How to Deal with Grief – Part 1

Yesterday, I talked about a book I read that has changed the way in which I want to deal with grief… how to handle it, how to get through it. That book is The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman.

One of the ideas they present is that there is a difference between not forgetting and not getting over someone or something from which you grieve. The whole point of grief recovery is to get over the grief in order to move to a place where you live a happy and fulfilled life. This is different from not forgetting someone. You will always remember someone and the relationship you had with them, and it is possible to get over the grief.

Another idea they present is that grief does not occur in stages and they caution allowing anyone to place you in such a box. They also urge you to not place a timeframe on the length of time it takes you to recover from the grief. Each of us is unique and individual, and we handle grief in the way we were taught, as well as based upon the relationship we had with the person or thing we have lost.

For example, a move when you were a child may not be as sad an event for you if you were not attached to the place you lived or to anyone there. However, if you were attached to the home, had friends, then you will most likely need to grieve more the loss of those things when you move. It is highly likely you did not grieve the loss from a move when you were a child, and it can be done in present day.

Some signs of grief which you may or may not be experiencing are changed eating habits, disrupted sleeping patterns, and a roller coaster of emotions. You are unhappy and life is not fulfilling for you. John and Russell recommend you find a partner, someone else who is grieving a loss. One of you may be dealing with loss from a death, while the other may be dealing with the loss of a divorce. This is fine, as long as you are both experiencing grief. In the book, they walk you through exercise to complete which you then relay to your partner.

Grief, conflicting emotions over a change in familiar patterns of behavior, usually begins immediately after the loss. That reaction may be one of shock and numbness. You may alternate between a feeling of grief at the loss with remembering the person and your relationship with fond memories. These are typical grieving behaviors and feelings.

Events you may grieve over include the death of a loved one or someone you knew and cared about, a divorce, a move, loss of a pet, and the change or loss of a job. These are all intellectual definitions of loss and should not be confused with the emotions, the feelings, you hold of the loss. Remember, because each relationship is unique, your grief will be totally unique; it will be different than someone else’s.

John and Russell devote a section about suicide and guilt. They cite that the dictionary defines guilt as an implication of intent to harm. Since you had no intent to harm the one who committed suicide, you can put that feeling away, you can give up the need to feel guilt. On the other hand, there may be some things you wish you had done differently, better, or more. 

This is a common feeling... the desire to have done something differently, better, or more. When you talk over your grief with the partner you have chosen to go through the process with, you can raise these issues, not to encourage guilt, rather, as a means of getting those feelings out into the air, to get them acknowledged.

This post is getting long and I still have things to say about this topic, so I will continue tomorrow on specific ways to effectively manage grief.

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