By: Divya Venkataraman
August 30, 2022, is National Grief Awareness Day. Founded by Angie Cartwright in 2014, National Grief Awareness day is a day meant to adequately address grief — working towards ending the stigma and negative attitudes toward grief.
So, what is grief? Grief is a combination of several strong, oftentimes overwhelming, emotions that are a response to a sorrowful experience — the most common being the loss of a loved one. Grief can entail feelings of shock, anger, guilt, disbelief and sadness.
Grief is categorized into five stages, first designed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book Death and Dying:
- Denial and Isolation: when unpleasant news is received, our immediate response to the feeling of being overwhelmed is a denial of the truth — saving our thoughts from spiraling.
- Anger: following the denial, the harsh awakening of the truth hits us like full force — sparking feelings of anger and irritation amongst the pain.
- Bargaining: once we have been able to fully comprehend the situation at hand, our minds are wired to immediately try and figure out a way to improve and solve the problem — in order to change the situation for the better.
- Depression: this is the stage where we start to realize the different impacts the situation can have on us — regarding practical implications and emotional pain. Intense feelings of sorrow follow, due to the neverending pit we find ourselves falling in.
- Acceptance: this is the final stage, where we begin to slowly ease ourselves out of depression and into a calmer state of mind. Unfortunately, this does not always mean a period of happiness but rather a time when we can make amity with the situation.
In the spirit of National Grief Awareness Day, here are some myths about grief that will be debunked. I hope this helps in destigmatizing grief — getting rid of the negative connotations of grief that are just not true.
- Myth #1: After a certain amount of time has passed, you should be over your grief. This myth is FALSE; there is no timeline or calendar to your grief! Grief is a process that takes different lengths of time for different people. In fact, some might never be able to stop grieving — and might instead learn how to manage it better over time.
- Myth #2: If you avoid the pain, it won’t be able to hurt you. This myth is FALSE; in fact, avoiding grief and pain just makes the situation worse. Unaddressed grief can oftentimes grow bigger over time, worsening one’s mental state and subjecting them to a fate worse than if they had addressed their grief.
- Myth #3: Crying only makes grief worse. This myth is FALSE; tears and crying are natural responses to pain in any human being (look at babies!). Crying is a part of your body’s natural healing process for both physical and emotional pain.
- Myth #4: Talking about my situation will only make my grief worse. This myth is FALSE; not talking about the situation just leaves you to cultivate more and more painful emotions and memories within yourself! Talking to someone about your pain helps you gain new perspectives and help on how to better handle your grief.
- Myth #5: If I cannot get over this, I will never be happy again. This myth is FALSE; in fact, many find it impossible to ever “get over” the situation that has caused them pain! However, being aware of your grief and taking steps to better manage it will help you learn to live better and happier.
So how can you “celebrate” National Grief Awareness day? Well, merely offer your support to anyone who might be grieving. Your support can go a long way, helping them feel lighter during a very hard time. You can also show your support right now by visiting change.org and signing the petition to officially make National Grief Awareness day a national holiday!
I’d like to debunk one last myth — which is, unfortunately, one of the most common myths about grief — that grief is a terrible emotion. This myth is FALSE; grief is simply your body’s natural healing process. Grief allows you to experience feelings, express them and then work them out. Grief is able to help you find a way — no matter how many turns it might have — back to a life worth living.