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.


New-to-me Theory – Finding Freedom From Grief

I see that many more of you visited yesterday, and I wonder if you were looking for some practical input about finding freedom from grief? That’s why I am writing today with some information I have recently discovered about the grieving process.

I just completed The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman.  It was highly informative and dispelled my beliefs about grief recovery. It is a book one works through either in a partnership with a close someone, or by themselves. The exercises they invite you to do take you through a grieving process that leads to more happiness and peace, less grief and sorrow.

In it, they talk about doing a Loss History Graph and a Relationship Graph, which points out to you your patterns of grieving with whom or what, and how it occurred, based on what you learned early in life. Their theory is that, with awareness, comes the beginning of change, of grief resolution. 

I had been following the teachings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who is famous for her work around the grieving process in the death and dying arena.  I still like some of the things she says about acceptance, even though I am swaying toward the new information. This is the fifth and final stage of  the process she defines. In it, she relays that just because you have accepted the death or imminent death, does not mean it’s okay. It never is alright, it just loses it’s charge over time and after one goes through the first four stages. Those are denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

John and Russel do not believe that grieving occurs in stages. They believe it is  a process, one which is totally individualized and can vary in length for each person. They believe it is unique to each person, and is dependent upon the relationship you had with the other person or experience. Yes, experiences can produce grief, such as moving from one location to another, or changing jobs/leaving a job.

They define grief as anything that produces conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior, so that’s why the above examples fall into the category of something from which you may need to grieve. We are taught at an early ago how to respond to loss, and the messages we have heard are: don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, just give it time, and be strong for others.

John and Russell cite and give examples of why these beliefs are a detriment to and, in fact, block, the grieving process.  So what is their process? It involves first developing awareness of your difficulty with grieving and even that you may be grieving.  Then they have you identify what you are feeling, at the time you are completing a Loss Graph. On the graph, you list out all the losses in your life… the major ones which leave you with uncomfortable feelings today or in the past.

They have more about it, of course, and they add a Relationship graph, in which you define your relationship to the people/pets/loss involved. I am limited in my space to portray the information in this book, and would love to see you to get a copy and follow the exercises suggested… with a partner.

I plan to start with sessions from a coach certified in this procedure and I look forward to finding out if I am still grieving something about which I am unaware, but which affects my ability to maintain my weight. I am also thinking strongly about becoming certified as a coach in this process. That’s because this philosophy really resonated with me and because I deal with Veterans who are dealing with grief in their lives.

Today, consider the messages you were told about loss when you were growing up. Do they sound soothing, do you get strength from them? Perhaps it’s time to discard or alter them. Tomorrow, more about this information…


Freedom to Grieve Loss

Good morning. Today dawns bright and clear here in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is my day to visit a friend who is incarcerated. He wasn’t a friend when I started… when I started, I didn’t even know him. I offered to visit when his visitor moved away and I learned he was devastated to lose his only visitor. I went to be of service.

What I soon discovered was a person who has grown in self-awareness and accountability for his actions. I have had the honor to witness his growth from one of fairly self-absorbed to one of genuine concern and caring for those around him. His growth has evolved form one who handled his altercations with references to violence, to one of peace. It has been a pleasure to watch the transformation over the past four or five years I have been visiting.

I have gained quite a bit from him as far as my own healing also. You see, when I started visiting, I was afraid to publish my book, afraid to let the world know who I was, much less to get my book out there. Through his gentle guiding me to see myself as a beautiful person, filled with passion, compassion, and concern for others, I was able to heal from my poor self-image, and to finally publish my book. You might say he was responsible for me being able to blog and share who I am.

After each visit, I leave, more grateful each time for my freedom and all that it entails. The freedom to cry when I am sad or joyous, for example. I am reminded of this aspect of freedom, as I think about him mourning the loss of his older brother who died last Sunday. I anticipate today to be rather somber as a result. I am appreciative of my freedom to cry, to mourn freely, as he does not have that luxury. A male cannot cry in prison for to do so would place him in jeopardy of his safety.

With me, he is able to express his feelings, his emotions, and he has grown in his ability to do this in an appropriate manner. I recently read a grief recovery book, and feel more equipped to handle his grief as a witness and confidant to his own. So it is with somewhat of a heavy heart that I prepare to travel to the prison, knowing that today will be a difficult visit, but also knowing I can allow his the expression of his grief.

