Despite the fact that everyone experiences the death of a loved one at some point in their life, the topic of grief remains, unsurprisingly, a fraught one. There is no shortage of misinformation and inaccurate ideas regarding the nature of grief, and many people who experience a loss have no clue what is “normal” for them. It’s these kinds of misconceptions that led Angie Cartwright to create National Grief Awareness Day in 2014.
Celebrated every August 30, National Grief Awareness Day is meant to help us learn more about coping with loss, and the various forms that grieving can take. While many people may be put off by even the mention of death or grief, it is an important part of life, and, as with many things, knowledge can lend the necessary empowerment to make it through.
Misinformation and Misunderstandings
While grief is typically associated with the passing of a human being, there are no limits to the types of grief that a person can experience, and many people grieve losses unrelated to death, such as the loss of a job or a breakup. Additionally, while many might assume that it is only possible to grieve the loss of a fellow human being, grief experienced as a result of the loss of a pet is normal, and valid. Understanding first and foremost that grief can occur as a response to a variety of experiences is the first step to supporting yourself and loved ones whenever you experience grief.
There is no perfect response to grief. Stigma around the topic can lead many people to respond with impatience or misunderstanding, and often, people are confused as to why those who have experienced a loss can’t just “get over it”. While there may be no perfect response to a person who has experienced a loss, choosing to be patient, kind, and sympathetic is a good first step. Avoid suggesting that they ought to just move on, and instead, make it clear that your bereaved loved one can lean on you in their time of need.
Of course, the same goes for you if you happen to be the person experiencing grief. Do not expect yourself to move on quickly, and don’t feel ashamed if that’s not the case. Be patient with yourself, and, in the meantime, reach out to your loved ones for support as you pass through this difficult time.
Regardless of whether you are the person who is comforting a bereaved individual, or you have personally experienced a loss, don’t be afraid to seek resources and knowledge. There is no shortage of information on the topic of loss that can help you make sense of the emotions you experience along the way, and there are also many resources to help those who are grieving a loss. Do some research online, or visit the library, where there are sure to be some books on the topic.
Grieving is a difficult and scary process, but it doesn’t have to be shrouded in mystery and taboo, and you don’t have to do it alone. Above all else, treat National Grief Awareness Day as a reminder to support your loved ones, and to give yourself permission to seek the same support.