“Killer Cliches” about Loss

“Killer Clichés” About Loss

by Russell Friedman & John W. James of The Grief Recovery Institute

We have all been educated on how to acquire things. We have been taught how to get an education, get a job, buy a house, etc. There are colleges, universities, trade schools, and technical schools. You can take courses in virtually anything that might interest you.

What education do we receive about dealing with loss? What school do you go to learn to deal with the conflicting feelings caused by significant emotional loss? Loss is so much more predictable and inevitable than gain, and yet we are woefully ill-prepared to deal with loss.

One of the most damaging killer clichés about loss is “time heals all wounds.” When we present open lectures on the subject of Grief Recovery®, we often ask if anyone is still feeling pain, isolation, or loneliness as the result of the death of a loved one 20 or more years ago. There are always several hands raised in response to that question. Then we gently ask, “if time is going to heal, then 20 years still isn’t enough?”

While recovery from loss does take some time, it need not take as much time as you have been led to believe. Recovery is totally individual, there is no absolute time frame. Sometimes in an attempt to conform to other people’s time frames, we do ourselves great harm. This idea leads us to another of the killer clichés, “you should be over it by now.”

It is bad enough that well-meaning, well intentioned friends attack us with killer clichés, but then we start picking on ourselves. We start believing that we are defective or somehow deficient because we haven’t recovered yet.

If we take just the two killer clichés we’ve mentioned so far, we can see that they have something in common. They both imply that a non-action will have some therapeutic or recovery value. That by waiting, and letting some time pass, we will heal. Let’s add a third cliché to the batch, “you have to keep busy.” Many grievers follow this incorrect advice and work two or three jobs. They fill their time with endless tasks and chores. At the end of any given day, asked how they feel, invariably they report that their heart still feels broken; that all they accomplished by staying busy was to get exhausted.

Now, with only three basic killer clichés we can severely limit and restrict our ability to participate in effective recovery. It is not only that people around us tell us these clichés, in an attempt to help, but we ourselves learned and practiced these false beliefs for most of our lives. It is time for us to learn some new and helpful beliefs to assist us in grieving and completing relationships that have ended or changed.

QUESTION: I have heard that it takes 2 years to “get over” the death of a loved one; 5 years to “get over” the death of a parent; and you never “get over” the death of a child.
Is this true?

ANSWER: Part of the problem is the phrase “get over.” It is more accurate to say that you would never forget a child who had died, anymore than you would ever forget a parent or a loved one. Another part of the problem is one of those killer clichés we talked about, that time, of itself, is a recovery action. Although recovery from loss does take some time, it is the actions within time that lead to successful recovery.

The primary goal of Grief Recovery® is to help you “grieve and complete” relationships that have ended or changed. Successful Grief Recovery® allows you to have fond memories not turn painful and helps you retake a happy and productive place in your own life. In addition, you regain the ability to begin new relationships, rather than attempting to replace or avoid past relationships.

Are there actual Stages of Grieving?

Are There Actual Stages of Grieving?

by Russell Friedman & John W. James of The Grief Recovery Institute

Many years ago Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book entitled On Death and Dying. The book identified five stages that a dying person goes through when they are told that they have a terminal illness. Those stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For many years, in the absence of any other helpful material, well-meaning people incorrectly assigned those same stages to the grief that follows a death or loss. Although a griever might experience some or all of those feeling stages, it is not a correct or helpful basis for dealing with the conflicting feelings caused by loss. We hesitate to name stages for grief. It is our experience that given ideas on how to respond, grievers will cater their feelings to the ideas presented to them. After all, a griever is often in a very suggestible condition; dazed, numb, walking in quicksand. It is often suggested to grievers that they are in denial. In all of our years of experience, working with tens of thousands of grievers, we have rarely met anyone in denial that a loss has occurred. They say “since my mom died, I have had a hard time.” There is no denial in that comment. There is a very clear acknowledgment that there has been a death. If we start with an incorrect premise, we are probably going to wind up very far away from the truth.