And with that, I must close and get dressed for the day. Today, cherish your freedoms for even the slightest things that you now take for granted. Know that you are free to express yourself, your emotions, and to heal in a timely fashion, rather than continue to hold the grief inside. And with that, I wish you a good day.


Getting Past Sorrow and Despair

Good morning. Today I will deal with getting past sorrow and despair. In the book, they are separate topics, yet, today I am combining them as they often go hand-in-hand.

Face of Despair

Sorrow is defined by Webster as a mental suffering or anguish caused by loss, disappointment, or regret. It can include grief, which is a more intense anguish related to a specific misfortune or disaster.

When experiencing sorrow and/or grief, one’s thoughts can get to those of despair, defined as being without hope, being hopeless. All of these emotions are quite debilitating and, in my case, were accompanied by depression.

Sorrow and despair left me with no will to live and, in fact, I was praying to God to let me die, as I felt there was no purpose to the pain I had endured during my life-time, that my experiences were just a torment to me.

When one feels these emotions, it is a common tendency to want to numb the feelings by drinking, eating, shopping, or various other activities that we do obsessively. This only enhances the sorrow and despair.

In my case, I felt the sorrow and despair into my sobriety, up until I was about five years sober. At that point, I had an experience that dispelled both of these emotions. I had the opportunity to discover my purpose in life, and I felt needed, valued, and  that my experiences were valuable to others.

Quite by accident, I realized I could help others by relaying my story. Suddenly, my life had meaning and purpose. I no longer felt that deep hopelessness that is characteristic of despair. I no longer felt sorrow and grief over my life.

I was not able to do this alone. I sought counseling, took medication for my depression, and joined a support group to deal with my drinking issues. Then I set about the arduous and scary task of looking at my emotions and dealing with them. I started to take responsibility for my healing.

If you are feeling sorrow and grief from a loss of something or someone in your life, know that there are stages you will go through before you gain peace. Allow those stages occur; don’t fight them. Know that you are working your way to eventual peace.

It may be frightening for you to face your emotions; be gentle with yourself as you look. Most importantly, get help. Talk to someone – a trusted friend, clergy, a therapist.

As you deal with your sorrow and it lessens, despair will also diminish. Most of all, stick with it through the tough times, for your life has value to others in your world. We each have value in one way or another. It is up to you to discover what your value is. This will happen naturally as a result of dealing with these difficult emotions.

I wish you well as you deal with getting past sorrow and despair. Remember that your life has value. Know that eventually you will get to the bottom of your emotions and life will begin to turn around. Commit to yourself to stick with it, and ask for help from others and the divine forces of the Universe. Remember, you are working toward finding inner peace. 






How to Combat Despair

The Wail of Despair

Face of Despair

Moving on through the book, our next topic is despair. This is kind of like all the rest rolled into one. It is the feeling that nothing is right with you and your life, nor will it ever be. It is the feeling that your life has no purpose. For me, it was the point at which I began to pray to God to let me die.

I had been in sobriety for five years, and I didn’t know why I wasn’t feeling better, but I wasn’t. It was like all that I had endured in my life was for naught. I saw no purpose to my life.

Then it got better. It happened one day when I was at a support group, listening to a man share about the very pain with which I had been dealing.

Afterwards, I talked to him for quite some time, relaying information I had learned, the authors I had read, which had helped me through the pain he was describing. I even was able to refer him to a psychotherapist.

He was so relieved and appreciative, he almost cried. As I walked to my car, I realized I had been useful to him, only because of the experiences I’d had in my life, because of the pain I had endured. I realized that my past DID have a purpose and that was to help others who were dealing with the pain of their past.

In an instant, my life had meaning, the pain of my experiences melted, as I saw why they had occurred, why God had allowed them to happen. I realized those experiences had happened so I could heal from them and then help others to heal from them by speaking up, by sharing my experience of healing. Just like that, my despair vanished, never to return in the six years since this occurred.

To you who is dealing with despair, my heart goes out to you, for I remember how excruciating it was. In the gentlest of ways, I suggest you try to make sense out of the experiences that are bringing you despair by finding a way to make that experience of use to another person. Just one.

