I think the greatest thing thing that most people unlearn when they are suddenly thrust into a significant bereavement is the idea that they are grieving “Wrong”.
Society, culture, our cruel world teaches us from a very early age what it looks like to grieve. That comes from lots of places. Partly it is a relic of Kübler-Ross'(very old) research on death and dying, and the institution of the five stages of grief. If society is given a model of how something might happen, society wants to then use that as a cookie cutter to force every single person through. And if there’s a right way to do something, then obviously there is a wrong way to do it.
Partly it is from the church of the old days. Grieving as a Christian is a weird place to be, because there are many in the church who have some very weird theology around death and want you to believe their dodgy theology with them. There is this hangover of belief that, because as a Christian you believe in the afterlife you’re therefore not supposed to be sad when someone we love dies. That, for a Christian, any kind of grief looks wrong.
But these ideas are what is wrong. One of the reasons I wrote my book and have spent 13 years teaching and speaking on bereavement is to speak against this pervasive idea that people are doing grief wrong.
Let me say it again, for the people in the back, there is no wrong way to grieve.
Just as, we’re finally, at a place where we’ve mostly stopped telling people the way they should love, we need to get to the point where we do the same with grief. People love differently. People have different relationships. If grief is the inverse, the memory of where love once was, then people will grief differently.
It can be the longest and hardest thing to unlearn, and gets in the way of the actual hard work of grieving and healing. And I still have the voice in my head sometimes, telling me to stop talking, asking if I’m still not over it. But I am not grieving wrong, that is something I have unlearnt. There is no such thing as grieving wrong.