What about anger? Often when a death has occurred there is no anger at all. For example, my aged grandmother with whom I had a wonderful relationship got ill and died. Blessedly, it happened pretty quickly, so she did not suffer very much. I am pleased about that. Fortunately, I had just spent some time with her and we had reminisced and had told each other how much we cared about each other. I am very happy about that. There was a funeral ceremony that created a truly accurate memory picture of her, and many people came and talked about her. I loved that. At the funeral a helpful friend reminded me to say any last things to her and then say goodbye, and I did, and I’m glad. I notice from time to time that I am sad when I think of her or when I am reminded of her. And I notice, particularly around the holidays, that I miss her. And I am aware that I have this wonderful memory of my relationship with this incredible woman who was my grandma, and I miss her. And, I am not angry.

Although that is a true story about grandma, it could be a different story and create different feelings. If I had not been able to get to see her and talk to her before she died, I might have been angry at the circumstances that prevented that. If she and I had not gotten along so well, I might have been angry that she died before we had a chance to repair any damage. If those things were true, I would definitely need to include the sense of anger that would attend the communication of any unfinished emotional business, so I could say goodbye.

Unresolved grief is almost always about undelivered communications of an emotional nature. There are a whole host of feelings that may be attached to those unsaid things. Happiness, sadness, love, fear, anger, relief, compassion, are just some of the feelings that a griever might experience. We do not need to categorize, analyze, or explain those feelings. We do need to learn how to communicate them and then say goodbye to the relationship that has ended.

It is most important to understand that there are no absolutes. There are no definitive stages or time zones for grieving. It is usually helpful to attach feeling value to the undelivered communications that keep you incomplete. Attaching feelings does not have to be histrionic or dramatic, it does not even require tears. It merely needs to be heartfelt, sincere and honest.

Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. Grief is emotional, not intellectual. Rather than defining stages of grief which could easily confuse a griever, we prefer to help each griever find their own truthful expression of the thoughts and feelings that may be keeping them from participating in their own lives. We all bring different and varying beliefs to the losses that occur in our lives, therefore we will each perceive and feel differently about each loss.

QUESTION: Is there some confusion between anger and fear as they relate to the Grief Recovery”” process?
ANSWER: A primary feeling response to loss is fear. “How will I get along without him/her?” Anger is one of the most common ways we express our fear. Our society taught us to be afraid of our sad feelings, it also taught us to be afraid of being afraid. We are willing to say “I am angry,” but we say “it was scary.” It is possible to create an illusion of completion by focusing on the expression of anger. Usually anger is not the only undelivered feeling relating to unresolved grief.


© 2002 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Grief Recovery Program at Vaughan Integrative Medicine

Grief Recovery® Outreach Program

One of the least acknowledged and least addressed concerns in our society is GRIEF; the normal and natural reaction to loss.

Life can be brutal for some, and down right devastating for others.  Grief and loss isn’t just about death – it’s about anything you ever wanted better, more, or different, and it didn’t turn out.

Grief may come from health issues, moving, finances, divorce, relationship issues, thwarted expectations…

“Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there … only to discover you need them one more time – and they are no longer there.”

If you have experienced one or more losses, and you wish to move beyond the pain, this program offers you the probability of a richer and more rewarding life.

Grief is not intellectual – it’s a HEART issue.

Bring some peace to your life.

The Outreach program will guide those who wish to resolve their loss issues and move beyond their grief to a richer quality of life. As a result of participating in this program your life may become more enriched, more alive and more fulfilled than ever before. This program will be conducted by Ellie McFalls, MCHt., Certified Grief  Recovery® Specialist. The program is affiliated with and endorsed by The Grief Recovery Institute. This format has been developed by Russell P. Friedman, Executive Director, and John W. James, Founder of the Grief Recovery Institute, and authors of The Grief Recovery Handbook—The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce and Other Losses.

Classes are on Wednesdays starting on July 15 for 7 weeks from 6:30PM – 8:30PM.

The price is $222.00 per person.  See payment option below.

Payment is a separate button from registration.  You must complete and submit both below.

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