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.


Getting Through Grief After a Divorce – Part I

Good morning! The day dawns clear and bright, and like all days, brings the promise of peace and joy to my world. I hope this is so for your world as well. Someone was looking for inspirational sayings for after a divorce, and I can offer ways to get through your grief. You be the judge of whether or not what I say is inspirational. : )

Grief occurs with any loss we experience. In other words, grief does not only occur after the death of a loved one. Loss includes divorce, loss of a pet, loss of a job, even a move to a different location. If we recognize that we have experienced a loss, that makes going through the grief process that much easier because we are not resisting it or being blind to our grief.

Grieving is difficult, I will admit, yet, to return to whole and to get to peace-of-mind again, we need to allow ourselves to feel our grief. We need to allow ourselves to go through the process of recovery and repair of our heart. Today, let’s talk aboout the grief process after a divorce.

People are uncomfortable with another’s expressions of grief and say some pretty useless and even damaging things. Examples include: “Get over it,” “S/he was no good for you anyway,” “You will meet someone else and forget about him/her.” There are more, and these are most commonly said to us when we have gone through a divorce and are struggling with our grief. So, what can we do?

First of all, it is a grave disservice to tell someone who is grieving to “get over it!” This totally negates where someone is in the process of grieving. Obviously, they can’t, or they would! There is something stopping them from moving on. Often, that is unfinished business, anger, or guilt.

For me, after I left my marriage in 2001, I grieved the loss of my familiar routine the most. It took several months before I actually missed my ex-husband. Then I moved into the guilt phase, as I realized the ways in which I had led the marriage to demise. Occasionally, I still get twangs of grief over things I did, and I say soothing things to myself, like: “If you had known better, you would have done better, Jones.” “You did the best you could with the tools you had at the time, lacking though they were, it was the best you knew how to do.”

Sit with that self-talk for the day, and I will return tomorrow to give more information about how to get through grief. I am splitting it up, because I have a fair amount more to say and the post is getting long. Also, for the day, try to ignore what people tell you that is not useful, realizing that the person saying those things is uncomfortable. Feel compassion for their uncomfortableness and continue with your soothing self-talk. I’ll be back tomorrow morning…


Creating Peace-of-Mind – Walking Through Grief

Yesterday, the search terms that jumped out at me were how to try to forgive, and inspiration when self-esteem is low. To speak to these two issues… We are working though a process that will improve your self-esteem, so join in and follow along this blog for the next several days. One of the things we are working toward is forgiveness, both of others and ourselves. The point is, I can address both of these issues…

So far, I have spoken about identifying wounds that form your feelings, and the fear associated with your behavior that keeps you stuck. Today, we will move through the feeling of grief.

Grief is defined by John W. James and Russell Friedman in The Grief Recovery Handbook: 20th Anniversary Edition as the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. So, grief can occur from the death of a loved one, as well as loss of a job, divorce, or a move to a new location.

They believe there are no stages that one goes through in grief, and that each person’s grieving process is totally unique to them. It is dependent on the ways they saw grief handled when they were growing up.

The messages we were told when growing up were: don’t feel bad, replace what was lost, grieve alone, just give it time, and be strong for others. These messages lead us to isolate and to hold in our pain when we grieve, neither of which serves to move us through the process to wholeness.

John and Russell advocate reading their book and doing the exercises with another person who is going through the grieving process, so each can be a support and a sounding board for the other.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross defined five stages to the grieving process which can occur in any order, but generally follow the path of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These she defines in relation to the death and dying process. They occur as a “dance,” with an intermingling of the stages, completion of one or two, then return to the first, then move to the third, and so forth.

Depression when you experience a loss is normal. To not be depressed is unusual. After all, what you are coping with is depressing. It is not clinical depression, however, if you have underlying depression to begin with, you may wish to consult a professional to see if anti-depressants are warranted for you.

There is no fast and easy way through grief. It takes time and the recognition of our feelings. Furthermore, it involves the expression of those feelings to someone, be it a therapist, a trusted friend or family member, or someone else who is grieving. Since we learned at a young age that no one wanted to hear about our grief, this is especially difficult for most people, yet, it is necessary for the process to flow forward.

One way to also let your feelings be heard is to journal. I suggest writing with your “other” hand, the one you don’t typically write with, your non-dominant hand. By doing this, you exercise the other side of your brain and all sorts of deep feelings well up. This is an especially safe way to express yourself, but it is still crucial that you express your feelings to another being.

In the end, acceptance is what is gained. To quote Kubler-Ross about acceptance, “Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being ‘all right’ or ‘okay’ with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel okay or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality.”

It is possible to get past and through your grief, as long as you can identify and speak about your feelings. They are not wrong or stupid to have, and you are not bothering another to talk about them.

Today, look at all the losses you have suffered in your lifetime. Draw a timeline of your losses, beginning with the first recollection you have in life. Your loss may involve the grief from the lack of a normal childhood, or it may involve the loss of a pet, a divorce. Whatever the reason, it is important to bring those feelings to the forefront to examine and feel, and then to share them with another. I wish you well in your journey.

New layer…

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.