Three Beliefs That Cause Unnecessary Suffering When Mourning

Beliefs engrained in us early in life by well-meaning adults, through their behavior and comments, become the gospel of our adult lives, and furthermore, indelibly stamped in our conscious and unconscious minds. These beliefs automatically become deeply rooted as “the truth” and prove to be especially devastating when they are tied into how we should grieve the death of a loved one. Regrettably, adult grief models are notoriously unrealistic.

Your beliefs about death, your loved one, and the world around you explain what grief is like for you and only you right now. Everything you perceive about the present state of your grief and loss is filtered through what you believe to be true.

Here are three limiting beliefs frequently embraced by the mourner—often hidden in silence—and causing unnecessary suffering, with an antidote for each.

1. I can’t go on without him or her. This belief often isolates and limits interaction with others. The history of loss is that we are all capable of adapting to the worst losses imaginable, unless we are unwilling to begin the difficult process of acceptance. You can decide to change the “I can’t go on” belief to: “I will have my painful moments as life goes on, but I am choosing to find peace and each day express gratitude for all I still possess.” Help abounds for those adjusting to the absence of a loved one. It has to be sought after through counselors, support groups, the local church, the internet, friends, and family. There are many strategies that work wonders.

2. If I take a break from my grief and go out to dinner, relax, or feel relief I will be demeaning the memory of my loved one. Grief is highly stressful work. It demands great energy and ultimately the replenishing of that energy. Failure to care for the self is not an option—it’s essential or you become ill and lose valuable energy. Give the body and mind planned respite each day. It is essential and perfectly okay to do so. Tell yourself: I am entitled to find sources of nourishment and utilize them in my journey of adjustment.

3. I will never be happy again. Happiness is always a choice. It is a moment by moment experience, a by-product of taking yourself outside of yourself in a number of ways: teaching your expertise to others, volunteering, giving your time where needed (as a way of honoring the memory of your loved one), and immersing yourself in nature, to name a very few. Make every effort to delete the word never from your vocabulary.

Your loved one would not want you to stop growing in wisdom and awareness by limiting your learning and involvement with the world. That is what deciding not to be happy would do. Tell yourself: I will have my fill of sadness from time to time, but I am working on developing new skills and routines that will serve me in my new life. I expect to find joy and reinvest in life. You can choose to be happy at any given moment. And don't forget, if you choose to be unhappy, your body will automatically choose to be unwell.

Our beliefs and choices have the power to transform or increase pain, or change the course of our grief work. Of critical importance is to realize the words we use are unusually powerful and clearly reinforce beliefs whether positive or negative. Your word choice and the awareness of your present beliefs about grief and loss is the place to start in changing beliefs and the emotion they support. Live your new beliefs.

This means that any positive affirmation you devise, like the three given above, will go a long way toward bringing relief and influencing your grief work for the better. Be determined to find and give up the negative belief that is limiting your life and creating unnecessary suffering, and you will change your present reality. In short, eliminating a negative belief eliminates the sadness you are continually drawing into your life. That, like happiness, is a powerful choice.

By: Louis LaGrand, Ph.D.


Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His free monthly ezine website is

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