just not talking sometimes.

  36. Don’t worry, “she is with you always, she knows what you’re doing, how you’re feeling”. Yes I will alway hold my daughter in my heart, ALWAYS… but she is NOT WITH ME, not physically, and that is what I want, when I say I miss her and hate that she is not here doing whatever with us, I mean she is not with us physically! Just listen to me and let me feel that!! You just don’t know what it’s like. “Signs” are good, and bring some comfort, but sometimes/ most times, they are just not enough… Thanks for listening and understanding.

  37. I was the opposite; I DID want someone somewhere to say they “can’t imagine it” bc nobody anywhere would say they DIDN’T know what it was like. Every person in the country that I met and mentioned it to immediately assumed they felt the way we did when we were watching it happen just bc they ALSO watched what was happening on September 11 happen. So when someone finally said they can’t imagine what it was like for us to go through it I practically glommed onto their words with overwhelming gratitude.
    And it only took almost 10 years to find someone who said it. I didn’t care. I was just glad someone somewhere didn’t “already know” what we felt as we watched it happening.

  38. Also…..

    Those who grieve want to get better.
    Those who grieve are not, not healing due to self pity, but due to the fact that they love someone so much that the loss is unbearable.
    We survive each day
    We usually don’t heal of any type of grief.
    Going through it
    Due to loss of child.

    What we do seek.is support, love. Outreach, kindness, hugs, a listening ear, non judgmental people , and just saying “sorry”
    Please don’t say….I can’t imagine !
    We don’t want you to imagine.
    We don’t want others to have or feel this pain
    Just acknowledge it by saying I’m so sorry and meaning it!

    • I so agree with everything you have said. Lost our son Sept, 30, 2015. I still cry everyday. One person grabbed me and said, it is God’s will. What??? A mean God, took away our dear son so he can’t see his children grow up and be with his wife and us?? Makes so sense to us. We will always miss him. ALWAYS.

      • It is so unfortunate that in an effort to say something “comforting” people so often say the absolute wrong thing! I am so sorry for the loss of your son and so glad you found our site

  39. More grieving myths…..

    They are in a better place now….


    Who would you like to go to a better place right now ?
    The better place for my child is right here with me….

    Another myth

    Get on with your life. That’s what they want

    I am getting on with my life but I will probably still always grieve the loss of my child…….thanks

    Yet another myth

    I know how you feel!
    Ummmm. Really ?
    No you don’t
    You haven’t even asked me how I feel AND you’ve never lost a child either !

    Losing a sibling. Spouse. Relative. Friend. Cannot be compared to losing a child either so please don’t say that to me.
    How about just don’t compare anyone’s grief at all !
    Regardless of who died.

  40. “It’s okay because he’s in heaven now.”

  41. Another myth, moving into a relationship after loosing a spouse means you are dismissive of your deceased loved one, or that you are over it or finished grieving, or that the loss isn’t there, or the loved one will be forgotten. The loss becomes part of the new relationship so it’s crucial for a new mate to understand this, have compassion for it, and be accepting of this, and the new mate must realize that having love for a lost loved one does not mean less love for them.

  42. I know my son is “moving ” well but also know he’s still grieving after the sudden loss of
    his wife. I also greive for him, as well as her, although I never knew her as well as I might have maybe we had lived less than 3000 miles apart.

  43. We put our 14 year old Lab down just 8 weeks ago. Someone asked me the other day if I didn’t think “that maybe you should see somebody” because I started crying at my desk at work (someone had just sent me a picture of a puppy in an email and I just wasn’t ready for it). It’s only been 2 months people! He was a daily presence for more than 170 months and my heart is broken.

  44. It is so true that stages of grief don’t always happen in a particular order or don’t come back. When my mom passed away five years ago, I went through various emotions and so forth, then it all seemed to settle down. Around the two-year mark, though, I found myself in tears whenever I thought of my mother. I was so surprised when this happened. I didn’t expect it at all.

    And I well remember when my uncle suddenly and unexpectedly died. My aunt was in shock/denial for a very long time. She didn’t get to the “anger” phase until two years after his death, and took it out on everyone. Not fun at all.

  45. Another myth: you’ll feel better if you do something for someone else; go do some volunteer work and help someone who is less fortunate than yourself.

  46. They told me that about mine, that he “only suffered a few minutes or not at all.” So that somehow makes it better?
    He died in the World Trade Center in a fire that wasn’t supposed to be started. How the hell is saying “He only suffered a few minutes and not months” like THEIR relative did, supposed to make me feel f’n better? I don’t care if he suffered for one second bc he died by intentional violence of other “human beings.” I don’t care if he only suffered a nanosecond. Sorry but that one got on my nerves when she said it, especially since bringing up her own relative made it feel like a comparison of pain and that hers was worse. Which I’ll never know bc I’ll never know whether the pain of one person is worse than another. When we work in Emergency Medicine we don’t compare the pain in one patient’s broken bone to that in another. Why do they do it with emotional pain?

  47. There is no timeline, there is no minimum age, there is no “back to normal”. Normal before a loved one dies and whatever normal becomes once they’re gone are too different normal. Anniversaries and birthdays will always hurt and there’s nothing wrong with that. a 9 year old and a 65 year old are equally capable of feeling loss.
    They say there are 5 stages, but they aren’t nearly as neat and orderly as they are described in textbooks and self-help books. I hit denial, bargaining, and anger pretty much at the same time, and before he was even dead I might add.

    Some of these however, I’ve actually found to be true in my case.

    Not having a funeral, or more accurately not having the opportunity to attend it HAS in fact hindered my ability to find the level of closure that everyone else who knew this person seems to have found.

    The “it’s easier when they were older” is one that I have found true on the flip side of the coin. It was more difficult because my friend was so young.

    I think I just might slap anyone who claims a prescription would help. Or I’d sarcastically say “You mean there are pills I can take that will allow me to bring someone I love back from the dead? Gimme! Gimme!”

  48. I love your sticks figures, even in my tears they make me laugh out loud.
    Thank you kindly for your help,

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