Tag Archives: Grieve Alone

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Does Working In The “Grief Business” Make It Easier?

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I am often asked if working in the “grief business” makes it any easier to deal with grief. The answer quite honestly is yes…and no. Let me explain why.

SOMETIMES YES

On the “yes” side, as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® I was trained to help people get through the pain caused by unresolved grief. As part of that process, I had to personally look at any incomplete loss events in my own life that were causing me pain and work through them. By no means was that easy. Not at all. But it did require that I had to be honest about what unresolved grief has affected my life and how I had (or hadn’t) handled it. Since I worked on my own losses, I now have the personal experience to more effectively help others get through their own pain related to grief and loss.

Going through the program also showed me what is wrong with how society deals with grief today. Although I am not perfect (not at all), it has helped me to try and avoid the mistakes that society has perpetuated about grief. The myths about “the stages” (grief is not a linear process but is unique for every individual); the “urban legends” about grief (we should never “grieve alone” or “try to be strong”); and what to say versus what not to say to a griever (“I can’t imagine what you are going through” versus “They are in a better place”).

I find that I am more hypersensitive not to add to the mess. I try to be open and honest about my own grief in the hopes that others will find comfort in theirs. I talk about and remember my loved ones so that others feel comfortable doing the same. I try to listen to a griever (okay I tend to interupt too much but I am still working on this one) rather than analyze or judge them. I hope I can now offer some sense of hope when a griever feels alone or isolated. I have learned to guide people from their heads to their hearts, hopefully improving the quality of their lives. The memories continue, but the pain of their loss is diminished or gone. I know this has changed my life and made it easier to be in the “grief business”.

SOMETIMES NO

On the “no” side, grief of any kind is tough. Now I am around grief and grievers all the time. It is hard not to feel something for someone who is grieving. It is especially hard to not to feel something for someone you love who is grieving. Most times their grief just goes straight to my heart. Doesn’t matter who it is. I can just “feel” it. I want to help take the pain away. I’ve learned that in many instances I can help and in some instances I can’t. Moving forward is something a person has to do for themselves.

Grief is an individual and unique journey. Even though I have grieved deeply, I really don’t know how another person “feels” on their own grief journey. I can say though that I can “relate” to what they are going through. Ultimately, a person has to be a willing participant and want to get through it. If they want to avoid it, I can’t be much help. All I can do is listen and be there for them. Maybe they will reach out but it has to be when they are ready. This is what breaks my heart. You know if they just took that first small step they would begin a journey of healing and recovery. But it isn’t up to me and I have to accept that. This is probably the most difficult part of working in the “grief business”, you want to help but you know the timing has to be right and the individual has to be willing.

WHY I CHOSE TO HELP OTHERS

Here are some quotes that resonated with me about why I choose to help others with their grief:

“Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.”  ~ Patti Smith

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~ Charles Dickens

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~ Steve Maraboli

“Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the same journey. And solace comes from understanding how others have learned to sing again.”  ~ Helen Steiner Rice

“Make your own recovery the first priority in your life.”  ~ Unknown

“Grief is like a ball of string, you start at one end and wind. Then the ball slips through your fingers and rolls across the floor. Some of your work is undone but not all. You pick it up and start over again, but you never have to begin again at the end of the string. You’ve made some progress.” ~ Unknown

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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My Personal Loss Story

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 In 2015, The Grief Recovery Method® Blog featured my own Personal Loss Story.

https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2015/05/personal-loss-stories-sharon-ehlers

[Over the last 35 years, The Grief Recovery Method® has been honored to work with some incredibly brave people. Every day we receive phone calls from people with unimaginable stories and enormous courage. We will be featuring some of these stories in our new weekly blog series. This is Sharon Ehlers’ story.]

April 2015 marks the three-year anniversary of my former fiancé’s death. Since time does not heal when it comes to grief, it is not surprising that the “Anniversary” of his death is just as painful as the day he died. Although we were no longer together when he passed away, I can honestly say that he was my one true love. The pain of his death has been soul wrenching and gut stomping. Time couldn’t possibly ever heal that wound. Why would I want it to?

The first day, the first week, the first month, the first year after his death was tough. Who am I kidding – every day, every week, every month and every year has been tough. But the 4th of every month became a recurring, in-your-face reminder that he was gone. So I decided that I had two choices about how I was going to handle it – bottle it all up inside and walk around pretending I was ok or face it head-on and let the emotions flow.

So on the 4th (and most other days), I spent the time crying until there were no tears. I shouted at the sky. I took long walks. I went through old pictures. I read old cards and love letters. I listened to “our” songs. I remembered the good and the bad. I called his Mom and we cried together. I had a Memorial Service for him with my children up on a hill overlooking the ocean and we released a balloon to the heavens. We cried and held each other. I JUST LET IT ALL OUT. Then I let it out some more until I felt empty. The emptiness didn’t lessen the sadness or the pain but it felt better than holding it inside.

