Last time I blogged about the myth, “Don’t feel bad” when we grieve. In the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?” We can see the downfall of not acknowledging the feelings we have when we grieve. More than one client of mine has felt that their lifelong need to eat, drink, shop, exercise, smoke, etc. came from trying to NOT FEEL BAD!!! This challenging myth is usually followed by something we call, “Replace the loss.” Let me explain…
Our children feel bad after losing their pets. We feel like a bad parent because we can’t “fix” them. In a panic, we decide to buy them a new pet. Here’s how that sounds. “Don’t feel bad Billy. We will buy you a new dog on Saturday.” So we have told the child that the pain of losing something or someone we love dearly can be replaced with something or someone new. Do we see the problem here? Say, a breakup. Do we think that people possibly continue from relationship to relationship because they have never resolved some of life’s first griefs? If you think that’s not happening you might want to check out dating sites. People are swiping their way into the next heartache thinking that it will salve that broken heart they have…. Ummmmm I’m thinking that is not working.
The truth is relationships with people, animals, and prized possessions are unique. We will never have the same relationship with anyone or anything. There can be similarities, but they are never identical. As a matter of fact, I can attest to this personally. I had a dog that I dearly loved. I found that dog dead after being hit by a car. I was beyond traumatized. My mother tried frantically to help me process that grief. When I could not be consoled by later that afternoon, I was taken shopping. Later in life, I used shopping as a means to fill grief before understanding what was really happening. Truth be known, I tried to make the new dog into the dog I lost. That dog was neurotic and I was left feeling alone. Replacing the loss never works for anyone.
In the case of a prized possession, like a bike, we learn some of the same things from well-meaning families who try to replace the loss. Many times when we lose a toy or something else we might get a lecture from our parents. If we were more responsible we wouldn’t have lost that toy! Uhhhh no acknowledgement of my grief in that lecture.
I know this is about children and their grief, however, I would like to take this a step into the future. Is it possible that replacing the loss is contributing to the 50% divorce rate? We falsely learned that replacing the loss is the way to go. Let’s put that into perspective with relationships. We are dating and feel like this is the one. Maybe even our first love… Then we break up! Devastating! We come home to tell our family and friends of our horrible breakup. How many times have you heard, “Well there are more fish in the sea?” What??? I don’t want another fish. I was very happy with that fish. We find that unfinished business about each past relationship gets buried and then carried to the next relationship. By the time we marry, we may have a vast accumulation of unresolved grief from the past. We look at the two myths and see that they have done overwhelming damage to society. Maybe, just maybe, it’s better to feel bad, when feeling bad is the normal reaction to an event!!
Next time we will see how these two myths can roll us over to the next myth, “Grieve alone!”