How to Deal with Grief – Part 2

Good morning. We are again furthering our knowledge about grief and how to handle it. I am referring in this blog to the book I read called The Grief Recovery Handbook, by John W. James and Russell Friedman. One of the points they make early on is that we an not experienced in dealing with the feelings that come up when we are faced with a loss.

We fall back on the messages we learned when growing up, taught to us by folks who were themselves very uncomfortable with the unfamiliar feelings. The messages we were taught were: don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, just give it time, and be strong for someone else. These are myths and don’t work in grief recovery. 

They encourage us to grieve in isolation, which is not effective in grief recovery, according to John and Russell. Instead, they believe we need to get acknowledgment of our feelings. They also believe that being told those messages leads us to a loss of trust in the person(s) saying them. Because loss of trust is painful, we learn the message to not trust others and this further isolates us. 

Nonetheless, we seek solace from others and we quickly learn they are ill-equipped to help us. Although well-meaning, they say things that are not helpful and sometimes detrimental, such as I know how you feel. No one knows how you feel because you had a unique relationship to the person or event of which you grieve, and, therefore, your grief is unique to you.

“Keep a stiff upper lip,” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,”  “give it  time and it will heal,” and even “get on with your life,” are all things we have undoubtedly heard which are not useful things for us. The clear message is that it’s not okay to have our feelings and certainly not to show them.

So what’s the answer? John and Russell believe we need to grieve in partnership with someone else who is grieving. They suggest going through their book and working the exercises that are clearly spelled out. Then, they advocate sharing what you found during each exercise with your partner, who does nothing but listen. The listener must not interrupt nor touch you if you become upset, as that interrupts the process of grief recovery.

One misunderstood emotion is depression. Depression after a loss is to be expected, as what just happened is a depressing thing. It differs from clinical depression, however.  A grieving person is entitled to a loss of energy after a loss, and this is not the same as clinical depression.

Basically, the healing comes about through our ability to be heard and acknowledged. Unfortunately, we learn quickly that it is not okay to voice our feelings, and we find ourselves acting recovered in order to be accepted, when, in fact, we are dying inside. This is something to be wary of and we can seek out the solace of a grief recovery partner.

In order to recover, we must look at all aspects of a relationship, both the positive and the negative. Without doing that, it is almost impossible to heal from the grief. It is important to remember that ALL relationships and events have both positive and negative aspects. Through the completion of what John and Russell call a Relationship Graph, we can get a clearer picture of what we experienced with a person or event. This helps us through the grief process by directing us to look at how our relationships interfaced with our losses. It keeps us from putting the person or event on a pedestal or continually criticizing them.

They also advocate/suggest that we do a Loss Graph, which outlines the major losses in our life. This will allow the feelings associated with our losses to surface so we can feel them, and then, heal. The whole system works well if we pair up with a grief partner and follow the exercises in the book. More information is available at John and Russell’s website at

I hope this information is helpful to you as you journey through the grief process.




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