Grief Timeline and Behaviors – Conclusion

Welcome back for the conclusion of the discussion about grief. My hope for you today is that you find peace in your journey.  Yesterday, I spoke about how grief after loss is normal, that we may go on a roller coaster ride of emotions, that we are not alone – others have gone through the grieving process also, and they are available to help us through ours.

And that is a key point right there. Grief recovery is a process. It occurs in stages or waves, and if we can stay present for those changed emotions, we can recover more quickly.

Let’s look at our emotional landscape… when we experience grief, we may be breathless, unable to catch our breath due to the shock and disbelief. We will likely be angry and either target it at someone/something specific, or generally be angry at the world, at God. We may feel guilty, worthless, and depressed, alternated with calm and peace. This is quite normal.

Our release of emotions may include weeping, wailing, sobbing, and we may isolate ourselves. In our physical landscape, we may be experiencing lethargy, physical numbness, aches and pains. Our sleeping and eating patterns may change; we may feel general malaise and fatigue.

All of these things are normal, and we can take the best care of ourselves that we can throughout our changing emotional and physical status.

We may find ourselves getting to a point where we enjoy a portion(s) of our lives and this does not deny our loss and grief. I think the important thing to realize is that we get through grief more quickly if we feel our feelings, if we allow them to surface and be acknowledged. Then, if we get stuck, we can do things to get unstuck. What can we do to get unstuck, you may ask?

First, we can reach out. Reach out to friends, family, to spiritual leaders, to clergy, to teachers, medical community, our personal social circle. Second, we can risk examining our stuck behaviors. This takes courage and we can acknowledge that courage. We can talk to those who are not stuck.

Third, we can make this a year of “yes,” giving ourselves permission to move forward and act. We can take one step, one baby step, and we can live life fully, to the best of our ability. Fourth, we can move, exercise. This produces endorphins, the feel-good chemical in our brain. And fifth, we can write a letter to the person or thing with which we grieve, talking through any unfinished business.

In fact, writing, and especially printing with the non-dominat hand, will bring out emotions more quickly and we can pass through them as we write about them. Throughout the process, we find our purpose and we eventually gain peace with our grief. We find our purpose, and we find acceptance.

What are you grieving about? What do you discover about your feelings, your beliefs, when you write about your grief? How does it feel when you reach acceptance? Have you reached it yet? Leave a comment and let us know how you are coping with your grief.

 

 

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Grief Timeline and Behaviors – Part 1

Good morning to you each. I hope your day has dawned with the promise of peace. Today, I picked the topic of grief and want to look at the process involved in grief recovery – how long it takes and what we might be dealing with throughout the process.

My information here is based on personal experience with seven years of a debilitating grief from which I recovered, as well as the book, The Grief Recovery Handbook, the 20th edition, by John W. James and Russell Friedman. Some of what I say about the stages of grief are based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ teachings about the 5 stages of death and dying.

Perhaps the first thing about the grief process is to know that grief is normal after loss of any sort… death of a loved one or pet, divorce or loss of a relationship, loss of a job, or a move from one place to another. The other thing to know is we are not alone. Others have also felt loss and gone through grieving.

But what do we do when we feel this acute emotional pain, this loss? We take baby steps, and we allow ourselves to feel the pain in waves, or however it presents itself to us. If we cannot deal with the pain all the time, that is normal, and need to divert ourselves, distract ourselves, that is normal. I don’t recommend using substances to numb ourselves as a healthy distraction, however.

We honor our process, the steps we make. Our feelings may go back and forth between denial, anger, bargaining, and depression until we finally reach acceptance. This is totally individual and while one person goes through these in order and not too lengthy a time in each, another may go back and forth hundreds of times and take months or years to go through.

It’s important to remember we are each unique, that the relationship we had with what we have lost is unique and, thus, our responses will all be unique. People will say well-meaning things to us which are not useful and even hurtful, like “Get over it,” or, “You didn’t need her anyway. You’ll find someone else better.”

These things are said out of ignorance of knowing what to say to someone who has suffered a loss. Try to have tolerance of these things that are said and not take them to heart. Know that we as a society have not learned how to deal with loss and so, are uncomfortable with it.

I want to continue this tomorrow but I will leave you with this thought: Alternating between a roller coaster ride and calm are quite normal and if we can see our pattern and the things that trigger us to go on the ride, plummeting, than we can predict it and not go under when it hits.

Tomorrow, I will address feelings specific to the grieving process, and ways to move through them. Please come back for the conclusion when I write about how to cope with grief and its behaviors.

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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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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…

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