5 Truths about grief and how grieving false beliefs is legit

Photo Credit: [ henning ] via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: [ henning ] via Compfight cc
We all believe a lot of things that just aren’t so.

For example, in North America, we have an inordinately large percentage of women believe a lie about their weight.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston found that 16% of white women and 20% of hispanic women who were either normal or underweight thought they were overweight.

And 15% to 30% of overweight women in all groups thought they were of normal weight or underweight.

As for men, based on research published in 2009 in the journal Epidemiology, they are even more likely than women to believe a fitness lie.  Men tend to think they’re all that and a bag of chips when, really, they should step away from the bag of chips.

There are people who believe they are good singers when they aren’t.  I don’t need to provide stats for this. Just watch the auditions for American Idol.

Then there’s your uncle Jerry who believes he is a good dancer and insists on proving it at every family wedding creating much fodder for Instagram hilarity. You know you have an uncle Jerry.

All of these, while being untrue, are still relatively innocuous. We all believe some of these kinds of lies and we’re not in any kind of real danger because of them.

But, what if your particular lie is big? What if it has to do with worldview or is tied to a family tradition, passed down through the generations?

Like I said, we all have some false beliefs and those who look to us for an example of how to live are likely to adopt them as truth. That’s how we got them; from whoever had an influence on us while growing up. Our media also has a big part to play in the example game.

“From infancy, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our teachers, our heroes, the TV we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read, the places of worship we attend and in [2015], even the websites we frequent, have been influencing us to think, behave and believe a certain way.”


Like I said, many of these false beliefs are completely without negative return in our lives… As long as they aren’t put to the test. Should they come up against a measuring stick, however, our false beliefs can be our undoing.

I guess that’s why we’re supposed to build our foundation on stone, not sand.

Run with me on this one:

So, you’ve built your house with a lot of good stone but a few, here and there, are just compressed sand. They look like a rock and feel a bit like a rock. But, when the weather comes, the sand is washed away and leaves big gaps in your construction. With even one of those sand rocks gone, your foundation falls in, causing the floors and walls upstairs to crack and heave.

Get it? Those beliefs that seem innocuous could really mess you up. It would definitely be decline.

A Foundation of Sand = Guaranteed Decline  (tweet this)

Let me give you the example from my life that lead me to really ponder how we all could get better at dealing with false beliefs.

Recently, I had one of my inherited doozies tear a big chunk out of my foundation during a court battle. (Court battles, by the way, are just another lovely gift from the world of divorce. Run screaming in the other direction, if you can.)

See, my family is a loyal, British family. Though all of my family lines have been in North America close to a hundred years (some for 300 years or more), I was still taught to think like a subject. I absorbed a respect for the institutions of the world from my family.

Photo Credit: m0bile via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: m0bile via Compfight cc

This worldview came with following assumptions (among others):

  • The school system is the only way to get an education
  • The medical system is infallible
  • The court system protects those who live with integrity and follow the rules

These are also untruths or perhaps vast generalizations that will not hurt you unless they are put to the test.

In my court experience, I believed that due process would be followed and that, knowing I wasn’t doing anything wrong, things would turn out favourably, within reason.

Unfortunately, the truth I held that said that the court system would protect me if I was living with integrity didn’t take into account the egos of people or situational ethics that has become common place these days. Over the years since my ancestors developed the belief that the courts were a noble institution set on upholding the truth, some things have clearly changed.

As a result, my world was completely rocked.

After the first, illogical ruling backed by what would be generously called ‘cursory investigation’, I couldn’t even think about what happened without having a panic attack. (I can be emotional but I’m rarely hyperventilating, wide eyed and nauseous) .

When I had to return to the actual courthouse, with the same cast of characters, I nearly threw up on the side of the road more than once on the way.

This was a place and a process that I had complete faith in and it utterly failed me. My safety was gone. If this ‘truth’ was untrue, what other beliefs did I hold that would betray me when tested?

3 Things I’ve learned from this

  1. Blind faith is only for God. Universal faith in institutions is always unfounded. (tweet this)
  2. Sometimes, logic is irrelevant. People will do things that make no sense, even when they have cold, hard data in their hands.
  3. People in positions of authority aren’t necessarily any more capable of making a good decision than those under their authority.

So, while learning all this was great, it left me more than a little shaky. Like I said, my foundation had some holes and my house was precarious at best.

If I can’t trust those in positions of authority, what can I do, aside from becoming a paranoid recluse? Or, as my main man said at the time:

“I just want to live in the woods by ourselves and shoot whatever we can’t grow.”

Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ via Compfight cc

This really got me thinking that I can’t be the only one to have lived with her head in the sand her whole life only to have it violently ripped out one day.  There had to be some wise take-away that I could offer up for others to use as they blink into the blaring sunlight of the truth they were blind to only seconds before.

So, here are some action steps that I’ve come up with for use when one of my truths has been proven false and the gap threatens to swallow me up.

Four days later…

I’ve discovered something else. I typed that last line about ways that I’ve come up with to deal with having a false belief uncovered and then… nothing.

I pondered.

I looked at my brainstorming notes. (You know, the ones you write just before starting a piece of writing. The ones that are supposed to be big dumps of all the thoughts you have related to your topic.)

I prayed about it. (Lord, If I don’t have any action steps to offer others then what have I been doing these past four months?)

What I haven’t been doing is taking action on any magic bullet for handling this situation well. At least, not well in the sense that I can continue doing life the way I did before with only minimal disturbance.

In hindsight, I guess it was naive to think that I could learn to deal well with trauma. It’s trauma, after all.

It’s not pretty, simple or ‘normal’ but on my fourth day of trying, I gave up. A to-do list was the last thing that would have helped while I scrambled to shore up a crumbling foundation. Likely, you don’t need any action items either. Instead, out of my experience, I give you this:

My way of keeping it together while the foundation is crumbling

Take it for what it’s worth. I’m functioning. Even thriving. Maybe my way will work for you too.

1. Let trauma traumatize you

It’s foolish to try not to feel the trauma of a trauma. Like an adult discovering that they were adopted, your foundation has been compromised. It’s going to hurt. We don’t just grieve death. We grieve all trauma. Let it hurt. Then rebuild it with (hopefully) a solid truth.

2. Hurt never killed anyone

Like physical pain, emotional pain is a warning system that something is wrong; that a correction or repair needs to be made. In the case of a false belief being unearthed, the pain is likely due to a way of thinking that needs to be corrected. I needed to correct my thoughts that all big people have my best interest at heart and that just because it’s a respected institution, it will do the right thing.

As a side note, I’ve discovered that the correction to that thought is this:

Big people are people and institutions are made of people.

People are fallible. Guard your heart and be ready to forgive.
(tweet this)

3. My grief is good for our kids

My kids will survive while I grieve. In fact, they need to witness my grieving process so that they can know it’s an okay thing for them to do (because they needed to, right along with me). They also need to learn to have compassion and care for those who are grieving.

My homeschooled teenagers had to do their morning reading without me for a good two weeks after that first day in court. I wasn’t fit to be in company until I’d spent at least an hour by myself with my grief.
Having said that…

4. Your kids and your spouse still need you

While it’s good for the kids to see you grieve, you need to set it aside for some time every day. Your family still needs you. Your kids need to see that there is a time when we simply do what needs doing by setting the grief in a corner (as much as possible) and functioning as best we can.

Some days, it looks like doing dishes and laundry with tears streaming down your face and a half smile when you tell them that you’ll be okay.

Your spouse, also, needs to have the partnership that makes your life work together. Plus, if you’re in such trauma, chances are they are too and need some support.

5. Grief will swallow you whole – Don’t let it

There were days when I could barely dress myself and eat something. Other days were just numb. It would have been easy to let the brainless, painful days get less frequent and the numb days replace them. For me, that felt like giving up and, as per number 4, I have things worth pursuing with vigor. I had to take those numb days and force myself to do something.

I tried to force normalcy into my routine but that failed more than once. Thankfully, I have the ability to change what we do at our homeschool. So we did. We opted to dump everything except reading and a monumental Christmas fundraiser.

There were many aspects of the project that tied in perfectly with English for our daughter. She got more experience public speaking, emailing and old fashioned letter writing that she ever would have taking an English course. Plus, she got to donate more money and toys to kids with cancer than her 13 year old brain could previously conceive of. All in all, it was a great use of time and a great way to get back into life.

Those are my tactics for holding it together while my foundation is crumbling:  If I had to sum them up, I would say:

It’s trauma and will be painful.
Pain won’t kill you.
Neither will grieving. Do it. Let your loved ones see you.
Be as normal as you can, some of the time.
In your moments of normalcy, do something.
Make it something that reminds you that you’re still here.

As I wrote, I became more and more aware that this process is just my grieving process.  No one died, but my belief in ‘how the world worked’ was a pretty big loss.  To some degree, when someone dies, we have to deal with an untruth we held about how long we would have that person or our ability to do life without them.

If you’re dealing with the death of a belief or of a loved one, perhaps my way is simplistic. If so, I don’t mean to offend.

Or, perhaps my way lets you know that you’re not the only one who smiles while your crying and knows (or hopes) that, some day, you will be okay again.

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