Category Archives: The Grief Recovery Method®

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The Mythical Land of Grief

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It wasn’t until I was going through the training to be a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® that I realized I had been living in the mythical land of grief. Everything I thought I knew wasn’t right at all. I learned that as a society, we approach grief with our head and not our hearts. This means we try to rationalize our response to loss, rather than feel it. These myths have supported this approach to grief for generations. They help us to avoid grief rather than face it.

“Myths tell us what those like us have done, can do, should do…Listen to the wrong myths, and we might even go back a few steps.” ― N.K. Jemisin

I was told there were stages. I was told I needed to keep busy. I was told I shouldn’t be sad. I was told I would feel better in time. Like many of you, this guidance became my roadmap as I faced the various losses in my life. You may have also heard these statements and never questioned their validity: Give It Time; Be Strong; Grieve by Yourself; Don’t Show Sad Emotions; Find a Replacement and Keep Yourself Busy[1].

THE SIX MYTHS

Let’s walk through each one in more detail, see why they don’t work and what you can do to instead:

Give It Time. If you are grieving after losing a loved long ago, does it hurt any less? Do you miss them any less? Probably not. My maternal Grandmother died in the early 80s. I had a miscarriage in the early 90s. I still remember both losses as if they were yesterday. Even though time has softened my grief, it has not healed these wounds. These losses are a part of me and always will be. Giving grief more time certainly won’t change how I feel about my Grandmother or my miscarriage.

What you can do instead: Give yourself the space you need to grieve without any time limits. Understand it will take as long as it takes. Your grief may soften over time but the loss will always be a part of you.

Be Strong. As the oldest of two girls I heard this statement throughout my entire life, “You have to be strong for your sister.” I took this literally by walling off my heart at a very young age. I thought if I didn’t feel or show my emotions I was setting a good example for sister. Not expressing my sadness only hurt me in the long run. After my divorce, my children chose to live with my ex-husband because I was the “stronger” one. They thought I was “better” at being alone than he was. This was the furthest thing from the truth. Being strong set the wrong example and brought me heartache.

What you can do instead: Be human. Express both happy and sad emotions. It is healthier for you emotionally, physically and spiritually. It also sets a better example for those around you. Your sadness gives them “permission” to also be sad

Grieve by Yourself. Society has taught us not to burden others with our grief. I felt that way after the suicides of my two friends. I didn’t want to bother anyone with my sadness so I stayed to myself. Family and friends have their own problems. The last thing they need is my sadness creeping up on them. Grieve alone so you can stay out of the spotlight. This is not healthy.

What you can do instead:  Take time for yourself, but not to the point of isolation. Find a healthy balance between being alone and spending time with friends or family. Choose family members and friends who will support your grieving choices and listen without judgement or criticism. 

Don’t Show Sad Emotions. As babies, we were free to express our emotions. We laughed when we were happy, and cried when we were sad. Our emotions changed at the drop of a hat. This was expected behavior. But at some point in our childhood, an invisible switch was flipped and we were told it was no longer “acceptable” to express our sadness. I am not sure exactly when this happened, but it was probably when I was in elementary school. My parents started saying, “Go to your room if you are going to cry.” This lead me to believe that sadness was a bad thing and must be avoided at all costs. So, I pushed my emotions down. Way down. I built the wall higher around my heart. Not the right approach if you want to be “healthy” and have healthy relationships.

What you can do instead: Be honest about your emotions. Express your sadness rather than avoid it. Sadness makes you human. It’s what ultimately gets you through your grief.

Find a Replacement. Were you ever told after a relationship break-up “Don’t feel bad, there are plenty of fish in the sea”? If so, did it help you to feel any better? You may have felt worse because it implied you should never grieve over the loss of a relationship. It also implied that moving on right away would help you to feel better. But does serial relationships ever help you to feel better? I would argue they don’t and most people probably feel even worse. By not grieving we carry the same emotional issues from one relationship to the next. It is often a contributing factor to why there are so many break ups and divorces today.

What you can do instead: Grieve for your relationship before moving on to the next. Be sad for the future that is never going to happen. Forgive your former partner and yourself. Decide what you can do better or differently the next time around. This way you move forward in a healthy way and don’t carry any unresolved emotions with you.

Keep Yourself Busy. Speaking from experience I can say I became a workaholic after the suicides of my two friends. I thought if I kept busy enough, my grief would go away. But it never did. It just got buried. Consequently, it churned and churned until I felt like I was going to explode. I became exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually.  Keeping busy is just an avoidance technique and can be one of the worst ways to handle grief.