I think I also forced myself to do this because those around me didn’t know what to do.  Most people avoided me. Others wouldn’t bring it up at all. After all he committed suicide and who wants to talk about “that” subject. If talking about grief is the #1 taboo subject in America, who wants to talk about grief related to someone’s suicide? This is probably taboo subject #2. These two topics are tough if not impossible to discuss. So that’s pretty much what happened – no one would discuss anything with me. I felt more and more isolated.  I felt more and more alone.

Since I knew I needed to do something (rather than avoid it), I took matters into my own hands and began my own grief journey. It wasn’t really even a decision for me. I automatically chose to drive myself into the grief at full throttle. I figured hitting it head on and wrestling it to the ground would give me some chance of coming out the other side. Ignoring it? Well that could lead to all kinds of problems and I certainly didn’t want to go there. I had seen others who never faced their grief and I didn’t want that anchor dragging me down for the rest of my life. Seemed to me like there had to be a way to survive the grief I was feeling.

As with most things in my life, finding The Grief Recovery Method® 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 was still thinking there had to be a better way to deal with grief.  Since I was pretty much stuck in my bed, I searched the web and found The Grief Recovery Method®.  After reading as much as I could on their website and downloading their free eBook on Grief and Loss, I realized that they really got it. I decided I would pursue their certification training with the hope that I could help others (and maybe myself too in the process). I signed up and never looked back!

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. I am so thankful for that experience!

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 sure helped me tend to my own broken heart and hopefully touch the broken hearts of others.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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Urban Legends About Grief

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Most of us over the course of our lifetime have heard at least one or more of the following statements after the loss of a loved one:

  1. Time Heals All Wounds
  2. Grieve Alone
  3. Be Strong
  4. Don’t Feel Bad
  5. Replace The Loss
  6. Keep Busy

Society has perpetuated the use of these terms so much so that they have become part of our vernacular. If you think about it though, are these statements really true? In reality they should be classified as urban legends. Why urban legends? According to Merriam Webster an urban legend is “a story about an unusual event or occurrence that many people believe is true but that is not true.” This can be said about these 6 grief statements we have all heard. We have believed them to be true all these years but they are not.

Grief Recovery_Six Myths_001_2015

Let’s walk through each of them in more detail:

Time Heals All Wounds – How many of you are still grieving after losing someone 5, 10 or 20 years ago? Does it hurt any less? Do you miss that person any less? Probably not. For some, the pain may get even worse. Time definitely does not heal our pain.

Grieve Alone – We have been taught that we are not to burden others with our grief. I felt that way after the suicides of my two friends. You don’t want to bother others with your sadness so you keep it to yourself. In some cases, you reach out to others but they don’t know what to do to help you. As a result you feel lost and alone so you isolate yourself as a way of handling the grief that others can’t. Grieving alone certainly doesn’t work.

Be Strong – If you are the oldest child a family you know this one well. If something happens you have to be the strong one for your younger siblings. You have to suck it up and not show your emotions. Heaven forbid the younger ones see you crying. What sort of message does that send? Maybe they will think you are weak instead of just plain sad. Trying to be strong just gives the wrong message that you are not trying to be human.

Don’t Feel Bad – How many of us have been told as a child not to cry when something bad happened? Rather than expressing our emotions we were told to hold it in. I think many of the generations before us were never allowed to show their feelings. Men joined the military and were told to check their emotions at the door. Some children have never ever seen their parents cry. No wonder they grow into adults who can’t deal with their own emotions.

Replace The Loss – I am pretty sure that most of my generation has heard after a relationship break-up “Don’t feel bad, there are plenty of fish in the sea”. Not sure if that was supposed to make us feel better but in actuality it made it worse. What it implies though is that we not wait and grieve over the loss of the relationship but to move on right away and replace the old one with a new one. That can’t be healthy. Maybe that is why so many people have a revolving door in relationships; maybe even two at one time in case one of them doesn’t work out. No wonder there are so many divorces these days.

Keep Busy – Speaking from experience I can say I became a workaholic just so I didn’t have to think after the suicides of my two friends. Keep busy. Keep working. Don’t think about it. It’s much easier than facing your grief. In reality, it’s worse because you don’t end up facing your grief at all.

So I say to these grief urban legends – go away. Go far, far away. This isn’t how we are supposed to grieve at all. We need to stop perpetuating these ideas with ourselves and with future generations and find healthier ways to grieve.

 Below is The Grief Recovery Method® Video about “6 Dangerous Myths About Grief”:

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

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