Grief, American Style
Dealing With Loss
The Six Myths of Grieving continued...
4. Time Heals All Wounds
"This is perhaps the most life-threatening myth," says Friedman. "You wouldn't sit and wait for air to come back into a flat tire. You'd take action. And a broken heart is remarkably like a flat tire." But time is not an action. It can no more fix your heart than it can put air back in your tire. "When the will to live, to do, to go on, are drained, you need to take action." How? By focusing on your lost relationship -- the good and the bad, coming to terms with what was left undone or unsaid. It can also mean seeking professional help if you need it.
5. Be Strong for Others
Most of us are taught to hide our emotions, especially from our children. But this is false and misguided protection, says Friedman, and in times of loss, it can backfire. As children follow our example, they end up swallowing their emotions. These bottled up feelings may eventually explode. "Kids are very resilient," he says. "You can share your emotions in a constructive way. You can be strong and human at the same time." By teaching kids not to ever be sad, "you're also teaching them not to be happy."
6. Keep Busy
Often when we experience a major loss, we fill every waking hour with activities and projects, anything to keep from focusing on what has happened. "But keeping busy doesn't fix unfinished issues between you and whoever has died," says Friedman. "It's an illusion, and at the end of the busy day, you haven't done anything to heal." Again, we should focus on and analyze our lost relationship. It's the only way to come to terms with it and move on, he says.
It's Not a Thinking Thing
What these six myths and the countless variations on them have in common is an attempt to intellectualize something that is sheer emotion. For example, says Friedman, "the idea of 'not letting them get us' is an intellectual construct." And while it may have helped galvanize our country in the aftermath of the attacks, for those who lost loved ones, it is nearly meaningless.