What you can do instead: Take the time you need to face your grief. Schedule extra time off work when needed. Practice self-care. Be gentle with yourself. 

Replacing these myths with healthier ways to grieve helps you to better navigate the ups and downs of your grief journey. It helps you to leave that mythical land of grief once and for all.

[1] www.griefrecoverymethod.com

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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STERBS

What’s Your STERB When You Are Grieving?

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We may find ourselves having a particular go-to behavior when we experience a loss. Taking on these short-term energy relieving behaviors (STERBS) are usually easier than actually feeling our emotions. They help numb the pain. Sometimes this numbness is literal when it comes to alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, these behaviors provide only a temporary distraction.

WHAT ARE STERBS?

The Grief Recovery Method says STERBs may include:

Extreme sports

Social media addiction

Alcohol

Excessive shopping/retail therapy

Long hours at work

Drugs (illegal or prescription)

Overeating/not eating

Excessive exercise or not exercising

Binge watching TV/movies

Avoiding social situations

Online video games/gambling

Harmful or dangerous sex

They make you feel better in the short term but as you continue these behaviors for an extended period of time, your grief keeps trying to resurface until you can’t avoid it any longer. Eventually, you might explode physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

The best thing you can do is to become aware of these go-to behaviors. When you do, it’s easier to replace them with other healthier behaviors. For me, I found that I immersed myself in work to avoid dealing with my grief. In the short-term, it served its purpose because I would get home late and go right to bed. This gave me no time to think or feel anything related to my grief. But in the long term, I really didn’t feel any better. In fact, since I hadn’t faced my emotions at all, I felt worse. Everything started to bother me. I became angry. I felt like I might scream at my coworkers out of my own frustrations. This is when I realized that being at work all the time wasn’t helping me at all.

So I consciously made a change. I started to leave on time (sometimes even early) and went down to the beach to walk. Walking opened up the door to my emotions. I found myself crying and walking. I didn’t care who saw me. My grief journey had truly begun.

Again, taking on some of these behaviors on a short-term basis can be normal when you are grieving, and that’s okay. However, when they grow into long-term escape mechanisms, it becomes unhealthy. Being aware of your behavior patterns can help you to make a shift toward healthier coping mechanisms. Instead of working long hours, leave on time and take a walk. Instead of staying on social media until the wee hours of the morning, read a book or listen to music.

Your heart will be glad you did!

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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GRM

What Is The Grief Recovery Method®?

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The Grief Recovery Method® is an action program to move beyond death, divorce and other losses.  It was founded almost 30 years ago by John James and Russell Friedman. Grief Reiki, LLC leverages material developed by The Grief Institute®, which provides training coast-to-coast, border-to-border in the United States and Canada with affiliates in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Sweden, Africa and the United Kingdom.

HOW DID I FIND THE GRIEF RECOVERY METHOD®?

As most things in my life, it actually happened purely by accident (or maybe it was destiny).  I was off work after foot surgery and had an extended amount of time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I had been through my own grief-related events, most recently the suicides of two of my closest friends.  After the second suicide I ended up going to a Survivors support group.  It was wonderful to be able to finally talk about how I really felt!  Although that was a positive experience for me, it sort of left me wondering if there were any programs out there that really helped people recover from grief.

Sure enough as I was pretty much stuck in my bed, I searched the web for programs dealing with grief and the The Grief Recovery Method® popped up.  Coincidentally they happened to have classes here in the Los Angeles area to help me become a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® so I could help others.

I found that during Grief Recovery Specialist® Certification Training, creating the Loss History Graph was especially cathartic.  Seeing every loss I had been through (and then some) on one timeline was overwhelming.  It helped me to better understand why I had reacted the way I had to loss throughout my life.  Developing the Relationship Graph and Completion Letter for my former fiancé really helped me to heal.  With the latter, many of the things I never got to say (apologies, forgiveness and significant emotional statements) flooded out of me.  I felt like I finally had completion after reading it out loud.  It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Today as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, I am working to build a business to help others heal their unresolved grief.  Through one-on-one and group sessions, I can help guide participants build their own grief recovery action plan. It is humbling and rewarding to help Society recognize that grief is tied to so many different life experiences.  Maybe in understanding grief more completely, we can become better family members, better friends, better lovers, better people and live better lives. Isn’t that really our ultimate goal? It has helped me tend to my own broken heart and hopefully touch the broken hearts of others.

INTRODUCTION VIDEO

Here is an video introduction to The Grief Recovery Method® presented by founders, John W. James and Russell Friedman.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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