Look at that pain, and see how you can help another who deals with that same pain. Find authors who have written about the same experiences you have endured and read them to get a deeper understanding of your situation.

Above all, don’t negate your pain. Allow yourself to feel it, and to grieve about it. The more you squelch it, the more it will haunt you. Numbing it out will just prolong it and make you miserable in the meantime. Conversely, the more you deal with it head on, the more quickly you will heal. Recognize and allow the five stages of grief that I blogged about yesterday.

If you find just one person with whom you can share your steps to healing, you may feel what I felt – that your life has purpose. Once you feel your life has purpose, it becomes easier to continue, one step at a time. I wish you well on your journey of healing.



Inspirational Sayings About Love

Acknowledgment of Others

At long last, I return to the blog. I took the last topic of patience and really put it to the test. Perhaps I have lost some of you… that is my fear. If not, thank you for your patience. It’s appropriate that today’s topic is acknowledgment, as I wish to acknowledge my lack of writing for almost a month.

I was in Pennsylvania from the end of May until June 6th. Since my return, I have been unable to sit down and write. I have had trouble getting back into my work routine, period. I have taken three weeks to pull together  documentation for an application to a health care program. In the process, I learned to do a profit and loss statement for my business, so it turned out to be positive.

As a review, what we are doing with this blog is this: In my blog, I write on the topics that are in my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing, in the order in which they appear in the book. We are going from fear, worthlessness, sorrow, and despair, through discovery and awareness, to lessons learned about how to treat ourselves and others. Finally, we reach joy and peace. It is a chronicle of my own journey from the depths of despair and praying to die, to wholeness and happiness, joy and peace. I’m glad you’re joining me on the journey.

I have to acknowledge that one reason I have procrastinated is because I am uncomfortable writing the blog using my new keyword phrases, inspirational sayings about…, inspirational quotes about… Sometimes, they just don’t fit. Sometimes, I feel uncomfortable using them from blog to blog. I am concerned about what you, the reader, will think. Will you get impatient with it? I have to get past that as I am on page 1 in Google because of using those keywords and phrases. This reaches a large segment of people with which I would like to connect. So please have patience with me as I continue this practice.

On with acknowledgment… In the book, there are inspirational sayings about love, about how we can show love by acknowledging others. “We go within so we can reach out to others, and we reach out to others so we can go within,” is one such example. “We need to matter to each other, and to ourselves,” is another.  I think it’s important to acknowledge another… a smile to one on the street, a clerk waiting on a customer, a response to a loved one when they are talking. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or complicated, but it is so important to show love and respect to others, and this is one way to do that.

In our, perhaps, haste to acknowledge others, we sometimes forget to show the same love and respect to ourselves. We brush aside our hurts, our pains, and do not take the time to feel them, grieving for what it is we have lost, giving importance to our feelings. They are not wrong, they are just what is. Once we can experience them, acknowledge them, we can heal from them, and gain the higher benefit from the experience. I think, too, that once we share what we are feeling, it makes us more human to others. We can all relate and connect at that place of hurt, as we have all experienced it. It is a part of living, a part of being human.

We can watch ourselves, as we go through our days, giving acknowledgment to others, remembering to offer it to ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts. We can remember to acknowledge ourselves when paid a compliment, also. So often, perhaps, embarrassed, or not feeling worthy, we brush it off. Does that not  negate the other person’s thoughts and feelings, showing them disrespect? Does that not belittle our strengths and who we are? Just some thoughts on quotes about life…




Developing Awareness

Birth of Awareness

There came a point in time after I dispensed with the false bravado that awareness began to creep up on me, that I began to be aware of myself  in the world. In the book, in this image and verse, I see the lushness beyond the opening, and after allowing myself to feel my anger and sadness, my grief and sorrow, I decide to walk through the gate to awareness. I make a choice.

The first area in which I developed awareness was how to identify my feelings. I had kept them numb for so long with my drinking, that they were raw when I quit. I also did not know how to name them, I often struggled to determine what I was feeling. My ability to identify my feelings has grown tremendously, as evidenced by my last post.

Part of my awareness includes identifying how I “am” in the world, i.e., how my actions or words have affected another. Again, referencing my last post and the issue with which I was dealing, I sorted out my feelings and resolved my impatience and anger. Then, I decided to share with the person involved the process I had gone through, as I was trying not to hide my feelings. I would not recommend that, as in this case, it only served to upset and hurt the other person.

In searching for the mature way to handle the situation I described in my last post, it would have been better to talk with a trusted friend about my feelings, write about them, and resolve them without mentioning my difficulty to the other person because I identified that their actions were appropriate, even though I did not like them.

A large majority of my awareness has been in the area of learning lessons – learning that experiences come to me for the purpose of healing and growing. When I think of unpleasant situations in this way, my energy is directed toward the lesson and what I can learn, rather than on blaming another person or situation for my grief, or whatever. I am able to detach myself from those things and learn the lesson the experience is trying to teach me. This habit has helped me to reach my goal of inner peace.

How about you? What does awareness look like for you?



Agony of Sorrow

Searing pain is how I describe sorrow in my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing.” Webster defines sorrow as the deep, often long-continued mental anguish over loss, disappointment, sadness, grief, or regret. My sorrow was over the loss of a deep love I thought was a mutual feeling. It was not.

At the same time I was mourning the loss of a deep relationship with this man, and my extreme sense of loss and disappointment, I was dealing with the loss of a decent and happy childhood, for I, like many of us, did not have one. The pain I felt was all-consuming, raw. I was in agony with sorrow.

Then, over time, and with changes to my heart and mind, it released its grips. I cannot even point to the one incident that led it to disperse. I do know that through it all, I kept sober. Even though there were many times I didn’t think continued sobriety was worth it, I stayed sober anyway and found on the other side of sorrow that sobriety was and is absolutely worth it. It was my continued sobriety which allowed me to reach inner peace from the chaos and pain I felt.

Now, I look at the experiences with the man, or my childhood stuff – and I become grateful for them. How in the world can I be grateful for that which caused me such pain, you may ask? Well, without those experiences, I would not be who I am today.

And I like the caring and compassionate qualities which I feel and which I allow others to see. I like the life lessons I learned from the experiences, the ability to look into myself  that I gained during the healing process, the grieving process. The journey to this place is what my book is all about.

The biggest thing for me was to allow myself to feel those feelings of sorrow for as long as they existed. I took responsibility to move forward in my growth, while still allowing myself to feel that sorrow when it arose.  It took me five years to get past the unrequited love and the feelings of sorrow associated with that. If you’re dealing with sorrow, are you allowing yourself the time and space to feel it? There is a saying… “The only way past it is to go through it.” My best to you if you’re going through it right now.


Ways to Deal With Sorrow and Grief

Agony of Sorrow

I am consumed by the searing flame of my grief, my sorrow. It is too painful to contemplate. I cannot allow myself to feel.

Have you ever experienced sorrow so immense, it feels like you’re burning up inside? It starts as an aching that progresses so quickly to create a huge hole in your heart, your soul. And it’s a pain so intense, you can’t even look at it. To do so leaves you breathless.

Distraction of any sort does not even bring relief, but we engage anyway. Shopping, eating, drinking, gambling… Where does it lead? Often to destruction of self and others. Avoidance delays the beginning of the healing process, and yet it is often the only response able before one can confront the sorrow.

Recognizing and dealing with the distraction in which we are engaging, especially with drinking by getting sober, can assist in one’s ability to begin facing the pain, grief, and sorrow.

Sorrow is an intense anguish, often in response to loss or disappointment. It is closely related to grieving. If we choose to look at that sorrow, we can recognize the grieving process and allow it to occur. This begins the process of dispelling sorrow.

Often, talking to others about our sorrow is helpful, and allows the cleansing and grieving process to begin. Eventually, we are able to come back to center and to regain peace-of-mind.

In response to understanding more about the need for assistance to work through sorrow, support bereavement groups are forming, in addition to those offered by a local Hospice organization. Support allows us to realize we are not alone. It gives us courage to face the pain, knowing that by sharing, it will help with that searing feeling, allowing us to regain our equilibrium.

Hello, and welcome to my blog. As a newcomer or even someone returning, I want to clarify what I am doing on the blog. I am talking about each topic of my book, as it appears.  Together, the topics portray my healing journey, from great fear and worthlessness, to joy and peace. Thank you for joining the journey. We are currently at the beginning of the book, talking about difficult emotions.